Human rights organisation Amnesty International used the 47th anniversary of Swaziland independence on Sunday (6 September 2015) to highlight the use of repressive laws by the government in the kingdom.
Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Amnesty in a statement highlighted how the Swazi regime used pre-independence laws to crack down on dissenting voices.
It said, ‘The Swazi government is continuing to use repressive laws, including the 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSA Act) and the 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) as a tactic to silence its critics and suppress their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”
In Swaziland political parties are banned from taking part in elections and all groups that advocate for multi-party democracy have been branded ‘terrorist organisations’ under the STA.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa, said, ‘It is ironic that as Swaziland celebrates 47 years of independence from Britain it continues to use legislation to shut down dissenting voices used by the colonial regime for the same purpose.
‘Swazi authorities must stop persecuting human rights defenders and political opponents in the country and allow them to carry out their work without harassment and intimidation.’
Critics of King Mswati’s regime are put in jail or face other forms of harassment, including persecution and surveillance. ‘The government is also misusing its criminal justice system to criminalize and stigmatise their activities, imposing charges like contempt of court or sedition,’ Amnesty said.
Mario Masuku, leader of the banned opposition party, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), and 13 other political activists continue to face prosecution under these repressive laws, Amnesty said.
The rights organisation highlighted the cases of Mario Masuku and youth leader, Maxwell Dlamini, who spent more than a year in prison after being arrested at a worker’s day rally on 1 May 2014. Mario Masuku was denied access to adequate and independent medical care, which he needed urgently, throughout his 14 months in detention.
Human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, is also currently facing charges under the SSA Act. Although he was released in June 2015 after serving 17 months in prison for contempt of court, sedition charges were re-instated in September 2014 after first being raised against him in 2009. Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience as he was imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his rights.
SCRAP SWAZI TERROR ACT – AMNESTY