The following is a statement from the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) about the final laying to rest of Sipho Jele, the democracy activist who died while in a Swazi jail. The president of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) Mario Masuku was arrested after the funeral and charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
Following last weekend’s disruption and subsequent abandonment of Cde Sipho Jele’s funeral, the Swaziland Chapter of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) wishes to announce as follows:
- Cde Sipho Jele was finally laid to rest in the morning of Saturday 22 May 2010. Only sermons were delivered as progressive organizations, including the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), etc., had been barred form speaking, singing, or even wearing their politically-themed t-shirts as one of the conditions for the burial to proceed.
- Mario Masuku, President of the banned PUDEMO, was arrested at the funeral, charged under the Suppression of Terrorism ACT (STA) for supporting the cause of an enlisted entity and released pending the setting of his trial date.
- Meanwhile, at lunch time on Friday 21 May 2010 at the Swaziland Consulate in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, our sister task team, the South Africa Chapter of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC – SA) held a picket where a memorandum was received and signed on behalf of the Swaziland Government by the Acting Consular, Ernest Tsabedze. In a function that was facilitated by Steve Faulkner, SAMWU International Relations Secretary and SDC – SA Coordinator, messages of solidarity and speeches were from SACP Central Committee and Politburo’s Chris Mathlako, PSI Regional Secretary for Southern Africa’s Thembi Mngomezulu, Zimbabwean Crisis Coalition’s Director, Palestinian Solidarity Alliance’s Salim Vally, and SDC – SA’s Nomthandazo Sikiti.
The SDC demands either the immediate and unconditional setting aside of Mario Masuku’s ridiculous charge or his speedy committal to a competent court of law for his trial. Our rejection arises from the fact that Masuku was recently acquitted of a similar charge under the internationally condemned STA. We do not see what will be different this time around, as Masuku has committed no crime other than exercise his constitutional right to freedom of expression. We once again appeal to the international community to join the organizations listed above in condemning the escalating human rights violations in Swaziland and exerting pressure on the rulers of the Swazi regime for a speedy return to multiparty democracy, which we believe remains the only way forward.