Thokozane Kenneth Kunene: The working class has been the hardest hit by the pandemic and its consequences

Posted on November 16, 2021 by Il Grido del Popolo©


Thokozane Kenneth Kunene is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS), a Swazi communist party founded on 9 April 2011. A party that has been under attack by the monarchist regime of King Mswati III for ten years.


Comrade Kunene, tell me first how your country is coping with the crisis caused by the corona virus pandemic, especially in social and economic term?


TKK: Thank you so much for the opportunity to present the views of the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) on various issues regarding the revolution.

It is important to understand, firstly, that Swaziland’s healthcare system is one of the worst in the African continent. The healthcare system has now virtually collapsed. Before the corona virus pandemic spread into our country, already public hospitals and clinics were running with serious shortages in medication, equipment and staff. 

When the pandemic hit, the healthcare system simply could not handle the additional load. The government was not ready in every department. The referral hospital that was used specifically for coronavirus patients at Siteki town, east of Swaziland, was never adequately resourced. The hospital lacked vital equipment such as oxygen and beds.

The working class has been the hardest hit by the pandemic and its consequences. While the people were dying without adequate medical resources, the best medical resources were given to the royal family and their friends. When Mswati contracted the virus in 2020, he told his parliament in early 2021 that he had received a “wonder drug” from the Taiwan government, as well as receiving attention from the best doctors. Some of the royal and government top officials who contracted the virus were airlifted to neighbouring South Africa for better treatment while the rest of the population were dying in inadequately resourced hospitals, some of whom could not even get to hospitals due to shortage of ambulances and thus died in their homes.


Are the working class and farmers in the kingdom of Eswatini the ones who will pay the biggest guild of this crisis, and how will that affect their future?


TKK: Indeed, the working class and the rural people who live through subsistence farming will be, as they already are, the worst affected by the crisis. Already they were suffering under a capitalist crisis, under a feudalistic terrain in the condition of Swaziland. The Covid crisis has pushed them further down and widened inequality in Swazi society. Swaziland is among countries with the worst inequality. The results of this societal inequality have been protests which were largely composed of both groups, particularly organised and led by the students and youth under the “Democracy Now” slogan.


How does the Communist Party of Swaziland work in the field during a pandemic, and how does the mobilization of forces in the field take place when providing assistance to the local population?


TKK: In the early days of the lockdown in early 2020, the situation challenged communists organising on the ground, particularly because the lockdown was extreme at Level 5 with early night curfews. It is important to understand in this instance, that the Communist Party, along with other political parties, remains banned under the 12 April 1973 decree which established the absolute monarchy. As such, the Party cannot work openly without attracting the wrath of the security forces. 

The absolute monarchy, taking advantage of the lockdown, unleashed its security forces, harassing the people both in urban areas and the countryside. The regime used the lockdown not to improve the people’s lives but to suppress them further. Many were assaulted by the police, including children playing in the veld, accused of assembling in groups and breaking lockdown protocols. The regime also used the lockdown to shut down any opportunity for the people to meet and discuss about the politics of the country.


What is the cooperation with other communist parties on the African continent, and in your environment, for example the Communist Party of South Africa? Is there really communist solidarity?


TKK: The Communist Party of Swaziland works well with African communist parties, as well as other forces of the Left, including trade unions. The work towards uniting all these forces is still an ongoing process, however. 

The CPS is an active member of the International Workers and Communist Parties headquartered in Athens. The CPS also has good relations with the South African Communist Party. Communist solidarity does exist in Africa, but is, of course, limited by, among other realities, the suppression of other communist parties by governments in the continent, especially those doing the gatekeeping for imperialism.


How much do you follow the international political scene and potential shifts on the left spectrum of social action and political struggle in the world, in the conditions of increasingly pronounced imperialism?


TKK: Imperialism, spearheaded by the United States and its European allies, continues to spread its claws across the world. The USA’s Africa command has deepened its reach, seemingly in response to the growing working-class movement and revolutionary forces, but also in its attempt to fend off the influence of other growing economies, such as China. 

The stretch of imperialism has produced right wing governments in countries such as Brazil and India, linking up with the United States after a period of left wing governments which improved the lives of the working-class people. These gains have been reversed in those countries. The imperialist aggressions on both Cuba and Venezuela have only worsened and got a helping hand from these right-wing regimes. The Communist Party of Swaziland has continued to stand with the people of both Cuba and Venezuela, in defence of their right to self-determination and national sovereignty.


Once upon a time in the anti-colonial war, African nations could rely on the support of the Soviet Union as the leader of the Eastern Socialist bloc, but also of the Non-Aligned Movement under the leadership of Yugoslavia. Today, in the absence of these political blocs, many African states rely on China’s economic and financial assistance. To what extent is such economic and financial dependence on China actually a guarantee of the prosperity of African countries, or is new colonial slavery on the horizon?


TKK: The Soviet Union and the Socialist bloc were particularly principled in the anti-colonials struggles of Africa. They placed both financial and material resources at the disposal of African liberation movements to fight against colonialism and apartheid. They, however, had to face the fierce economic and military prowess of Western imperialist powers such as the United States which were among the fierce benefactors of colonialism and apartheid.

Today, however, conditions have changed, and it is difficult to receive such levels of solidarity. Most of the socialist countries have been forced by various illegal embargoes imposed by imperialist powers, such as the one that has been imposed on Cuba for about six decades. As such, those socialist states which supported the anti-colonial struggles need our committed solidarity at this stage, against the embargoes.

China also faces massive limitations imposed by the United States imperialist regime. Economic prosperity of African countries, in their relations with China, will depend on African countries and their governments developing their respective people in order to build self-sufficiency, and link up with other progressive states based on solidarity. The lessons we have learned from China’s growth over the years is the importance of developing a country’s productive forces by investing in the country’s people, buttressed by tightly guarding and defending the country’s sovereignty from imperialist attacks.


Is a new paradigm needed to wage anti-imperialist war on the African continent today in the absence of political and revolutionary leaders, such as captain Thomas Sankara?


TKK: Thomas Sankara remains a great inspiration to many Africans, and indeed African revolutionaries, not least the Communist Party of Swaziland. His vision on self-sufficiency and self-sustenance, as mentioned above – including the avoidance of crippling loans from imperialist financial institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank – remains a vision not yet attained by many African nations. African revolutionary leaders, therefore, must draw lessons from the leadership of the likes of Thomas Sankara, among others, who took practical actions and proved that African countries can develop rapidly without relying on these crippling international loans.

The Communist Party of Swaziland intends to build a democratic nation, together with the Swazi working class and peasants, by emphasising on true independence, free from imperialist clutches. To ensure that it is able to do this very well in the future, however, the Party has since its inception in 2011 remained independent of any foreign influence, whether of an economic or political posture. The Party’s capacity has thus strengthened and has, partly due to this, cleansed itself of any negative elements that would ordinarily derail revolutionary forces.

As such, learning from past leaders, one aspect of the anti-imperialist struggles is the building of strong communist parties, trade unions, along with principled working-class internationalism.


Capitalism, no matter how contradictory, today is increasingly accelerating and adapting to the new conditions of existence of human civilization. Is a new strategy of the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie and the interests of capital necessary?


TKK: The working class – and revolutionary forces, basically – must develop along with the development of forces of productive. The dialectical understanding of the world, from a materialist approach in particular, should help revolutionaries understanding the constantly changing world, and indeed the ever-developing capitalist system, and thus adapt accordingly. As such, revolutionaries must master the new aspects of capitalist production and exchange.

Notwithstanding the above, it is crucial for revolutionaries to remember that capitalism is characterised by the exploitation of human labour power (the majority) for the maximisation of profits expropriated by a few. Thus, the key principles laid down by the Communist Manifesto in 1848 remain critical. Additionally, the imperialist stage of capitalism means that the reinforcement of working-class internationalism is now more important than ever.

Some of the attributes of capitalism today have included the casualisation of labour as well as the introduction of labour brokers, where workers are recruited by a third party, and no longer directly by the employing company. This has negatively affected the unionisation of workers. This does not mean, however, that unions have become obsolete. Instead, it means that union organisation must improve, while the fight against labour brokers and casualisation continues to be intensified.

A post Covid-19 workplace also promises to transform, with work-from-home assignments becoming more fortified – but exploitation of the worker intensifying. This as well looks to negatively affect the unionisation of workers, who may not have the chance to meet in the traditional workplace such as factories. All these, of course, occur within the context of the 4th industrial revolution which, in addition, has shed numerous jobs while creating new ones of a different character and on a different plane.


At the end of this conversation, what will you say to all our Comrades and Communists here in the Balkans and beyond on the European continent?


TKK: The people of Swaziland are engaged in a determined struggle to rid themselves of an absolute monarch which has ruled the country by an iron fist from 1973. In May 2021, students and youth marched through the streets of Manzini City, Swaziland’s largest city and industrial centre, against police brutality. The marches followed the death of a university student, Thabani Nkomonye, on the night of 8 May 2021 after the car he was driving was shot at by the police. The youth and students’ marches sparked what would later become a nationwide protest, under the “Democracy Now” campaign, calling for the end of monarchy rule and introduction of democracy in Swaziland. The Communist Party of Swaziland has been running the “Democracy Now” campaign since 2019, signalling the urgency needed to totally end the monarchic rule. The campaign has been widely adopted by the people of Swaziland since May 2021.

The regime unleashed its military in June protesters, which massacred the unarmed people. About 100 people have thus far been killed by the security forces, with hundreds injured and many losing limbs.

To the people of the Balkans and beyond the European continent, the people of Swaziland are waging a principled struggle against a backward, patriarchal absolute monarchy system – for total democracy. The ongoing revolution demands relentless international solidarity in all forms. The Communist Party of Swaziland calls upon solidarity of all kinds – material, financial and otherwise – for the fighting people of Swaziland. The regime has international, imperialist backers, who continuously rescue the regime from both economic and political ruin. Thus, international solidarity is crucial in strengthening the revolution.

The Communist Party will be going to its annual ten-day Summer School in December where delegates will be re-evaluation the Swazi struggle as well as the international working-class struggle, rooted in the method of scientific socialism as explained by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and emphasised by the practical action of the working-class struggles over the years. Solidarity in this regard is still crucial as holding such school, in addition to the annual Winter School in July and other similar activities demand intensive financial and material support.

Thank you, once again, for this wonderful opportunity.




The interview was prepared and made by Gordan Stošević