Declaration of Zimbabwean and Swaziland Civil Society delegates at a COSATU-convened Solidarity Conference, 10-11 August 2008



We, civil society organizations from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Swaziland gathered at this COSATU-convened Solidarity Conference, together with fellow comrades from the rest of the Southern African region, and acting on behalf of the people of our countries, today reassert our commitment to the struggle for a transition to democracy in the two sister countries of Zimbabwe and Swaziland.  

In doing so, we stand firmly by the principles of democratic governance that are embodied in the SADC and African Union Charters, declarations and protocols on good governance and which represent the birthright of every African.  

We have noted and continue to note that electoral fraud, political manipulation by ruling elites, institutionalised oppression and state brutality are the key defining features of the two states, and that unless we act and act together, this situation will never change. Only the organised power of the working class will break the back of this organised thuggery.

Given the present environment of fear and oppression that obtains in both Zimbabwe and Swaziland, we declare the following:

On Zimbabwe

Guiding Principles

In the effort to find a way forward from the political and economic crisis that now grips Zimbabwe, we are guided by a respect for freedom, equality, human dignity, accountability, non-partisanship, non-violence and a culture of peace. The Zimbabwe People’s Charter, which was adopted after widespread deliberation and discussion with the public, provides us with a mandate to struggle for these principles.

The People’s Charter declares that elections in Zimbabwe will remain illegitimate until they are held under a new, democratic constitution.  Moreover, a constitution is invalid unless it is the product of a people-driven, participatory process which makes room for the input of all Zimbabweans.  Therefore the existing constitutional order is incapable of producing a democratic government.

We commit ourselves fully to the struggle for the ideals of democracy, which include press freedom, people-centred economic planning, an appropriate balance of power in government, a respect for human rights, and an enabling environment for children, the youth, women, the disabled and People Living with HIV/AIDS.

Present Necessities

We are today faced with a political and social climate that makes a transition to democracy very difficult. Scores of our colleagues have been killed, hundreds imprisoned and thousands driven from their homes. Moreover, the space for democratic participation by the political opposition, civil society organisations, and the public at large has been eliminated by draconian laws and extralegal exercises of power.  

The following steps must be taken to create an environment conducive to open negotiations by all stakeholders:
1.    Cessation of political violence. The threats, physical assaults, torture, and acts of arson that have characterised the period following the 29 March elections must be halted immediately. Additionally, the structures which have been perpetrating and directing these attacks, including all militia bases, must be immediately dismantled.  International monitors should be invited to enter Zimbabwe to assist with these tasks.
2.    Establishment of law and order. All political prisoners must be released, oppressive laws such as the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act must be repealed to open space for democratic participation, and perpetrators of political violence must be brought to justice.  
3.    Facilitation of humanitarian relief.  Bans on aid groups and civil society organizations must be lifted to allow them to attend to victims of the humanitarian disaster.  A council should be established to address the plight of internally displaced people and refugees.

Transitional Authority

If the foregoing conditions are met, we believe that a transitional authority would provide an appropriate vehicle for ushering in democratic reform. This institution would have a specific, limited mandate to oversee the drafting of a new, people-driven constitution and the subsequent facilitation of free and fair elections.  We wholeheartedly reject the suggestion of an elitist power-sharing agreement that fails to address the inadequacy of the current constitutional regime.

The structure of a transitional authority would need to be spelled out in a negotiated settlement. We demand that civil society organisations and the general public be party to these negotiations. Although the exact details of the transitional authority’s mandate would need to be determined through debate and public consultation, the following elements are necessary to ensure that it is successful in establishing a new democratic order:

1.    Leadership by an impartial party.  The transitional authority should be headed by an individual who is not a member of ZANU-PF or MDC. 

2.    Broad representation.  Individuals from a broad sector of Zimbabwean society should be incorporated into the transitional authority. This should include representatives from labour organizations, women’s and children’s rights groups, churches, and various other interest groups.

3.    Specific, limited mandate.  The transitional authority should be tasked with facilitating the drafting and adoption of a new constitution and then holding elections under the new constitutional framework. It should only govern the country until such time as the newly elected government is installed.  The negotiating parties should provide a very clear timeframe for this process, with no more than 18 months of rule by the transitional authority.

4.    People-driven constitutional development. The process of drafting a new constitution must include broad-based consultation with the public and civil society organizations.  The draft constitution should not be enacted until it has been ratified by the public in a national referendum.

5.    Restoration of good governance. State institutions such as the judiciary, police, security services, and state welfare agencies should be depoliticised, demilitarised and reformed.  Steps should be taken to fight corruption and promote accountability for public officials.  Restrictions on press freedom should be lifted and access to state media outlets should be opened.
6.    Economic recovery programmes. Initiatives should be undertaken to resolve the current economic crisis and ensure an equitable distribution of national resources for the benefit of all Zimbabweans, including land as a national asset of the people and not an elite, whatever its colour or race.

7.    Transitional justice initiatives. The transitional authority should design and implement a victim-centred process to bring to justice the perpetrators of gross human rights violations and promote national healing.  This framework for transitional justice should be embedded in the new constitution.

We however note the courage of the people of Zimbabwe in their determined efforts to soldier on against all odds, particularly in the face of extreme hostilities and state violence. The world community of democracy-loving people remains fully behind them at this hour of need, always acting to raise their issues and suffering in order to promote awareness and put pressure on regional leaders to act decisively.

We also note the SADC mediation efforts led by South African President Thabo Mbeki, which have raised hopes for the possible resolution of the protracted conflict, but we believe a lot still needs to be done for the right environment to be created.

On Swaziland

We are cognisant of Swaziland having the oldest state of emergency in the region, with all public institutions and decision-making the monopoly and sole preserve of the royal family, with no democratic elections, systemic and institutionalised corruption and state terror against political and worker activists, founded on the basis of the 1973 king’s decree that concentrated all power in the hands of the monarchy. The years of convenient silence on Swaziland have promoted a culture of impunity and disregard for the fundamentals of democracy in the whole region.

We further note the deepening political and socio-economic crisis, as well as the protracted political impasse which has not been resolved by the new constitution promulgated in 2005, which itself is a product of an illegitimate process and royal imposition, Swaziland civil society congregated under the banner of the Swaziland United Democratic Front affirms the following demands:

1.    Multi Party democratic Elections: The continued denial of political space, particularly the ban on multiparty politics and the right to participate in public institutions of decision-making, remains a denial of a core tenet of democracy and flies in the face of the SADC Mauritius Principles governing elections.

2.    The Unbanning of Political Parties: The continued banning of political parties which was initially authored by the King’s proclamation to the Nation of 1973 has since been validated by the new constitution promulgated in 2005.

3.    The return of Political Exiles: Although continually denied by the state, several Swazis remain in exile for fear of persecution by the state.

4.    The evolution of a truly representative national dialogue or national convention which will result in a truly democratic constitution which will be a true representation of the people of Swaziland: The current constitution remains illegitimate as it was unilaterally driven without the critical input of Swazi stakeholders.

5.    End to the cancerous corruption and greed: The royal family has entrenched a deep culture of cancerous corruption and greed in Swazi society, with the state institutions permanently ingrained in pervasive corruption that eats away the social fibre of Swazi society. A huge part of the budget is corroded by perpetual corruption and greed, which is led by the ruling minority, particularly in a country where almost 70% live on international food aid and which is almost a world leader in suffering the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS

We also note and welcome recent positive developments on the side of the oppressed and struggling people of Swaziland. Most notable is the formation of Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF), which brings together all progressive forces and further unites all the people in struggle for democracy and social change.

We further note the joint celebration of May Day by all worker organisations and trade unions in the country, for the first time in the history of the country, sending a clear statement that the time for the people to act together has come and that the people will resist all attempts at disuniting them.

To that end the following goals of the Swazi struggle remain the key guide:

•    Creation of a new and democratic constitution that derives its legitimacy from the will of the people.
•    Building and institutionalisation of the culture of democracy, the rule of law and accountability.
•    Democratisation of traditional institutions to serve the needs of the people and respond accordingly to the desire of the people to be free and prosperous.
•    Full recognition of the rights and responsibilities of civil society, and its independent right to exist and act freely from any form of state influence and control, including royal patronage.

These require that we ensure that we:

•    Work to raise of the profile of the Swazi struggle consistently.
•    Actively mobilise resources for the democratic forces to build their capacity.
•    Build a solidarity movement throughout the world to popularize the struggle.
•    Mobilise the Diaspora to participate in the struggle.

The Mswati regime rules without the mandate and will of the people. If in Swaziland, Mswati’s claim to natural and divine right to rule is the automatic ticket to permanent self-imposition of his interests, in Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s liberation credentials and wild claims give him the right to the same status.

These false assumptions elevate these two regimes to levels above scrutiny and accountability, not only in their own countries or to their own people, but to the world community of civilised conduct. This is why institutions of global and regional governance, have not acted with the required amount of decisiveness expected of them in confronting these rogues for such a long time.

Programme of action: Affirming the certainty of democratic victory in Zimbabwe and Swaziland through intensified struggle

1.    SADC heads of state summit – March for democracy in Zimbabwe and Swaziland

The coming summit of heads of states to be held in Johannesburg on 16-17 August 2008 provides both an opportunity and space for civil society to clearly make an unequivocal statement to the leaders of the region that things cannot go on as usual. A new sense of urgency must begin to define the new SADC in the making. We have, for a long time now, allowed the wound of conveniently ignored illegitimate and undemocratic regimes to fester and begin to affect the entire fibre of the region

In this regard, we hold dear the firm view that Robert Mugabe and Mswati III are not legitimate leaders of their various countries. They cannot claim any amount of legitimacy to rule their countries, for they have not been democratically elected by the peoples of their countries.

Therefore, as representatives of civil society we condemn the behaviour of these two leaders and take it upon ourselves to expose them and their unacceptable behaviour before the eyes of the world. In this regard, we hereby resolve to hold a massive march, indeed a show of strength and conviction on the 16th August, during the SADC heads of states summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in South Africa. In this regard, we shall be working together with broad network of social forces opposed to the evil acts of these rogue regimes and committed to the objectives of democracy.

Together, we commit ourselves to:

•    Organise workers, civil society organisations, religious institutions, social movements and all progressive forces to support and actively participate in the campaign, particularly the 16 August march.
•    Broaden and widen the network of forces in solidarity with the oppressed and struggling people of Zimbabwe and Swaziland, so as to isolate the Mswati and Mugabe regimes.
•    Put in place a sustained massive publicity campaign popularising the plight, issues and demands of the suffering people of Zimbabwe and Swaziland, in order to expose the terrible conditions in these countries.
•    Organise all possible resources, transport and all means necessary for the success of the campaign.
•    Ensure that the campaign is the beginning of a sustainable solidarity offensive against the Mugabe and Mswati regimes, which should include targeted sanctions against these corrupt elites and their families, who feed on the desperate plight of their people. We have created a SADC Campaign Co-ordinating Committee comprised of two representatives each from Zimbabwe and Swaziland, and convened by COSATU and members of the South African Co-ordinating Committee for the SADC campaign, to lead the organization of this activity.
•    Identify progressive governments in the region and work with them to speak out and isolate all acts of political discord and failure to adhere to the fundamental provisions of democratic instruments.
•    Fiercely oppose the election of Swaziland to Chair the SADC Organ troika for politics, defence and security co-operation, for its failure to be exemplary and deserving of such a recognition.

2.    Building a regional solidarity movement for democracy in Zimbabwe and Swaziland

We seek to build a regional solidarity movement, based on the proud traditions of militant struggle, popular activism and consistently progressive mobilization of workers and the poor against all forms of attacks on the people.

We commit ourselves to the creation of an effective momentum for sustained boycott of goods destined for Zimbabwe and Swaziland throughout the region, with the trade union movement taking an active lead.

All workers must refuse to serve Mugabe and Mswati, as well as their close associates and collaborators, anywhere in the region, so as to ensure that they indeed feel the heat of isolation.

We seek to co-ordinate all efforts underway to contribute towards a lasting solution to the deepening crisis in the two countries, whilst also remaining very vigilant to potential crisis situations in the region.

We shall work with regional institutions, particularly SATUCC, the SADC Council of NGOs and the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa to create an advanced infrastructure for sustained solidarity work.

We call for the transformation of SADC in order to deepen democratic participation, enhance its responsive capacity and deepen its strategic relevance to the dynamics of the region and its capacity to serve the people more effectively, particularly as regards monitoring the adherence of its member states to its protocols and commitments.

We seek to take the leading effort and struggle on matters affecting the people of our region, hence our call to all supporters of our cause to:

•    Work with us in enhancing our capacity to carry out that objective with the vigour and capacity required of us, which should assist us overcome dangers of fragmentation, poor co-ordination, strategic disharmony and even competition amongst all forces working for change in the region.
•    Support activities of progressive organizations inside Zimbabwe and Swaziland to enhance their capacity to wage the struggle in conditions of extreme hostility.
•    Support the call by the Swaziland United Democratic Front, a coalition of all progressive forces inside Swaziland, for concrete solidarity action in their coming activities on the 3-4 September against the extravagant 40/40 royal bash in conditions of grinding poverty and the coming royal elections in conditions of banned political parties, intensified police brutality and state terror.
•    To support the call by the people of Zimbabwe, civil society in particular, in their demand for a transparent negotiations process for a new and democratic Zimbabwe, founded on the basis of popular consultation and not an elite pact formation


Today we express a hope that the long journey to emancipate the citizens of both Swaziland and Zimbabwe is near its end. Although we face numerous challenges, we believe that a commitment to the principles which have guided us in our struggle for democracy will lead to a resolution of the current political impasse obtaining in the two countries. We therefore urge all SADC citizens to join us in our efforts to realize a just and democratic society, not only in Zimbabwe and Swaziland, but throughout the entire region. Let us continue fighting for our freedom, democracy and co-prosperity, underpinned by progressive development paradigms founded on the basis of a redistributive system.