The following is a letter from Tony Dykes, Director of Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) to Mrs Mary M Kanya, Swaziland High Commission to the UK, concerning the death in jail of democracy activist Sipho Jele.
13 May 2010.
Dear High Commissioner,
I am deeply concerned to learn about the death in police custody of Sipho Jele, who was a member of the Swaziland Agricultural and Plantations Workers Union (SAPWU), part of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU). He was I understand also a PUDEMO activist and supporter of democracy for Swaziland.I am informed that Sipho Jele’s family were told on 4 May that he was found hanged in his cell after having been arrested at the SFTU’s May Day celebrations on 1 May for wearing a PUDEMO t-shirt and charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The police have said his death was suicide. From the reports I have received however his death occurred in suspicious circumstances and his family were told to bury his body quickly and without informing his trade union or political colleagues. This raises considerable concern about how and why Sipho Jele died.
I would be grateful if you would convey to the Government of Swaziland my deep concern about Sipho Jele’s death. I ask that you urge your Government to allow an independent investigation into the circumstances of Sipho Jele’s death, including an autopsy by an independent pathologist, and ensure that, if it is found that his death was suspicious, those responsible are identified and brought to trial.
I understand that the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers are planning a march to the Prime Minister’s office to protest about the death of Sipho Jele while in police custody and what they perceive as general human rights abuse by the state’s security agents. I ask that you urge the Government of Swaziland to allow that march to take place without interference.
c.c. Dr Nicola Brewer, High Commissioner, British High Commission, Pretoria