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Letfu Sonkhe Chairperson Mandla Hlatswako writes open letter to Zambian President Hakainde Hichelema.

Wednesday, 8th June, 2022

Your Excellency, please allow me to address you as my brother and a Pan Africanist.

In my language we have a proverb that says even the walls have eyes and ears, be aware of what you do or say behind the walls of power.

37 years ago I was a young student who landed in your country troubled and burdened by the enormity of challenges the youth of Swaziland was facing at the time. I was a messenger of students who were battling agents of the royal regime under the leadership of a strongman by the name of Prince Mfanasibili and had been expelled from the University of Swaziland. I was on a mission to find university spaces in Zambia for the expelled students from the University of Swaziland. As students, we were at war with apartheid South Africa and the Swazi Royal family that had taken up arms against the ANC and the black people of South Africa. The ANC cadres were being slaughtered by our country’s armed forces and others were being abducted and handed over to the Afrikaners. The fight back by students against the royal regime had spilled into the universities and colleges resulting in 22 students being expelled from the University of Swaziland. These events followed the signing of the security agreement between Swaziland and apartheid South Africa in 1982 and the Nkomati Security Agreement with Mozambique in 1984.

Zambia was the North Star of the liberation struggle of the people of this region. I followed this North Star by train, buses, and footpaths until I landed in your country and at the University of Zambia in 1984. I had not met your president and our president Dr Kenneth Kaunda but we could feel his wisdom and passion for African liberation more than 2000 km away.

The students at the University of Zambia welcomed me like one of their own. They gave me a warm shower and a nice dinner of white eggs and rice. This was a special treat as I was hungry and had not tasted white eggs before. I was at home. My story became their story. Zambia’s role and the sacrifices of your people for the liberation of our region remain a story to be told and memorialized.

Your Excellency, our continent and black people in general have suffered centuries of exploitation and abuse by Western powers and the white capital. Our people continue to be the subject of pity and caricature of backwardness and beggars. Our leaders as soon as they assume power, instead of redressing and correcting the legacies of colonialization, cease to work for the advancement of the people and the continent. Countries

with far less natural endowment such as South Korea, Singapore, and Mauritius have performed near- miraculous fits in the development of their people and countries, uplifting the majority of their people out of poverty. Our people and countries are poor and underdeveloped because of corrupt and poor leadership. This has been our experience in Swaziland.

Your Excellency, your rise to power on the principles of good governance and honest stewardship over the affairs of the Zambian state and people was an inspiration to many in our region and the continent. Zambia, like most of Africa, is well-endowed with natural resources and opportunities for the advancement of the poor and the working class. Your commitment to good, honest leadership and the fight against corruption, and the externalization of African wealth by the rich, corrupt and mighty, must not end in Zambia. Your principles and values must translate to public policy and laws and must not be malleable to the dictates of diplomacy or personal relations in Swaziland. Where the poor continue to be bankrupted by the rich and powerful royal elite and their proxies.

Your visit to my country raised hopes and fears for many of us in the Mass Democratic Movement in the country. The fears came with the bad experience that we have had with your former President Edgar Lungu and some of your prominent pseudo-business personalities who have embedded themselves in the corrupt power structures of the ruling royal family as business proxies and partners. Over the years, we have seen this unholy alliance between Zambian leaders feasting without shame or conscience on the carcass of our troubled nation, like zombies without a soul and joining in the corrupt activities of the royal family.

Your Excellency, as you might be aware, the genesis of our crisis in Eswatini was the unconstitutional repeal of the independence constitution by the King in 1973 which ousted the right of our people to participate in freely electing those who govern them, a right enshrined in both international and regional conventions. This singular act by the monarch opened the flood gates to state capture by the royal family, leading to massive corruption and high-jacking of state resources, the broader economy, and public companies such as Tibiyo TakaNgwane and diverting scarce resources away from the development of the country.

Your Excellency, this state of affairs is at the heart of our crisis today, which to all intents and purposes is a crisis of legitimacy, which can only be cured by a return to legitimacy through a process and constitutional order that guarantees universal franchise and restoration of the sovereignty of the people of Eswatini. The intervention by the SADC Organ on Politics Defence and Security raised hopes for a mediated political dialogue and negotiated solution to the Swazi political crisis.

Your Excellency, seeing you visit the king and businesses associated with corruption, in the company of these corrupt forces at a time of such a major political crisis has left us dumbfounded as well as concerned. These fears may be unjustified but as an abused nation since independence, we are overly anxious.

In June 2021 the joint military forces of Eswatini killed just under 100 unarmed civilians and injured hundreds who were protesting and demanding political reforms. These innocent citizens were killed or injured on the instructions of the king. The country remains unstable and ungovernable. In the absence of a negotiated political settlement, there is no doubt that the country will gradually descend into a full blown civil war. Through the media, we witnessed your solidarity with the king and his business allies, but we the oppressed could not feel you nor recognize you in the hands of our oppressors.

Your Excellency, your voices were not just muted during your visit but absent at the most pivotal moment.Our dead and wounded have never been acknowledged by the king. We have Members of Parliament in jail, many others facing all forms of persecution and state-sponsored violence for the crime of demanding political reforms and a stop to royal corruption. We need your voice and are appealing for your principled position on democracy and human rights in our region.

We pray for your good health and steadiness of mind and purpose as you play your part in the development of Zambia, SADC and the African continent. Africa must rise.

Letfu Sonkhe Chairperson Mandla Hlatswako writes open letter to Zambian  President Hakainde Hichelema.
Zambian President Hakainde Hichelema and King Mswati.