Monday, October 26, 2009


Mario Masuku, the president of the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), has told of how prison authorities set out to humiliate him and his visitors while he was on remand in jail on terrorism and sedition charges.

‘During visits, my relatives felt humiliated and intimidated as prison warders would look at and listen at our conversation from mouth to mouth for a whole fifteen minutes. I was supervised, averagely, by three officials.’

Writing in the Times Sunday, Masuku identifies the ‘torment, harassment and humiliation of my wife, Thembi’ at the hands of prison warders.

Masuku also highlights the grinding work that prison warders have to do. ‘For an example there are those in the lowest class who carry a bunch of keys, open and close the jail gates and doors with unending monotony. These are the sentries, the guards who are so helplessly voiceless and shamefully underpaid, who live in shared accommodation, some (as part of their duties) are locked in our cells overnight. They are not allowed to carry umbrellas (on rainy days), they patrol on hot or cold nights without shelter. And most importantly – they work on orders! They are taught and instructed to “take orders first, and complain later.”’

He goes on, ‘I was stripped naked and insulted by young boys in the name of a ‘search routine.’.

In prison, Masuku says, ‘I saw boys, juveniles, as young as nineteen housed together with older and more experienced individuals. I do not know what goes on inside the cells, but jails are the same anywhere and children should be separated from adults – irrespective of what they had done. Prisons are known to produce hard core criminals from innocent young people instead of correcting them.’

To read Masuku’s full article, click here.

Mario Masuku is president of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) in Swaziland, a political formation banned in the kingdom ruled by King Mwsati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Masuku was on remand in jail from November 2008 to September 2009 on charges of terrorism and sedition. When he eventually appeared in court, the Swaziland High Court judge threw out the case after five hours of a trial expected to last several days. The judge called the prosecution case ‘hopeless.’

This article appeared in the Times Sunday (Swaziland) on 18 October 2009. It was the third in a series of articles by Masuku published by the Times Sunday, the only newspaper group in Swaziland’s free of direct government control.

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