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By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact's Swaziland group
“We will not give in; but our just cause does not benefit from an international community that sacrifices the Swazi people on the altar of silence and shameless indifference,” says Sikelela Dlamini, Project Coordinator of the Swaziland United Democratic Front.
Sikelela Dlamini is talking about the general beatings, injustices and intimidation that is a daily feature of the absolute monarchy that is Swaziland. But he is also talking specifically about the brutal clamp-down on the last weeks mass protests, that saw peaceful democracy advocates indiscriminately detained and brutalized.
And Sikelela is particularly incensed about the torture of, and charges [for possession of explosives] brought against, Maxwell Dlamini, President of the Swaziland National Union of Students, and Musa Ngubeni from PUDEMO’s youth movement – charges that people in the democratic movement in Swaziland say are ludicrous - and the brutal beating of Swaziland Democracy Campaign’s Mary Da Silva.
“I'd like to appeal to the international community to put immediate pressure on Swaziland’s Tinkhundla [a system that allows the King to control government and land allocation] regime to unconditionally release Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Ngubeni. They have committed no crime other than unapologetically demanding their constitutional right to politically associate and assemble freely. They demand multiparty democracy like all of the pro-democracy movement in Swaziland, “Sikelela Dlamini tells me.
“Tinkhudla should not be allowed to become a comfortable oasis of brutal dictatorship in a sea of democracy all around us. The security apparatus is framing Maxwell and Musa in a desperate effort to justify to the international community their unprovoked brutality on unarmed protesters peacefully demanding their God-given right to self-determination.”
Mary Da Silva, who was viciously beaten and detained while conducting a live interview with a South African Radio station, is a clear-cut example of the lengths that the Swazi regime will go to in order to stop the inevitable democratization process, says Sikelela Dlamini.
“The brutality that Mary Da Silva of the SUDF's campaign wing, Swaziland Democracy Campaign, was subjected to just before lunch on the 12th of April, convinces me that the cops are ready to kill for Tinhundla. The world must not wait for this to happen. But it will unless the world shows Tinkhundla its firm disapproval. King Mswati III publicly condoned brutality when he praised the police for ‘protecting’ the country from us. They must now feel that it is OK to kill for Mswati.”
And Sikelela Dlamini fears that the Swazi regime wants him dead. “I'm still on the police's wanted list and fear for my life and for the members of my family. The police who brutalized Mary in my office made it clear I was their prime target. Why is the world watching from a disinterested distance when Mswati and Tinkhundla run roughshod over our innocent lives? The Swazi people have continued to express their desire to be free. But the world must now lend a helping hand in the face of Tinkhundla's open brutality,” he insists.