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Wednesday, 26 March 2008


Anyone who has in his or her possession a copy of the documentary Without the King is committing sedition. I can hear cries of incredulity rising all around me, but it is a fact. Even though the Swazi Constitution that came into effect in 2006 allows for freedom of expression, draconian laws in Swaziland have not been repealed.

Possibly the most draconian of all the laws in Swaziland is the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act, 1938. The main purpose of the Act is to provide for the suppression and punishment of sedition, that is criticism of the King and the Swaziland government.

Read these extracts from the Act (particularly Section 4) and tell me that I’m wrong.

Section 4 makes it an offence for any person to do anything or even to attempt to do anything with seditious intent. It is also an offence to conspire with anyone who wants to do anything with seditious intent. This includes the utterance of seditious words as well as the printing and dissemination of seditious publications. The importation of seditious publications is also an offence except if the importer had no reason to believe that the publication was seditious.

Section 3(1) defines a ‘seditious intention’ as an intention to:
- bring the King into hatred or contempt, or to excite disaffection against the King, his heirs, his successors and the government of Swaziland;
- excite the citizens and inhabitants of Swaziland to ‘procure the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter in Swaziland as by law established’;
- bring the Swaziland justice administration system into hatred, contempt or disaffection;
- raise discontent amongst the citizens and inhabitants of Swaziland; or
- promote ‘feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Swaziland’.

Any person found guilty of sedition may be fined and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for a first offence and three years’ on a subsequent offence. Mere possession of a seditious publication may lead to a fine and imprisonment for one year for a first offence and for two years for a subsequent offence.

You can read more about repressive Swazi media laws in Media Law, a Comparative Overview of Media Laws and Practice in Botswana, Swaziland and Zambia, from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Johannesburg. To view it click here

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