Never has our nation been so devastated and disempowered than when they woke up to the news of the demise of comrade Jan Sithole, the President of the Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA) and former Secretary General of the now defunct Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU).
A revolutionary giant, Sithole played a huge and defining role in the advancement of not only factory-to-factory or bread-and-butter issues of workers but also the general struggle for the total liberation of the people of Swaziland.
He was one of a few leaders who minced no words in their hatred of the backward and barbaric system that presides over our lives in this forgotten corner of the globe. He made a clear and bold call for the democratization of our beloved country before it became unfashionable to do so.
By so doing he inspired generations and taught us that it was an act of patriotism to defy an oppressive and exploitative establishment that thrives on the systematic manipulation of society.
Most of us will indisputably remember him for the popular mobilization of workers which culminated to what eventually became known as the ’27 Demands.’ Sithole instilled in us a sense of commitment to service humanity, demonstrating that hatred and anger are not enough to achieve change but that only organizations make revolutions!
He showed us that real activists are those that stand firm in the face of imprisonment and state violence. He embodied the qualities of an outstanding and brave soldier who fully understood the consequences of standing up against powerful and selfish interests.
Sithole was a Member of the 2013 – 2018 parliament representing Manzini North because his party believes that the system can be fought from within, a tactical move that was respected by all of us on the frontline of this revolution because we knew, much as we do even today, that he had not undermined any principle by embarking on that tactical move.
We appreciate his service to the people of Swaziland and we will always celebrate his contribution to the struggle. Condolences to his family, friends, his party and the entire progressive movement in the country and the world; our thoughts and prayers are with all of them during this sad moment.
We in the democratic movement have lost a sober and well-mannered gentleman who taught us that we can be decent, loving and responsible family members and still be decisive agents for political change; a leader who showed us that we can be polite, respectful and calm while articulating emotional points that border on lives of people. He taught us that shouting or raising our voices does not make our points stronger but substance and conviction does.
From him we learnt the art of mobilizing people; he taught us how to get 20 000 people to a mass protest in a small country of about a million people and with a hostile state infrastructure!
We have lost a charming comrade who would dress so immaculately but still be an uncompromising and principled revolutionary. Our people have lost a man who was relevant in the boardroom and on the streets! What a great activist and leader!
We will miss him on the trenches and picket lines. If death could negotiate we would plead that it gives comrade “JJ” a few more years so that he tastes the fruits of the tree he planted.
I would have told the Almighty, “But God, you know quite well that we are about to democratize this country, why take comrade Jan at a time when the struggle is about to reach its logical conclusion?”
In honour of comrade Jan and other fallen heroes and heroines, we shall fight with all our might until the liberation is attained in our lifetime. We are angry that they had to die before stepping onto the new Swaziland they worked so hard for. For that reason, we commit yet again to redouble our efforts to correct the 1973 criminal injustice to our people! We shall fight!!!
Hamba Kahle Comrade “JJ”
NB: Mancoba Mabuza is the former President of the Swaziland Nation Union of Students.