The leader of Swaziland's main opposition, People's United
Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) party is expected at the country's High Court
today (Monday) to defend terrorism charges brought against him by King Mswati
III's government. Mario Masuku was recently arrested as part of a crackdown
under the country's new anti-terrorism laws. He is alleged to have verbally
supportered recent bombings of government institutions by some members of his
party and has reportedly urged those bombings to continue. But PUDEMO condemned
the arrest, claiming it is another attempt by the absolute monarch to clamp down
on dissenting views. Majahenkhaba Dlamini is Swaziland's
attorney general. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the idea is not to
punish political opponents, but to punish entities and persons involved in
is a bit broad because the act (terrorism act) has got various activities
defined as constituting an offense under the act. Not only that of causing
terror by an application or by violence of one form or another, including
explosives, bombs or whatever means of description, it's a whole list of
activities intended to suppress terrorism," Dlamini noted.
denied that the new terrorism law is violating the opposition leader's
you look at the act, it has got absolutely nothing to do with the criticism of
the government. In fact it excludes certain political groups if they ever
express whatever views they might be expressing like unions and all those
groups those are excluded. It says absolutely nothing about political party of
any description it is only concerned with entities responsible for doing the
various acts or activities, which constitute an offence. And as we understand
it is in line with international convention," he said.
said the opposition PUDEMO seems not to understand the terrorism act which its
leader Masuku is currently facing.
"The unfortunate thing is
that in the first place like we are saying, the act itself makes an offence of
what he (Masuku) is supposed to have said. That is the starting point, and
secondly the person who is said to have perpetrated the offense, at least those
who have been found are of course in custody and I hope they would be tried in
due course. But not for a terrorist act because at the time the act happened
the Suppression of Terrorism Act had not come into force. So, they would
probably find some other offense that might have been committed, I don't know
what it would be ultimately. So, that is the position," Dlamini pointed out.
He said those who have been
critical of government policies have not been charged for doing so.
"Of course there are other
political parties who have been criticizing the government and they don't of
course agree with the government polices, nothing has been done to those
because they haven't committed offense by merely criticizing government. But if
they go beyond criticizing and take up arms against the citizens of the
country, there is noting that the government can do except to respond in terms
of the law," he said.
Dlamini said the current
terrorism law would support the government charges against the opposition
"I can only say it is
unfortunate if other laws are drafted in different term. But the law in
question will seem to support the charge. I don't know what the court will do
at the end of the day because they are responsible for interpreting the law.
But it seems that the acts that are supposed to have been perpetrated by Masuku
are acts, which the law presently condemn as being in support of a terrorist
group or a terrorist act. That I think is what they are being charged with,"
Dlamini noted out.
Masuku is the first person to be arrested under the new anti-terrorism law,
which was introduced last September. If convicted, he could spend the rest of
his life behind bars.
Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has condemned the Swaziland
attorney-general's threatening statement that journalists who criticize King
Mswati III's government could be arrested under a new anti-terrorism law that
has just been used to crack down on opposition groups.
Majahenkhaba Dlamini warned last week that journalists critical of the
government could be viewed as supporting terrorists and could be arrested under
the Suppression of Terrorism Act, which provides for sentences of up to 25
years in prison.