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By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact
Will the trial of Swazi student leader, Maxwell Dlamini, and his co-accused, Musa Ngubeni, finally be heard in court? The trial has been delayed since Dlamini and Ngubeni were detained in April, in connection with the biggest demonstrations for democracy and socio-economic justice in Swaziland in many years – the so-called “April 12 Uprising.”
They were accused of being in possession of explosives, a charge that people within Swaziland’s democratic movement call preposterous, and allegedly tortured and forced to sign a confession. According to Vincent Ncongwane, Secretary General of the Swaziland Federation of Labour, the arrests and charges are an attempt to “cover up for the heavy-handedness the police applied against innocent citizens” during the April 12 uprising.
"Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Ngubeni’s trial is at the Manzini magistrate court right now,” the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) reported on their Facebook site on Wednesday. “It began in the morning, but was adjourned for 1400hrs, Swazi time. It appears that no magistrate wants to entertain the case of Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Ngubeni. It has been reported that Magistrate Florence did not want to entertain it. Reasons for refusal to hear the case have not yet been reported. The case has been postponed to Monday 9am, Manzini Magistrate's court!"
“The magistrate was supposed to fix Maxwell’s trial date but that did not happen,” Sibusiso Magnificent Nhlabatsi from SNUS tells Africa Contact. “He will appear again on Monday December 12 at the same court for setting of the trial date. On 14 December his lawyer will be appealing his bail refusal at the high Court of Swaziland. We were shocked that he was due to court as we were told that such would be held in chambers. But in the next appearances students will be out in numbers.”
Given the long delay, the refusal to grant bail and the repeated irregularities, it is obvious that King Mswati’s regime are trying to postpone the case for as long as possible, as they did with a similarly political trial against PUDEMO President, Mario Masuku in 2009 – a terrorism trial that, when it finally began after nearly a year, was laughed out of court in less than a day.
“The magistrate’s decision is tainted with irrationality in that it is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who applied his mind to the question to be decided could have arrived at,” Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Ngubeni’s laywer, Mandla Mkhwanazi, told the Swazi Observer on Friday after the pair were again refused bail and the case was again postponed.
Maxwell Dlamini is getting frustrated, says a source from within the democratic movement who wishes to remain anonymous for reasons of security. "The last time Maxwell was visited he requested that we call upon the setting of his trial dates. He is frustrated at the fact that his languishing in jail and doesn't even know his trial dates. He also complained that the state doesn’t want him to read any books or newspapers with political stories. He requested that I buy him any books or magazines that are non-political.”