Born in Makhosini, a tiny village south of Swaziland, where grinding poverty and ruthless conditions of existence enforced by surrogates of the ruling royal family gave him no choice but to throw his lot behind the cause of the suffering people throughout the country.
This was to be the destiny of a humble, yet legendary giant of the Swazi people’s struggle for freedom. Throughout his years he has been navigating the dangerous waters of a very repressive and violent system, whose jails are marked with the ink of hundreds of ordinary Swazis in search for freedom and dignity. Amongst those names is none other than Mario Masuku who has been in and out of prison, bravely refusing to be silenced or intimidated into submission by draconian might.
We know that Comrade Mario will accept this prize on behalf of all those who are struggling against the oppressive Swazi regime, for his fight is not an individual one, but part of a much deeper collective effort. There are many who have not been given recognition for the contribution they have made, and this award will give them encouragement and a feeling of shared victory.
Dating back to the days of the mighty struggle against apartheid, Masuku has always been at the forefront of a brave resistance as part of the internal machinery inside Swaziland of the ANC-led liberation movement that risked the ruthlessness of the joint apartheid and tinkhundla forces ranged against the liberation forces on both sides of the border. This unholy alliance between tinkhundla and apartheid resulted in the brutal killings of so many comrades and activists of both the South African and Swazi liberation movements.
The historic 1990 treason trial, the subsequent seditious and subversive trials, the Suppression of terrorism charges are just some of the illustrative experiences of a journey through the valley of sacrifice, pain and humiliation, as well as the contrasting feelings of joy and achievement in the process.
Through his selflessness, the world came to recognise the suffering of the Swazi people and the tragedy of a silently bleeding society was brought into the open. At last, the eyes of the world could be blinded no more by false pretentions, hypocrisy and double standards of a regime that used culture to justify oppression, abuse and impoverishment of the masses.
However, we fully agree with Masuku in his acceptance statement that its an achievement of the people and the whole struggling fraternity of Swaziland. It’s an honour befitting the great sacrifices of the people as a whole, it’s a collective award to the great cause for which so many have sacrificed and died for. The Swazi people have made it possible that in him, the best of their traits is brought to the open for the world to see. His qualities and outstanding attributes tell a story not just about him, but about the Swazi people in general and their dignified resistance to all that is wrong and dehumanising.
We also take this opportunity to salute the whole Swazi nation, particularly its leading detachment, as expressed in their political home, the Swaziland United Democratic Front, which has come to symbolise their unity and determination to fight divisions and fragmentation that keeps tinkhundla going. The front should be proud that one of its own has been recognised, a fitting tribute to their own quality of leadership of the mass movement.
In this regard, the SDC warmly embraces this great achievement as a giant step forward in the march towards a new and democratic Swaziland. It is a special tribute to the greatness of the resilient and fighting masses of Swaziland on whose side the world community of compatriots stand.
We call upon everyone to join this historic march as profoundly articulated by the Founding Declaration of the SDC at its historic launch two weeks ago, when it said, “Since 1973, the Swazi Monarchy has the dubious honour of maintaining the longest state of emergency anywhere on the continent. It has literally turned the country into an open-air prison controlled by a series of draconian laws.
Every sphere of life in society has become militarised. The notorious Suppression of Terrorism Act is but the latest indication that repression is to be extended. Despite these conditions, within Swaziland there are many people of courage and dignity who are prepared to make common cause in their communities, their workplaces, their schools and colleges, and in their places of worship. They are prepared to unite and challenge the repression and the wastefulness of the royal elite. They are prepared to make sacrifices for the country they love, and it is to these brave and honourable people that we must reach out to. We believe there must be no ambiguity about our moral duty to support those who are oppressed to resist and struggle for liberation, justice and democracy.”
It went to say, “We therefore hope this declaration is a first step in breaking through the wall of silence and complacency that helps perpetuate the myth that Swaziland is a caring society ruled by a benevolent royal family. We seek to give voice to ordinary Swazi people and their quest for human dignity, democracy and freedom.”
Therefore, we must affirm that your greatness Masuku is in your humility and selflessness. Only through your sacrifice and commitment will the world be forced to raise its eyes to the daily struggles waged by the thousands of ordinary Swazis in schools, workplaces, churches, communities, social and cultural centres, as well as institutions of learning. You represent the entirety of the nation in that recognition and you must always maintain the pride of being their humble and loyal servant.
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Philani Ndebele at
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