Two of the Swaziland democracy leaders charged with sedition following May Day commemorations in the kingdom have been jailed on remand until 9 May 2014.
Mario Masuku, President of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), and Maxwell Dlamini, Secretary-General of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), were accused of ‘uttering seditious statements’.
They appeared at Magistrates Court on Friday (2 May 2014) and were remanded in jail.
According to reports from the court published on social media, the two men face four separate charges arising from a single incident.
The two were arrested following a pro-democracy rally at the Salesian Sports Ground in Manzini, Swaziland’s main commercial city.
Local media reported that as many as 7,000 people joined the rallies in Swaziland to mark May Day, but some democracy leaders were prevented from attending by police.
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported, ‘Masuku was a hit among the workers yesterday. He was given a hero’s welcome when he arrived with political activists ignoring the programme and running all the way to the parking lot to welcome him.’
It added, ‘After Masuku’s speech, Maxwell sang a song which the political activists danced and toyi-toyied to. He was arrested for this song as the police termed it seditious.’
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported PUDEMO’s Second Deputy Secretary-General, Mphandlana Shongwe and Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) Coordinator Wandile Dludlu were turned back by police officers and ordered not to set foot in Manzini.
It reported Shongwe was stopped by the police at Moneni where there was a roadblock and he ordered to return home. He was told he would be arrested if he went into the city.
The Times reported Shongwe said police told him he would experience what Sipho Jele experienced if he defied their orders. This was a reference to the death in custody four years ago of Jele, who was arrested on May Day 2010 for wearing a T-shirt supporting a pro-democracy political party.
The newspaper reported that Dludlu was stopped by the police near Bhunu Mall in Manzini while driving his vehicle. The newspaper reported him saying the police used violence against him.
He said, ‘They grabbed me and drove with me to Mbabane in a white Isuzu double-cab, where they dropped me off at my parental home in Msunduza,’
Swazi authorities have clamped down on dissent in the kingdom in recent months.
Seven democracy campaigners have been in jail on remand since last month accused of terrorist activities after they were arrested for wearing PUDEMO T-shirts and berets. PUDEMO has been banned in Swaziland as a ‘terrorist’ organisation since 2008, under the controversial Suppression of Terrorism Act.
Magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko are presently on trial in Swaziland charged with contempt after writing articles for the Nation, a small circulation magazine, that criticised the Swazi judiciary.
Last month, police illegally abducted prodemocracy leaders to prevent them addressing a meeting calling for freedom in Swaziland.