Tuesday, April 30, 2013


April 2013 has been one of the worst months in living memory for human rights in Swaziland.

The conviction of Bheki Makhubu and the Nation magazine for ‘scandalising the courts’ by publishing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary sent waves of anger across the world. Makhubu faces two years in jail and his magazine closure if he loses an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Other violations of rights in Swaziland this month attracted less attention.

On 12 April, democrats wanted to mark the 40th anniversary of King Sobhuza’s Royal Decree that in 1973 turned Swaziland from a democracy to a kingdom ruled by an autocratic monarch, by holding a public meeting to discuss the forthcoming national election in Swaziland. All political parties are banned from taking part and the meeting was to discuss why this was so.

Armed police and riot troops, acting without a court order, physically blocked the restaurant in Manzini where the meeting was to take place. The police said the meeting was a threat to state security.

A week later, on 19 April, the 45th birthday of King Mswati III, who presently rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, a youth group tried to hold a meeting at Msunduza Township in Mbabane to discuss the election. Again, police acting on their own initiative, forced the meeting to close. Organisers of the meeting have been charged with sedition.

Raids on the homes of democracy activists in Swaziland took place during the month. Wonder Mkhonza, the National Organizing Secretary of the banned political party the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) was allegedly found in possession of 5,000 pamphlets belonging to PUDEMO. He has been charged with sedition.

The Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), in a joint statement said police in Swaziland were now a ‘private militia’ with the sole purpose of serving the Royal regime.
During this month, but before the most recent events, the  Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia that Swaziland was becoming a ‘military state’. OSISA reported that the Swazi army, police and correctional services were being deployed to ‘clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country’s undemocratic elections’.

Separately, the US Embassy in Swaziland voiced its ‘deep concern’ about the way the police engaged in ‘acts of intimidation and fear’ against people seeking their political rights.

In its annual review of human rights in Swaziland, published this month, the US State Department recorded, ‘The three main human rights abuses were police use of excessive force, including use of torture, beatings, and unlawful killings; restrictions on freedoms of association, assembly, and speech; and discrimination and abuse of women and children.

‘Other human rights problems included arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and persons with albinism; harassment of labor leaders; child labor; mob violence; and restrictions on worker rights.

‘In general perpetrators acted with impunity, and the government took few or no steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses.’

Swazi Media Commentary has published Swaziland: Striving For Freedom, available free-of-charge at scribd dot com, the fourth volume of information, commentary and analysis on human rights taken from articles first published on the blogsite in April 2013. Each month throughout this year a digest of articles will be published bringing together in one place material that is rarely found elsewhere.

Swazi Media Commentary has no physical base and is completely independent of any political faction and receives no income from any individual or organisation. People who contribute ideas or write for it do so as volunteers and receive no payment.

Friday, April 26, 2013


King Mswati III views all opposition to the elections in his kingdom later this year as ‘treason’, the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) said.

Activists have been arrested and charged with sedition for trying to hold an election rally earlier this month (April 2013).

The CPS said the charges showed King Mswati, ‘views opposition to his elections as treason’.

Those arrested include Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) Secretary General Maxwell Dlamini; SWAYOCO International Affairs Secretary Sonkhe Dube; Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) National Organiser and trade union leader Wonder Mkhonza, and members of Communist Party of Swaziland Central Committee Mfanawenkhosi Mtshali and Derrick Nkhambule.

CPS general secretary Kenneth Kunene said in a statement, ‘The regime is desperate to make its elections appear respectable, fair and free so as to appease the international community. But in reality they are the very opposite of freedom or fairness.’

No political parties are allowed to take part in the elections which are due to be held this year, at a date yet to be announced by the king.

Kunene added, ‘The Mswati dictatorship is also clamping down more widely on opposition at this time. Increasingly, we are seeing shows of force by the police and army, designed to intimidate anyone contemplating resisting the regime.’

A report on human rights over the past year in the kingdom released last week by the US State Department confirmed a raft of human rights abuses in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The report stated, ‘Citizens remained unable to change their government. The three main human rights abuses were police use of excessive force, including use of torture, beatings, and unlawful killings; restrictions on freedoms of association, assembly, and speech; and discrimination and abuse of women and children.’

The CPS has called on international organisations, including the Southern African Development Community, African Union, European Union and the United Nations to, ‘take a resolute stand on the crimes of the Mswati regime and to demand an end to the dictatorship’.

See also



King Mswati III has once again told his subjects that Swaziland is on the way to becoming ‘a First World Nation’.

And, true to form the media in the kingdom he rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, praised him for telling the ‘truth’.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper the king in effect owns, called it a ‘relentless march to First World status’.

The media in Swaziland are biased when it comes to reporting the king. Even those parts of the media, such as the Times of Swaziland, that are not under the direct control of the ruling elite, take an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ attitude to King Mswati.

It doesn’t matter how ridiculous the statement, or how devoid of any reality it is: if King Mswati said it, it must be true.

In a speech to mark his birthday on 19 April, the king at least recognised that there were hurdles to jump before his kingdom could really be called ‘First World’. Chief among these was the level of poverty.

Nonetheless he told his audience, ‘I am confident it can be done. We have the national resolve to succeed.’

In the past, King Mswati said First World status would be achieved by 2022.

But, nowhere in the media in Swaziland or what passes for public debate in the kingdom has anyone actually defined what they mean by ‘First World’ status.

In fact, the term has begun to fall into misuse since the end of the Cold War, but when people do talk about First World nations they usually mean the multi-party democracies who align themselves (some more formally than others) to the economic and foreign policies of the United States. They would include Canada, northern and western Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Swaziland does not have the potential to become a First World country. It is not a democracy and if King Mswati has his way will never become one. Under the Royal Decree made by his father King Sobhuza II in 1973 all political parties are banned. The decree has never been rescinded and no parties will be allowed to take part in national elections due later this year.

Only this week activists in the youth group SWAYOCO were arrested and charged with sedition because they tried to hold a public rally to discuss having political parties at the next election.

Swaziland’s foreign policy makes it ineligible to ‘join’ the First World. By aligning itself with Taiwan (and therefore against the United Nations) it places itself outside of the political mainstream.
King Mswati sometimes says he wants Swaziland to become prosperous like the developed countries. It could be that is what he means by ‘First World’.

But, Swaziland is nowhere close to becoming prosperous. In 2012 a report published by 24/7 Wall St in the United States, and based on data from the World Bank, identified Swaziland as the fifth poorest country in the entire world.

It said 69 percent of King Mswati’s one million subjects lived in poverty.

Its report stated, ‘[T]he country’s workforce is largely concentrated in subsistence agriculture, even though the country faces serious concerns about overgrazing and soil depletion. While these factors harm the nation’s economy, health concerns are likely one of the major factors preventing Swaziland’s population from escaping poverty.

‘Few nations have a lower life expectancy at birth than Swaziland, where the average person is expected to live just 48.3 years. One of the reasons for the low life expectancy is the high prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS among those 15 to 49 — at 25.9% it is the highest in the world’.

The king has no answer to any of this, except to distract attention from the true dire situation in Swaziland and mislead his subjects about the prospects of achieving the promised land of First World status.

See also



A youth leader in Swaziland has been charged with sedition because he allegedly tried to organise a meeting to discuss the forthcoming elections in the kingdom.

Maxwell Dlamini, the secretary general of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), is also a former student leader and presently studies at the University of Swaziland.

He is alleged to have been one of the organisers of a rally at the Msunduza Township on 19 April 2013 (the same day as birthday celebrations were taking place for King Mswati III elsewhere in the kingdom).

The rally was to discuss the national election that will take place in Swaziland this year at a date yet to be set by the king. Political parties are banned from taking part in the election and the rally was to bring attention to this.

SWAYOCO, which along with other political parties is banned in Swaziland, is also campaigning for people to boycott the election.

He appeared in court in Mbabane this week charged with breaking three sections of the Seditious and Subversive Activities Act of 1938.

According to local media, the charge sheet alleges that Dlamini wrongfully and unlawfully attempted to commit an act with seditious intention by participating in an unlawful demonstration held at Msunduza.

He is also charged with ‘uttering words with a subversive intention’ and with being in possession of a banner inscribed with seditious words without a lawful excuse.

Dlamini was the third member of SWAYOCO to be charged with sedition this week following the rally. The other two are Mfanawenkhosi Mntshali and Derick Nkambule.

See also


Thursday, April 25, 2013


King Mswati III’s US$3.6 million birthday party was privately sponsored and did not cost the Swazi people anything, the government has claimed.

Estimates of the costs of the birthday party held on 19 April 2013 vary between E10 million and E33 million (US$3.6 million), but Percy Simelane, the official government spokesperson said this money did not come out of the kingdom’s budget for celebrations and national events.

He told Voice of America radio, ‘The king’s birthday was privately sponsored this year, as [was] the case was last year.’ 

He added, ‘The budget for this year’s celebrations and national events was [$1,027,551]. There is just no way that [$3 million] could come from [$1,027,551].’

He did not say who sponsored the event.

Last year King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was embroiled in controversy when it emerged that he had received a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 twin-engine private jet, costing an estimated US$46 million. Government said it was given to him by private sponsors, but refused to name them, leading to speculation that it was paid for out of public funds.

Simelane made his latest revelation in response to a pay claim from public sector works. They want improved living conditions, and say the extravagant celebrations held for the king’s 45th birthday were an indication that the economy had improved.

Days before the king’s birthday, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a banned political party in Swaziland, reported 32 BMW cars had been delivered to the King. 

See also



A lot of hot air is being generated in Swaziland about political parties as the kingdom gets ready for national elections later this year.

To some people they are the Devil’s work and part of a dark plot to destroy Swaziland and the Swazi way of life.

This is even though every parliamentary democracy in the world has them and they would be of great benefit to Swaziland if they were allowed to operate properly.

There is nothing sinister about political parties, or ‘multi-parties’ as the Swazi media often call them. A political party is simply a collection of people who come together because they have roughly the same set of views and opinions.

But, they don’t just meet for a ‘talking shop’: they aim to get political power. In a democracy this is done by getting people to elect your party into government.

In a parliamentary democracy you can have as many political parties as you want. But people would also be able to stand for election as individuals if they wished to and there is nothing to stop them being elected if enough voters wanted it.

After an election, the leader of the political party that wins the majority of seats in parliament becomes prime minister and appoints the government. If no single party wins a majority, two or more parties in parliament would usually join together to form a coalition government.

Whether there is a majority or a coalition government, there would also be at least one party in parliament that was the ‘opposition’ to the government.  This means that there is always an alternative government available to the one in power. If the people don’t like the one in power, they can vote it out at the next election and put another party in government.

A major benefit of political parties for Swaziland is that parties not only allow people to select alternative governments, they allow people to discuss alternative policies.

There are so many problems in Swaziland at present that a succession of governments – which have been selected by King Mswati III and not elected by the people - have been unable to solve them. And, because political parties don’t exist, no alternative policies have been brought forward.  Governments have clearly failed on poverty alleviation, corruption in every fabric of Swazi public life, jobs creation, attracting foreign investment into Swaziland, the HIV pandemic and so on.

Since political parties were banned in 1973 by King Sobhuza II’s Royal Proclamation, there has been no way for people to create and debate different policies or strategies for Swaziland: and then to choose the path that the kingdom ought to follow.

The present Swazi Government is led by Barnabas Dlamini, the Prime Minister who was elected by nobody, but instead was appointed in contravention of the 2005 Swaziland Constitution by King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Dlamini was not elected for the policies he would pursue while in office. He therefore has no mandate from the people to do anything.

Take the example of the present economic crisis in Swaziland. In October 2010, Dlamini took to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) a Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap (FAR) of financial measures to try to save the economy. For the past three years the IMF’s view of what should be the kingdom’s economic policy has dominated public life.

But, there has been no debate with the Swazi people about what the kingdom’s economic policies should be and therefore no alternative policy that people can agree on has been put forward.

If Swaziland had political parties that alternative would already be published and with the consent of the people could be implemented in the future.

Political parties also allow leaders to come through. People can develop their leadership skills within political parties and while part of the parliamentary ‘opposition’, prior to taking office in government.

One great weakness of Swaziland politics at present is the very low calibre of most people in parliament. Many have minimal education and few obvious skills. If political parties existed they could attract people of high calibre who knew that they had the opportunity of contributing to the future of Swaziland. Few present day members of the Swazi House of Assembly or Senate could honestly say that about themselves.

In the case of Swaziland where there is no democracy at present, we cannot have political parties without changes to the political system. To begin with all seats to the House of Assembly and the Senate must be open to election with none in the patronage of King Mswati, as now.

Second, the Swaziland Constitution must be respected. If political parties are to operate properly we must have these: freedom of organisation; freedom of speech and assembly; provision of a fair and peaceful competition; everyone to be included in the electoral process; media access and fair reporting and transparent and accountable financing of political parties.

Opponents of political parties in Swaziland often misunderstand an important point: just because political parties are allowed to exist that does not mean that people cannot stand for election to parliament as individuals. It follows that if the voters prefer individuals over political parties they will vote for them.

If there really is the love of the present system among Swazi people, as opponents of change say, political parties will wither and die through lack of support.

But, if the opponents are wrong and the Swazi people embrace the political parties, the benefit to them and the kingdom as a whole would be tremendous.

See also


Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Statement: Committee to Protect Journalists New York, April 23, 2013

Swaziland must overturn editor's 2-year sentence, fine

The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Swaziland's appeals court to overturn last week's conviction of an editor for "contempt by scandalizing the court" in relation to two articles criticizing the country's chief justice.

The High Court of Swaziland on April 17 sentenced Bhekitemba Makhubu, editor of privately owned The Nation magazine, to a fine of US$20,000 or two years imprisonment for comments published about Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael M. Ramodibedi in 2009 and 2010.

Although the judgment was handed down more than a year after the case was heard, in February 2012, Makhubu was given only three days to pay the fine. His legal team lodged an appeal Monday, staying the judgment until the appeal is heard.

"We condemn the court's heavy-handed interpretation of Swaziland's contempt of court provisions and its prosecution of one of the kingdom's few independent media voices," said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine. "Swaziland's constitution protects freedom of expression and fair criticism of the judiciary--we would urge the appeals court to review Bheki Makhubu's case with these provisions in mind."

Makhubu's lawyer, Bob Sigwane, told CPJ that he did not understand the rush by the courts to impose a fine payable within three days. He said there also seemed to be some confusion whether the case was a civil or criminal matter, but said he had successfully lodged the appeal papers with the public prosecutor's office.

Swaziland's court of appeal sits in May and November, and according to both Sigwane and the local chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), it is likely that Makhubu's appeal will be heard only in November.

In a 91-page judgment, the court found that one of Makhubu's articles constituted "contempt of court," while the other was a "scurrilous abuse of the chief justice." One article had praised Judge Thomas Masuku for his opinion, dissenting from two other Supreme Court judges, in cases dealing with evictions on land held by King Mswati III. The other opinion piece had criticized Chief Justice Ramodibedi for what it called arrogance and lack of decorum following statements he had made.

Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, national director of the MISA-Swaziland, said the judgment and sentence of Makhubu was unconstitutional. "It shows there is no rule of law in Swaziland," he told CPJ.

Hlatshwayo said media houses in Swaziland have been outspoken in their criticism of the court's ruling, with the Swazi Observer, a daily publication owned by an investment fund controlled by King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland, publishing a blank opinion piece under the title 'Dear Judge Maphalala' --a reference to the high court judge, Bheki Maphalala, who imposed the heavy penalty.

See also



Kenworthy News Media, April 22, 2013
Swaziland’s constitution guarantees freedom of speech, says Danish civil servant
“Swaziland’s constitution guarantees the right to free speech,” senior civil servant Mads Mayerhofer from the Danish Minsitry of Foreign Affairs replied to a letter to Danish MP Christian Juel from the Red-Green Alliance, writes Kenworthy News Media.
The letter from Christian Juel to Mads Mayerhofer concerned the recent arrest and charge of sedition of Swazi trade unionist and political activist, Wonder Mkhonza, for the possession of 5000 political pamphlets – acts by the Swazi authorities that are evidently a breach of any meaningful interpretation of the concept of free speech.
According to Meyerhofer, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has officially contacted Swaziland’s High Commission in Pretoria concerning Wonder Mkhonza, who is part of a Danish government-funded project between the Red-Green Alliance and banned Swazi political party PUDEMO.
“The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs have asked the Swazi authorities to confirm the detaining of Wonder Mkhonza and state the reasons hereof,” wrote Meyerhofer.
Denmark has been the largest contributor of foreign aid to the democratic movement in Swaziland for many years, although all Danish aid to Swaziland will be stopped by the end of 2014 as Swaziland’s BNI has exceeded the arbitrary limit that Denmark has set above which no development aid can be given.
Ironically, Swaziland was recently ranked as the 5th poorest country in the world by American financial news and opinion organisation, 24/7 Wall St., in a survey that pointed to Swaziland’s poverty rate of 69,2%, limited economic growth, reliance on subsistence agriculture, and low life expectancy due largely to Swaziland having the highest HIV/Aids rate in the world.
See also


Maxwell Dlamini, the Secretary General of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), appeared at Mbabane magistrates court today (24 April 2013) and was remanded in custody until 2 May.

Dlamini is accused of participating in an ‘unlawful activity’, but, it is thought he might later be charged with sedition. 

SWAYOCO, is a banned organisation in Swaziland. SWAYOCO was prevented by police from holding a public election rally at Msunduza Township, Mbabane, on 19 April, the day of King Mswati III’s 45th birthday. 

Dlamini was arrested following the rally, along with Sonkhe Dube the international secretary of SWAYOCO. Dube was held by police for 17 hours and then released. 

Dlamini has officially been charged with a crime of organising and participation in an illegal activity on 19 April in Mbabane, according to the Swaziland United Democratic Front.

When Dlamini was arrested on a previous occasion he reported that he was tortured by Swazi police. 
This was when he put on trial for possession of explosives, a case that has been postponed several times. Dlamini is out on bail for that charge. 

SWAYOCO reported that the arrest of the two SWAYOCO leaders followed the police clamp down on the rally that was part of the organisation’s campaign for an election boycott.

There have also been several recent arrests of other activists in Swaziland, including Wonder Mkhonza, Mfanawnkosi ‘Boer’ Mntshaliand and Derrick Nkambule, the latter two who were allegedly tortured.

See also


Bheki Makhubu, , the editor of the Nation magazine, who was fined E200 000 and faces two years in jail if he does not pay, after being convicted of scandalising the courts by writing two articles criticising the Swazi judiciary, says he was never given a chance by the Swaziland High Court to put his side of the story.

In an appeal to the Swazi Supreme Court, Makhubu says his sentence was unlawful and unconstitutional.

Makhubu and the Nation publisher, Swaziland Independent Publishers, were fined a total of E200,000 after two articles were published in 2009 and 2010 criticising the judges and in particular Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.

In his formal appeal against the sentence, Makhubu argues that the very imposition of the sentence at all was unlawful and constitutional.

The appeal states, ‘The court dealt with the sentence;

  • Without advising the appellants that they had been found guilty of contempt;
  • Without affording the appellants any opportunity whatsoever for adducing  evidence in mitigation;
  • Without hearing evidence whatsoever on sentence.’

Makhubu argues that the sentence was thus imposed in breach of the most fundamental right to be heard on punishment ‘and is the consequence of the procedure permitted and adopted by the court in direct conflict with the most basic rights of all accused people’.

 It is thought the appeal will not be heard until November 2013.

See also


Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Media Institute of Southern Africa, Swaziland chapter.
23 April 2013

Editor lodges appeal against conviction and sentence 

Bheki Makhubu, editor of The Nation magazine, has lodged an appeal against his conviction and sentence. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) understands the appeal went through late Monday (22 April) and was in time to beat today’s deadline of paying a US$21,500 fine or face two years in prison.

The Nation, one of Swaziland’s very few independent sources of news is published by Swaziland Independent Publishers. The magazine was found guilty of “contempt by scandalizing the court” following its publication of two articles in 2009 and 2010 that criticised Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.

Today’s edition of the Times of Swaziland reports that “this [the appeal] means the magazine and its editor Bheki Makhubu will no longer have to meet today’s deadline” of paying the $US21,500 fine as ordered by high court judge, Bheki Maphalala, last week. He is also not going to prison as things currently stand.

The editor now awaits a determination on his appeal by the Supreme Court. MISA understands that the court’s decision may only come in November this year as the court only sits in May and November to deliberate on appeals. It is unlikely that Makhubu’s appeal make it into the May sitting.

MISA has expressed serious concern about the editor’s conviction and sentence. The organisation’s Programme Specialist for Media Freedom Monitoring and Research, Levi Kabwato, described the development as “a major setback for media freedom and freedom of expression in Swaziland”. He also called on journalists, media practitioners and free expression activists around the world to support the call for media freedom in Swaziland.

“With elections due in the country later this year, the media’s role will become ever so critical. but if that media is under the threat of legal sanction, or indeed other threats as we have recorded previously, then this is only the beginning of what is likely to be a very problematic period for Swazi media,” Kabwato said.

See also



Kenworthy News Media
April 23, 2013

Maxwell arrested again

According to a source within the democratic movement, Secretary General of SWAYOCO Maxwell Dlamini and Secretary for International Affairs Sonkhke Dube were arrested this morning. “They have been arrested and are in the custody of the Royal Police. The charges are not clear. Both of them were arrested this morning,” the source says, writes Kenworthy News Media.

According to PUDEMO, “about 23 Police officers arrested SWAYOCO Secretary for International, Comrade Sonkhe Dube. He was arrested at Matsanjeni. This Government is in a serious mission to silence and send more threats to the entire glorious movement.”

Last time Maxwell Dlamini was arrested he was tortured be Swazi police and put on trial for possession of explosives, a case that has been postponed several times. Africa Contact led a campaign for his release that saw his released on bail.

The arrests of the two SWAYOCO leaders follow the police clamp down on a SWAYOCO rally on April 19 to campaign for an election boycott. There have also been several recent arrests of other activists in Swaziland, including Wonder Mkhonza, Mfanawnkosi ‘Boer’ Mntshaliand and Derrick Nkambule, the latter two who were allegedly tortured according to South African trade union federation COSATU.

See also



Bheki Makhubu and the Nation magazine have formally noted an appeal against a E200,000 fine (and possible two year jail sentence) after conviction by the Swaziland High Court for ‘scandalising’ the court.

Makhubu had said he could not afford to pay the fine by the deadline today (23 April 2013), which meant he would immediately be jailed for two years.

The Times of Swaziland newspaper reported that this note of appeal to the Supreme Court means that Makhubu will not be jailed today.

It reported, ‘An appeal, in terms of the rules, stays execution of an order of a subordinate court. The appeal was served to the Director of Public Prosecutions Nkosinathi Maseko at close of business yesterday.’

See also


Monday, April 22, 2013


Two political activists arrested at an election rally in Swaziland have been tortured by police, the kingdom’s Communist Party says.

Mfanawenkhosi ‘BOER’ Mntshali and Derrick Nkambule, both members of the banned political party, People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), were at a rally to discuss boycotting Swaziland’s forthcoming election.

In a statement, the Communist Party of Swaziland said the two men were taken by a special police squad to police HQ in Mbabane, the kingdom’s capital.

The statement said, ‘Information is coming in that the two comrades are undergoing an intensified torture session at the Police headquarters in Mbabane , this is a violation of the normal procedure recognized internationally that when a suspect is apprehended he /she is kept in a police station and charged within 48 working hours.’

The statement said the police HQ had ‘special interrogation chambers which are well equipped for torturing suspects’.

The police have kept the two men in isolation and not allowed them to speak to lawyers.

Earlier this month (April 2013), the US Embassy in Swaziland said it had ‘deep concern’ about the way police engage in ‘acts of intimidation and fear’ against people seeking their political rights. This was after police broke up a public meeting in Manzini to discuss the election.

The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) alsothis month reported that recently Swaziland police and state security forces had shown ‘increasingly violent and abusive behaviour’ that was leading to the ‘militarization’ of the kingdom.

OSISA told the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia, ‘There are also reliable reports of a general militarization of the country through the deployment of the Swazi army, police and correctional services to clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country’s undemocratic elections.’

See also