Article from the People’s Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), explaining the wave of repression in Swaziland in 2005 and 2006, and how spurious claims of a terrorist offensive were used by the state. It includes a discussion of how the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF), which was then active in both South Africa and Swaziland, was falsely accused of bombing (for a ZACF statement on this issue, see here; for repression affecting ZACF in Swaziland, see here and here).
Sexing up threats to national security
Swazi King orders more arrests to justify fresh emergency powers under the new Constitution
Signed: Dr. Jabulane Matsebula
PUDEMO Representative (Australia, Asia and the Pacific Region)
Swaziland police have arrested two more pro-democracy activists in what has become a regular occurrence. These arrests bring the number of incarcerated political activists to sixteen and occur in the wake of the fatal torture of LaFakudze. Mphandlana Shongwe and a university student, Wandile Dludlu faced similar prospects of death by hanging as the other fourteen activists. These charges range from malicious damage to property to high treason.
As a pro-democracy stalwart and the most fearlessly outspoken critic of the state, Mphandlana Shongwe has experienced the brunt of this hatred. In 1990, he was among thirteen people accused of high treason. It will be remembered that no charges were proved in this “case”. Since then he has been detained and tortured on several occasions. He is constantly under police surveillance and has been denied the right to work as a schoolteacher because of his political convictions and membership of PUDEMO.
We maintain that these charges have no real basis but are part of a comprehensive strategy to annihilate the movement for democracy in Swaziland. King Mswati III and his royal family have a profound hatred for democracy and state critics. This hatred, often expressed in violent suppression of Swazi citizens, has been the hallmark of the absolute monarchy government. The current spate of political arrests and degrading treatment of political activists yet again exposes the sadistic character of this regime.
The charges that have been brought against the 16 detainees are vague and disorganised. At the bail hearing in the High Court on January 12, 2006, the state prosecutor could not answer questions from the presiding judge, Justice Matsebula, as to why one suspect had been omitted from the list of suspects. All the prosecutor could say was that he did not know even though the office of the Director of Public Prosecution prepared these papers.
This clearly demonstrates the government’s disrespect of the dignity and integrity of the courts. On the same day, Mphandlana Shongwe was kept locked in a police van for two hours because the police did not know which court to take him to for the remand hearing. What a farce this whole thing has become.
These arson “attacks” must be viewed for what they really are – a set-up to justify the continued rule by iron fist. They are the work of a desperate regime to create an illusion of a threat to achieve King Mswati III’s grand ambition to continue ruling the country through emergency powers. For 32 years, the country has been governed under a State of Emergency declared in
1973 when the late King Sobhuza II unconstitutionally repealed the Independence Constitution Order, 1968. Under the emergency powers, basic human rights were trampled upon and citizens’ rights to actively influence the political future of this country were severely curtailed.
The 1973 constitutional crisis offers an important context from which the current crackdown on political movements can be analysed. In justifying these emergency laws, King Sobhuza II argued that the country was facing a serious threat from “alien” political practices and that in consideration of “the extremely serious situation” he decided to assume supreme power.
The Independence Constitution Order, 1968, which delegates political authority to an elected government, was declared a threat to the Swazi nation. “The extremely serious situation” the King referred to was the marginal success by the Ngwane National Liberation Congress (NNLC) in the first post-independence general election of 1972. The NNLC won one parliamentary seat but this was enough to end the absolute control of parliament by the royal family. For 5 years, the family had controlled the parliament through the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM). Although marginal, the NNLC election success was significant in that it ushered in a new era in Swazi politics. Under the Independence Constitution Order, Swaziland now had formal opposition representation in parliament. This meant that the NNLC was able to question the Imbokodvo government about its actions. Although historically significant, the NNLC had no real political power over the dominant INM.
The existence of the threat in 1973 was therefore illusionary. It existed only in the minds of the royal family. Swaziland was never under any threat and the general population did not share this idea of a threat.
Claims that an “extreme serious situation” threatened peace and security was a fantasy orchestrated to achieve a set of objectives – the destruction of parliamentary democracy, the concentration of political power in the king and the production of a docile population governed by the spectre of endless nightmare scenarios. Whilst people in Western societies were haunted by nightmares of a Communist invasion and were mobilised to hunt Communists under their beds, the Swazi royal family generated a false image of the destruction of Swazi society by political parties. Critically, the royal family showed that it was not able to tolerate even one opponent in parliament. In seeking to eliminate this threat, the monarchy created the lie that the whole country was under threat in order to justify the assumption of emergency powers.
King Sobhuza II announced a series of draconian decrees and unleashed an aggressive clampdown on political opposition and human rights campaigns.
Decrees No. 11, 12 and 13 of the Proclamation by His Majesty King Sobhuza II, 1973 remain a hallmark of the current system of government.
Decree No. 11 states that:
All political parties and similar bodies that cultivate and bring about disturbances and ill-feelings within the Nations are hereby dissolved and prohibited.
Decree No. 13 sets out the punishment for:
Any person who forms or attempts or conspires to form a political party or who organises or participates in any way in any meeting, procession or demonstration in contravention of this decree shall be guilty of an offence and liable, on conviction, to imprisonment not exceeding six months.
In 1990, seven people received six months jail terms for forming and belonging to PUDEMO. The discourse about political parties established by Decree No. 11 resonates in contemporary official opposition to multi-party parliamentary democracy. It was frequently employed during the constitutional making exercise to revive the 1973 illusion of an alien political threat. Assisted by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Constitution Review Commission, the Constitution Drafting Commission and senior government officials actively campaigned against multi-party democracy. Although the Bill Of Rights in the 2005 Constitution guarantees freedom of association, there is no reference to political parties and their role in Swaziland politics. In effect, the new Constitution embraces the 1973 discourse of political parties as “bodies that cultivate and bring about disturbances and ill-feelings”. Hence the maintenance of the non-party parliamentary system in the new Constitution.
In anticipation of a mass resistance against the constitutional crisis of 1973, King Sobhuza II decreed that:
No meetings of a political nature and no processions or demonstrations shall be held or take place in any public place unless with the prior written consent of the Commissioner of Police; and consent shall not be given if the Commissioner of Police has reason to believe that such meeting, procession or demonstration, is directly or indirectly related to political movements or other riotous assemblies which may disturb the peace or otherwise disturb the maintenance of law and order (Proclamation by His Majesty King Sobhuza II, 1973, Decree No.12).
The King declared a state of emergency and announced that ” my Armed Forces in conjunction with the Swaziland Royal Police have been posted to all strategic places and have taken charge of all government and all public services.” The deployment of the armed forces was an act of bravado to crush potential public resistance against the massive shift from democracy to dictatorship. The events of 1973 represent a significant development in the history of Swaziland and the declaration understandably would have generated considerable public anxiety.
It must be understood however, that the deployment of the army was a short-term measure and Swaziland did not develop into a military state.
Instead, the police force became an institution that actively enforced royal repression. The draconian measures established in the Proclamation were enforced not by the army but by the police force with which King Sobhuza II had a very close relationship. Consequently, the police force developed into one of the central pillars of royal power and King Sobhuza’s most trusted institution. It became the symbol of the most feared measure of the Proclamation, Decree No.2, which was used effectively to suppress narratives of suffering and aspirations for freedom in the community. This law effectively killed political speech before it was first challenged by a newly formed underground liberation movement, The People’s United Democratic Movement, in the mid-1980s.
Decree No.2 establishes a system of arbitrary detention of state critics:
For a period of six months from date hereof, the King-in-Council may, whenever they deemed it necessary in the public interest, order the detention of any person subject to any conditions they may impose for any period of time not exceeding sixty days in respect of any one order. Any person released after such detention may again be detained as often as it may be deemed necessary in the Public interest. No Court shall have power to enquire into or make any order in connection with any such detention (Proclamation by His Majesty King Sobhuza II, 12th April, 1973 – own emphasis).
Ambros Zwane, the NNLC leader, was immediately detained under this measure.
Zwane’s detention sent an unambiguous message and the state succeeded in intimidating the general population. For ten years, public dissent disappeared and narratives of suffering receded to the private sphere. The first evidence of organised public political dissent was in the mid-1980s when PUDEMO spoke about the suffering through secretly distributed pamphlets and messages painted on public buildings and road signs. King Sobhuza II and his government used the absence of public dissent to construct and promote a farcical image of peace. Consequently, people who had no direct experience of the suffering in Swaziland misinterpreted the silence as evidence of peace. This stereotypical image of Swaziland remains influential today and is usually passed on by delighted holiday-makers. The image consists of gentle, polite people working hard in their fields.
Swaziland is always portrayed as an oasis of peace in Southern Africa because it does not have a reputation for bloody civil wars.
King Sobhuza II argued that the repressive measures were intended “to ensure the continued maintenance of peace, order and good government”
(Proclamation by His Majesty King Sobhuza II, 12 th April 1973). However, as has been evident over the last 32 years, the Declaration shattered peace in Swaziland and instilled a culture of fear and silence among the population. It took away the basic right of habeas corpus as the police were not obliged under Decree No.2, to bring detainees to court to show why they are being detained. Maintenance of power rather than peace and good governance was the intention of the King. As the conditions in Swaziland today testify, peace and good governance can never be achieved under totalitarian rule.
The combined powers of illusion and emergency measures allowed King Sobhuza II to successfully establish a strong totalitarian state. His son and successor, King Mswati III, benefits immensely from this system and has no interest in changing it. The young king knows no other forms of governing Swaziland other than through emergency powers. He has no strategy of governing the country without the use of fear.
In recent years, the monarchy regime has participated in some activities which have been interpreted by some people as indicating that the regime has been making some political concessions and moving towards better governance. PUDEMO has consistently pointed out the fraudulent nature of these activities. None has been more ridiculous than the so-called “constitution reform exercise”. It will be recalled that some of the more ludicrous elements of this exercise were that those who facilitated the exercise were appointed by the King, that no political party representation was allowed and that the constitution ultimately gave no increased freedom of expression or political participation. This process, like many others in recent years, gave international bodies an excuse not to intervene in Swaziland but delivered nothing to the people. Instead, it has simply reaffirmed the regime’s sickeningly corrupt nature and its complete refusal to engage in any attempt to improve Swaziland’s governance and relieve Swazi suffering.
The process and the outcome of the 2005 Constitution then, holds no promise of improvement for Swazi people. They have nothing to gain if it is, as promised by the king, activated in February 2006. While the Swazi people have nothing to gain by the advent of the constitution, the royal regime does have something to lose. Technically, the 1973 State of Emergency will come to an end when the Constitution comes into effect. If and when the constitution is activated, the King will rule under the constitution and no longer have the authority of the emergency powers that have provided the monarchy with absolute power over the last 23 years.
Under the constitution, he retains absolute executive and legislative power but he will lose the power over the judiciary. This means that he could not legally interfere in the administration of justice as he has repeatedly done under the 1973 Proclamation.
It is important to note that the King has not willingly surrendered his power over the judiciary. He was forced to do so after sustained local and international criticism against state interference in the administration of justice. The 2002/4 rule of law crisis exposed the vulnerability of the monarchy and showed that it will eventually succumb to sustained political pressure. PUDEMO and SWAYOCO have successfully used political strategies before to defeat the regime and do not need bombs and guns to achieve our objectives. In the past 15 years, particularly during the “constitution reform exercise”, civil disobedience campaigns by the pro-democracy movement have severely weakened elements of the 1973 measures. Political parties such as PUDEMO, its youth wing SWAYOCO and the NNLC defied Decree
No.11 by publicly declaring their existence and political ambitions. In deliberate contravention of Decree No. 12, PUDEMO and SWAYOCO continue to hold peaceful public meetings and demonstrations despite devastating consequences. The police have always responded with violence to these public gatherings but this has merely hardened our resolve to defy this law.
Although some people have applauded the new Constitution for guaranteeing freedoms of association and assembly, the current laws restricting these freedoms have completely lost their meanings and effectiveness. The sustained civil disobedience campaign has rendered Decree No.11 and Decree
No.12 useless. Thus the inclusion of these freedoms in the Constitution is a whitewash designed to gloss over the repressive elements of the Constitution. What purpose does the inclusion of freedoms of association and assembly serve when the same Constitution prohibits political parties from contesting national elections?
Given that the royal regime has never shown anything other than a determination to rule by dictatorship and given the increasing defiance of pro-democracy activists, it is understandable that the regime is running scared. They simply cannot afford to let the Emergency Powers be extinguished because they are not capable of governing without these powers. Therefore, we believe that King Mswati III is now preparing the ground for fresh emergency powers to regain the powers he has lost and is about to lose. He is preparing for the advent of the Constitution by creating imaginary terrorists and threats to national security. Once he has established public belief in a severe threat to Swaziland, he will be able to renew his emergency powers.
Aided by the local media, especially the royal family-owned Swazi Observer, the government has manufactured bombers, bombing sites, public outrage and fear to justify the crackdown on political dissent in preparation for the end of the Emergency Powers. A set of media discourses has emerged through which The Swazi Observer has constructed a collective identity of those who have been detained as “bombers”. The Swazi Observer has even gone to the extent of ascribing identification numbers to each “bomber” and “bombing” incidents to make the illusion sound as if it is based on some kind of objective facts.
In a report about the recent arrests, The Swazi Observer (January 12, 2006) refers to Wandile Dludlu as the “16th ‘bomber'”, as if his guilt as a “bomber” has been proven. The headline ‘Pudemo chief bombed MP’s house’ (The Swazi Observer, January 10, 2006) reads as if the allegations are facts, as if they have been proven in court. It is a sensational, sexed up headline that creates an impression that PUDEMO leadership was indeed behind these “bomb attacks”. Collectively represented as “bombers”, the detainees are presented to the public as real and guilty as charged. Thus the set of discourses used in news reports help to create conditions of successful denunciation ceremonies in which the detainees are set apart from the rest of the population as dangerous threats to the community.
These are just a few examples of the false reporting that has been made in this case – the charges have not yet even been heard in court. As a royal family-owned media, The Swazi Observer seems determined to advance the government’s agenda to undermine the constitutional obligation of the judiciary to deal with cases without state interference. The monarchy regime has a very bad record of attacking the rule of law. Having finally learned that direct attacks and threats to the judiciary are not acceptable, it is now seeking to bypass the judiciary and conduct a trial by the media that it owns. In the examples above and many others, The Swazi Observer is reporting as if the cases against the detainees have already been proved.
The Swazi Observer seems determined to associate every incident of public violence with PUDEMO and SWAYOCO. The names of these organisations have appeared in every report about the so-called bombers and spate of bombings.
Whilst we do not deny that our members have been arrested, we categorically reject the accusations levelled against them and our organisations. We challenge The Swazi Observer to take a close look at our political objectives, policies, strategies and regular publications.
In these widely disseminated statements, we have consistently rejected the use of political violence by the state and by pro-democracy activists. We have made these documents available to all media channels in Swaziland and internationally.
However, it seems that The Swazi Observer as well as the The Times of Swaziland have chosen to filter out this information in favour of sensational reporting designed to advance the government’s illusion of a threat to national security.
It is intriguing that images of the so-called bombing sites are conspicuously missing from reports about the arrests. The local media has decided not to use these images for obvious reasons. From the information given by the media, it seems highly unlikely that these images would in any shape or form, resemble bombing scenes. Earlier media reports show that the so-called “bombings” caused little more than a broken window on each site and no death or serious injuries were reported. Presenting these images at this time would produce unwanted counter-discourses to attempts to give credibility to the existence of the “dangerous bomber”.
In a pathetic attempt to booster the legitimacy crisis of the so-called bomb attacks, The Swazi Observer (January 13, 2006), gives a false impression that the charges preferred against the detainees include the death of a security guard when the office of the Deputy Prime Minister was bombed. According to The Swazi Observer:
At least 16 suspected to have been involved in the bombings, amongst which a security guard was killed when the Deputy Prime Minister’s office buildings were bombed, are already behind bars.
A majority of them are members of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a banned political movement.
This report refers to an incident that occurred in 1998. The Swazi Observer ran several stories implicating PUDEMO and SWAYOCO in the 1998 incident at the time. PUDEMO issued official statements dissociating itself from the bombing. However, in its November 25, 1998 commentary, The Swazi Observer rejected these statements labelling them “crocodile tears”. A journalist from The Swazi Observer, Musa Magagula, ran an article in his column “From My Notebook” in which he expressed his desire that: “those responsible [for the 1998 bomb attack] are caught and when they are, I suggest that we hang them in a public place so that we can all take a swipe at them (November 25, 1998).
Responding to the 1998 incident, King’s appointee to parliament, Senator Walter Bennet, accused SWAYOCO members of the bomb attack. According to the Senator, persistent demands by SWAYOCO youth membership for political change “makes us to be certainly sure that they are the ones who have caused this destruction at the DPM’s [Deputy Prime Minister] office” ( The Swazi Observer, December 18, 1998). Walter Bennet, now a former Senator after losing the King’s confidence to win a second term in parliament, repeated this accusation in his response to the current situation. Thus, the guilt of SWAYOCO members is asserted merely because they have expressed their desire for political change. In Swaziland then, it seems that normal standards of judicial evidence do not apply – political dissent is in itself evidence for murder.
Since the first “bomb attack” was reported last year, the concept of a “threat to national security ” has been central to media and official discourses. In opposing bail applications from the detained political activists accused of “a spate of bombings”, the police and the office of the Director of Public Prosecution claim that the public is fearful of the suspects. However, as the affidavit filed by two of the detainees, Mfanawenkhosi Mntshali and Kenneth Mkhonta, shows, this claim is a fantasy:
The support system alleged therein and that the general public is terrified without any evidence supporting such, indicates clearly that the respondent’s case is based on speculation and hearsay (The Swazi Observer, January 12, 2006).
As was the case in 1973, there is no real threat to the public but there is a strongly-promoted illusion designed to justify the declaration of fresh emergency powers under Section 36 of The Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland Act, 2005. There is no evidence to suggest that there is public outcry about the “spate of bombings” and that the community is fearful of the so-called bombers. The only evidence of a threat to the public is the government itself – a symbol of neglect and repression.
Swazis are fearful of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, hunger and poverty resulting from government neglect, irresponsible spending and absence of effective economic policy.
They are fearful of the government repressive policies. The current crackdown on political dissent is, as in the 1970s, driving the public into silence. There is a sense of fear among the population that if they voice public dissent they might be labelled bombers or accomplices to “the spate of bombings”.
However, unlike the 1973 constitutional crisis, today Swaziland has a well-established pro-democracy movement that could not be easily crushed.
The royal family government is anxious about this scenario. The strength of this movement was clearly demonstrated in the 1996 mass industrial action, opposition to the royal family-designed “constitution reform exercise” and the rule of law crisis in 2002. Without doubt, the current arrests are aimed at intimidating the public and creating space for the monarchy to reinstate the powers of the 1973 Proclamation.
With 16 people awaiting trial on serious charges and relentless media propaganda to present the imagined threat as credible, the ground is now ready for King Mswati III to use the new Constitution to legally declare a state of emergency. Section 36(2d [sic]) of Kingdom of Swaziland Act, 2005 authorises the King to declare emergency powers and suspend the Bill of Rights if he believes that:
There is action taken or immediately threatened by a person or body of persons of such a nature or on so extensive a scale as to be likely to endanger the public safety or to deprive the community or a significant part of that community of supplies or services essential to the life of the community (the Constitution of the Kingdom Of Swaziland Act, 2005).
The Constitution gives the royal family-controlled parliament authority to extend a state of emergency “from time to time for periods of not more than three months at a time” (Section 36, 7). With regard to detention of persons under emergency measures, the Constitution resonates with the powers of Decree No. 2 of 1973. Suspects can be detained indefinitely without judicial oversight. Instead, continued detention of persons is at the discretion of the Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration.
According to Section 36 (8,c):
Not more than fourteen days after detention or restriction and thereafter at intervals of three months, the case of that person shall be reviewed by the Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration.
However, the role of the Commission in relation to this matter is vague.
The Constitution makes one reference to the Commission in Section 36 (8,c) and then to a vaguely defined tribunal. It is not clear whether the Commission is reconstituted into a tribunal when dealing with this matter or a completely different structure is established. Section 36 (10) makes reference to the appointment of the tribunal in terms of subsection 8 (c) but this does not deal with this issue. Chapter IX, Part 2 “Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration”, which outlines the structure, functions and powers of the Commission, does not mention this responsibility set out in subsection 8 (c). The most disturbing aspect, however, is that the detention period stipulated in the new Constitution exceeds that set out in Decree No.2 of 1973 by 30 days.
Senior government officials, including the Prime Minister, have expressed satisfaction that the “bombers” have been arrested but warn that the threat remains high. Mbilini Dlamini, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, told diplomatic missions in Swaziland at a dinner meeting that the government is satisfied that those responsible for the “bombings” are now in detention but expected more arrests:
“We hope that this will enable all Swazis to sleep more peacefully in the knowledge that the people responsible are in police custody” ( Swazi News – Times of Swaziland, January 14, 2006).
For the Minister, the arrests are not all good news but a partial success as he believes that there are still “bombers” out there that must be caught. Only then can Swazis have more peaceful sleep. Legally, these conditions, the arrests and the high level of “threat”, would satisfy the constitutional requirement for a state of emergency.
The belief that there are still “bombers” out there associated with PUDEMO and SWAYOCO is a widely shared myth promulgated by government officials, the police and the media. A day after the publication of the Minister Mbilini’s speech, The Sunday edition of The Times of Swaziland (January 15, 2006) published two articles in a further attempt to entrench this theory.
In the first article, “Zabalaza’s claims of bombing police van”, the newspaper writes:
While many might have been forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief over the arrest of suspects in the cases of spate of petrol bombings, people will be alarmed to learn that there is an underground political organisation that claims to be even mightier than PUDEMO or SWAYOCO.
Even more alarmingly, this organisation has sensationally claimed to have petrol-bombed a police van.
In some of its writings, the formation appears to claim responsibility for some of the petrol bombing incidents that have terrorised the country recently ( The Times of Swaziland – Sunday Edition, January 15. 2006).
The reporter, Mduduzi Magagula, “quotes” a statement supposedly from Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF) of Southern Africa declaring that:
Our organisation together with PUDEMO comrades took control of a certain territory around Manzini and it is then that an armoured police “hippo” wandered into comrade controlled territory, was stoned and petrol bombed.
There are several points in this article that require clarification.
Firstly, I have thoroughly searched publications relating to Swaziland on the ZACF website and found no evidence that ZACF claims to be “mightier than PUDEMO and SWAYOCO”. Similarly, I could find no evidence that ZACF claimed to have bombed a police van. There is no suggestion whatsoever in ZACF writings on the website, as insinuated by the Times reporter, that the organisation might be responsible for the recent “bombings” in Swaziland.
The only ZACF statement I could find that comes close to the Times of Swaziland article is a report dated October 05, 2005 about incidents involving SWAYOCO and the Swaziland police. In this report, ZACF writes:
Countering Saturday’s SWAYOCO demonstration in which the ZACF participated, the royal Swazi police fired warning shorts and in the resulting chaos, arrested “MK” and seven SWAYOCO comrades. Last month, however, the shoe was on the other foot, when an armoured police “hippo” that wondered into comrade-controlled territory found itself stoned and petrol-bombed (added emphasis).
There is nothing in this statement that remotely resembles a claim for responsibility other than reporting about a stoning and petrol-bombing of a police vehicle and acknowledging that ZACF participated in a SWAYOCO demonstration.
The article is sexed up and reveals glaring evidence of a smear campaign.
It appears that the author deliberately altered the ZACF statement with the intention to mislead the public into believing that the threat of the “bomber” is real and that there are still “bombers” out there wanting to harm the community. Contrary to what appears in The Times of Swaziland’s article, the ZACF report does not mention PUDEMO.
In the second article, “PUDEMO uses website to solicit funds”, the same Times author creates a false impression of an arrangement between PUDEMO and ZACF so that PUDEMO can use the latter’s resources. The Times of Swaziland claims that PUDEMO posted a statement on the ZACF website. This statement was not posted on the ZACF website, but on another website held by Anarkismo which has an on-line archive of political news from around the world. PUDEMO has no direct access to this website to be able to post material.
In fact, the statement was distributed to thousands of individuals and organisations including The Times of Swaziland. As with all our statements, PUDEMO and SWAYOCO encourage recipients to disseminate our messages about human rights abuse to a wider audience. In some cases, this means that the organisations will hold our documents in places where other people can see them. Some organisations run on-line libraries and put our documents in these libraries. Other organisations place our documents in physical libraries. For example, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies has at least one of our statements in its London library. We are grateful that organisations such as Anarkismo and the Commonwealth library allow our statements to be read in their entirety by interested members of the public. However, we are not linked to any of the organisations that put our statements in their libraries – including the Anarkismo and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. Our views and policies are not necessarily the same as those of the organisations that put our documents in their libraries.
Although The Times of Swaziland is always sent copies of our statements and press releases, it does not publish them. In this instance, The Times did not report on the PUDEMO statement until it found that it had been posted on the Anarkismo website. The Times therefore falsely reported that ZACF website had claimed responsibility for the “bombings” and then falsely reported that PUDEMO and ZACF were linked. Thus the newspaper has printed false information and it can only be assumed that the aim was to manufacture false evidence that PUDEMO is responsible for the “bombings” in Swaziland. By publishing these two articles, the newspaper had hoped to convince the public that it has found a smoking gun with PUDEMO and SWAYOCO fingerprints.
The paper knows that the level of internet access and literacy in Swaziland is low and that the Swazi media are the main source of information for Swazi citizens. Consequently, it is hard for the average Swazi to check the information provided by the media. Even though the falsehood is easily revealed with minimal checking, this level of checking will not be possible for many Swazis.
We are very disappointed in this false reporting by The Times of Swaziland. Over the years, The Times of Swaziland had made remarkable progress in shedding the fear of state censorship. The newspaper has been a leading daily paper that has attempted to inform the public about the injustices and bad administrative practices of this government. It has managed, in what must be difficult circumstances, to keep critical and controversial issues on the public agenda. Among these issues are deaths in custody, the rule of law crisis, the defunct plan to spend US$50million of public funds to buy the King a private jet and collapse in effective public services, particularly in the health-care sector. The two articles that appeared in the Sunday edition take the newspaper a step back and erode its credibility. Through these articles, it seems that the newspaper has forgone its ethical responsibility in preference to participating in a smear campaign against the pro-democracy movement.
The 16 people in detention have been publicly prosecuted and found guilty by senior government officials and the media. Even without the ever-present spectre of government intervention in the judicial process, it is now obvious that this hysteria has destroyed any chances of a fair trial. In addition to attempts to generate public panic through hysteria and manufacture of shadowy threats, we have also found evidence of a consistent campaign by the government and media. The apparent aim is to present false evidence to encourage public belief in the guilt of the detainees and of PUDEMO and SWAYOCO without the inconveniences associated with judicial evidence. Each piece of false evidence is easy enough for us to refute, but the public is being bombarded daily with many small pieces of such “evidence” which are difficult for them to disprove. Over time, this bombardment is likely to have an effect.
We note that one feature of this campaign is that is uses information which is difficult for Swazis to check. For example, people can assess the improbability of charges against PUDEMO from personal experience of PUDEMO and its members over the years. This is harder to do when responsibility is attributed to an organisation which is “mightier than PUDEMO” which the Times says is based in another country and when the information referred to in the Times is all on-line.
We insist that there are no bombers in detention but pro-democracy activists and victims of state conspiracy. Through these arrests, the state is hoping to proscribe PUDEMO and SWAYOCO by declaring them to be terrorist organisations. In his coronation speech in 1986, King Mswati III committed himself to walk in his father’s footsteps. Over the years, the King has honoured this commitment but some of his father’s footsteps have faded away. The King hopes to use the new Constitution to retrace these footsteps by reigniting the discourse of political parties as organisations “that cultivate and bring about disturbances and ill-feelings within the Nations”. For more than 30 years, instilling fear of political parties has been the most influential aspect of the royal family hegemony. PUDEMO and SWAYOCO will fight these charges and the royal family government’s attempts to strengthen its rule by fear.
For more information in Swaziland contact
Kislong Shongwe (Vice Secretary General PUDEMO)
South Africa contact
Dr. Gabriery Mkhumane ( PUDEMO-chief Representative in Africa)
082 707 8384
Lucky Lukhele ( Swaziland Solidarity Network SSN)
072 502 4141
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