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Swaziland Opposition Demands Supporter’s Death Inquiry

Swaziland’s banned opposition PUDEMO party is demanding an independent inquiry into what they say is the “murder” of a member of the group after he was arrested and imprisoned by security agents.

Swaziland's King Mswati III
Swaziland's King Mswati III

Mario Masuku, leader of the group, said King Mswati III’s government will stop at nothing, including murder, to suppress the freedom of expression and association.

This comes after the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) called for a global mobilization to isolate the Swazi government over what the group described as a cold-blooded murder of a PUDEMO activist.

Masuku welcomes the trade union’s call.

“Clearly, COSATU’s resolution is right on the spot because this man was a worker (and) he was arrested on the May Day in Swaziland. The charge was for him having been seen wearing a PUDEMO T-shirt, and, therefore, it’s a clear violation of the workers’ rights on all fronts. And, I expect the international labor organizations to take this very seriously,” Masuku said.

Sipho Jele, a supporter of the banned opposition group PUDEMO was detained by security agents during the recent May Day celebrations in the capital, Mbabane. He died a few days after his arrest and subsequent detention. Swazi local media quoted government officials as saying Jele committed suicide in prison.

But, several commentators and organizations, including the Swaziland Democracy Campaign, a coalition of opposition groups, called Jele’s death an orchestrated murder and a cover-up aimed at intimidating and stifling any dissent against King Mswati’s rule.

Supporters of the government dismissed the accusations saying the opposition group flouted the law that led to Jele’s arrest.

PUDEMO leader Masuku said the administration is clinging to power by any means, including violence.

“As far as I am concerned, that is absolute nonsense. Even the banning of PUDEMO is a violation of the right to express the right to associate. That Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008 by the government is a real violation itself. However, if Sipho Jele had committed an offense, he should have been charged and presented himself in a court of law,” Masuku said.

In a press statement, COSATU said Sipho Jele lived a life of perpetual suffering and persecution for his firm belief in freedom and democracy. It said Jele spared no energy in organizing his people to restore the dignity of the entire nation from years of royal slavery in the name of Swazi culture.

Officials of the government were not immediately available for comment after repeated attempts.