Launching a radical new journal in Swaziland, Manqoba Nxumalo explains that Ulibambe Lingashoni will be a publication where ideas about the country will be interrogated, debated and analysed. The new online journal, which is part of the newly formed eSwatini Institute for Alternative Ideas, will help Swazis to demand political and social transformation and examine with rigour the essence of the change needed.
By Manqoba Nxumalo
A few months ago with some friends we began discussing the deteriorating socio-economic situation of our country, Swaziland. Readers of roape.net will recall that in 2018 the King of Swaziland unilaterally renamed the country eSwatini. I deliberately call the newly (mis)named eSwatini by its previous name because part of the debates leading to this new organisation we have formed was whether we must comply with King Mswati III unilateral change of the country’s name given the implications of the ensuing legal challenge brought by human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko.
The question we then had to ask ourselves was what exactly could we do to reignite the momentum for change in the country? Of course, we see ourselves as activists in our own right but the urgency to provide clarity of ideas and inspire new consciousness in public conversations became a central focus to our next course of action. It is then that we decided to launch the eSwatini Institute for Alternative Ideas (SIAI) as an umbrella body and hub of progressive thinking in Swaziland. Our aim was simple: defeat ignorance, royal misinformation, ideological undernourishment and political deception.
It quickly became clear to us that if Swaziland is to attain political change then we needed to wage a relentless war against ignorance and ideological poverty. This then called for a clear identification of what is the problem in the country beyond just political rhetoric and hot air. Once the ideas got clearer it became relatively easy to create SIAI as an independent platform and safe space to debate challenges facing contemporary Swaziland. Within this platform came the idea of housing Ulibambe Lingashoni, an online journal that will be the vehicle where ideas about the country are to be interrogated, debated and analysed.
To us the idea of alternative media, alternative history and alternative ideas more broadly is important because they imbue the country with critical thinking and avoid the mantra of ‘change for its own sake’ or ‘our turn to eat’ type of change. In fact, if we are to inspire Swazis to demand political and social transformation then the quality and essence of the ‘change’ needs to be examined with equal vigour.
Writing about education, the Russian Revolutionary and Anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin wondered, for example, if it would be feasible ‘for the working masses to know complete emancipation as long as the education available to those masses continues to be inferior to that bestowed upon the bourgeois, or, in more general terms, as long as there exists any class, be it numerous or otherwise, which, by virtue of birth, is entitled to a superior education and a more complete instruction? Does not the question answer itself?’
Bakunin teaches us that people act according to choices they are exposed to by their education. Put differently, people act or do things in a particular way because they believe or have been conditioned to believe in a particular way. The knowledge or ideas they hold shape their world outlook, how they define social norms and importantly, how they relate to each other. That is why it is important at SIAI to confront the dominant ideas that have held our country and continent prisoner for so many years.
Our work as a hub for alternative thinking is merely to complement various commentators who have long raised critical issues about education, knowledge production, political economy, democracy, development and economy. Our people have for years been systematically fed lies. It is our duty to liberate them from the physical bondages of oppression but also the ideas that ensure they remain prisoners.
Through our various platforms we hope to educate people about the true history of the country while also archiving their own relentless struggle against royal domination and conquest. In our maiden issue former Illovo Managing Director and PUDEMO treason trialist, Mandla Hlathwayo, neatly traces the history of Tinkhundla, the country’s non-party governance system, by looking at the roots of the system of royal control and economic exclusion. Bongani Masuku, the former President of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) and also former COSATU International Affairs Secretary, tackled the economy and chronicles why it has collapsed. Meanwhile, investigative journalist Thenjiwe Hlophe probes the operations of the European Union in the country. Lawyer Thebeka Litchfied on other hand asks the progressive movement to pronounce clearly on the trial of businessmen Sipho Shongwe. Shongwe is currently on trial for the murder of fellow businessman Victor Gamedze. Litchfield’s argument is that the struggle for democracy in the country must never be hijacked by the criminal underworld just because they happen to harm the interests of the state. While journalist and human rights activist Manqoba Nxumalo wonders if Cyril Ramaphosa’s new dawn will extend to Swaziland. Perhaps the biggest debate is sparked by activist Thabo Hlongwane who rhetorically asks why the Swazi struggle has not reached its full potential.
All of this would not have been possible without the ideas we received from many well-meaning internationalists like Peter Limb whose ideas in the formative stages were critical in honing the rough edges and ensuring we have a clearer focus of what we want. We also acknowledge the advice and guidance we have received from ROAPE whose organization is, in truth, an important model in the formation of SIAI. We have also benefitted from the political advice and guidance from exiled Swazi activist Jabulani Matsebula, former COSATU International Affairs Officer Bongani Masuku as well as Mandla Hlatshwayo and many others. We also had to reach to other influential Swazi commentators outside of the mainstream political circles whose opinions were important to ensure that we talk to the concerns of all Swazis across political and class divide.
We appreciate all the contributors who have completed their work for our inaugural journal issue even if not writing but offering critique, direction and advise. Perhaps the proudest moment for me is the fact that the journal’s Managing Editor is author Perfect Hlongwane, author of the novel ‘Jozi’. We can therefore lay claim to having benefitted from the insightful thinking of the best and most radical in Swaziland and abroad. As Mao said, ‘letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend’.
Manqoba Nxumalo is the Chairman of SIAI. The journal was launched on September 15 and is available on the website here.