This is a media release from Africa Contact, Denmark, that calls for the release of student leader Maxwell Dlamini, who is charged with the possession of explosives during last week’s protests in Swaziland.
Africa Contact says Maxwell is a political prisoner and has been subjected to torture by police. It says the charges against him are ‘ludicrous’.
Africa Contact calls for the unconditional release of student leader Maxwell Dlamini. The charges against him are ludicrous and any confession he might have made has been tortured out of him.
Maxwell Dlamini, the President of the Swaziland National Union of Students, appeared in court in Manzini, Swaziland, on April 15 on charges of being in possession of explosives, and thus contravening Sections 8 and 9 of Swaziland’s Explosives Act 4 of 1961. He has been charged together with member of PUDEMO’s youth wing, SWAYOCO, Musa Ngubeni.
The explosives that the police claim Maxwell was in possession of were allegedly to have been used during the peaceful mass demonstrations for multi-party democracy and socio-economic justice between April 12 and April 14 that were brutally crushed by Swazi police and security forces.
Before his court appearance, Maxwell Dlamini and his lawyer have experienced the Swazi regimes idea of justice. Maxwell has been tortured and forced to write and sign a report that was dictated to him about his actions between the 8th and 13th of April, where he was first detained but later released, according to the Swaziland Solidarity Network.
Maxwell’s Mbabane-based lawyer, Mandla Mkhwanazi, had been given unclear and contradictory information about in which court he was to appear at his client’s important first court appearance. He had wished to apply for bail, but was not able to do so because he had rushed back and forth between Swaziland’s High Court and Manzini’s Magistrates court and therefore arrived too late for the session. The unclear information given him was almost certainly given to deliberately impede his work.
Many Swazi’s, and foreigners who are familiar with the blatant disregard for the rule of law in Swaziland, believe that the charges against Maxwell Dlamini are ridiculous - not least because Maxwell has consistently advocated a peaceful campaign for democracy in Swaziland.
Vincent Ncongwane, Secretary General of the Swaziland Federation of Labour, for one has called the charges “unconvincing” and claims that the arrests are an attempt to “cover up for the heavy-handedness the police applied against innocent citizens” during the mass protests between April 12 and April 14.
Other similar politically motivated cases have also shown that the charges against Maxwell Dlamini are in all probability fabricated. One of the more prominent and well-documented political cases in Swaziland was against PUDEMO President Mario Masuku in 2009. Mario Masuku was imprisoned for 340 days awaiting trial on charges of terrorism, but when he was finally brought before a judge, the case was laughed out of court in a matter of hours.
Africa Contact therefore urges all government’s, Embassies in Swaziland, and Human Rights and other organisations to:
a) Call for the unconditional release of Maxwell Dlamini, whom we regard as a political prisoner.
b) If the call for Maxwell’s release is not heeded, demand a free and fair trial for Maxwell Dlamini and an investigation into the allegations of torture of Maxwell Dlamini by Swazi officers, with subsequent charges brought against anyone found guilty of having taken part in such actions.
Africa Contact also demands that the Swazi government refrains from any further mistreatment or threats against members of Swaziland democratic movement or members of the Swazi public in general. The Swazi government has, both during the past week especially, but also for many ears prior to this, kept the people of Swaziland in a constant state of fear through a deliberate campaign of terror, violence and intimidation.
No trial can be truly fair and free under such a regime of terror, however, which is why Africa Contact also calls for a swift and inclusive process of democratisation, that also ensures economic redistribution and socio-economic justice for all Swazis. Such a process must also replace the present tyrannical, absolute monarchy with a multi-party democracy that truly empowers and includes all of Swaziland’s citizens in the process of running the country, observes the rule of law and upholds human rights.