The Foundation for Socio-economic Justice in Swaziland was born out of the organic struggles of the mass of the rural poor, workers and young activists of Swaziland, whose efforts culminated into the birth of this giant on the 15th February, 2004. Its founding motto was; development means food, jobs and dignity for the poor.
It was in 2001 when this idea was first conceptualised out of a series of popular initiatives and the emergence of a new social movement-type network that anchored mass struggles rooted in community and issue-based struggles. It was spearheaded by activists and generated a new and effective momentum towards the effective renewal of mass struggles on the ground.
This went together with the urgency imposed by the new conditions of struggle in the country, the growing hostility of the state towards any and all democratic and progressive activities of the people. This required new conceptualisations of struggle to deepen mass-based organising and campaigning that touched on the raw nerve of society, the issues affecting the people and their families.
On the 15th February, 2004 the Foundation was launched as a body of social forces united under the auspices of an economic justice movement to organize the masses of the poor and working people for their own struggle and economic emancipation from poverty, inequalities and unemployment.
The first constitution was formally adopted 2004 November and a Board of Directors were constituted accordingly from a cross section of our society for example, academics, political activist, trade unions, grassroots and the rural poor.
1. Background to the emergence of the Foundation
The Founding document is the key manifesto and vision document of the movement. It was launched in 2004, which state that, “The Foundation’s historic mission is to organize the poor and suffering masses of Swaziland to act as their own liberators in the struggle for economic emancipation and development, as part of the global effort of all poor people to create a new world order based on respect for human dignity” .
It goes on to outline the aims of objectives of the Foundation, the structure and character of the Swazi economy, the global development fact file, analysis of an economic alternative system, response of the tinkhundla regime to the Swazi socio-economic crisis and finally, the kind of state required to lead people-centred development in Swaziland.
The first generation of social movements that made clear the need for such a coordinating body included the following initiatives;
The National Youth Gender Caucus (NYGC)
Youth Education Trust – meant to assist students who were being expelled en masse from schools for their activism in Swaziland Association of Students (SAS).
THE Swaziland Campaign against Poverty and Economic Inequalities (SCAPEI)
Health and Treatment Rights Action Campaign (THRAC), which could not get off the ground as it only went as far as the initial stages
Swaziland National Association of Unemployed People (SNAUP), which was formed in 1989 but was not able to get active.
Atibuye Emasisweni Rural Landless People’s movement, which emerged in the context of the various land struggles against the aristocracy and abusive practices by some authorities.
Youth Development Forum, was at initial stages and couldn’t make it beyond.
These are just some of the initiatives that created the urgent need for a body tasked with coordinating a growing social movement in Swaziland. The one-page document that made the case for its birth, stated that central to the directives and organic development of the socio-economic justice movement in Swaziland, “was the issue of taking the struggle to the hearts and minds of the people”.
It went on to say, “in this regard, the primary emphasis is being laid on the need to prioritize the popular element of our struggle for the maximum participation of the masses of our people in the struggle. This can only be realized through the prioritization of issues that affect the masses of the people directly in their daily experiences. Such issues include; unemployment, poverty, rape and abuse, retrenchments and poor working conditions, landlessness, crime, royal exploitation and child labour, etc”.
It further stated that, “this explains the need for the movement to adapt to the existing conditions in the country in the process of mobilizing the mass of the Swazi people for popular and militant action against any and all forms of oppression and exploitation. This lays the basis for the socio-economic justice movement programme to create an active and united citizenry in the country which is well aware of their freedoms and the need to defend them for the up liftment of their standard of leaving.
It then identified 6 objectives of the movement for socio-economic justice. A full paper was then developed around early 2004 after the launch of the Foundation, which talked about building a social movement in Swaziland.
2. The Foundation changed the socio-economic justice landscape of Swaziland.
The birth of the Foundation changed the organizational, political and economic, as well as social landscape of Swaziland. It introduced a new dynamic approach to reaching out to the masses of the people and organising them for their own emancipation. This empowered the masses to act in their own right and for their own interest on all issues affecting them and finding common solutions to common problems they face.
The Foundation started with a humble back-up infrastructure, which, at times, was financed by Board members without funding, yet running projects and activities that made a difference such as door to door civic education, mobilizing and organizing the rural poor and empowering them on their socio-econonic rights etc . It was this resilience and determination of Board members that made it possible to finally secure funding from other sources to make the work of the Foundation grow at the pace atwhich it has grown. It has managed to set up quite a number of national organizations and linked them up with other like minded organizations locally and around the world of which some of them have developed to that level of having their own independent projects.
Over the years, the organization has reinvented itself time and again to meet each challenge along the path of ending inequalities, joblessness, exclusion and oppression.
The Foundation works in partnership with grassroots people in Swaziland to develop effective bottom-up strategies designed to mobilize a national constituency committed to ending economic and political oppression. The organization grew to have the following as partners, most of who were created by the Foundation itself, whilst others were supported by the Foundation in various ways. These are;
Swaziland Economic Justice Network (SEJUN)
SEJUN is a coalition of non-profit making organizations with a mandate rooted in the quest for a just society that prioritizes the needs of the poor. The organization’s foremost priority is capacity building, with the aim to empower ordinary people with the necessary tools to fight the scourge of poverty
Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly (SRWA)
The Rural Women’s Assembly is an organization that commits to building a mass based national formation of poor rural women that are able to organize, mobilize and coordinate the struggles of all sectors of rural women, small scale farmers, savings and credit cooperatives and other community based organizations at local, national, regional and international levels for economic rights, social and political justice and an end to poverty.
International Research Academy for Labour Education (IRALE)
The Labour Academy is a service providing organization that seeks to build the capacity for workers on worker rights. The organizations aims to promote unity amongst different worker federations and affiliates and develop an alternative of information through research and education that will help advance and empower workers in their campaigns for better wages, job security and the entire economic welfare of workers
Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS)
This is an ensemble of students from all the country’s tertiary institutions. SNUS seeks to mobilize and conduct civic education through debates, public meetings, arts and cultural activities. Students everywhere in the world are known to be a macrocosm of the socio-economic and political struggles of the people. SNUS is playing a significant role in advancing the struggles not only of students but also of the majority youth in Swaziland
Swaziland Cross Border Traders Association (SWACBTA)
This is a membership based organization that entails small scale vegetable and fruits traders and also takes on board cross border traders dealing in clothing and craft wares. This organization seeks to mobilize more women on issues of democracy and human rights and fighting for trade policies that address their needs both in municipal councils and government
Swaziland National Ex-Mineworkers Association (SNEMA)
This is an organization that seeks to look into the welfare of unemployed young and old men that have worked mainly in the mines in South Africa. It is firmly rooted in the country’s outlying areas and has a potential of reaching out to huge numbers of people. They are also better placed in terms of understanding the country’s political landscape owing to their exposure to South Africa’s political scene whilst still working in the mines.
For all the years, the Foundation collective has made significant and admirable stride towards its objective of building and strengthening people’s associations or movements and voice to act on the conditions and to challenge for social, economic and political change.
On Education and Organizational building
One of the key pillars in the Foundations mandate is education. FSEJ has continued to engage the rural masses through educational programmes that are relevant to the needs of the oppressed masses of our country. Vast majorities of our people have benefited from the Foundations’ civic education programme and have developed a critical socio-economic and political consciousness and a deep sense of courage to act on conditions of social, economic and political injustice and the boldness to challenge for change.
The Foundation has also recorded a high level of success in strengthening the institutional capacity of all partner organizations. Almost all these organizations have grown to secure their own sources of funding and have established networks and partnerships with an array of national and international organizations
The organization has succeeded in building people’s capacities and equipping them with the skills, methods and knowledge needed to take actions and fight for their social, economic and political rights. We have witnessed the Foundations’ partners taking the lead in initiating campaigns against hunger and poverty, campaigns against women abuse, campaigns for free primary education and campaigns for more state intervention in the welfare of the elderly by increasing their monthly grants
On movement building:
The Foundation has managed to assemble a solid foundation of an organized grassroots people’s movement that includes organized membership based peoples associations that are in the forefront of community struggles.
These associations are firmly grounded in communities and serve as organs through which people are organized and mobilized for action. The Foundation has further grown to strengthen its relationship with key political formations and the broader civil society fraternity in the country. It is also a critical player in the mass democratic movement and has succeeded in in hauling more and more people into the movement
FSEJ has also made a significant contribution to the development and empowerment of women – through its work and programmes it has created and held a space that has enabled women to enter into and play a role in the liberation struggle in Swaziland.
The organization has also created space and opportunity for the voices and contributions of women to find their place in the communities by challenging gender stereotypes and patriarchy. There have been more and more reports of women being involved in their community struggles and more voices about gender equity
4. The future of the Foundation –
Pioneering the path of advanced Research and Policy development to end poverty, unemployment and inequalities and mobilise for popular and democratic alternatives
The Foundation is developing a 10 Year Strategic Plan to be the new guide and anchor of its forward looking development. It shall be launched on the 15th February, 2014 during its 10th anniversary.
5. Towards the historic 10th anniversary of the Foundation
This moment marks a remarkable milestone and achievement for the people of Swaziland in their quest for a democratic, just and peaceful Swaziland. In this regard, the following activities shall constitute a key part of the events towards the anniversary;
Sakha Sive Forum for Development alternatives – to be launched on the 9th November, 2013 in Manzini under the theme, “Democratising development and building people’s alternatives to end poverty, inequalities and joblessness in Swaziland –
These shall be then held in all four regions during the months of November and December to deepen community discussions and popular awareness on issues affecting our people and their communities
Launch of Emahlahlandlela Entfutfuko YeMaswati Community Development (Pathfinders) Brigade – these are community agents of development, who engage the people on issues affecting them and organise them for solutions to their own problems, whilst providing alternative perspectives to help clarify issues
Launch of the Democratic Heritage and Community Resource centre, which is a centre that compiles all struggles, concerns and issues affecting the people to document them into a national information centre for sharing with others and mass information. It shall also serve to be an archive for education on community mobilisation, with experiences from elsewhere in the world.
Popular education and organising Manual – to be used in a massive national education and awareness roll out programme, which shall be launched during the 10th anniversary
Declaring 2014 as the Year of mass mobilisation for economic justice and People’s Alternatives – outlining a bold, clear and time-framed programme of activities to mark the year in style