afrol News, 28 March - On the day of the planned mass protest in the totalitarian kingdom of Swaziland, 12 April, the powerful trade union COSATU in neighbouring South Africa plans a protest march to "invade" the kingdom in solidarity.
A COSATU statement forwarded to afrol News today says the Soth African union urges its members to participate in its "invasion" of the small kingdom of Swaziland, planned for 12 April.
South African workers were asked to participate in "a protest march to the Oshoek Swaziland border gate in support of the struggle waged by the people of Swaziland for freedom and democracy," according to COSATU's Fidel Mlombo. The union "invades Swaziland in solidarity with the workers and the poor" on that date, coinciding with protests inside Swaziland.
COSATU leaders had decides to "provide active solidarity by staging a protest march against the dictatorship" of the regime of King Mswati III. The decision came after the union - which is affiliated to South Africa's ruling ANC party - during the last year vowed to "intensify the struggle against the brutal and autocratic Mswati regime through protest actions including border blockages, pickets, protest marches inside and outside Swaziland."
Protest action in Swaziland - inspired by the North African riots - started earlier this month, with a large protest march in the industrial town of Manzini on 18 March. Some 10,000 students, trade unionists, church communities and members of opposition parties occupied the residence of the Prime Minister, demanding democratic reforms.
The 18 March protesters were met with even more heavily armed police troops, closely monitoring the demonstrations. The protests in the end however went along peacefully.
But even earlier, Swazi youths fed up with the autocratic government had announced a day of national protests on 12 April through social media, in particular Facebook, following the North African model. Swaziland's banned opposition parties and trade unions soon followed up with messages of support.
The past few weeks have seen a lot of protest actions inside Swaziland by the poor, the working class and the opposition, demanding both political and economic freedom. But the nation is basically gearing up for the large protests on 12 April.
Very poor communication and organisation by the protest movement however resulted in little international attention about the movement. For the Swazi protesters, the aid from South Africa's COSATU union therefore is welcome.
The "invasion" by South African workers will force Swazi police to focus on both the border and on urban centres on 12 April. "We believe that this march will be a final push to the collapse of the Mswati regime which is already limping and bleeding like a wounded animal," Mr Mlombo optimistically comments.
Swaziland has drifted into increased poverty and international isolation during the last years. As a result, more than forty 40 percent of Swazi adults and are unemployed. Swaziland has one of the highest levels of inequalities between the rich and the poor, with poverty deepening rapidly.
By now, about 70 percent of the people of Swaziland live below the poverty line and over 300,000 of the one million citizens depend on food aid. Swaziland is further known to have the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world, which is hovering between 40 and 50 percent of the population.
Meanwhile, the economy of Swaziland is centred around the royal family and their trusted friends. King Mswati has created several international headlines over his excessive spending, including luxury jets, while his population drifts further into poverty and the AIDS pandemic.
Protesters demand the unbanning of all political parties and trade unions, a full-fledged democracy, in addition to press freedom and the reintroduction of a constitution. Most favour a republic, as they see this as the only way to reform the economy and get rid of social inequalities.
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