Monday, May 17, 2010


The following is a press statement from the Swaziland Democracy Campaign giving etye witness testimony to the way the Swazi police destroyed the funeral of democracy activist Sipho Jele yesterday (16 May 2010.


Press Release

The Swaziland Chapter of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) wishes to announce as follows:

Following an agreement between the Attorney General’s team and lawyers for the Jele family on Friday 14th May 2010 to proceed with the burial of Cde Sipho Stephen Jele at Ncabaneni on Sunday 16th May 2010, a night vigil was held from the evening of Saturday 15th May 2010 into the early hours of Sunday at the Jele homestead.

Just about 5:00 a.m., when speeches had been delivered by such organizations as the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL), Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), Swaziland Association of Students (SAS), Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS), the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF), Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), and a host of other civil society groups, and when preachers were about to conclude the vigil and lead the the funeral procession to the local graveyard, an army (well over 400) of police and prison warders, who had not been spotted since the memorial service earlier at the Fellowship Church in Manzini, where regional police top brass filled the church while about 200 hundred riot police completely surrounded the church building, invaded the tent and proceeded to rip off a PUDEMO mural that covered Sipho’s coffin, tore off displays bearing PUDEMO and SWAYOCO political slogans from the tent walls, removed pictures saluting Sipho, and rounded up anybody who wore SWAYOCO/PUDEMO t-shirts.

It was clear that the intention of the menacing police was to intimidate mourners and ensure that PUDEMO, a proscribed opposition political party, gained no publicity whatsoever, out of Sipho’s funeral.

In the light of the shockingly inhumane behaviour of the police, labour federation leaders consulted with the Jele family, whereupon it was resolved that the situation had become so tense that it would be inappropriate to proceed with the funeral.

While it is believed that some mourners were arrested, it is yet to be determined how many and where they are being held. Pius Vilakati, SRC President at the University of Swaziland, was once again smuggled out of the Jele homestead using the hearse that returned Jele’s body to the morgue or he would have been arrested for utterances he made at the funeral.

SWAYOCO President, Wandile Dludlu, had to be hidden in the room among the elderly women who sat by Jele’s body throoughout the night to avoid his imminent arrest. The two had been targeted for arrest since their uncompromising anti-Tinkhundla addresses at the memorial (they were smuggled from the church through the hearse even here).

According to SUDF President, Barnes Dlamini, speaking after the fracas, the labour federations and the Jele family would make an urgent court application the same morning, wherein they would seek leave to proceed with the funeral at a date to be announced where the police would not be present at all. Dlamini implored the Jele family to take heart in labour’s unending support, which would end with justice being served, hinting mass action in the weeks to come.

A tearful PUDEMO President, Mario Masuku reminded the police of their obligation foremost to ubuntu despite their often unreasonable call of duty. He warned Mswati that Swaziland was sinking into the abyss right under his nose, proof that multiparty democracy was an inevitable certainty. Mario reiterated his rejection of the Prime Minister’s inquest, insisting he would only recognize an independent one that included the uninvestigated tortures in prisons like Sidvwashini in 2006 (Sipho Jele was seriously injured here), among others.

The SDC used both the memorial and the vigil to finally publicly launch itself because the police have decisively prevented us from doing so in other public forums such as the May Day celebrations where Sipho was illegally arrested and later brutally murdered by the police. We assured the public that as an activist-based campaign under the auspices of the SUDF, we seek to deliver multiparty democracy in our lifetime.

Meanwhile, postmortem results are yet to be known.

The SDC hereby identifies with the plight of the Jele family at this sad turn of events, assuring them of our continued support in their gallant pursuit of justice all round in relation to Sipho’s murder. We would like to reiterate our assurances at the memorial and funeral that we will use Sipho’s innocent blood to energize what we believe is our final push for multiparty democracy and a just civilized society; one in which no one will again have to die for his political beliefs, let alone for wearing his favourite t-shirt any day, anytime, anywhere. Amandla!!!

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