Swaziland's King Mswati III. File photo: AP

Mbabane - A vigil for the late pro-democracy political activist Bongani Dlamini - branded a terrorist by King Mswati’s government - took a page from South Africa’s Struggle: 2 000 mourners used the funeral to demonstrate against tyranny in Swaziland.

“Our brothers and sisters in South Africa showed the way to confront dictatorships with song and hope, and that is what we must do in Swaziland to keep our spirits up against Mswati’s regime,” said Cedric Matsebula, a member of the Swaziland Youth Congress, a wing of the banned political party People’s United Democratic Front (Pudemo).

Dlamini was president of the youth congress when he died last week after a lifetime of opposing Swaziland’s system of government, which allows Mswati to rule without political opposition.

The vigil on Saturday night recalled the way that funerals for anti-apartheid activists were used as rallies in South Africa.

The speakers included Pudemo president Mario Masuku, who has been tried and acquitted of treason for opposing sub-Saharan Africa’s only unelected ruler.

“We are here to celebrate the legacy of a person who hated oppression of any form, a person who had the welfare of the people at heart,” he said.

Mourners wore red T-shirts and berets, emulating the apparel of South Africa’s youth activists. Importing another South African Struggle custom, they performed the toyi-toyi. Anti-monarchy banners were unfurled and the singing and dancing proceeded until dawn on Sunday.

Matsebula said Swazis had a more complicated task in transforming King Mswati into a constitutional monarch than South Africans had had in opposing apartheid.

“Swazis respect our king, even as the royal family sits on our rights… It’s easy when your enemy is another race and culture. But Mswati’s rule is immoral and illegal.”

The Swazi government said that Mswati had a “divine connection”. Justice Minister Sibusiso Shongwe said: “It is God’s desire to see the people of Swaziland loving their monarchy


-The Mercury