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Swaziland: Democracy leader released after 340 days, struggle continues

September 22, 2009 -- Morning Star -- Democracy activists in Swaziland celebrated on September 22 after the leader of the country's opposition was acquitted of terrorism charges and freed from prison after 340 days. Banned People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) leader Mario Masuku (pictured above) was arrested and charged with terrorism on November 15, 2008. The charge centred on seditious statements he had allegedly made during the funeral of a militant.

Judge Mbutfo Mamba acquitted Mr Masuku because the evidence was too weak to link him to the charge.

As Mr Masuku left the court amid scenes of jubilation, he told his comrades that the struggle for democracy and human rights in Africa's last absolute monarchy had only just begun.

In a message to all its supporters, PUDEMO spokesperson Zakhele Mabuza said: "The war still continues until the total liberation of the oppressed people of Swaziland. We have no doubt that you will still be fighting on our side even beyond this trial, for we now need to channel our energies towards ensuring that the royal regime is taken down brick by brick."

PUDEMO statement on the release of President Mario Masuku

By Zakhele Mabuza, PUDEMO national spokesperson

September 22, 2009 -- The Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) wishes to formally inform its members, allies and friends both at home and abroad of the acquittal and release of its president, Comrade Mario Masuku, a few hours ago. He had been charged for allegedly making ``seditious statements'' and ``supporting terrorism''. He had been in detention since November 2008.

Since his detention and subsequent banning of PUDEMO, Masuku and his organisation have remained resilient and refused to be intimidated by the oppressive and archaic tactics of the state. In court, the state failed to provide evidence and information to sustain the fabricated charge, hence Justice Mbutfo Mamba dismissed the case and granted Comrade Masuku his freedom.

Support and solidarity

PUDEMO wishes to express its appreciation for the unwavering support and solidarity displayed by our friends and allies both at home and abroad. They played an instrumental role in adding more pressure on the royal regime to release Comrade Masuku. We know this was only a battle and the war continues until the total liberation of the oppressed people of Swaziland. We have no doubt that you will still be fighting on our side even beyond this trial, for we now need to channel our energies towards ensuring that the royal regime is taken down brick by brick until its foundation is destroyed!

The legal team

We mentioned last week that as PUDEMO, we are very pleased with our legal team. This is a team of lawyers who have always fought fearlessly for the rights of the people. We wish to thank them for their excellent work and until Swazis are liberated they must know the challenge is still there and hope more lawyers will realise this and join the fight for the liberation of the politically oppressed and abused masses of our country.

The Masuku family

Throughout the challenge, the Masuku family has remained in support of Comrade Masuku and has never turned around to curse PUDEMO. This is because the family completely understands PUDEMO's mission of liberating the oppressed people of Swaziland. We salute Mrs Masuku for her resilence in the face of hostile and challenging circumstances that she was subjected to. But like a true fighter, she has remained strong and focused together with the entire extended Masuku family.

The way forward

The release of our president does not mean the people of Swaziland are now free. PUDEMO remains committed to ensure the full liberation and transformation of our people is realised as it is clearly explained in our document The Roadmap to a Democratic Swaziland, adopted in our sixth national congress in Matsulu in 2006.

Work therefore shall continue in spite of the dangers, threats, intimidation, kidnappings, assaults, torture, random raids, etc. constantly meted out by the oppressive regime on our members.

We therefore, shall continue to fight side by side with all our democracy-loving friends and allies until final victory!

Joint Swazi Action Campaign Committee (South Africa) salutes PUDEMO President Mario Masuku on his firm stance until the day of his release and calls for the intensification of the struggle for democracy

September 23, 2009 -- The release of PUDEMO President Mario Masuku from a Swazi jail yesterday was a clear victory for the courageous and heroic masses of Swaziland, and the world community of freedom fighters and patriots globally who stood firmly on his side during these trying times in his life.

We wish to salute Comrade Mario, members of PUDEMO and the Swaziland Youth Congres (SWAYOCO), the trade union movement of Swaziland and the whole of Swazi civil society organised under the auspices of the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) for their resolute struggles and determination to fight on despite the terrifying conditions in the country. Their refusal to be bullied or intimidated by the draconian Suppression of Terrorism Act, the arrest of our leader Mario Masuku and other activists, the persecution of political activists and their families and the generalised reign of terror that now rules that country, sent a clear message to the Swazi ruling class that never shall their evil will triumph against the genuine and legitimate aspirations of the Swazi people.

We also salute the world community of freedom fighters and democrats for standing firmly on the side of justice in supporting the Swazi people’s cause. Even when it was not fashionable to mention the oppression of Swazi people, because it was not deemed “newsworthy”, global patriots and internationalists stood firm in demanding that the Swazi tinkhundla regime is brought under the spotlight and exposed.

The time is not for academic debates, triumphalist gestures, loosening of the noose around [Swaziland's absolute monarch] Mswati’s neck or petty diversions by royal agents of whatever form. The time now is for maximum intensification of the struggle, the unity of revolutionary forces and absolute clarity around the most fundamental tasks of the Swazi revolution. In all this, the Swazi people must lead as the custodians of their own interests. The agenda of liberation can only be set by themselves and we promise to remain supportive of their own demands and calls, for that is exactly what our duty is.

We particularly support PUDEMO for withstanding harsh trials since its formation in 1983, it has faced and overcome some of the most demanding conditions and has always emerged victorious. We also salute that it has remained united behind one main objective, the liberation of the people. The tinkhundla regime is determined to undermine and defeat the people’s movement. It remains desperately dangerous and therefore maximum vigilance must be exercised. Let all revolutionaries close ranks behind the banner of liberation.

Despite this temporary relief with the release of Comrade Masuku, the struggle continues. We shall be releasing a determined and sustainable program of action that demands nothing less than the liberation of the Swazi people and full affirmation of their dignity as a people and not royal subjects and objects of pity.

We shall be organising a special session with all progressive Swazi forces to tie down a program that will take us throughout the whole of next year and beyond. It will be centred on building the capacity of the fighting forces in Swaziland and focus all energies towards assisting them to challenge the forces of oppression decisively on the home front, the principal theatre of struggle. It is only when progressive forces inside Swaziland have amassed the capacity needed to effectively challenge the regime that real and decisive advances can be recorded.

We shall continue to march, picket, expose and isolate Mswati and his cronies. We shall continue to target members of the royal family, wherever they happen to be and ensure that their lives are as miserable and unbearable as those they daily subject the Swazi people to. No member of the royal family must be allowed to study, work or enjoy luxuries anywhere in South Africa or elsewhere. We are also working on a program for the institutionalisation of a serious boycott campaign against the regime, because only by hitting it where it matters the most shall we force it down on its knees. This means hitting the economy that sustains the brutal regime and oil the wheels of oppression, whilst cushioning the greedy appetite of royal extravagance.

Meanwhile, this coming Friday, September 25, we are proceeding full-steam ahead with the picket and march in Pretoria outside the Swazi embassy, starting at 10am. This gathering is about ensuring democracy for the Swazi people! The release of Comrade Mario Masuku was a key element of this struggle, but is definitely not the be all and everything of that effort.

We salute the encouraging unity and increasing co-operation between Swazi progressive forces and their South African counterparts, which led to the Joint Swazi Action Campaign initiative, in which unity and co-operation will be demonstrated at this march. Speakers for the event include:

Kwasi Adu Amankwah, ITUC-Africa general secretary

Austin Muneku, SATUCC executive secretary

PUDEMO Deputy President Sikhumbuzo Phakathi

Chairperson of the Swaziland United Democratic Front, Barnes Dlamini

COSATU and affiliate leaders

Alliance partners

General secretary of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, Jan Sithole

General secretary of the Swaziland Federation of Labour, Vincent Ncongwane

Though not yet confirmed, PUDEMO President Mario Masuku might be coming for the march, but PUDEMO is yet to confirm details about this, also owing to considerations of his unstable health.

Finally, we reaffirm the declaration by the Swazi people themselves that Swaziland will and must be free.

For further information please contact:

Venetia Govender 082 222 3074

George Mahlangu 082 414 9024

Siphiwe Manana 072 213 8088

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