Friday, May 7, 2010


Can someone in the Swazi police force explain to us why Siphe Jele was arrested for wearing a PUDEMO T-shirt?

As we all know by now, Jele was hauled in by the state police on Monday (1 May 2010) when he was seen at a Workers’ Day celebration wearing the shirt. One day later he was found dead in jail.

Today, the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reports that Jele was charged with wearing a white PUDEMO T-shirt under S19 (1) (a) of the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

What the newspaper doesn’t tell us is what S19 (1) (a) actually says.

So here it is: ‘A person who is a member of a terrorist group commits an offence and shall on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten (10) years.’

Wearing a PUDEMO T-Shirt does not make you a member of PUDEMO and therefore the police had no reason to arrest Jele. But after police arrested him for wearing the shirt they then took him to his home and searched it.

What we all know of course is that the T-shirt was just an excuse to arrest Jele and beat him up a bit and for the police to raid his house to see if they could find anything incriminating against him.

The police claim they found a PUDEMO membership card at Jele’s house.

In any half-decent democracy the police wouldn’t be allowed to arrest someone just for wearing a T-shirt. But in Swaziland’s ‘unique democracy’ anything goes.

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