Tuesday, March 15, 2011


The following is a news report from the South Africa Press Association and AFP giving reaction from the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and the Swaziland Solidarity Network to the inquest decision on the death in state custody of activist Sipho Jele.


Swazi opposition rejects coroner custody death report

9 March 2011

The largest of Swaziland's banned opposition parties on Wednesday rejected a coroner's report ruling that a party activist who died in police custody last year committed suicide.

The activist, Sipho Jele, died on May 4 after being arrested at a Workers' Day rally for wearing a t-shirt of the People's United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), a pro-democracy group banned under the southern African kingdom's 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act. "We maintain Sipho Jele did not commit suicide," PUDEMO president Mario Masuku said.

"Sipho Jele did not die at home, in hospital or any other place but he died in police custody. The state surely has its hands dripping with blood."

Jele was a member of Pudemo's youth wing, the Swaziland Youth Congress (Swayoco). His death drew widespread condemnation from pro-democracy groups, prompting the government to appoint a coroner to investigate.

But Masuku rejected the coroner's findings last week that Jele hanged himself, saying his party had no voice in setting up the investigation or choosing the coroner, a former police officer who is now a magistrate judge. "We reject the coroner's report," he said. "Government decided to appoint a former police officer, an indication that the report would not help anyone."

The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), another pro-democracy group based in South Africa, also rejected the report. In a statement, SSN spokesperson Lucky Lukhele said the coroner failed to explain "How Jele was able to lift his body without the use of a platform to the beam he was found suspended under."

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned in the kingdom, though a recently enacted constitution allows for freedom of assembly and association. - Sapa-AFP

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