bolekaja

Swazi youth plan North Africa-style uprising

In Revolt on April 1, 2011 at 11:01 am

by Genevieve Quintal, Mail & Guardian

The youth of Swaziland are planning a North African-style uprising in the country on April 12, a former Swaziland National Union of Students (Snus) president said on Thursday.
Pias Vilakati told journalists in Johannesburg that the youth were not looking for any reforms from the current government.

“Everything has been said and done. We want total change of the system of government in Swaziland. We [are] looking for a total democracy. We will not move from the streets until the dictatorship is removed,” he said.

“We are being inspired by the uprisings in Northern Africa.”

The uprising would be led by Snus and the youth.

Vilakati, who currently lives in South Africa, had to leave Swaziland in May after being accused of terrorism.

In February 2010, he was arrested for leading a protest on scholarship issues.

Vilakati claimed he was tortured while in police custody.

“They put a plastic bag over my head and tortured me,” he said.

CONTINUES BELOW

After that, he said he was warned that he would be killed if he ever led a protest march against the government again.

Vilikati said he led another march at the funeral of Sipho Jele, a member of the People’s United Democratic Movement, which is banned in Swaziland.

“I knew after that I had to leave the country. I had to hide and escape, some comrades hid me in the hearse and got me out of Swaziland.

“If I go back they will kill me,” he said.

Facebook group
A facebook group called the “April 12 Swazi Uprising” had been started to help mobilise people.

“Facebook is where we can come together and speak freely about the problems,” Vilikati said.

According to its description on Facebook, the group: “is the voice of the people on the streets who are sick and tired of the misrule by the Swazi regime and the snail pace and lack of action by Swaziland’s so-called progressive”.

It pledges to, in the next few months create the biggest mass movement that the country has ever seen.

“2011 will also mark the year when we will topple the royalist regime,” the page said.

Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) coordinator Musa Hlophe said the uprising could turn out similar to South Africa’s 1976 Soweto Uprising.

“If our kids take to the street they will be massacred,” he said.

“We just hope that it doesn’t happen.”

Hlope said April 12 had historical significance for the Swazi people.

It was the day King Sobhuza II, who headed the Swazi nation from 1921, announced that the repeal of the Constitution and that he had assumed supreme executive, legislative, and judicial powers.

Hlope said government leaders needed to tell King Mswati III to allow the youth to march.

He said Mswati’s army was already planning for the uprising and had recruited 500 new members.

Vilikati said student unions in South Africa would march in solidarity with those in Swaziland on April 12.

Swazi civil society and trade union leaders on Thursday said the crisis in Swaziland was being ignored by the rest of the world.

SCCCO founder Mandla Hlatshwayo said people were not getting assistance from the state and living in the most “frightening conditions”.

“There is massive corruption within government … Swaziland is in the middle of a huge financial crisis,” he said.

Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini had cut workers salaries, eliminated old age pensions and funds were being channeled to the royal household.

Hlatshwayo said 70% of Swazis were living on less than $1 a day and the national health system was failing.

The country had the world’s highest per capita HIV infection rate and an average life expectancy was 30.

On March 18, thousands of public-sector workers and supporters marched through Swaziland’s capital, Mbabane, to demand that the prime minister and his Cabinet step down. – Sapa

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