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MBABANE – Veteran and founding member of thePeople’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), Mandla Hlatshwayo, has challenged the mass democratic movement (MDM) to earn the trust of the nation.

Speaking to the Times SUNDAY on the current state of affairs in the MDM, Hlatshwayo highlighted that he documented all his sentiments and had shared them with the public and other organisations. Hlatshwayo said it was not enough for the MDM to expose the failures of the current government without improving on its own integrity. He said the political opposition needed to conceive and articulate a vision and a strategy to advance a people-centred agenda for development. He said there was a need for accountable and constitutional governance within political parties calling for change. Furthermore, he stated that it was a common weakness in political and civil society organisations to dismiss the issue of internal democracy, accountability and good governance standards as foreign liberal views.


Hlatshwayo said the MDM had a duty to fight their Eurocentric approach to democratic leadership in order to win the hearts of the people. He added that political activists should defend the fundamentals of the people’s political struggle, even within their organisations. The PUDEMO veteran said the MDM risked creating their new Eswatini on quicksand if they failed to build their unity with the people on rock-solid principles and values. He added that political education and the development of members of the MDM was crucial and should be made a major priority for all organisations. He averred that political formations should thrive to bring hope to the nation first to acquire deliberate engagement skills, including more listening than preaching. Furthermore, he said there was a need for a refined conception and purpose of political organisations for a new society that valued and respected all citizens. “Some of the worst hypocrites, who do not respect the truth or the people they aspire to lead, hide in the churches and political organisations. We must avoid the temptation to think that, by merely standing in opposition to the tinkhundla regime, we are automatically equipped to do the right thing. Otherwise, we risk producing a leadership culture similar to the ruling class and becoming organisations without a soul or conscience.’’


‘‘We must fight the system while at the same time offering solutions to the people. Just as the organised trade union movement must lead the struggle for the liberation and improvements of the conditions of workers in the country, organised labour must offer the best examples of empowering their members. We must endeavour to demonstrate a higher level of political acumen, organisation, and capacity to imagine better alternatives and demonstrate an intentional commitment to make a clean break away from the culture of mediocrity, corrupt governance, and bad leadership that has led the country down and Africa in general,” he said. Hlatshwayo said there was no need for the MDM to wait for democracy before developing internal programmes to capacitate their leadership. He added that it was paramount for all political organisations to demonstrate to the people the kind of society they wanted to build.
“We must have a clear agenda for the youth, to empower them to succeed in school and out of school, engender a culture of self-determination and refuse to allow the spirit of the nation to be broken. If the society produced by tinkhundla is sexist, immoral, patriarchal, incompetent, corrupt and visionless, then the new people we must build in the belly of the old society are the complete opposite of these traits. We must not wait until we have reached our end goal of achieving the Swaziland we want, before we start the discipline and internal programmes of reforming our organisational culture,” he said.


Hlatshwayo added that African people were ingenious, creative and capable of finding solutions within their own environment. He said the MDM should be worried whether they were making any positive contributions to the communities as part of projecting the values of the struggle or they were focused on the core business of demonstrations, mobilisation and protests against the government. He further challenged the new generation of activists to command a higher moral and be responsible citizens in the society. “There must be a broad appreciation that to build a new society, the inner core of the revolution must be the bearer of a higher political calling, command the political competence, higher moral and ethical standards in society.  This should include an agenda to deliver superior outcomes for people with a conscious appreciation of the deep historical damage to the culture and psychology of the nation. This is an enormous task because it means transforming the political playing field at an industrial scale. This is a job that requires the development of the finest activists, and patriots of the struggle, who understand that we cannot just shout tinkhundla to reform. Instead, we must build the capacity of the people to be pillared on the correct values and principles so that change can be both empowering and transformative. Anything short of that will be a stolen revolution, where the new elite will rise to replace the old aristocrats with revolutionary-sounding slogans,” he averred.


Hlatshwayo called for a leadership renaissance to build a new culture of leadership, societal organisation and renewal within the MDM. He said the revival should cover all sectors of civil society organisations, from trade unions to the church and non-governmental organisations, as well as the political organisations aspiring to lead the country. “History tells us that a struggle founded on the legitimate grievances of the people, galvanising and unifying all sectors of society, can never be defeated. It cannot be denied that the MDM and the opposition parties have serious homework to do if the struggle of our people is to rise. This calls for us to learn to listen, respect, know the issues, ask questions, and validate our people as the sovereign authority in the country. This must be our general line of action. While political ideology matters in sharpening the tools of analysis and crafting appropriate policies, it should not escape the new generation of leaders that ordinary people are fighting for material benefits, to live a better life and in peace. People want to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children as averred by Amilcar Cabral,” he said. He narrated that it was also paramount that an activist language of communication and the narratives of the struggle be derived from the people’s grievances. He said the narratives should reflect the hot-button issues that the people know and understand. Hlatshwayo added that the MDM should embrace the idea of renewal and allow it to find expression in all organisations.


“We must not underestimate the depth of rot, moral decay, and dysfunction that has been going on. This will not be reversed by a mere leadership change without a conscious agenda to build something new.  Therefore, the idea of renewal must go beyond the confines of party platforms to every sphere of society. To embrace the renewal idea is to accept that we are all born of a backward political system and that, wittingly and unwittingly, we espouse its values and ethics. I often cringe when I hear young comrades insulting in protest their opponents and the regime using the private parts of their mothers, sisters, and female comrades. This culture smacks of patriarchy.  This, therefore, calls for the development of political and civic organisations steeped in a different value system to the present tinkhundla system,” said Hlatshwayo. He said the MDM was not ready to lead a new society if they were not willing to reject their old value system and lacked revolutionary morals, ethics, and willingness to be the servant of the poor.