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Friday, 30 October 2009

JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED

The following is a media statement released by the Swaziland Solidarity Network yesterday

(29 October 2009).


Justice delayed is justice denied


The Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN] condemns in strongest possible term the delaying tactics, to commence the trial of comrade Amos Mbedzi more than one year later. [Amos Mbedzi, was arrested in September 2008 on suspicion of planting a bomb at the Lozitha Highway Bridge.]


According to the Times of Swaziland 27th October 2009 edition the trial could not commence because "the Chief Justice is indisposed". We find this as a delaying tactic by the Tinkhundla government as they smell defeat and are aware of the invalidity of their charges against comrade Amos. SSN demands his immediate release from prison after a long period of detention.


Meanwhile, as part of our every Friday protest the Swaziland Solidarity network [SSN] will be picketing outside the Swaziland Consulate tomorrow Friday 30th October, 2009 in Braamfontein Center in demand of the immediate release of all political prisoners, the unbanning of political parties, the return of all exiles and the democratisation of Swaziland.



Issued by the Swaziland Solidarity network [SSN]

Thursday, 29 October 2009

SWAZILAND DEVASTATED BY TB

The Swazi government’s slow response to a fast-growing tuberculosis (TB) epidemic has eroded the possibility of controlling it.

Themba Dlamini, the Swaziland’s National TB Control Programme manager, says there has been a nearly ten-fold increase in the last 20 years from about 1 000 TB cases per year in 1987 to over 9,600 cases in 2007. Swaziland also has the world's highest HIV prevalence rate; people living with HIV/AIDS are significantly more vulnerable to catching tuberculosis.

‘This escalation of TB cases can be attributed to the HIV/AIDS epidemic," said Dlamini. "80 percent of the TB cases are also co-infected with HIV.’

The kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is falling short of meeting the World Health Organisation (WHO) TB treatment rate of 85 percent. Its treatment success rate is 42 percent, while the case detection rate stands at 57.7 percent - against a 70 percent detection target stipulated by the WHO.


Each year there are roughly 14 000 new TB cases diagnosed among the Swazi population of one million people.



Monday, 26 October 2009

MASUKU HUMILIATED IN SWAZI JAIL

Mario Masuku, the president of the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), has told of how prison authorities set out to humiliate him and his visitors while he was on remand in jail on terrorism and sedition charges.


‘During visits, my relatives felt humiliated and intimidated as prison warders would look at and listen at our conversation from mouth to mouth for a whole fifteen minutes. I was supervised, averagely, by three officials.’


Writing in the Times Sunday, Masuku identifies the ‘torment, harassment and humiliation of my wife, Thembi’ at the hands of prison warders.


Masuku also highlights the grinding work that prison warders have to do. ‘For an example there are those in the lowest class who carry a bunch of keys, open and close the jail gates and doors with unending monotony. These are the sentries, the guards who are so helplessly voiceless and shamefully underpaid, who live in shared accommodation, some (as part of their duties) are locked in our cells overnight. They are not allowed to carry umbrellas (on rainy days), they patrol on hot or cold nights without shelter. And most importantly – they work on orders! They are taught and instructed to “take orders first, and complain later.”’


He goes on, ‘I was stripped naked and insulted by young boys in the name of a ‘search routine.’.


In prison, Masuku says, ‘I saw boys, juveniles, as young as nineteen housed together with older and more experienced individuals. I do not know what goes on inside the cells, but jails are the same anywhere and children should be separated from adults – irrespective of what they had done. Prisons are known to produce hard core criminals from innocent young people instead of correcting them.’


To read Masuku’s full article, click here.


Mario Masuku is president of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) in Swaziland, a political formation banned in the kingdom ruled by King Mwsati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.


Masuku was on remand in jail from November 2008 to September 2009 on charges of terrorism and sedition. When he eventually appeared in court, the Swaziland High Court judge threw out the case after five hours of a trial expected to last several days. The judge called the prosecution case ‘hopeless.’


This article appeared in the Times Sunday (Swaziland) on 18 October 2009. It was the third in a series of articles by Masuku published by the Times Sunday, the only newspaper group in Swaziland’s free of direct government control.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

SWAZI REFERENDUM IS A CON-TRICK

Calls for a referendum over allowing political parties to exist in Swaziland seem to be growing.


The weekend papers have several reports and articles about the rights and wrongs of having a referendum on multiparties in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.


Political parties are banned in Swaziland by Royal Proclamation and supported by the recently-enacted constitution.


But there have been growing calls within Swaziland and the international community for the kingdom to become a democracy.


Now, the ruling elite have found a way of putting the argument to bed once and for all (they hope). Hold a rigged referendum that they will win.


We can confidently expect any referendum held on the subject to be rigged because there is a long history of stifling discussion in Swaziland.


The most pertinent example is the ‘consultation’ with the people over the contents of the Swaziland Constitution of 2006.


As I wrote in May 2008, the consultation over the constitution was a sham. Some people even called it ‘a fraud’.


How the debate was rigged was clearly documented by International Bar Association (IBA) in its report, Striving for Democratic Governance.


The IBA had been invited by King Mswati to comment on the process of writing the constitution that was overseen by the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC).


The IBA found the CRC did not allow the judiciary or NGOs to contribute to the debate and ensured that individual Swazi people were interviewed in the presence of their chiefs. As a result the ‘overwhelming’ majority wanted the King to keep all his powers and wanted the position of traditional advisers to the King to be strengthened. They also wanted Swazi customs to have supremacy over any international rights obligations.


The IBA report states, ‘The terms of reference of the Commission did not allow expressly for group submissions, and as apparently they were not entertained, NGOs per se were effectively prevented from commenting. The IBA panel considers that, unfortunately, this in itself deprived the CRC of much valuable input.’

The IBA report goes on, ‘The extent to which individual Swazis were consulted has also been questioned. The CRC did not keep records of the submissions it received and media coverage of submissions was apparently banned.

‘There is therefore no formal record of how Swazi citizens presented their views and of what in fact they said to the CRC.

‘Furthermore, information was elicited in a highly charged atmosphere. Individuals were reportedly asked, in the presence of chiefs, whether they wanted to retain the King and whether they preferred political parties.

‘The CRC report states that “there is a small minority which recommends that the powers of the monarchy must be limited” and continued that “an overwhelming majority of the nation recommends that political parties must be banned”.

‘The report concludes that “an overwhelming majority recommends that the system of Government based on the Tinkhundla must continue” and, as well as the ban on political parties being maintained, that the executive powers of the King should be maintained, the position of traditional advisers to the King strengthened, and Swazi customs have supremacy over any contrary international rights obligations.’


Under the circumstances it is difficult to see how ordinary Swazis could have come up with any other conclusion.


So the ‘debate’ on political parties and the constitution was rigged last time and it’ll be rigged next time if King Mswati has his way.

SWAZI STATE ‘SPONSORS TERRORISM’

Mario Masuku, the president of the banned People’s United Democratic Movement, has accused the Swaziland state of sponsoring terrorism.


Masuku, writing in the Times Sunday, says that ordinary Swazi people have to resort to extreme ways to combat the authoritarian state ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.


‘The struggle that culminated to the brutal torture, beatings and arrests of comrades and innocent citizens has been a protracted one. It is a national democratic revolution that builds up from phase to phase and level to level and is characterized by the obtaining conditions.’


He goes on, ‘I fear and view with scorn a regime’s stance to a coercive self-censorship and in the case of the electronic media houses in the face of intimidation and state sponsored terrorism. I have learnt that the only thing a tolerant society cannot tolerate is intolerance. Independence of the media is the corner stone of a developing democracy, and anyone with a diverging view must not be uprooted or ostracized, but must be allowed to co-exist.’


Masuku also gives details of the circumstances of his arrest on trumped-up terrorism and sedition charges. He says he was ‘shoved into a dark, flea infested, dirty and smelly cell’.


Later, he spent the night ‘sleeping on the floor in a mosquito infested 3x3 metre cell with no window-pane-less.’


In maximum security prison he was ‘locked in day and night’


He goes on to recount a typical day in prison.


To read the full article, click here.



Mario Masuku is president of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) in Swaziland, a political formation banned in the kingdom ruled by King Mwsati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.


Masuku was on remand in jail from November 2008 to September 2009 on charges of terrorism and sedition. When he eventually appeared in court, the Swaziland High Court judge threw out the case after five hours of a trial expected to last several days. The judge called the prosecution case ‘hopeless.’


This article appeared on 11 October 2009 in the Times Sunday, part of the only newspaper group in Swaziland free of direct government control.