Struggling to Achieve Mass Mobilization and Unity – An Analysis of the Democracy Movement in Swaziland

Start date: 3 May, 2012 End date: 8 June, 2012 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A18232 Countries: Swaziland Institutions: Roskilde University (RUC), Denmark Grant recipient: Bo Karlsen Total grant: 20,000 DKK



The master’s thesis deals with democratization and social movements in Africa, with a special focus on internal organizing. It assesses the democracy movement in the oppressive kingdom of Swaziland.
The paper writes itself into a body of literature examining African contention through the existing, Western understandings of social movements.


The thesis utilizes the methodology ‘Grounded Theory’. Therefore the thesis is empirically driven and aims at identifying what the actors in the field perceive as the most important problem in the field – their main concern. With this done the thesis aims at identifying the challenges behind the main concern. The connected challenges are together what form the core process in the field.
In addition, this thesis goes a little bit beyond the mandate in Grounded Theory and analyzes two examples where the challenges in the core process have been overcome.


The empirical data is from a five week field study, where leaders of Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and Foundation for Socio Economic Justice (FSEJ) were interviewed. Additionally four member organizations of SUDF and FSEJ were selected and here it was sought to interview all levels. Finally a few leaders from the other wing in the democracy movement were interviewed in order to give an overview of their views.


At an early stage in the field work it was concluded that the dual main concern in the field was a focus on creating ‘Mass Mobilization’ and ‘Unity’ in the democracy movement. This has to do with a split in the democracy movement, where SUDF and FSEJ are one wing, and three organizations (SCCCO , SNAT  and NNLC ) make up the other.
By Mass Mobilization is meant an ambition to mobilize both wings in the movement in demonstrations. By Unity is meant a close cooperation between the two wings.


Through a thorough examination of the data produced at the field work it has been concluded that the two main challenges behind the inability to achieve the main concern are ‘Differences in Cult Values’ and ‘Leadership Struggles’.
By Differences in Cult Values is meant that there are some deeply rooted differences in values and ways to carry out activities between the two wings in the democracy movement. These differences cause the disagreements. By ‘Leadership Struggles’ is meant that there are several aspects where the leaders of the two wings are hostile to each other and are reluctant to cooperate  - something that is actually in contrast to the members at the lower levels.


With this in mind, it is argued that the core process in the democracy movement (mainly seen from the perspective of SUDF and FSEJ) is a struggle for Unity and Mass Mobilization. The two reasons for not achieving this are that there are Differences in Cult Values and Leadership Struggles.


In the last part of the analysis two examples of where the negative core process has been overcome are examined. The first one is the campaign unit of SUDF, SDC . The unit has achieved Mass Mobilization and, to a moderate extent, Unity, by avoiding the Differences in Cult Values between the two wings and skillfully maneuvering in the Leadership Struggles. The other example is a labour education organization named IRALE . The organization has facilitated Unity among the trade unions by decreasing the Differences in Cult Values at the lower levels. By this the lower levels created pressure on the leadership who therefore had to accept that the trade unions merged.


With these conclusions I hope to contribute to the existing body of knowledge on African social movements. On a practical level the master’s thesis hopes to contribute to the understanding of how the challenges explained in the core process can be overcome, to the help of the people in the Swazi democracy movement and other social movements in similar situations.


  1 Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations.
  2 Swaziland National Association of Teachers.
  3 Ngwane National Liberatory Congress.