In the small absolute monarchy of Swaziland the struggle to get a decent education is connected to the struggle for political freedom. Student activist Njabulo Mazibuko has written about what implications this understanding has for himself and his fellow students.
‘We are not masters of our political fate, but slaves of circumstance. The paths of rationality are blocked, and as students we all have to take responsibility for addressing the political issues that are overlooked day after day,’ Njabulo Mazibuko writes in his essay, which is called ‘The Need for More Student Activism’.
‘The government is killing individuality and freedom of the mind compelling my people more and more to conform to a similar pattern,’ he says. ‘Democracy stands as the only hope for my people today.’
MORE STUDENT ACTIVISM
Mazibuko is the outgoing president of the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS). He is also a member of the group of 15 that are presently trying to initiate a process of dialogue with Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III and his government.
He completed his bachelor’s degree in agriculture in early October and has been unemployed since, along with over half the population; a situation he feels will not be likely to change under the present regime. Not least because he is an active member of banned political party PUDEMO, and the Public Service Bill of 2015 clearly states that civil servants cannot be affiliated with political parties.
Mazibuko has written the political essay about what he sees as the need for more student activism and an understanding of the importance of engaging politically, in a country where political parties are illegal.
FIGHTING SUBMISSION AND SERVITUDE
In Swaziland, education is tied to submission towards the king and his chief.
‘In order for a child to get education at tertiary level, he or she has to be submissive to the traditional leaders; otherwise that child may not get his or her scholarship form signed,’ says Njabulo Mazibuko.
‘The ruling regime in Swaziland has utterly failed to make politics attractive to the youth, but as students we all have to take responsibility for addressing political issues. For the price we pay for not understanding politics is servitude to others or to circumstances.’
And circumstances for the vast majority of Swazis are very grim indeed, says Mazibuko.
‘The dictator has been constantly employing the same tactics from time to time in the country, which are arrests, detentions and torture, threats and sanctions. The regime will use police, prisons and army to maintain silence, which they call order or peace, and in all respects it constitutes a dictatorship. This is the basis for the struggle facing the student activist in Swaziland today.’
INSPIRATION BEGINS AT HOME
Students and student organisations such as SNUS have often been catalysts for change. An obvious example is that of the South African Students’ Organisation, important as both an ideological and practical precursor for Steve Biko’s highly influential Black Consciousness movement.
Mazibuko’s inspirations are closer to home, however.
‘The Secretary General of the Swaziland Youth Congress [and former president of SNUS"> comrade Maxwell Dlamini is my first source of inspiration. I first visited him at Sdwashini Prison where he was incarcerated for sedition in 2012. His incredible commitment and will to sacrifice for the struggle was and is an inspiration indeed.’
STUDENTS MUST LEAD THE STRUGGLE
But even though Swaziland has many young activists, such as Maxwell Dlamini, who have been ready to risk tear gas, rubber bullets, torture and even death to forward the struggle for democracy in Swaziland, Njabulo Mazibuko believes that the youth of Swaziland in general have some way to go before they can be a catalyst of change.
‘The most depoliticized group is the youth, hence the need to sharpen that through student activism. The youth hide under the influence of liquor and the use of gadgets for social or cyber politics. The situation is very discouraging because they are supposed to be the architects of the future of the country,’ he says.
The dismal alternative to action and activism is the present system of inequality, poverty and a political system and society that instils fear with repression and at the same time ‘punishes originality or humanity and starves imagination from the moment of first going to school to the time of burial’, says Mazibuko.
The Swazi students must therefore resist and actively fight what he calls the brainwashing of the regime.
‘Let every student activist lead the struggle,’ Njabulo Mazibuko concludes his essay.
* Peter Kenworthy is a journalist working with Afrika Kontakt.
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
* BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!