This post contains two short articles by Peter Kenworthy from African Contact. One is on the charging of two Swazi youth leaders for allegedly possessing explosives that Swazi police claim were to be used for acts of terrorism during the recent mass demonstrations for democracy, rule of law and socio-economic justice in Swaziland. The other article is about the general environment of insecurity for pro-democracy activists protesting against the government.
1. Swazi youth leaders tortured and forced to confess during mass protests
Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact
Two Swazi youth leaders have been charged for allegedly possessing explosives that Swazi police claim were to be used for acts of terrorism during the recent mass demonstrations for democracy, rule of law and socio-economic justice in Swaziland. But the confessions to this alleged crime were made after they had been tortured, according to the Swaziland Solidarity Network.
Maxwell Dlamini is president of Swaziland’s student organization SNUS, and had already been arrested prior to the main day of protest, April 12, but was released before being re-arrested and charged. Musa Ngubeni, is a member of the youth wing of Swaziland’s largest banned opposition party, PUDEMO.
The two were arrested in Zakhele, a township in the outskirts of Swaziland’s industrial hub, Manzini, together with three others who were later released without charges, spokesperson of the Swaziland Solidarity Network, Lucky Lukhele said yesterday (15 April).
'The police claim they found all five of them in possession of detonators and cables for detonators but did not show them any of this material that they claim to have found. The police claimed that they were following a tip from an unknown person,' Lukhele further said.
'Further information provided by our sources is that the two who were charged were first tortured and then forced to write a report of what they had been doing between Friday and Wednesday, when they were released from being detained on Sunday. These reports were dictated to them and they were forced not to include anything that the police did to them – including the torture.'
According to Amnesty International, who has sent out several press releases expressing concern for the well-being of the many detained activists during the recent days of mass protest in Swaziland, they are not to be charged with the controversial Suppression of Terrorism Act, however.
'I understand that they are charged with a contravention of the Explosives Act No.4 of 1964, not the Suppression of Terrorism Act,' says Mary Rayner from Amnesty International, who could also inform that they have been remanded to Matsapha Central Prison.
Their legal representative was not present in court when they were charged because of incorrect information provided to the lawyer. Swaziland Federation of Labour Secretary General, Vincent Ncongwane, saw this irregularity as hinting at the real reasons for the charges, which Ncongwane called 'unconvincing', according to the Swazi Observer. He said that the allegations had been made 'to cover up for the heavy-handedness the police applied against innocent citizens' during the mass protests.
Apart from being an incredibly economically unequal country, where two thirds of the population survives on less than a dollar a day and on food aid from the UN, whilst the elite close to the absolute monarch lives in luxury, Swaziland has an extremely bad track record of human rights abuses and lack of civil liberties. Amnesty International speaks of the Swazi regime’s continuous arbitrary detentions, assaults, ill-treatment and intimidation of human rights defenders and Freedom House gave Swaziland a political rights score of 7 in 2010, their lowest possible ranking.
2. International community must act now to stop Swazi regime’s brutality
Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact
'We will not give in; but our just cause does not benefit from an international community that sacrifices the Swazi people on the altar of silence and shameless indifference,' says Sikelela Dlamini, Project Coordinator of the Swaziland United Democratic Front.
Sikelela Dlamini is talking about the general beatings, injustices and intimidation that are a daily feature of the absolute regime that is Swaziland. But he is also talking specifically about the brutal clamp-down on the last weeks mass protests, that saw peaceful democracy advocates indiscriminately detained and brutalized.
And Sikelela is particularly incensed about the torture of, and charges [for possession of explosives] brought against, Maxwell Dlamini, President of the Swaziland National Union of Students, and Musa Ngubeni from PUDEMO’s youth movement – charges that people in the democratic movement in Swaziland say are ludicrous - and the brutal beating of Swaziland Democracy Campaign’s Mary Da Silva.
'I'd like to appeal to the international community to put immediate pressure on Swaziland’s Tinkhundla [a system that allows the King to control government and land allocation] regime to unconditionally release Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Ngubeni. They have committed no crime other than unapologetically demanding their constitutional right to politically associate and assemble freely. They demand multiparty democracy like all of the pro-democracy movement in Swaziland,' Sikelela Dlamini tells me.
'Tinkhudla should not be allowed to become a comfortable oasis of brutal dictatorship in a sea of democracy all around us. The security apparatus is framing Maxwell and Musa in a desperate effort to justify to the international community their unprovoked brutality on unarmed protesters peacefully demanding their God-given right to self-determination.'
Mary Da Silva, who was viciously beaten and detained while conducting a live interview with a South African Radio station, is a clear-cut example of the lengths that the Swazi regime will go to in order to stop the inevitable democratization process, says Sikelela Dlamini.
'The brutality that Mary Da Silva of the SUDF's campaign wing, Swaziland Democracy Campaign, was subjected to just before lunch on the 12th of April, convinces me that the cops are ready to kill for Tinhundla. The world must not wait for this to happen. But it will unless the world shows Tinkhundla its firm disapproval. King Mswati III publicly condoned brutality when he praised the police for ‘protecting’ the country from us. They must now feel that it is OK to kill for Mswati.'
And Sikelela Dlamini fears that the Swazi regime wants him dead. 'I'm still on the police's wanted list and fear for my life and for the members of my family. The police who brutalized Mary in my office made it clear I was their prime target. Why is the world watching from a disinterested distance when Mswati and Tinkhundla run roughshod over our innocent lives? The Swazi people have continued to express their desire to be free. But the world must now lend a helping hand in the face of Tinkhundla's open brutality,' he insists.