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Thursday, 20 May 2010

SWAZI ACTIVIST INQUEST STARTS

Sipho Jele, the Swaziland democracy activist who died while on remand at Sidvwashini Correctional facility, asked to be sent there because he feared being ‘tubed’ (tortured and suffocated) if he was sent back to police custody, an inquest into his death heard.


The Swaziland Director of Public Prosecutions Mumcy Dlamini said she was pleased to hear this because it meant Jele had not yet been tortured while at the police station. Dlamini told the inquest as far as she knew the only reason why Jele wanted to go to Sidvwashini was his fear of torture by police.


A jailor, Assistant Superintendent Richard Mthukutheli Fakudze, told the inquest he found Jele hanging from a concrete bar in the bathroom of his prison cell at about 5am on May 3 and he just knew Jele had killed himself. While he gave his testimony, he was interrupted by Prosecutor Phila Dlamini who warned him to only say what he observed and desist from giving an opinion. Fakudze had conclusively said Jele hanged himself yet he found him hanging. Said Dlamini, ‘If you insist that he hanged himself, you are actually saying that you saw him tying the blanket around his neck and hanging himself.’


The inquest was told that Jele was charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.


The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reported that two police officers gave ‘contradictory submissions’ about how Jele was arrested at a Workers’ Day celebration.


The Times reported, ‘One glaring anomaly was revealed by witness number three, Constable David Tsabedze, who, despite proof that he had recorded Jele’s health on the night of May 1, 2010, the officer denied ever doing so. Another anomaly is that despite that the suspect was brought to the police station at 5.30pm on May 1, he was only placed in a police cell at 11pm and no one could come forward to state what was happening in the meantime.


‘He was also taken out of the Manzini Police Station’s cell for interrogation purposes for hours on different occasions and one of the officers says it is unclear whether they also took him out of the building.’

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