News about the death in jail of Sipho Jele has travelled around the world. The following report was originally published in the Danish newspaper Arbejderen (The Worker). Thanks to Peter at Africa Contact in Denmark for the translation into English.
Killed because of a T-shirt
10 May 2010
Political activist, Sipho Stephen Jele, was arrested on May-day because he wore an opposition party PUDEMO t-shirt. Now he has been murdered by police.
Another political prisoner has apparently been killed by police in the kingdom of Swaziland in southern Africa.Tuesday morning a fellow prisoner in Sidvwashini prison found the body of 35-year-old Sipho Stephen Jele hanging from a rafter in the toilet, according to the Times of Swaziland.
He was arrested on 1 May in Manzini, allegedly for having worn a t-shirt with a PUDEMO logo at an event at the Salesians of Don Bosco Sports Ground.PUDEMO (People's United Democratic Movement) is the country's largest illegal movement and opponent of the monarchy.The police raided Sipho Stephen Jeles home in Ncabaneni to look for his PUDEMO membership card, after which he was taken into custody.
The Times of Swaziland have spoken to the aunt of the deceased, Julie Jele, who last saw him Saturday, in handcuffs.
- I need an explanation from the police about how my nephew died. They found no gun or other dangerous weapon during the search, she said.
The following day, after Jele had been found dead , police told Sipho’s grandmother that he had committed suicide, after which they tried to force Sipho’s family to bury him – probably to avoid an autopsy, said Danish organization, Africa Contact.The organisation has been in contact with a PUDEMO-representative, who denies the police’s allegation of suicide.
- The explanation that the police has given is absolutely untrue. We know that it does not fit, he said to Africa Contact.
According to the Pudemo representative, this occurrence is unfortunately only one of many examples of the imaginative explanations for deaths in police custody in Swaziland.
Sipho Stephen Jele, who had previously worked in Swaziland’s only pulp factory Usuthu Pulp, was in the process of taking a degree in engineering. He had previously been charged with treason in a trial in 2006, but was fully acquitted.
Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini said in a press release, reported in the Times of Swaziland yesterday, that there will be an inquest into the death of Jele.
“I wish to state that His Majesty’s Government is taking the matter seriously since this involves the death of a person who was in lawful custody”.