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Swaziland: (Updated May 6) More arrests as monarchy targets democracy activists

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Update, May 6, 2014: The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) is pleased to hear that the seven PUDEMO members who were arrested for wearing PUDEMO t-shirts have been released on E15,000 bail each. It is unfortunate, however that the president of the organisation, Mario Masuku and student activist and secretary general of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), Maxwell Dlamini, were denied bail.

Maxwell and Masuku have both been charged with four counts of terrorism. On the first count, they are charged with contravening Section 11 (1)(a) of the Suppression of Terrorism Act No.3 of 2008. On the second charge they contravened Section 11 (1)(b) of the same Act. It is alleged that they unlawfully solicited support for and or gave support to a terrorist entity, PUDEMO. The state, as usual, is opposing their bail application on the grounds that they are a flight risks, this despite the fact that they have been admitted to bail in two other trials and never fled the country.

This indicates that the state simply wishes to see them behind bars for as long as possible, knowing that this will be punishment enough as it would take the case years before it comes before a judge who will most likely dismiss it. We wish to condemn this behavior by the Swazi authorities and demand the immediate release of the two political figures all political prisoner.

-- Lucky Lukhele, SNN spokesperson

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By Nkululeko Gama

May 2, 2014 -- Swaziland Solidarity Network -- Banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) president Mario Masuku and Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) secretary general Maxwell Dlamini were arrested on May 1 at the Salesian Sports ground during the Workers’ Day celebration.

Masuku was among a number of political activists invited to address the gathering organised by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) when he met his arrest.

The political activists included the president of the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) Dr A.T. Dlamini; African United Democratic Party (AUDP) secretary general Sibusiso Dlamini; SWADEPA founding executive member Reverend Wilfred Mkhiwa Kunene; SWAYOCO president Bhekumusa Dlamini and members of the Swaziland Communist Party to name a few.

Just a few minutes after delivering his speech, Masuku was arrested by police without even the people next to him seeing what was going on. This saved what could have been a nasty scene. He was whisked to a police vehicle and taken to the police station.

Masuku was a hit among the workers yesterday. He was given a hero’s welcome when he arrived with political activists ignoring the program and running all the way to the parking lot to welcome him.

The activists toyi-toyied with their president until they got to the VIP tent, where he was welcomed by the popular TUCOSWA president Barnes Dlamini and other dignitaries.

This was also the case when his party was called to address the workers. He was escorted to the stage by his supporters and workers.

After Masuku’s speech, Maxwell sang a song which the political activists danced and toyi-toyied to. He was arrested for this song as the police termed it "seditious".

Barnes confirmed the arrest when called last evening. He said he was from the police station and had been told that the two had been already charged.

Police public relations officer assistant superintendent Khulani Mamba confirmed the arrests of the two. He said they were both charged with sedition and would appear in court soon.

Earlier in April, the secretary general of PUDEMO, Mlungisi Makhanya, and seven other members of PUDEMO and SWAYOCO were arrested for defying the Suppression of Terrorism Act and its predecessor, the 1973 decree that criminalises all forms of political activity.

Communist Party of Swaziland denounces new arrests, calls for heightened democracy campaign

May 2, 2014 -- Communist Party of Swaziland -- The Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) urges the widest possible condemnation of the arrests of Mario Masuku, president of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), and Maxwell Dlamini, general secretary of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO).

This is the second time in recent days that the PUDEMO president and other pro-democracy activists, including CPS members, have been targeted by the Mswati regime. The leaders have been charged with sedition, the usual charge levelled at democracy activists targeted by Mswati’s police.

The regime is clearly clamping down on the pro-democracy movement and sending a signal to other activists and to the international community that Mswati does not intend to make meaningful democratic reforms, despite pressure from many quarters to do so.

"Mswati is playing a desperate game. His only real option, as he is increasingly cornered, is to lash out blindly. We expect that his suppression of the democracy movement will escalate", said CPS general secretary Kenneth Kunene. “It is really important that the movement closes ranks to make the unbanning of political parties and organisations a reality. The best way to oppose Mswati at the moment is to demand democracy.”

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