Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

People's United Democratic Movement

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President  Mario Masuku
Founded  7 July 1983
Secretary-General  Mlungisi Makhanya
Political position  Left-wing
Youth wing  Swaziland Youth Congress
Ideology  Socialism Social democracy

The People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) is the largest opposition political party in Swaziland. It is a Socialist party. Formed in 1983 at the University of Swaziland, it is led by pro-democracy activist Mario Masuku. The Swaziland regime has been watching PUDEMO closely since it launched the Ulibambe Lingashoni ("Don't Let the Sun Set") campaign, which is aimed at a "total liberation" of Swaziland, and has recently clamped down heavily on even small manifestations of support for PUDEMO. An example of this is the death in custody of PUDEMO member Sipho Jele - arrested for wearing a PUDEMO t-shirt in May 2010.



The People's United Democratic Movement was formed in 1983 at the University of Swaziland.

Its 1985 manifesto stated that it was

‘fully dedicated to creating a democratic Swaziland’, that ‘the countries wealth shall be enjoyed by all citizens and shall be shared equally’, that ‘the land shall be given to all those who work it’, that there shall be ‘free, compulsory, universal and equal [education] for all children’ and that ‘human rights shall be observed and respected’.

PUDEMO called for democratic reforms in 1988, 1990, and 1991. PUDEMO rejected King Mswati III's 1991 commission to review the tiNkhundla system, and the King's 1992 commission on electoral reform. King Mswati III responded by suspending the legislature, and began to rule by decree.

The Swaziland Youth Congress claimed responsibility for a Feb. 6, 1995 fire in the House of Assembly.

PUDEMO held a campaign of strikes and civil disobedience in 1996.

In 2000, PUDEMO President Mario Masuku "was arrested for "insulting the king, sedition and treason."

Pro-democracy protests took place in Swaziland in 2002, with "40% of Swaziland population believed to be on verge of starvation following poor harvests."

At the 2003 elections in Swaziland only non-partisans were elected. In March 2005, the Swaziland High Court ruled that "political parties can not exist."

In March 2006, PUDEMO members, including Bonginkosi Dlamini, the PUDEMO secretary-general, were charged with petrol bomb attacks. In April 2007, "Six PUDEMO members [were] charged with sedition following protests on the anniversary of King Sobhuza II's royal decree banning political parties."

In April 2008, PUDEMO's deputy President Gabriel Mkhumane was killed by criminals, according to the Swazi regime. However, opposition supporters believe that he was assassinated by government operatives.

Umbane People’s Liberation Army, described as "a secret militant group linked to the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO)" claimed responsibility for "a series of small bomb blasts" in Swaziland in 2008.

On 21 September 2008, Musa Dlamini and Jack Govender were killed while allegedly trying to bomb the Lozitha Bridge in an attempt to assassinate the King. Although PUDEMO had "called for a more militant approach to achieving democracy ... [it] denied any part in the bombing. However, at Musa Dlamini's funeral, PUDEMO President Mario Masuku was alleged to have verbally supported recent bombings of government institutions. Mario Masuku spent 340 days in prison before he was acquitted and discharged at the High Court on September 21, 2009.

In May 2010, Sipho Jele, a PUDEMO member, was arrested for wearing a PUDEMO t-shirt, and died in police custody.

The Bhunya home of Alex LaNgwenya, a leader of PUDEMO's youth wing, the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), was destroyed in a bombing attack in 2010. "The Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008 was enacted soon after the incident, and PUDEMO and SWAYOCO were banned as terrorist organizations. Several members of PUDEMO and SWAYOCO were alleged to have carried out a bombing campaign and detained."

PUDEMO's Deputy-President Sikhumbuzo Phakathi said the 2010 Swaziland Democracy Campaign "was launched in South Africa because in Swaziland all political activity is banned," adding:

"That makes it a criminal offense to belong to a political party," said Phakathi. "It makes it recently a terrorist act to belong to my organization, PUDEMO, which the government decided was a terrorist organization."

In 2010-2011, attempts to add the history of PUDEMO to Swaziland's high school curriculum failed.

In 2012, Umbane People’s Liberation Army participant Amos Mbedzi of South Africa was sentenced to "85 years in prison for high treason and terrorism" for his part in the 2008 bombing at Lozitha bridge.

Also in 2012, Princess Sikhanyiso Dlamini held a political debate with PUDEMO over Twitter, while her father, King Mswati III, continued his refusal to negotiate with PUDEMO on the grounds that they were terrorists.

PUDEMO was admitted into the Socialist International as a consultative member at the SI's spring congress on 4–5 February 2013.

In 2014, PUDEMO President Mario Masuku and Swaziland Youth Congress leader Maxwell Dlamini were arrested during Labour Day celebrations.

In April, 2014 PUDEMO General Secretary Mlungisi Makhanya was arrested for wearing a party T-shirt, and released on bail. Makhanya was wearing the T-shirt to protest the incarceration of journalist Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko. According to IFEX, Maseko is alleged to have said: "MJ Dlamini and Jack Govender died for the liberation of this country. One day the Lozitha bridge will be called MJ and Govender bridge."


  • The Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) is PUDEMO's youth wing.
  • The Umbane People’s Liberation Army has been described as "a secret militant group linked to the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO)".
  • PUDEMO became a consultative member of the Socialist International in February 2013.
  • The Danish Red-Green Alliance began a partnership with PUDEMO in March 2013 which "aims to increase the capacity of PUDEMO to be a more visible and credible political force within and outside Swaziland."
  • Solidarity organizations include the Swaziland Solidarity Network, based in South Africa, which has stated its "unwavering commitment to total liberation of the people of Swaziland from the unjust and undemocratic system and the autocracy of the royal family that continues to plunder the national economy and abuse cultural and political institutions", and the Swaziland Solidarity Network Canada.
  • References

    People's United Democratic Movement Wikipedia