Mbabane: The Infringement of the freedom of political activists calling for democratic change in the Kingdom of Eswatini still persists! This assertion was made by the London based office of the protestant group, the Swaziland Vigil UK.
It said the political atmosphere in the Kingdom is toxic and will always remain so as long as the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) are empowered by the draconian legislations such as the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (1938), which impends on the freedom of expression by criminalizing any publication which criticizes the monarch.
The office stated that the same goes for the Public Oder Act (1963) which gives the National Police Commissioner sweeping powers to arbitrarily stop pro-democracy gatherings and organised protests and crash any criticism of the Eswatini Government, adding that a wide range of legitimate activities such as criticizing the Tinkhundla System of Government have been criminalized and labelled “terrorist acts” as per the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008, which has placed severe restrictions on civil society organizations, religious groups and the media, issued the office.
“As members of Swazi Vigil Political Pressure Group based in the United Kingdom comprising citizens of the Kingdom of Eswatini, formed in 2010 by co-ordinator, Thobile Gwebu, we continue to call for immediate political reformation and the dismantling of the oppressive Tinkhundla System of dictatorship masquerading as a legitimate and accepted system of government,” the statement reads in part.
It stated that while taking the advantage of the democratic United Kingdom Government which accords the UK-based EmaSwati political activists full liberties, freedom of expression and association without limitations, they are determined to openly demonstrate in front of the Kingdom of Eswatini High Commission at 20 Buckingham Gate in London and expose all the evils perpetrated by the country’s administration.
“While we fully know the danger that awaits all political activists in the Kingdom of Eswatini such as former President of the banned Peoples United Democratic Movement, Mario Masuku, who is currently out of jail under strict bail conditions which prohibit him from exercising his freedom of association by not attending any political or industrial gathering nor addressing them, we are determined to be the voice of the voiceless while we are here in the United Kingdom,” further reads the statement.
It said its members, through their Swazi Vigil website where they publish articles condemning all the injustices perpetrated by the police force, political activists such as Zodwa Juliet Dlamini, Rainny Dlamini and Thulile Dlamini have openly criticized the violence and torture on their comrades in Eswatini at the hands of the Eswatini Royal Police Service. It added that Rainny Dlamini is one of their activists who has tirelessly advocated for women’s rights in Eswatini as evidenced by her past articles including the one where she expressed her views about the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence bill which by then was still under review.
The Swazi Vigil said they absolutely condemn what Eswatini has embarked on, torturing political activists, adding that they are in full agreement with Dlamini’s article which criticized the harassment of Eswatini journalist Eugene Dube and political activist Ncamiso Ngcamphalala as reported by the VOA News on May 15, 2020.
The UK-based organisation went on to say they equally agree with one Dlamini’s article on the Swazi Vigil website which criticized the monarch’s alleged pledge of US$6 million, an equivalent of E91 million of what they called the citizens’ struggling workers’ hard-earned money to the global fund.
The office goes on to state that one Khanyisile Ndlangamandla once expressed her dissatisfaction of the monarch’s alleged lavish lifestyle, where it is alleged that the monarch bought lavish expensive cars in BMW’s and Rolls Royce’s for his family. They added that most emaSwati have no healthcare because there is no money in the government coffers.
“What Khanyisile says is shared by Swazi Vigil and the rest of the international community,” reads the statement, adding that if Eswatini cannot afford to take care of its own citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic, raising the question as to how the monarch has money for his lavish cars and lifestyle?
Zweli Dlamini Harrassment
The office also strongly condemned the continued harassment for Swazi News Editor Zweli Martin Dlamini who they said has been deprived of the comfort and security of his home leading him to seek refuge in the neighbouring country of South Africa, as he fears for his life from the threats coming from Eswatini police officers. They said even their membership and others around the world are in danger of torture, jail, and or execution should they be sighted by the Eswatini Police and other secret agents.
Some of those who are allegedly wanted by the police and whose lives are in danger include one Thobile Gwebu, who is the founder and co-ordinator of Swazi Vigil. Others are Veli Mamba, Nombulelo Mamba-Mnisi and Philile Dlamini-Ceko, the office said.
It added that some activists putting pressure on the Eswatini government are Tsomake Simelane, Bonisile Manyatsi, Colleen Matsebula, Flora Dlamini – just to mention a few of those forcing government to ditch the Tinkhundla System and adopt democracy.
“As Swazi Vigil, we know through our contacts that the Eswatini Government is determined to see to it that these comrades are harassed, jailed, tortured and killed if they dare to appear in the Kingdom of Eswatini,” they said, adding that they are determined to inform the international community of the continued gross violation of human rights by the oppressive system of governance.