BY PATRICK CRAVEN
& PHILEMON LUKHELE
JOHANNESBURG — Mario Masuku, president of Swaziland's opposition People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), was arrested on October 4 and charged with failing to report to the police station as required under bail conditions imposed on his release from police custody last November. In reality, his only crime was to call for the autocratic monarchy to be overthrown and replaced with a democracy.
Masuku is reportedly being held in a secret police location. He suffers a diabetic condition and may be being deprived of his essential medicines.
PUDEMO has pointed out that deaths in custody are common in Swaziland and are often covered up by attributing them to natural causes.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions has demanded Masuku's immediate releaser and warned, "if Comrade Masuku is harmed in any way, the Swazi people will not be fooled by cover-ups and will make sure that the international community knows the truth. Masuku must not be another silent victim of the murderous regime".
Masuku's arrest, together with the three-hour detention of members of the Swaziland Youth Congress, proves that the Swaziland monarchy is as repressive as ever. Despite attempts earlier this year to present a more democratic face, King Mswati III's regime is still a dictatorial, absolute monarchy.
PUDEMO stated that Masuku's sole crime is that he "retains his unshaken and unconquerable political commitment to lead the entire people of Swaziland against the dictatorial rule of King Mswati".
PUDEMO has called on the Swazi people "to lead a massive defiance campaign in the Kingdom aimed at rendering the country ungovernable and the tinkhundla [state-controlled] structures unworkable".
PUDEMO has called on the world's labour movement and supporters of democracy to apply pressure on the Swaziland government to:
- unban political parties;
- end to political persecution, arrests and the torture of freedom fighters;
- convene a national convention to discuss the political future of Swaziland;
- install an interim government to oversee the transition to democracy in Swaziland; and
- convene a national constituent assembly to draft a democratic constitutional building of our country.
[Patrick Craven is COSATU's media spokesperson. Philemon Lukhele is a Swaziland democracy activist exiled in South Africa.]