Officials of Swaziland’s best known prodemocracy party PUDEMO have met with the Economic Freedom Fighters in South Africa to try to reignite the campaign for democracy in the kingdom.
The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reported on Friday (16 June 2017) the campaign would be coordinated under the hashtag #FreeSwaziland.
The Times which does not support the movement for democracy in Swaziland where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch reported, ‘In the past, a similar campaign had been characterised with marches that sometimes resulted in violent confrontations with the police.’
International human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch take a different view. In its World Report 2016, it said ‘The Suppression of Terrorism Act, the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act of 1938, and other similarly draconian legislation provided sweeping powers to the security services to halt meetings and protests and to curb criticism of the government, even though such rights are protected under Swaziland’s 2005 constitution. In September 2015, eight human rights defenders challenged the constitutionality of these security laws in the High Court of Swaziland. A final ruling has yet to be handed down.’
The STA was ‘regularly used’ by the police to interfere in trade union activities, Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) said in a submission to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in 2015.
Amnesty International has criticised of Swaziland for the ‘continued persecution of peaceful political opponents and critics’ by the King and his authorities. It said the Swazi authorities were using the Acts, ‘to intimidate activists, further entrench political exclusion and to restrict the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.’
In Swaziland political parties are not allowed to contest elections. The people are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, with the King appointing the others. No members of the 30-strong Swaziland Senate are elected by the people.
PUDEMO – the People’s United Democratic Movement – along with all other prodemocracy groups is banned in Swaziland under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
Mlungisi Makhanya, the Secretary General of PUDEMO, confirmed to the newspaper that a meeting had taken place.
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