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

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Fri, 09/25/2009 - 11:02


Hlengiwe Ndlovu
Swazi Observer
PUDEMO President Mario Masuku escorted by a security officer at the High Court yesterday

PUDEMO President Mario Masuku was yesterday acquitted of a charge of terrorism.

He was acquitted by High Court Judge Mbutfo Mamba on the first day of his trial. He had been charged with contravening the Suppression of Terrorism Act after he uttered statements to the effect that PUDEMO would continue with the bombing of vital government structures in Swaziland last year at the funeral of the late Musa Dlamini who was killed during a bomb blast at Lozitha bridge.

The funeral was held at KaLanga in Siteki.

Justice Mamba found that there was “poor quality of evidence” by the prosecution in the matter.

Appearing for the crown was Director of Public Prosecutions Mumcy Dlamini, whilst advocate Norman Kades, who had been instructed by Thulani Maseko, Masuku’s lawyer appeared for the defence.

Poor quality evidence, incoherent statements submitted to the court by witnesses and a series of dramatic errors led by Judge Mamba issuing the ruling that Masuku be acquitted.

After the examination and cross examination of witnesses in court, in a trial that began in the morning and ended shortly after lunch, Advocate Kades made an application to the Judge under the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act of 1938 Section 174, Subsection 4 that the case be dismissed because of the poor quality evidence.

“My Lord, there is no way that the accused can be put on the defence to answer on the charges because the evidence which has been brought to this court is very poor. It is just not worthy.”

Furthermore, the advocate noted that within the evidence, there is nothing which also substantiates Masuku’s alternative charge.
The alternative charge states that “the accused is guilty of Contravening Section (5) (1) of the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act of 1938. In that or upon or about the 27th September, 2008 at or near KaLanga area, the said accused did unlawfully and with subversive intention utter the words to the effect that they will continue with the bombing of vital structures of the government of the Kingdom of Swaziland and did thereby contravene the said Act.”

Five witnesses had presented their evidence, and one of them was Superintendent Mike Zwane the police officer who was in charge of investigating the matter.

Evidence brought to the court by the first witness Sithembiso Shongwe was dismissed in the initial stages of the trial, on the basis that it was irrelevant.

Judge Mamba ruled that the evidence was inadmissible after Advocate Kades applied that it was irrelevant because Shongwe kept on telling the court about activities planned by PUDEMO in meetings that were held in South Africa.

One of these activities is the operation “vula vala”, which the witness described as being an activity planned by PUDEMO to disrupt last year’s parliamentary elections by bombing different Tinkhundla Centres and government structures. Submitting his evidence, Shongwe mentioned other sordid activities planned by his organisation to make the country ungovernable.

Shongwe is a defective member of PUDEMO, and is interestingly serving a term in prison for a string of cases.

Making his ruling Justice Mamba said, “I have heard the evidence which has been presented. I agree that evidence brought by the three other witnesses, apart from that made by the police officer is so poor that I can not make out or determine what they were talking about.

The application for the discharge of the accused is accordingly granted and written reasons will be issued in due course”.

Judge Mamba observed that the evidence by Superintendent Zwane did not in any way mention anything about Masuku’s charge.

DPP’s attempt to stop Advocate Kades’ application in vain

DIRECTOR of Public Prosecutions Mumcy Dlamini tried to oppose Advocate Norman Kades’ application that Mario Masuku’s matter be dismissed but this was in vain.

Dlamini submitted that because a number of witnesses called by the state highlighted on the statements made by Masuku at MJ’s funeral and quoted him verbatim and as such argued that the matter should not be dismissed.

Making her alternative submission, she said Masuku had indeed made statements in support of terrorism at MJ’s funeral. Advocate Kades was worried with the use of the word “they” in the Masuku’s charge. The charge states that Masuku uttered statements that “they will continue with the bombing of vital structures of the government of the Kingdom of Swaziland”.

Advocate Kades argued that by saying “they”, Masuku was not referring to himself. The DPP said by uttering these statements, whether Masuku was referring to himself or other people is not important, but what matters is that he said something that supports terrorism.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Fri, 09/25/2009 - 18:03


AFP - Thursday, September 24

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - – The leader of Swaziland's banned opposition party, acquitted this week on terror charges, says he's ready to resume the fight for democracy in Africa's last absolute monarchy.

But the release of Mario Masuku, leader of the United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), gives little hope that King Mswati III is easing his grip on power in the impoverished southern African country, analysts said.

Masuku was freed Monday from a maximum security prison, 10 months after his arrest under the notorious Suppression of Terrorism Act, often used to target political dissidents.

Since the banning of political parties in 1973, pro-democracy activists have been jailed and harassed, as the monarchy entrenched its rule.

"I will always be out there fighting for a free Swaziland, my acquittal by the high court proves that there was no case against me in the first place," he said from his home in the capital Mbabane.

"I love my country and its people, including the king. What I don't like is the political system we are living under," said Masuku.

The state accused Masuku of supporting several small bomb blasts that rocked the country last September, ahead of parliamentary polls from which political parties were barred. The court found no evidence to back the claim.

Swaziland practices a home-grown political system called Tinkhundla, allowing parliamentary candidates to run only as independents. The king appoints the prime minister, some senior cabinet members and the judiciary.

The system effectively bars political dissidents, but gives the country a veneer of democratic credentials to defuse regional criticism, especially from neighbouring powerhouse South Africa.

"I will soon be meeting with the structures of the party to map the way forward. I still believe in freedom in our lifetime," said Masuku who has led PUDEMO since its formation in 1983.

But even his supporters said his release did little to bring freedom to Swaziland's people.

"The arrest was meant to break the spirit of our supporters and destabilise the party," said Vulindlela Msibi, Pudemo's spokesman who is exiled in South Africa.

Msibi decried the status accorded to the king by regional leaders in the South African Development Community (SADC), which allowed him to the head its security organ for the last year, despite not being democratically elected.

"His regime has been legitimised by SADC, something which is undermining our course. He should be shunned," said Msibi.

"Swaziland has no respect for human rights and democracy, Mswati's appointment to head such a crucial organ is mind boggling," he added.

The 40-year-old king ascended the throne at age 18 and has 13 wives and is known for his extravagant lifestyle which is funded by the state. The majority of the population lives in poverty, with a nearly 40 percent HIV infection rate among adults.

Sehlare Makgetlaneng, an analyst at the Pretoria Africa Institute, said Masuku's acquittal did little to ease concerns about Swaziland's heavy-handed justice system.

"The acquittal does not make the Swaziland justice system more independent as the repressive laws are still in force," he said.

But he added that the king's resistance to reform could eventually be his downfall.

"Events like the arrest of political leaders do not pacify the masses, they make then even more determined," said Makgetlaneng.

South African's Congress of Trade Unions (COSATU), which supports the fight for democracy in Swaziland, has been urging government to push Mswati to make democratic reforms.

"We want freedom in Swaziland. It is disturbing that the world, particularly the developed world, is silent about Swaziland," the union's president Sdumo Dlamini said.


Submitted by Terry Townsend on Tue, 09/29/2009 - 23:34


By Zakhele Mabuza, head of publicity, PUDEMO

September 29, 2009 -- The recently concluded Congress of COSATU among other things declared to the world that COSATU will campaign for PUDEMO to be recognised as the genuine representative of the oppressed people of Swaziland. Further, that PUDEMO must be given diplomatic status accorded all liberation movements in various countries. This is a bold and very revolutionary declaration. It comes at a time when the Swazi regime has labelled the people’s movement a terrorist organisation. The Swazi government has announced it will be taking the issue with the UN to have PUDEMO declared an international terrorist organisation.

This declaration and resolution by South African workers under the banner of COSATU is a clear indication that the world can not be fooled by Mswati regime anymore. It is an endorsement of our movement and the ideals we fight for. It is a victory for the people of Swaziland and it is an indication that the net is slowly closing in on the tinkhundla regime. We can only hope that it will be achieved.

As PUDEMO, for the past 26 years we have waged a struggle for justice, against royal exploitation, against poverty, nepotism and corruption; a struggle that few cared to notice. Through the years COSATU has been our most reliable ally. We will continue with more vigour, knowing that we are not alone. We are part of a global battalion of revolutionaries. We are members of the global community of patriots. This has been demonstrated in the campaign for the release of our president Mario Masuku, who got support from people across the world. His release was not due to the sympathy of Mswatis courts but the political pressure by PUDEMO and our allies in and outside the Swaziland was unbearable for the regime. Now that Mario has been released we will be pushing ahead with our demands:

  • Unbanning of political parties and return of all exiles
  • Scrapping of the terrorism act and the Public Service bill
  • Release of all political prisoners, including South African national Amos Mbedzi who was also charged with terrorism

President Mario Masuku and PUDEMO as a whole congratulate the newly elected COSATU leadership and hope for even better working relations. PUDEMO thanks the workers and the people of South Africa and the world for the support they have shown. More needs to be done. We need to put more pressure on the regime, campaign for its isolation from international organs and sanction its leaders. Swaziland cannot be an island of oppression in a sea of democratic governance in the region.

We have only won one battle, the war has just begun. With all our friends and allies on our side victory is certain.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Fri, 10/02/2009 - 10:28


Photo: Mercedes Sayagues/PlusNews
In 2006 Swazi women were granted equal status with men
MBABANE, 1 October 2009 (IRIN) - Simmering animosity and tension between non-governmental organizations and the conservative authorities of donor-dependent Swaziland are threatening to boil over, bringing legislation that could restrict the activities of civil society.

"It has been building for some years. The deeper Swaziland sinks into poverty, hunger and AIDS, and the more dependent we become on non-governmental organizations [NGOs], the more hostile government officials, like MPs and some chiefs, become to NGOs," said Amos Ndwandwe, who works as a counsellor for an HIV/AIDS NGO he declined to identify, in the second city, Manzini.

King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, heads a traditional system of chiefs that ensures the perpetuation of customary laws, and appoints the country's prime minister in a parliament that excludes any opposition.

The prospect of imposing stringent controls on the NGO sector has been on the horizon for a while, but the looming possibility of such legislation is creating a stir among aid organizations.

A parliamentarian, who declined to be identified, told IRIN discussion of such legislation, which has yet to be introduced in parliament in any form, might be adequate to send a message to NGOs deemed as troublesome.

"Swaziland needs food aid and other aid and there are those who know such a law might not go down well with international donors, but the idea of it under consideration might be enough to get activist groups to re-think," he said.

A senior traditional leader, who declined to be identified, told IRIN chiefs see donor assistance as food and medicine and not the propagation of views contrary to Swazi traditions.
''The country is now opened up by these new highways and here come these NGOs preaching gender equality and human rights''

"The country is now opened up by these new highways and here come these NGOs preaching gender equality and human rights. By custom, no person may set foot in a chiefdom without first going to the chief’s kraal, stating their business and receiving permission to proceed. If NGOs wish to engage the people they must first educate the chiefs and convince them they are not involved in politics," he said.

Parliamentarians have routinely criticize NGOs for perceived extravagance, despite frequent denials by the National Emergency Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), a government office responsible for dispersing monies from international donor organizations.

NERCHA has pointed out that the sector’s finances are stringently scrutinized by donors, as has also often been stated by the Congress of Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO), an umbrella body for NGOs.

"Both sides are partly correct. It is true that the NGOs operate under a microscope, but to the average Swazi they live lavishly," said Jabulani Dlamini, a Manzini Region pastor whose church works with the poor but is not a registered NGO.

"The workers are well paid, they have nice offices, and cars. Donors in Europe may not think twice about paying for a fleet of pricey vehicles as 'part of doing the job,' but Swazis see these off-road vehicles zooming around city streets as luxurious."

Regulation motivated by politics

"This particular campaign is said to be based on a misguided perception that NGOs are turning the people against the monarch through their civic education," Musa Hlope, a political commentator and former Chairman of the Swaziland Federation of Employers, told IRIN.

"If the relationship between members of parliament and civil society is not mended soon we may have a law that will seek to close all available spaces for NGOs to operate freely and effectively throughout the country," he said.

Some NGOs have become strident critics of human rights abuses and have embarked on education campaigns to inform people of their rights under the new constitution approved by Mswati in 2005; among other things, it ended customary and institutional discrimination based on gender after centuries of tradition that relegated women to second-class status.

Prince Mahlaba Dlamini, Mswati's elder brother and a leading proponent of traditional laws, recently condemned the constitution for stripping the king of some of his powers, the local media reported.

Swazis for Positive Living (SWAPOL), a support group for HIV-positive women, has been scorned for becoming "politicized" after it protested against an MP’s proposal that HIV-positive people should be branded on their buttocks.

The protest was condemned by traditionalists, who demanded to know where the women’s husbands were while their wives were showing disrespect to the nation’s elders.

''We are not a political organization, but we must engage government on issues that affect our members. When we cannot access ARVs [antiretrovirals] because of poor governance, it is our duty to challenge that governance''
"We are not a political organization, but we must engage government on issues that affect our members. When we cannot access ARVs [antiretrovirals] because of poor governance, it is our duty to challenge that governance," SWAPOL director Siphiwe Hlope told IRIN.

According to UNAIDS, about 26 percent of Swaziland's sexually active population are infected with HIV/AIDS, the world's highest prevalence of the disease.

Hlope said any possible restrictions on NGOs would be unconstitutional, and an abrogation of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly - both of which are enshrined in the constitution as inalienable rights - and she expected "a lot of litigation on this until our constitutional rights are respected".

However, should court action be decided in favour of an NGO’s constitutional rights, such legal sanction may prove redundant, as Swaziland's dual system of governance gives chiefs unilateral powers on Swazi Nation Land, where 80 percent of the about one million population live.

Report can be found online at: