MARIO FREED OF TERRORISM CASE
Mario Masuku is the President of the People's United Democratic Movement - Insika Yenkhululeko YeMaswati - of Swaziland. Since 1983 this organisation has been banned in Swaziland because political parties are illegal. PUDEMO has called for multi-party democracy since its formation and believes the people shall govern. In November 2008 Mario Masuku was again arrested and put in prison. Government has no case and continues to delay his trial.
PUDEMO STATEMENT ON THE MARIO MASUKU TRIAL 14 September 2009
The Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) wishes to alert both the Swazi public and the international community on the coming trial of its President Mario T Masuku. Masuku was arrested in November 2008 less than 24 hours after the oppressive and undemocratic Swazi royal regime had ‘banned’ the organization describing it as terrorists. This is all because PUDEMO has over the years dared to challenge the regime to stop its dictatorial tendencies, human rights abuse, corruption, nepotism, harassment, lack of democracy, etc. For this, PUDEMO has been viewed by the regime as its greatest threat to its continued oppression of the poor masses of Swaziland.
On the 21 September, the trial shall commence at the High Court of Swaziland in Mbabane at 9am. The resilient members of PUDEMO from all corners of the country shall again descend on Mbabane in support of their President. They will be joined by the democracy seeking people of Swaziland under the banner of the Swaziland United Democratic Front. This is because Comrade Masuku’s detention has become a symbol of oppression for the people of Swaziland!
This will be a contest between freedom and oppression; justice and injustice. The defence team comprises fearless lawyers for human rights, who have over the years stood by and defended the oppressed people of Swaziland without fear of this brutal regime. There is Thulani Maseko (is himself out on bail on charges of sedition), Leo Gama, Mandla Mkhwanazi and Paul Shilubane. The regime has unashamedly run to South Africa, a democratic country to seek legal assistance on its fight to sustain its injustices and oppression on the people of Swaziland. Whoever shall take this offer must be condemned and discouraged, for the rewards are no different from blood money!
Meanwhile a prayer service is being planned in Swaziland for the coming weekend in preparation fro the commencement of the trial. We are also encouraged by the planned protest action by COSATU for the release of Mario Masuku on 25 September. A lot of activities internationally are currently taking place where people are calling for the release of Comrade Mario and the introduction of multiparty democracy in Swaziland. The Swaziland Solidarity Network is one of such.
Comrade Mario is fine and ready for the road ahead. The family also remains strong and fully behind him for they know that this is not only about them, but the fight for the oppressed masses of Swaziland.
However, as usual, the state will be unleashing its brutal security apparatus to intimidate, harass and even assault people who will be attending the trial. But we shall remain resolute in support of our President and the fight for democracy in Swaziland.
National Head of Publicity Zakhele Mabuza +268 607 3453
Deputy President Sikhumbuzo Phakathi 0731427594
Secretary General Sphasha Dlamini +268 608 9783
BY MUSA HLOPHE
Sunday Times Aug 16, 2009
He and I last met at a funeral of my late senior sister in law, Ms. Dudu Dlamini, at Ekutsimuleni, in October 2008. It was at this funeral that we learned about our likely arrests. He was subsequently picked up in November 2008, and has been there ever since. At first I avoided visiting him because I knew that I was on the line as well, and then, secondly or later, because of the ban on visits.
But that was soon to be overthrown by the courts, thus opening the opportunities to visit him. On Monday this week Jan Sithole and I just felt the urge to want to visit Mario Masuku in prison. We drove in Jan’s car, got at the gates, where we were well treated, being asked to fill the forms, indicating who we were visiting, and stating our relationship with that. We indicated that we were visiting Mario Masuku and that we were his friends. We were then allowed in by very polite officers. Yes, they were very polite and obliging, a sign of good training in human relations and the exercise of power. Keep it up Bafana beMbube!
Once inside the premises, and having given the guard officers the document about our mission, we were made to wait, and it was a very long waiting, I tell you. But, as were waiting, something else happened. We saw somebody coming, running, and the person looked like one Ignatius B. Dlamini, former Secretary General of the now banned PUDEMO. Indeed it was him.
The three of us sat there, outside, chatting away time and trying to catch up on things of the struggle. For Jan and myself, it had been over nine months since we last met Mario, and a little longer when we last met IB. Therefore, the whole thing presented an opportunity for a good re-union of some sorts. But as we were enjoying the chatting, the officers called us in, again, politely asked us to be searched before we were ushered into room where Mario Masuku was waiting for us.
What a sight! Though separated by the strong fence or cage, we were able to push our fingers to touch him and stretched our hands to demonstrate our hugs of him! By this time we were fighting away our tears. It was so wonderful yet so painful. I have still not fully recovered from it, and I think I am likely to feel like that for sometime.
I saw in Mario, the extent of the cruelty of Swaziland’s evil political system of Tinkhundla; a decent and innocent individual like Mario Masuku rotting away there, simply for the pleasure of the ruling elite. It is totally unforgivable, I do not care what others may think of this. It is evil by men on men.
Mario told us his reasons for not applying for bail. He reasons that if he were to apply for bail, he would get it, and then never to be brought on trial, but being asked to report to the police station for the rest of his life, without being afforded an opportunity to defend himself or getting convicted. To support his argument, he pointed to the very I.B. Dlamini we were with. He reminded us that I.B. Dlamini and 15 others had been out on bail since 2006, and are being inconvenienced by having to report to the police since then without their matter coming to court. He could not live with that. He simply wants to be brought before a competent court and defend himself, because he believes in his innocence.
But it was very visible that he misses his family and his freedom. He told us that he did not wish, even for his worst enemy to spend even one night in that place. He says one night is a thousand nights long.
This is how he feels. He praises his family for being there for him during this trying time in their lives. He was happy we were there, all this time, wiping away tears, just as we also were struggling to appear strong, even the likes of Jan Sithole, whom we take as a source of strength, I saw him fighting away his tears. After all, we are all just human, when one hurts, we hurt too, and when it causes one to cry, we cry too, its as simple as that. We are also fragile, at least I know that I am extremely fragile when it comes to these things.
When we asked him if he was bitter about his incarceration: he said: “I am not bitter at all. The Prime Minister and his Government are just doing their job, or at least, this is what I think are their reasons for putting me here. What will hurt me the most though, is if I am here because some body wants to spite me, that I may never forgive, if I were to find that I am here because someone simply wants to see me suffering”.
You know, this is quite amazing, coming from a person who has been in and out prison, for the sole reason that he dared to challenge the evil system of Tinkhundla, which is his right as a citizen. Yes, he is not bitter.
Mario appeared at peace with God. He actually preached to us, (being a preacher of the gospel himself) reminding us, that his being there, is the will of God, so long as his motives for doing what he is doing are clean, and not coming from evil thoughts. He saw himself as a tool in God’s hands for His purpose in this Nation, to be peacefully transformed from this oppressive system to democracy. Though painful to be where he is, he sees it as God polishing him for His purpose, and that his faith means that he must be submissive to God’s calling.
With that said, we decided it was appropriate that we held our hands in prayer, and we prayed to God to give him strength, while thankful to Him that His man knew and understood His leading in even in the situation in which our Comrade finds himself. Amen.
Mario follows what goes on in this country, through the media. He told us how grieved he was when he read my article on the tribute to the late MJ Dlamini’s father’s death. He told us that he was still grieving hard because of this death, especially because he could not attend the funeral. He asked me to send his heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Dlamini, Make UlaKhoza, and her family, and tell her that he prays for their strength to cope with their loss. He told us that he was shocked too to read about the untimely passing away of his friend, Tom Mbelu. He says he could not come to the terms with that death. He said either myself or Jan or both of us, must make efforts to pass his condolences to Mrs. Mbelu and her family.
He then spoke about one of his pastors, who happened to have died just having visited him in prison, and the two of them having prayed together, he grieves for this pastor as well.
May all these families, I have mentioned here, find comfort in the knowledge that, even while incarcerated himself, and should be primarily concerned about his own welfare, Mario Masuku is concerned about others more than himself. If I happen not to see you in time, may you take comfort in the knowledge that we had you in our prayer at the prison with a detained suspect, who happens to care about you!
Please be comforted.
Mario Masuku also shared his concerns about the way the progressives were prosecuting the struggle. He actually chastised us for the apparent luxury of bickering among progressives. He had harsh words for those involved in what he sees as unnecessary contestations over political spaces between political formations and the larger civil society. He said any political entity which does not see the advantage with the mass democratic movement, was doomed to fail, and made his incarceration to be in vain. He told us, that those who sympathized with our struggle from outside, were not impressed with a fragmented progressive movement. He told us that each time he saw a sign of squabbling among progressives, his spirit sank, and made his time in prison totally unprofitable.
You know, those of you who have read the Apostle’s address to the elders of the church at Ephesus, as he was about to live for Jerusalem, where he knew he would arrested and possibly killed, will see a similar attitude and mood in Mario, as he addressed us. As if he saw some lack of understanding on our part, he said, in a loud voice: “Look here comrades, no one is greater than our struggle, and therefore, no one must ever try to privatize the struggle. You comrades must go out there and unite the movement, both inside and outside the country. This country looks to you for leadership, and future generations will only inherit a democratic state, if progressive forces learn to work together.”
I tell you, that was a good telling. We just sat there, listening to a natural leader sharing his insights and his vision. Of course Mario is right, there is nothing as disheartening as to see progressives squabbling among themselves. You do not see that among traditionalists and supporters of Tinkhundla. That does not mean that there are no squabbles within this group, but what it means is that this group is able to deal with its internal squabbles discretely.
Progressives can learn from that.
We salute Mario Masuku for the tough choice he has made, to stay in there, for a greater principle. I know is that, even though each night is like a thousand nights, however, there is greater pressure on the system, which has always prided itself with the claim it had no political prisoners. We now have Mario, whom we have denied access to speedy justice, may be because we know we do not have a winnable case.
What ever the case may be, Swaziland is on trial each day Mario spends in detention, and, as it was the case with Nelson Mandela, Mario’s detention makes him the symbol of our struggle. It also makes a mockery of Swaziland’s claim to peace making. If Swaziland can boast of having given peace to Zimbabwe, and now to Madagascar, but decide to keep in jail those we should be making with here at home, then its claim is hollow.
Mario is one of those fellow citizens we should be making peace with and not put them behind bars, with a hope that the problem will go away. Only the unwise do that, and we need to be a bit wiser in dealing with our own internal differences.Mario, as you read this article, know one thing, you encouraged us on Monday, so much so that we feel a sense of renewal in ourselves, in prosecuting the struggle until victory is won. Swaziland shall be democratic some day, we only pray that it happens in our lifetime.
13 August 2009
To: The High Commissioner of Swaziland in South Africa
Attention: Mr. M. Mswane
From: Swaziland Solidarity Network- South Africa
MEMORANDUM OF DEMANDS TO THE KINGDOM OF SWAZILAND
The Swaziland Solidarity Network submits this memorandum to mark 271 days of PUDEMO President Mario Masuku’s incarceration. We bring to your attention our strong objection to his continued imprisonment upon trumped up political charges.
Your regime is bent on intensifying its subversion of Swaziland peoples democratic rights to belong to a democratic country. A non-existent link between PUDEMO President Mario Masuku and provisions in your unconstitutional Suppression of Terrorism Act has been created to silence his political leadership.
Many more citizens including women and young people are victims of your regime’s dictatorial policies, of banishment, exile, detention, starvation, lack of proper health infrastructure, education and deep poverty.
We demand of your regime to unconditionally release Masuku from prison and recognise the legitimate rights of your people to put forward the demand for multi-party democracy.
Your regime has perpetrated scores of human rights violations against political activists, trade unions, the media and anyone that criticizes your popularly rejected system of Royal political rule.
A ban on Political parties has been legislated since 1973. Laws are perverted to reign in activists who are subjected to widespread detentions and inhuman treatment. They are constantly threatened and intimidated including through the introduction of the public service bill.
Your regime is the most corrupt in the entire continent and is entirely responsible for the suffering and misery of the poor Swazis.
The decimation of foundations for a democratic respect for the rule of law is insulted by the King placing himself above the constitution.
Your regime has issued threats against public servants who belong to political parties. It is your aim to dismiss them of their jobs once the public service bill has been passed.
It is against that background that we place to your regime the following demands:
We demand a response within 7 days of the submission of this memorandum.
Recipient: Swaziland Representative
Submitted by: SSN Representative
For more information contact:
Lucky Lukhele-SSN National spokesperson
072 502 4141
By MANQOBA NXUMALO
August 08,2009 Swazi News
MBABANE- Yesterday marked 264 days since PUDEMO President Mario Masuku was arrested.
If his public showing yesterday were to be used to judge his morale, then his comrades will be relieved to know that he is still as defiant and determined as ever.
Masuku appeared before High Court Registrar Lorraine Hlophe for his trial conference together with Lozitha alleged bomber Amos Mbulaheni Mbedzi. The two seemed happy as they belted out smiles, cracked jokes and at one time, Mbedzi even attempted to do the customary toyi-toyi while chained in leg irons.
Masuku was dressed in a formal black suit with a red tie, while Mbedzi was casually dressed in a khaki jacket, pants and white sneakers. The injuries that Mbedzi suffered on the night of the alleged explosion last year have completely healed, with only scars and a badly damaged eye the only indications that he had a close shave with death.
In fact he had even removed the bandage that used to cover his head when he made his court appearances at the Magi-strate’s Court last year.
The tight security at the High Court was indicative enough that Masuku was to appear in court together with Mbedzi as the High Court premises were littered with both uniformed and plain clothed police officers, monitoring every move made by the political prisoners.
On their way to the exit point, the two were accompanied by a large police Casper truck, loaded with armed to the teeth police officers. There were also two other security cars, one from the police and the other from the Correctional Services that closely monitored the accused persons.
In attendance in court yesterday were over 100 people, mainly drawn from the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) and the Ex- Miners Association, who, coincidentally, had also come for their Free Education case yesterday.
So defiant was the PUDEMO chief that after all the court processes, and while being taken to the Matsapha Correctional Services, he shouted to the people who had come to see him ‘Amandla’ sending his followers, who had attempted to barricade the road that was going to be used to ferry Masuku away, to wild excitement. The SWAYOCO members then burst into songs about PUDEMO and Mario.
The pre-trial conference was conducted at the offices of the registrar and not in open court. It was attended by Masuku’s two lawyers Paul Shilubane and Thulani Maseko, as well as Mbedzi’s lawyer Leo Gama.
Masuku and Mbedzi told the registrar that they would both plead not guilty to the charges preferred against them.
The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had instructed Thabiso Masina to represent the crown.
Masuku was told that the state will parade six witnesses who will testify against him, while Shilubane said they will not reveal their witnesses this time around as they wanted to see how strong the state’s case was against Masuku.
With assistance from Pretoria, on April 12, 1973 Sobhuza II infamously declared: the Constitution of Independence had “failed”; it was the cause of “growing unrest”; it had permitted “undesirable political practices”; and there was “no constitutional way” to amend the Constitution. A State-of Emergency was declared and Sobhuza II assumed supreme power (Kuper 1978). Parliament was suspended for five years and when it reopened the royalist's tinkhundla system began to be enforced. The Constitution which was suspended in 1973 was eventually replaced thirty-three years later.
In the brief video clip below, PUDEMO President lists the shortcomings of the so-called "new" Constitution. Masuku has been an outspoken critic of the Swazi regime for years and they think he can be silenced by prison. VIVA Mario VIVA!
By SENZO DLAMINI
Swazi Times May 29,2009
EZULWINI – Retiring European Ambassador Peter Beck Christiansen is friends with political activist Mario Masuku.
Masuku, the President of the People’s United Democratic Movement, is currently languishing at the Matsapha Maximum Correctional Institution awaiting trial. He was incarcerated in December under the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008. Christiansen yesterday stunned all and sundry when he sent special greetings to the PUDEMO chief.
This was during the European Day Celebrations held at the Boma Restaurant.
“A special greeting goes to my friend Mario Masuku,” he said much to the deafening silence of the over 50 people who attended the event. “I’ve known Mario since I came here five years ago.”
MBABANE—Local attorney and human rights activist Thulani Maseko recently travelled to the United Kingdom on the invitation by the country’s Foreign and Commonwealth Minister, Lord Malloch-Brown.
This is contained in a classified letter written by the minister to leaders of a labour organisation known as Unite the Union, which was intercepted by this publication.
Maseko met officials from The Commonwealth Secretariat, Amnesty International as well as those from an organisation known as the death penalty project.
“In March the Foreign and Commonwealth Office organised the visit of a leading human rights lawyer from Swaziland, Thulani Maseko, who is defending the leader of PUDEMO, who as you note has been in prison since November 2008,” he states, in response to a letter written by Unite the Union joint Secretaries, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley.
Maseko reluctantly confirmed the trip this week.
“It’s true that I went there and met a few people from different organisations to discuss burning issues in Swaziland,” said Maseko, who is the coordinator of Lawyers for Human Rights.
“I gave them a full briefing and we thereafter made projections to the future; how we envision the future considering the current state of affairs,” he said.
He said the main issue discussed was the contentious Suppression of Terrorism Act, where the common view was that it is used (or abused) in silencing dissenting voices.
“Such legislation is used in many countries, developed or underdeveloped. However, in our case people can see that it is not used to target real terrorists. In Swaziland, a terrorist is anyone with a dissenting view. Clearly, this (fighting terrorism) is an international drive that is now being abused by government,” he said.
He said the representatives from the organisations he met were interested in knowing more about the Mario Masuku case. “The focus on Swaziland is inevitably mounting, at least according to the people I met. The critical concern is to see Swaziland moving towards democracy using acceptable means,” he said.
He said that members of the Death Penalty Project are also interested in Swaziland, as the country’s constitution is vague on the issue of the death penalty. It is widely considered that the death penalty is still effective in Swaziland. “The constitution leaves this issue with judges to exercise their discretion when handing down judgement,” he said.
“They (Death Penalty Project) made an undertaking and commitment that action will be taken if need be,” he said.
He said it is important for the British government to see progress in Swaziland as its former protectorate.
“Above that, Africa has committed to multiparty democracy. Even SADC rules share the same spirit. Therefore, there is no reason for Swaziland to be different,” he said.
Lowly, humble beginnings
I am the sixth born from a family of five boys and five girls. My father Malcom, the famous Sihlahla, was a worker- a mineworker, and later a cattle guard under the Ministry of Agriculture to be specific. He was based in the Shiselweni region until he retired from government. My mother, Fakazile popularly known as Mavalane, was just a simple and humble housewife born from a Zwane family.
There was an interesting contrast between my parents. My mother never saw the inside of a classroom, but grew up herding cattle and later working as a maid in farms. On the contrary, my father was educated and very well educated by standards of the time as he got trained as a teacher at the then prestigious Adams Mission at Amanzimtoti.
I grew up in the lowly, but humble village of Makhosini located about thirteen kilometers from Nhlangano town, past Ngwane Teachers College in southern Swaziland. Our homestead has always been situated very close to the banks of Umfuzane river. Like all young boys, I passed through the experience of looking after the family cattle. I eventually enrolled in the local Makhosini Primary School. Life was never easy at all. It was quite usual for me and my siblings to occasionally run out of school fees, sometimes as low as 50 pence. My tasks included taking the cattle to the dipping tank and looking after them after school and on weekends. Each day became a duplicate of the other with me going to school, coming back in the afternoon, eating whatever there was and changing clothes. Then I would run as quickly as I could to the veld to relieve those who were looking after the cattle.
In 1966, while doing standard six, I and a local boy, Raymond Ndlangamandla got invitations to enroll for Form 1 at Evelyn Baring High School provided we passed our examinations. Evelyn Baring, situated in Nhlangano, was a prestigious ‘whites only’ school that had recently been deracialized. We were to become part of the first contingent of ‘black’ students to enroll in this school. Early in the following year, I was on my way to my new school. The first born and eldest sister, Dudu, had to walk me to this new school where I became a boarder and for the first time in my life I had to sleep and stay away from home!
At the time my father was involved in party politics in preparation for a democratic Swaziland that was under British colonial administration. He was a member of the Swaziland Democratic Party, a political party that also involved the likes of Sishayi Nxumalo, Dr Allen Nxumalo and many others. My elder brothers Patrington and Thanduxolo were also involved in politics. I could only listen to the many informative debates that were taking place around me.
In 1967, the Nxumalos convinced a conference in Mbabane that they were going to attempt to change King Sobhuza II’s party, Imbokodvo National Movement, from within. Consequently they disbanded the Swaziland Democratic Party.
In 1967, I and a friend Charlton Mncwango together with one Shedrice Bhembe were involved in an altercation with one white teacher, a Mr Vall. He had wanted us to play football which we did not like, but had preferred to do something else instead. As punishment, he instructed us to write an essay about ‘Wild Animals in Africa.’ We felt completely provoked and in return, we decided to write about ‘Wild animals from Europe’ that had come to spoil our Africa. I was eventually expelled and had to stay the whole second term and partly the last while looking for alternative space. My father had to come down from the South African mines where he was employed and negotiated my return to school with the then king, but no nonsense principal Mr H S Telford. We had nicknamed him Nsizwa. I then continued with my studies until 1971. During those years, I eventually developed not only into a footballer of note, but also captain and a school prefect.
My Early Political Experiences
At the end of 1971, after writing my final examination, I came straight to Mbabane in search of a better life. Luckily for me, whether by fate or design, I got myself employment at the then prestigious Barclays Bank. At the time there was a huge influx of freedom fighters from both the Republic of South Africa and Mozambique. Those from South Africa were struggling against the apartheid regime, while those from Mozambique were in a bloody fight for freedom against Portuguese colonial rule. In the process and interaction with these various freedom fighters, I was able to make a lot of friends with whom we shared political ideas and experiences. As a bank worker, I eventually joined the then Swaziland Bank Workers Union and was very active.
While still enjoying my new found life and experience of living in the capital town as a worker, a very strange occurrence just took place. This was like the biblical apocalypse! It was an incident that was not only to raise my political consciousness, but also of many fellow Swazis and the beginning of calculated and systematic oppression of the people of this country. In the year 1973, King Sobhuza II, in what was to be known as the King’s Proclamation to the Nation made a very strange announcement that was to change the political landscape of our country. The King had summoned the Swazi people to his traditional headquarters at Lobamba while parliament was in session. In the proclamation, he announced that he was now suspending the national constitution and assuming all powers including legislative, executive and judiciary powers. This proclamation effectively banned political parties and free political activity in the country.
Subsequent to this proclamation, there was heightened tension, repression and fear orchestrated by the state. In spite of all this, there were growing political activities and discussions that took place underground in an effort to reverse the environment created by the King’s proclamation. I soon found myself amongst a group of such and we eventually formed an underground political organization called the Ngwane Socialist Revolutionary Party (NGWASOREP). Some of our members were former members of the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) and the Swaziland Democratic Party (SDP). As a result of our activities, some were detained under the 60 days detention without trial order. Others, of course, decided to go into exile while others including myself opted to remain in the country. Due to the heavy clampdown and the scattering of the members, the activities were seriously curtailed and became non-existent.
However, the student uprising of 1976 in South Africa and those of 1977 in Swaziland were to prove to be a crucial catalyst for the revitalization of political activism in Swaziland which spread into the local university at Kwaluseni.
In 1982, the old king died and soon there was a huge cloud of uncertainty amongst the people of Swaziland - mainly they believed the country could not survive without the ‘wise and magical king.’ Compounding the uncertainty, was the growing tension within royalty with regard to the question on who was to become the next prince to ascend to the throne? In the absence of the king, a supreme council of state, Liqoqo under the leadership of the all powerful Prince Mfanasibili, took charge of the responsibility of governing the country. In the ensuring conflict within royalty, the Liqoqo eventually dethroned the Queen Mother of the nation at the time who was Dzeliwe Shongwe. This did not only infuriate people within royalty, but also a lot of ordinary people within the Swazi populace. This resulted in university students led by a very powerful Student Representative Council deciding to march to the High Court grounds in protest of the dethroning of Queen Dzeliwe.
Me and PUDEMO – the early years
In midst of the deep-seated arrogance and repression by the state, a group of workers, intellectuals and students assembled on the banks of Mbuluzi river near Mantjolo dam on the 6 July 1983. It was in this historic gathering that the People’s United Democratic Movement was born. I was part of that historical gathering. A gathering that gave birth to an organization aimed at uniting the people of Swaziland in the struggle for liberation from the manipulative and oppressive Tinkhundla royal regime.
The organization was born during trying conditions when the apartheid regime in South Africa was in strong collaboration with the Swazi authorities under the rule of Liqoqo. In their collaboration, they mounted the fight against cadres of the South African liberation movements who were in hiding in the country. Our alliance with these organizations dates back to that time.
The Swazi regime further waged attacks on PUDEMO members. As a result of this political repression by the regime, some of our cadres were forced into exile. Such cadres included Jabulani Matsebula, Dumezweni Dlamini, the late Dr Gabriel Mkhumane, Gavin McFadden, David Vilakazi, Lucky Mthembu and others.
In 1986, I was elected into the position of President. It was in this period where we waged a fierce campaign in mobilization and information distribution. I still remember the New Year message I made on behalf of PUDEMO. We called for combined mass resistance by students, workers, the church and the poor against the Swazi regime to achieve a democratic Swaziland. In January 1990, I made a similar call at a New Year ‘party’ that we had organized at Mawelawela on the banks of Usuthu river and was attended by various people across the social divide.
Further addresses were made to the people of Kukhanyeni about the ills of this government. This campaign continued even to other forums. More members were incorporated in carrying out this campaign. Such cadres included the late Dominic Mngometulu and Benedict Didiza Tsabedze. The campaign was so successful that it badly shook the regime to its core. As a result, the state rounded eleven of us and charged with treason. Our trial was at the High Court with Justice Nicholas Hannah, the presiding judge, while Adrinka Donkoh, one Thwala and some South African legal experts prosecuted on behalf of the state. Renowned attorney Peter Dunseith was our defence counsel and instructed one Advocate Elna Revales who was from South Africa.
Immediately on my indictment, my employer Barclays Bank terminated my services. The trial commenced and we were all acquitted of the main charge of high treason, but were found guilty of attending ‘illegal meetings.’ Mngometulu, Peter Shongwe, Sabelo ‘Brazo’ Dlamini and Boy ‘Qhawe’ Magagula engaged in a hunger strike and were subsequently admitted to the Mbabane government hospital. We appealed against the sentence and were successful.
I went back to my employer and negotiated for my reinstatement. In February 1991 I was successful and was finally reinstated and continued with my work.
A New Leadership, New Beginnings
The year 1991 was to be yet another historic chapter in our ever growing and strengthening struggle. It was in this year that we held our congress at Ipelegeng Centre, Soweto because of the very harsh political environment in our country. It was in this congress that Comrade Kislon ‘KP’ Shongwe was elected the new President while I became his Deputy President.
This is where again PUDEMO crafted one of her most important documents, The Way Forward: Towards a Constituent Assembly Through a Negotiated Settlement. We further demanded a new people driven national constitution. We also took a decision to unban ourselves in order to pursue our activities openly and challenge the state and mobilize our people for democratic change.
This is the year in which our youth league, popularly known as the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) was formed under the leadership of our departed young lion Benedict ‘Didiza’ Tsabedze. Working with our youth league, we were able to challenge and exert more pressure on the state.
The domestic pressure consequently led to international pressure being exerted on the state and forcing it to introduce political changes. In 1996, king Mswati III established and announced the discredited Constitutional Review Commission chaired by Prince Mangaliso now carrying the title Chief Logcogco. Twenty nine Swazis including myself were appointed by decree into this commission.
PUDEMO and other progressive formations objected to the terms of reference on the commission put forward by the king. We began to engage the king on the shortcomings of the commission, but we were ignored. The SwazilandDemocratic Alliance (SDA) wrote many letters to the king and his office highlighting the wrongs in the commission and suggested solutions, but no response was ever received.
In 1997, PUDEMO took a strongly resolution to withdraw my participation in this royal project. Shortly thereafter, Jerry Gule, Mhawu Maziya and Nkonzo Hlatshwayo also withdrew their participation from the commission. This left behind chiefs, royal praise singers, stooges, princes and princesses as members of the commission.
The Post 1996 Struggle
As noted previously, 1996 was a politically eventful year for PUDEMO and the country. It was to be a year that heralded even more social unrest and political activities in the coming years post 1996.
In 1996, I was again voted in as the President of PUDEMO. It was in this same year that the country experienced massive labour protests that brought the country to a standstill. I, on behalf of PUDEMO, was unequivocal in publicly expressing our support for the labour protests with their Popular 27 Demands that expressed nothing else except total social transformation in the country. However, this public support was to eventually cost me my job as the Human Resource Manager at Barclays Bank. I was given an option to either support capital or the suffering working class and the poor. As I opted for the latter, I was then made to lose my job.
During these trying times, I had countless meetings with political leaders and other leaders in the broader Swazi society. This even led me into having secret meetings behind closed doors with the king at different times. He was the convener of these meetings. In our engagements, the king openly and completely refused to see and accept any other view that was contrary to his. It became very clear that he was not prepared to see reason and find common ground that would take Swaziland forward. Indeed it was time and energy wasted. Maybe Swaziland would not be in this political mess and crisis if the king had been prepared to see reason instead of demanding to have his way and nothing else!
In the year 2000, the turn of the century, a chieftaincy dispute erupted at Macetjeni and KaMkhweli areas. This was a direct result of the country’s traditional authorities at Ludzidzini brutally imposing the king’s brother, Prince Maguga, as the new chief of both areas. This action and decision automatically meant that the ruling chiefs of both areas were now demoted into becoming ordinary members of their communities. The people in these areas strongly objected and challenged this imposition. After several attempts at resisting this decision, an eviction order was issued by the then Minister for Home Affairs, a brother to the king, Prince Sobandla. Swiftly, the country’s security forces were deployed to these areas to forcefully evict and drive out scores of people from their homes, especially those that were seen as anti-Maguga. They were taken in the still of the night in police, army and government trucks to be dumped in faraway areas unknown to them. This was one of the cruelest acts of oppression ever visited on the people of Swaziland, on the poor and helpless, by the royal rule.
With all these mounting social and political crises, the general Swazi population was thoroughly shaken and it brought both fear and anger on almost everyone save for the royal bootlickers and hangers-on. Consequently, the SDA decided to call for a national gathering in Manzini to deliberate on the ills engulfing the country. However, the state banned such a meeting and deployed its security forces to ensure the meeting never took place. Faced with this danger and arrogance from the state, the SDA resolved to hold this mass meeting outside the country in Nelspruit at Nelsville. Over 5000 people from the country traveled to Nelspruit. After many lengthy deliberations, the Mpumalanga Declaration was drafted. Many resolutions were put forward and one of those was to continuously organize and hold rolling mass action all over the country. It was in October 2000 during one of these mass protests that I was arrested and charged with sedition and subversion.
I was eventually given admission to bail with one condition, that I must report at the Mbabane police station every Friday which I tried very hard to comply with although it was tough and at times annoying!
As mentioned before, the bail conditions were felt so unfair and annoying. It made no sense that I was outside the prison walls because the conditions never made me feel completely free. To make matters even worse, the state never seemed prepared to bring me to trial.
In 2001, PUDEMO held her General Congress at Sikhawini in the month of September. After serious and long deliberations, it was resolved that we defy all the bail conditions. I implemented the resolution and never went to report at the police station as expected. In October I was detained for not complying with my bail conditions. I was booked into Matsapha Maximum Security Prison and put in solitary confinement.
I was in detention through the remainder of 2001 without the trial resuming. Sometime in the year 2002, the trial began. The prosecution was led by the Attorney General, one Mr Ngarua. Appearing for the defence team was Advocate Piet Ebersshon instructed by local attorney and friend Paul Shilubane. Justice Josia Matsebula was the presiding judge.
After a long period, the trial was finally concluded in August 2002. I was acquitted of the charges. In October of the same year, I busied myself with seeking solidarity by travelling abroad to countries that included South Africa, Denmark and Holland. Wherever I went, I was able to address large audiences and met influential people on the question of Swaziland and its lack of democracy. In all my travels, I was very successful because from then on many people internationally began to understand our plight and took strong and active interest in our struggle for democracy. In the process, PUDEMO was able to create friends and allies that were to prove very valuable and effective in assisting us to carry the struggle forward.
From 2003 to 2005, there was huge focus on the national constitution making process in the country. It was during those years that I met the Commonwealth Team, ambassadors from the European Union, United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Republic of South Africa and many others on the question of Swaziland. In spite of all these efforts, the king refused to take advice from all these groups and consequently went ahead to gazette a document he called the national constitution in July 2005 at his traditional headquarters at Ludzidzini. However, the constitution was suspended and it became effective in 2006!
In December 2006, I experienced a life threatening challenge when I was attacked by diabetes and pneumonia in combination. I was admitted in the Mbabane Clinic where they failed to handle the condition and was transferred to the Mbabane Government Hospital where I was taken straight into the Intensive Care Unit where I spent 4 days. For the whole of December I remained hospitalized. Very close to the end of December, I was discharged and for the first time went home. This was one of the most trying and painful moments of my life ever.
When the 6th PUDEMO General Congress was held in Matsulu while I was lying in the ICU. In spite of my medical condition at the time, the delegates elected me as the President of the organization again. I however, spent the whole of 2007 recuperating while doing all I could to serve the organization.
In life, besides one’s own affairs, there will always be people who make you what you are. In this case, my wife Thembi uLaMkhonta has been my pillar of survival. She has on many instances held fort while I engaged in battles with the state even in the most of trying times. She not only raised single-handedly our six children, but further withstood state pressure and even some derogatory and reactionary advice from all angles. Thembi is the main link between me, PUDEMO, the church, my mother, my siblings and the entire extended family. She has walked and hiked daily to wherever I was incarcerated to come and see how I was doing even if she had nothing to give me. If ever anyone deserved revolutionary humility and perseverance honours, it can be none other than Thembi.
As a freedom fighter, leader and family man, there are moments when you find yourself alone, lonely and helpless. You simply feel conditions around you are in collusion with the state enemy and ask yourself- which way now?
Never in my life have I felt pain like when I lost my son Tsepo in the year 2000. This was because of what he told me about the torture he went through in the hands of the police. But even worse, the assassination of my comrade leader, brother and patriot, the former Deputy President of PUDEMO, Dr Gabriel Mkhumane. I could not and still cannot accept why Dokotela had to depart in this manner. I still shed a tear alone when his memories resurface. The organization, his wife Zoraida, sons and family all lost immeasurably.
I knew Africa Magongo very well and he was no doubt a leadership material for PUDEMO. I also knew that he was not well, but when reports came that he was had gone, I was shattered.
I have cried when we lost comrades Dominic Mngometulu, David Mngometulu, Didiza Tsabedze and many more, but the loss of comrades Musa ‘MJ’ Dlamini and Jack Govender really disempowered me. All these were comrades I knew from their early lives in the struggle and had very high hopes on them. I still respect them even where they are today, deep in the belly of this unkind earth.
I believe the journey must one day come to finality. I remain committed even today to walk this steep and difficult last mile to our freedom. No amount of torture, beating, murder, victimization or incarceration will hinder me from fulfilling the ultimate goal of the fundamental democratization and transformation of Swaziland. I stand by this ideal and will do so all my life. Many times I have said that nobody, yes not even me, is bigger than the people’s organization!
PUDEMO is my life. I will serve the disadvantaged and poor people of my country until POWER GOES BACK TO THE PEOPLE! SURRENDER IS NOT AN OPTION AND SHALL NEVER BE!!