State oppression in Swaziland is reaching down to the streets of the cities.
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reports today (11 August 2010) that Sibusiso Mhlanga was arrested in Manzini as he tried to get a photocopy of a report in City Press.
What the Times doesn’t say is that the report detailed the arrest of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Ndumiso Mamba, who is alleged to be in a sexual relationship with the king’s 12th wife, Nothando Dube (also known as Inkhosikati LaDube).
All media in Swaziland have been banned from reporting the scandal, but South African newspapers, which can be bought in Swaziland, have covered it.
On Sunday (8 August 2010) City Press ran pictures of Mamba being arrested at a hotel in Swaziland after being caught with LaDube. The previous week it broke the story that the couple had been exposed as (alleged) adulterers.
Now, Sibusiso Mhlanga, an employee of the Family Life Association of Swaziland, has been arrested by a plain clothed police officer who apparently had overheard him requesting that a story contained in the City Press be photocopied.
This looks to me like a huge coincidence that a plain clothes officer just happened to overhear this conversation.
It becomes less of a coincidence when you know that Mhlanga is alleged to be a member of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), the youth wing of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO). Both organisations are banned in Swaziland and both have been branded ‘terrorist entities’ by Barnabas Dlamini, the illegally-appointed Prime Minister.
We have to be suspicious that Mhlanga was under surveillance by the state authorities.
According to the Times, ‘Mhlanga had asked that a certain lady, identified as Thandeka, help him photocopy and give him two copies of the story.
‘He then went to photocopying offices situated upstairs of the Dunns building in Manzini where the story was duplicated. Thandeka then requested to have a copy of the story as well but she was not taken in for questioning.
‘However, when Mhlanga was about to leave, the plain clothed police officer demanded to know what he had photocopied.
‘Upon being shown the copies duplicated the unidentified officer then demanded that she be given the copy of the story and subsequently took Mhlanga to the Manzini City Post, situated at the bus rank before being transferred to the charge office.
‘While at the police station, Mhlanga was interrogated by officers from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and a decision was taken that his house be raided so police could get the original City Press newspaper.
‘During an interview, Mhlanga said he was asked where he had got the City Press as well as why he was photocopying it.
‘“But I told the officers that I had got the paper in a rubbish bin while cleaning.
‘“But the officers were not satisfied and they took me to my house at Logoba where I was raided but they found nothing,” Mhlanga said during an interview.
A police spokesperson told the Times, Mhlanga would be charged with contravening the Copyright Act.
We will find out in due course if that is the real charge. If it is, can we expect plain clothed police officers to be hanging around every photocopier in Swaziland to catch people copying newspapers and books?