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Masekela ignores Swazi festival boycott

The Star
The Bushfire Festival takes place this weekend in Swaziland but the country’s Solidarity Network wants no part of it.

Spokesperson Lucky Lukhele said they had been contacting a number of artists including iconic trumpeter Hugh Masekela, pictured, to boycott the three-day musical movement where he will be performing at this weekend.

In a letter sent to the Stimela hit-maker by the secretary of the exiled Swazi party Pudemo, Pius Vilakati asked that Masekela decline the invitation, saying the country was ruled by the "tinkhundla" system, which he said meant that “the king rules the country as an absolute monarch, parliament has no power over his government”.

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FILE PICTURE: Hugh Masekela

“Political parties have been banned by decree since April 1973. I am one of the many victims of the system, having been forced into exile in South Africa in 2010,” he wrote.

Vilakati said the Bushfire Festival was an event that allowed the tinkhundla regime to mislead the world that there was peace in Swaziland.

“The cultural boycott has been ongoing for four years. We have mobilised a number of artists over the years who have declared solidarity with us. The first big artists from SA to endorse us were Bra Caiphus Semenya, mam’ Letta Mbulu and Ringo Madlingozi at previous events,” said Lukhele.

He said several other South African artists had also boycotted the festival in the last few years.

The Solidarity Network said they had reached out to Masekela to do the same, but he said that the boycott was focused on the wrong people.

“They should be talking to businesses that trade with Swaziland, government (SA) is very lovey-dovey with them. The president (Zuma) is very close to the King. And other southern African countries do business with them,” he said.

Masekela said artists were weak targets.

“I have never heard of them (Solidarity) directing their protest to these structures, so that’s where the real problem is.”

He said artists were "self-inclined agents" and had played in many countries in the world where there was major oppression and autocracy, and that many of those people were exiled in South Africa.

“That in itself is a major problem. I think they (Solidarity) should go where their problem really is, that’s my stand,” said Masekela. “I don’t think artists are Swaziland’s problem.”

Lukhele said they would not force matters if Masekela persisted and continued on to perform at the festival.

“Solidarity is not forced. It comes with heart, it’s an act of love. If he wants to be on that side, we wish him good luck. We have come to a stage where we won’t force people or beg for them to be with us.”

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