Swaziland’s best-known opposition group the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) will take part in talks with King Mswati III on Wednesday (30 September 2015), despite a report that its leaders had been banned from attending.
PUDEMO said in a statement it had always been ‘willing and available’ to meet both the King, who is an absolute monarch, and the government which the King personally appoints.
Swaziland is a secretive society and no official announcement has been made about the meeting which has been brokered by the Commonwealth.
A report on 25 September 2015 in the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, said that PUDEMO leaders Mario Masuku and Mphandlana Shongwe had been banned from taking part. It is believed that fifteen representatives of Swazi civil society will meet the King.
PUDEMO in a statement said it would attend the meeting, although it was not stated who would represent the organisation.
In its statement dated 27 September 2015, widely circulated on social media and later picked up by newspapers in Swaziland, PUDEMO said, ‘We fully support a genuine negotiation process and we are clear about the kind of dialogue that must take Swaziland forward. It must be a dialogue rooted in the full respect for certain preliminary conditions, which are key to a lasting and meaningful dialogue; there must be a total removal of all laws that militate against political freedoms and the rights to organise and associate with any political organisation. In particular the removal of the ban on political parties and Suppression of terrorism law is key to this process.
‘In front of his Majesty we will reiterate our core demands for a peaceful transition [from absolute monarchy to democracy]:
‘Immediately drop all political charges against the leadership of the movement;
‘Immediately unban of political parties so that our member parties can be part of the process;
Convening of an all-inclusive and genuine National Dialogue Forum to discuss the modalities towards the ultimate drafting of the country’s democratic constitution;
‘Creation of an environment conducive to effective genuine negotiations through the removal of all laws that militate against free political activity, the rights to organise and associate on the basis of political views and interests. In this regard, the removal of the Suppression of terrorism Act and other such laws remain a major condition;
‘Independent judiciary and media and end of state brutality through the police and the army;
‘Unconditional return of all exiles and the full and effective participation of all the people in the process leading towards the putting in place of a new and democratic system in the country;
‘A new constitution;
‘Multiparty elections with political parties registered , contesting and with full mandate to constitute government.
PUDEMO is one of a number of prodemocracy groups banned in Swaziland under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. In Swaziland political parties are not allowed to take part in elections.
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