Two leaders of Swaziland’s democracy movement Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini who have been in prison for a year awaiting trial on sedition charges have been placed in isolation.
The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), one of the best-known pro-democracy groups in the kingdom, reported that an order was made by Correctional Services Commissioner General Mzuthini Ntshangase.
Masuku is President of PUDEMO and Dlamini is Secretary-General of SWAYOCO, PUDEMO’s youth wing. Dlamini is reportedly on hunger strike in protest.
PUDEMO said in a statement issued Friday (1 May 2015), the pair were placed in isolation ‘for no apparent reason’.
It said, ‘Presently the two political activists have to contend with being accommodated in a block that is supposed to accommodate a group of 40, but it is only the two of them that have to contend with the dingy block with faulty plumbing that they have to wait for at least an hour to fill a cup of water in order to have a drink.
‘The directive that the political activists should be isolated was issued yesterday 30 April 2015, and since then, they have had to answer the call of nature in buckets between 4pm and 8am in the morning. SWAYOCO Secretary General Dlamini has since engaged in a hunger strike to protest the ill treatment.’
PUDEMO reported that on 1 May 2015 one of Dlamini’s relatives who visited the Zakhele Remand Centre to deliver medicine was turned away.
PUDEMO described their treatment ‘as nothing but a form of torture in order to break the spirits of these two gallant political activists’.
Meanwhile, Masuku’s son Mzwandile Masuku, writing for Amnesty International on Friday (1 May 2015) before news of his father’s latest condition was known, said, ‘My father is a diabetic. And he is not a young man. His continued incarceration aggravates his medical condition. We have struggled to keep him monitored and ensure that his doctor’s recommendations are adhered to. Sometimes, the prison doesn’t give him his medication because it is not in stock, but when we buy it and take it to the prison we are turned away.
‘There are so many restrictions and conditions in prison. I guess they are meant to break down the inmates but also to discourage our visits. When we visit my father we are made to wait, sometimes for up to an hour and a half, and then we are only allowed to see him for five minutes at most. But I have learnt to brace myself for these restrictions. It is disheartening to see prison visitors who arrive after me being allowed in while I wait my turn.
‘Regardless of our right to privacy of family communication, the visit is supervised by three correctional officers. One of the three takes minutes of our conversation word for word. Once, the senior officer requested that I speak slowly so the recording officer had time to take notes. I lost my cool and told him I would not do so. This angered the officer who then threatened to bar me from visiting the institution. That unfortunate argument also cut into my precious five minutes with my father.’
Amnesty International said in a statement, ‘The prison authorities continue to deny Mario Masuku access to the specialised medical care that he needs. Mario and Maxwell Dlamini have twice been denied bail during the year since their arrest. The appeal against their denial of bail was due to be heard in the Swaziland Supreme Court on 5 May 2015, however as a result of a judicial crisis in the country, the sitting of the Supreme Court has been postponed indefinitely.’
PUDEMO, along with all other organisations that are advocating for democracy in Swaziland, has been banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections.
SON OF JAILED POLITICAL LEADER SPEAKS