In Swaziland, the leader of the opposition People's United
Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) goes to court Monday for a remand hearing.
Mario Masuku was arrested November 15 under a new law that declares the
opposition PUDEMO as a terrorist organization.
The government of King Mswati III has
also reportedly prevented members of the opposition to visit Masuku in prison.
Mphandlana Shongwe, a founding member of
PUDEMO, told VOA a petition would also be made during Monday hearing for the court to allow PUDEMO members to visit their leader in
Monday, our president will be going for, I think, the third remand hearing. And
also there will be an urgent application to allow us, members of his
organization to see the president behind bars because as of now it is only his
close family members and lawyers that are allowed to see him. The rest of the
people that he is leading are not allowed to see him, including diplomats," he
Swaziland's new Prime Minister Barnabas
Dlamini has reportedly warned foreign diplomats not to get involved with the
people he has branded 'terrorists'.
Shongwe said the government also refused for a
delegation from the Council of Swaziland Churches to visit Masuku.
"These members from different denominations
tried to visit the president to give him a spiritual encouragement, but they
were turned down by the prison authorities. The reason given for that was that
everybody who associates himself with members of this banned organization is
indirectly or directly supporting terrorism. So they were viewed as people
support terrorism," he said.
But Shongwe denied that PUDEMO is a terrorist
organization. On the contrary, he said PUDEMO is fighting for democracy.
"First of all not only my organization, but
most of the organizations in this country are calling for a constitutional
multi-party democracy where our king will be protected from the daily politics
by having him as a ceremonial leader. On top of that, the government has passed
a law called Terrorism Act that resulted in the banning of about four
organizations. Our president has been locked up for having spoken words in a
funeral, and he is purported to have supported terrorism," Shongwe said.
He said many organizations and individuals
worldwide have joined in the call for Masuku's release from prison.
"Quite a number of people are directly
communicating with the head of state, the king, that our president should be
released. We must admit that we are grateful to you, Sir, for picking up this
issue because it can easily be forgotten. You see in a situation where you have
a king people tend to believe that everything is okay yet it is not," Shongwe