|Swazilands regering vil smadre landets fagbevægelse, siger Amnesty-rapport|
|Amnesty fordømmer ”overdreven magtanvendelse” i Vestsahara|
|Mugabe bruger hæren og politiet til at intimidere vælgerne|
|PUDEMO: Valgboykot i Swaziland virker|
|Wonder Mkhonza ude af fængslet men ikke fri|
|Pia Olsen Dyhr er frihandels-fundamentalist|
|Wonder Mkhonza granted bail|
|PUDEMO outlines road to democracy in Swaziland during visit to Denmark|
|Afrika Kontakt's generalforsamling vidner om ”styrket” organisation|
|ANC calls for the release of political prisoners in Swaziland|
|Africa Contact congratulates Polisario on 40th Anniversary|
|”Incompetent” and “catastrophic” Swazi regime ignores Swazi people|
|Dansk udviklingsbistand beslaglagt i Swaziland|
|Africa Contact partnership seminar 2013: Civic Education|
|1. maj arrangement stoppet af Swazilands politi|
|ACT NOW: Swaziland|
By Klaus Stig Kristensen, Africa Contact
”We are still here and not going anywhere, we will fight our case in court and this has only made us stronger” answers Musa Ngubeni when I asked him about his and Maxwell Dlamini’s take on their situation after they were imprisoned, humiliated, tortured by Swazi police and finally released on bail three weeks ago.
Swaziland, the last standing monarchy in Sub-Saharan, has been ruled by King Mswati III since 1986. His reign has displayed an increasing level of ruthlessness during his years as sovereign monarch. The king has prohibited any political party presence and talks of multi-party elections have for many years been kept to a whisper. The government, put in power by the king, denies socio-economic and human rights in the kingdom. The rejections of these rights have enforced poverty upon the people, many of whom are feed up and ready for progression.
Musa Ngubeni, 30, and Maxwell Dlamini, 21, have been close friends and comrades since they met at the University of Swaziland. They are actively participating in the struggle for multi-party elections, socio-economic justice and human rights for all Swazis. They are both leading figures of Swaziland National Union of Students, SNUS, and were arrested on alleged charges of treason, bomb and weapon possession, terrorism – all charges that were meant to stop the two young men from peacefully advocating democratic change in the oppressive regime that is todays Swaziland.
Returning from a student meeting in South Africa on the 10th of April 2011, Maxwell Dlamini was apprehended by police a couple of kilometres after crossing the Swazi border. He was arrested with charges of terrorism. At the police station, the officers pulled a plastic bag tightly over his head. While suffocating him, they shouted that he should stop his campaign and association with the civil rights movements in Swaziland. In need of evidence, a fruitless search of Maxwell’s dorm room was conducted with the help of sniffer dogs sniffing for explosives and police violently looking for weapons. The lack of evidence resulted in a devious scheme carried out by the Swazi Royal police. Police officers brought Maxwell to Musa’s dorm room on the university campus the 13th of April and presented both of them with a cardboard box. They were ordered to open the box, which contained bomb-making materials, and were subsequently arrested and charged with terrorism.
This was the first unpleasant visit for Musa in the interrogation room, while too familiar for Maxwell. Held at gunpoint, Musa and Maxwell were forced to sign statements of confession, but the determination and willpower of the two young men kept them from signing and kept them alive.
Terrorism charges must be accompanied by proof of the target to the alleged terrorist act, according to Swazi law, something the police failed to find any evidence for. The charges were therefore changed and put simply as possession of explosives. No bail and no trial date were set.
Musa emphasizes that “the psychological terror being the most terrifying aspect of prison time”, they were constantly verbally harassed and wardens would, from time to time, “drag you along the floor as a dog,” as both Musa and Maxwell recalls. ”. However they never lost faith in their cause and innocents, even when Maxwell suffered a mild stroke and was not allowed to receive proper medical attention.
Special rules were also applied to the two inmates; they had to choose five immediate family members or friends, who would be the only visitors they could see during the prison time and then only for a maximum of three minutes, where custom is fifteen, under the supervision of the superintendent. Conversation subjects during visitations were censored and no books or foreign newspapers were allowed for the two student activists, which meant they received no news from the outside.
The international Free Maxwell Campaign was launched on the 6th of June 2011, and played a part in the international pressure for releasing both Maxwell and Musa. However, it was not until South African authorities started to intensify the pressure on the Swazi government that a trial date was within reach, according to Maxwell.
After having spent nearly ten months in prison, bail was finally set to 100.000 Rand for both political prisoners, the highest bail ever set by Swazi court. Funds were collected from all over the world, which meant that on the 3rd of February 2012 Maxwell Dlamini was release on bail and on the 9th of February Musa Ngubeni smelled fresh air.
Three weeks after his release, Maxwell expressed his gratitude to the international community, who helped to pressure the Government of Swaziland, and the people who helped contribute to his and Musa’s bail. “We are forever in debt to those, who wants political change, and we want them to know that we acknowledge and appreciate their efforts and we pray to god that he will pay them accordingly for we cannot”.
Court days for the hearings of Maxwell and Musa’s case have been scheduled for the 16th of March and the 24th of May. Until then, both the accused have to report to Mbabane Regional Police Station four times a week. However, a round trip of 100km four times a week does not discourage the student leaders. Both jokingly said that “the Swazi judiciary is predictable in its unfairness only.”
They have no faith that the trials won’t be prolonged far beyond the 24th of March, as similar cases against political prisoners, such as PUDEMO leader Mario Masuku, have also lasted for many months, in an apparent attempt by the regime to punish or discourage any acts of defiance against it. Nevertheless both have accepted the dire situation in the name of change and a peaceful democratic transition rooted in the people of Swaziland.
For the fortune of Swaziland, Maxwell clearly states, that a violent transition would be detrimental to everybody in Swaziland and would leave the country in ruins. He acknowledged the international community’s role in the transition through smart sanctions, good governance praxis and solidarity with the people against a king who “clings to power,” as Maxwell puts it.
Nonetheless, the only people who can bring about change are the Swazis themselves. They are and should be the main catalyst for change through the democratic movement and campaigns for democracy. An example of this is the launch of the People’s Budget campaign that promotes a shadow national budget as an alternative to the Minister of Finance Majozi Sithole’s budget, which will only continue the hardships for most Swazis, many of whom have already been laid off by the government, haven’t been paid they salaries or have had their pensions stopped.
Campaigns such as this can be used as a tangible platform for applying further pressure from within Swaziland. And is regarded by Maxwell and Musa, as well as SNUS as a whole, as being an essential piece to the success of the democratic movement.
Reflecting on the future, Maxwell and Musa finds it crucial that the civil society, the church and the royal family, being the three most important political actors in the country, sits down together to bring about a Swaziland where socio-economic and democratic rights are for all Swazis and not just the selected few favoured by the royal family. They hope that such a Swaziland, where these rights are obtainable based on a democratic election, will be realised by 2018, which they see as a realistic timeframe for the achievement of true and inclusive multi-party democracy.
Klaus Stig Kristensen, Manzini- 26/2-2012. Interviews took place the 23rd of February 2012.