- Swaziland's now outlawed opposition party, Pudemo, warns that the Kingdom is now quickly turning into a military dictatorship, using its new terrorism legislation to deploy military police in the streets of Mbabane to chase peaceful dissidents.
The Swazi opposition party Peoples United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), together with civil society organisations, were banned on 14 November for being "enemies of peace, stability, security and national progress." Pudemo President Mario Masuku has been charged with making utterances in support of "terrorism". On Monday, Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini warned that journalists who report critically against the government would be viewed as "supporting terrorists" and arrested.
The increased oppression of Swazi dissidents came after fraudulent elections in August, King Mswati's appointment of a new government of his choice and the recent passing of the controversial Suppression of Terrorism Act. Certain provisions of the Act empower the new Prime Minister to declare virtually anyone or anything to be a terrorist entity, something government now has started doing.
These developments today caused the Pudemo leadership, now mostly in hiding in South Africa, to issue a statement warning about the deterioration in the country. The "terrorist"-branded opposition party claims that King Mswati has indeed implemented a military coup, now using Swazi armed forces under his firm control to oppress the people.
"The army is out. Swaziland is now officially a military state," the Pudemo statement says. "The army is wearing deceptive aprons written military police. No intention to protect but to throttle," it adds.
The party, which has been outlawed and persecuted by King Mswati at several occasions, however claims it is not surprised by the use of military forces to stop the Swazi democracy movement. The unleashing of the army was announced long time ago, around July, by their commander Sobantu Dlamini," Pudemo holds, referring to Mr Dlamini's public statement that it was also the aim of the army to flush out Pudemo.
Swaziland is just the latest example of repressive regimes to use questionable "terrorism" legislation to deploy the army in its fight to root out dissidents. "Remember Mandela, Biko and Sobukwe were all 'terrorists'," Pudemo recalls, pointing to South African freedom fighters that brought the apartheid system to its knees.
Also the Swaziland Law Society, in a brave recent statement, has questioned the new methods employed by King Mswati's government. It found the "terrorism" legislation was questionable in that it sought to undermine basic civil rights, the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and separation of powers. The lawyers hold the Act "abrogates most of the fundamental rights" Swazi citizens enjoy under the constitution.
Pudemo meanwhile announces that "the struggle continues," emphasising it remains committed to peaceful means.
The Swazi party is successfully gathering much support in other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, increasing pressure on SADC leaders to take a tougher stance on the absolute Swazi monarch. Especially in South Africa, Pudemo enjoys strong support from groupings forming part of the ruling ANC party, including its Youth League, the Communist Party and the COSATU trade union.
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