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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

THREATENED SWAZI ACTIVIST’S STORY

This is the personal testimony of Ntombie Khoza, the Swazi pro-democracy activist who fled to Canada to escape persecution in Swaziland. Next week (18 January 2010) she faces an immigration tribunal and possible deportation from Canada back to Swaziland. Campaigners are asking for supporters to write letters on her behalf.


(I have blacked out some names for obvious reasons)/


For background to her case, click here.


1. I was born in Swaziland on the 31st of December, 1965. Over the last 10 years in Swaziland, I have been actively involved in activities that involve a movement that has been forced to operate underground for a greater part called the Ngwane National Liberation Congress. This is a broad movement that includes other constituents such as Sayco, the Peoples Democratic Party of Swaziland, the Swaziland Trade Union Congress and others. All these organizations are within the stream of movement and broad front headed by the Ngwane National Liberation Congress.


2. I joined the party on the 22nd of October, 2000. The aforesaid movement is fighting to establish an open and vibrant society similar to that of South Africa and is geared towards boosting democratic renewal and reform in the country. This popular organization ideals were pioneered by the late illustrious leader, Dr. Ambrose Zwane who was hounded and persecuted by the Swazi security establishment . My role in the party included participation in rallies and demonstrations. I particularly played a key role as a volunteer executive secretary of the local coordination council for the District of Hhohho. I served in a part-time role, performing administrative work and utilizing my experiences as a professional executive assistant, travelling extensively in Swaziland and serving as liaison with the Trade Union movement.


3. Until I was unjustly dismissed from my job, I had served as an Administrative Secretary with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) In December, 2001, I was finally dismissed from the job because of my political affiliations. I had been seen on TV and daily newspapers attending the party meetings and demonstrations. The Human Resource Manager, Ms. Sellina Dlamini who is married to one of King Sobuza 11 sons, accused me of being involved in activities that were against the interest of the Swazi state, shortly after that my contract was terminated without cause. She knew about my connections and activities in the democratic opposition and she had power and influence to affect my job situation.


I was informed by a close colleague of hers, Mrs. Constance Mabuza, who was Administrative Assistant to Ms. Selina Dlamini that my dismissal would follow shortly. A few days after that, I was handed a letter terminating my employment. I did apply for several jobs but later learnt that as with all activists I was informed by the Human Resource Department that I lost my job because of the pressures exerted on them by the loyalists of the Swaziland Government who were seconded to UNDP by the Swazi government to watch over any “dissidents” that were working within the organization. I had been placed on a blacklist by the Swazi Security Police and was rendered ineligible for employment in the government civil service or parastatals.


4. I could not get a permanent job, references (testimonials) from the previous as all records were destroyed even when I applied for other private sector jobs. I was informed that I was not eligible for employment because of my past political history.


5. My uncle, Mfana Arthur Khoza was a former Minister in the Swazi government. He joined the government Civil Service in the early 1970’s and he climbed the ladder until he was elected as a Minister in 1988. He was dismissed in office in September, 2002. He was part of the underground democratic opposition (Ngwane National Liberation Congress)that has been operating in Swaziland since the late King Sobhuza rein in the 60’s and the 70’s.


6. He was abruptly detained and dismissed from the Government in September 2004. As a result thereof, all of us who are his close family suffered immensely for his leadership role in the democratic movement. Some had to go for counseling and soon some left for exile in South Africa. Above all, many of us lost security clearances.


7. My cousins Mario Masuku and Professor Dlamini also suffered, they both lost their positions in the Government and during the period of October, 2000, they were assaulted, tortured and eventually detained by the Swaziland Police the following month. They were detained without trial, held incommunicado and in detention for 18 months. Upon their release in April 2002, they were periodically arrested by the Swaziland Police. This included dismissal from both private and public jobs.


8. On the 22nd August, 2005, my uncle died from health related complications stemming from the pressures that were exerted on him by the Swazi Police State. Soon thereafter, the situation grew from bad to worse.


9. In 2002, I was informed by the same people (Mario and Professor) that I was on a blacklist by the Swaziland Government and its security establishments. We used secret numbers and language that the Police did not understand. I received a message that was smuggled from jail through one of our underground operatives who was working in the Swazi Police, XXXXXXXX.


10. From March 2006 to November 2007, I was periodically victimized, harassed, threatened and imprisoned and was paid a number of unpleasant visits by the Special Branch. The visits during this time were sporadic and I cannot recall all of them because during this period I was severely stressed out. I recall at least six occasions when I came into physical contact with the Security Police. On at least four separate occasions. I was taken to their headquarters located in Matsapha. This took place in the period of November-December, 2006. I was harshly interrogated and threatened by three policemen who came to pick me up. I was also held without food and water for hours on end in all those occasions.


11. Between July and November 2007, two Security Police paid additional visits to my home in Mbabane. This time, on top of the threats I received, I was ordered to write a detailed personal history, all my connections and people I had known since I joined the struggle for a democratic dispensation in that country and I plainly and stubbornly refused to comply with the order. All the policemen involved in the interrogation were hostile beyond imagination. They even refused to identify themselves and they made boasts to the effect that they were above the law.


12. From March 2006 to November 2007, I received anonymous phone calls threatening me with dire consequences if I did not cease my political activities. However, I continued with my political work in the democratic opposition. I was informed by XXXXXXXXXX, in a message transmitted to me by code language via a message XX left in my mobile phone that I was in perilous danger. In Siswati, the exact words he used was. “ Caphela bomzala”. This means, ‘Beware of the distant cousins”, a term understood by many of those who are involved in the Swaziland Democratic opposition.


13. In January 2008, I was informed by a reliable person, again XXXXXXXi, that my arrest was imminent because the special branch had discovered through its informants that I have been a member of the banned political organization (Ngwane National Liberation Congress) This time I knew that the decision would be fatal and permanent.


14. I suffered persecution because of my commitment towards changing the present system in Swaziland and replacing it with a democratic one. Because of my commitment in this struggle, I have over the years paid a heavy price for my beliefs. I feared arrest and the threat of cruel and unusual punishment by the Swaziland authorities.


15. Having taken time to assess the position, on January 14, 2008 I had to take the painful decision to uproot myself from my family and friends and to escape persecution and to start a new life in a vibrant and open foreign country such as Canada. My boyfriend, who is the father of my son whom I had met in South Africa in 2000 and who I had visited earlier in Canada, then raised the money for me; both the ticket for me and my son and that is why I landed in Canada.

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