Swaziland: COSATU condemns arrest of PUDEMO secretary general

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People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) general secretary Mlungisi Makhanya in jail for wearing his party's T-shirt.

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Statement by the Congress of South African Trade Unions

April 25, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- King Mswati’s jails are littered with well-meaning men and women of conscience, those who have refused to be cowed into submission by royal terror.

The recent arrest of the secretary general of the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), Mlungisi Makhanya, and seven other members of PUDEMO and Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) is testimony to the reality of a country that has become a big national prison against its own people.

PUDEMO leaders were jailed for defying the Suppression of Terrorism Act and its predecessor, the 1973 decree that criminalises all forms of political activity and imprisons the rights of the people.

The crime of wearing the wrong colours, PUDEMO paraphernalia is a serious one under Swazi law as designed by the tinkhundla system, hence the legalised murder of Sipho Jele a few years back for wearing these banned colours.

In banning PUDEMO colours, tinkhundla was affirming its historical position that throughout the 30 years of its existence, PUDEMO has always been regarded as enemy number one of the oppressive royal state resulting in every ounce of energy being dedicated to its total annihilation on Swazi soil.

The ever increasing number of jailed activists in Swaziland is worrying, as we all know that on top of Thulani Maseko, the human rights lawyer, and Bheki Makhubu, editor of the Nation Magazine, we have Amos Mbhedzi, the ANC/SACP/MK Cadre languishing for 85 years, Zonkhe Dlamini, PUDEMO/SWAYOCO cadre languishing for 15 years and others whose sentences range from 20 years to those who have not yet been sentenced.

The country, which has become one national prison, has clearly demonstrated its intention to intensify the iron grip of royal power by persecuting all who dare challenge Mswati’s unfettered control over society in all respects.

We support the demand for the release of all political prisoners and guarantee of the rights to free association, expression and organisation. This is linked to the demand for the unbanning of political parties as an element of the struggle to abolish the oppressive tinkhundla system as a whole.

There can be no trade union freedom without the freedom of all the people and there can be no democracy for some without democracy for all, hence the indivisibility of the struggle for freedom and democracy.

We also reaffirm our unequivocal support for the demands of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) and call upon the international community to do more than just lip service or messages, but actual and concrete solidarity to ensure fellow workers and activists are able to wage and sustain a protracted and decisive struggle to defeat oppression, exploitation and royal monopoly over power and society in Swaziland.

Bongani Masuku (international relations secretary)

Congress of South African Trade Unions


South Africa