Three members of the Swaziland Communist Party who are accused of setting houses alight as a protest against a chief have been granted bail by the High Court after spending 115 days in jail on remand.
Sithembiso Sibandze, Qiniso Mkhatshwa and Siyabonga Gina were accused of burning four huts at Chief Mshikashika II’s Royal Kraal at KaNgcamphalala. They have been charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
They have been given bail of E15,000 each and banned from crossing the Mzimnene River to the Manzini city centre or going to Siphofaneni.
Their bail application was opposed by the office of the Swazi Director of Public Prosecutions on the grounds that they would interfere with potential crown witnesses, some of whom were their relatives.
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported on Wednesday (29 June 2016) that the prosecution argued two of the men had already admitted guilt, ‘since they confirmed to have torched the houses, causing over E100,000 [US$6,676] worth of damage’.
According to the newspaper, the accused, ‘said they wanted the chief to spring into action and convene a meeting for the residents. They claimed that the chief was abusive towards the residents and stifled their development because he demanded too much money from the sugar cane schemes, where he demanded to be paid E5,000 yearly from each of the 65 associations.’