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.
Long live the spirit of freedom, long live Swaziland!