A political opposition activist in Swaziland / eSwatini has been charged under terrorism and sedition laws for calling on absolute monarch King Mswati III to be prosecuted for embezzlement and human rights violations.
Goodwill Sibiya is a senior member of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and the Communist Party. Both organisations are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. He is also a founding member of a little-known group called the Economic Freedom Guerrillas.
Sibiya made a legal statement calling for the King to be charged for the ‘embezzlement of states funds’ through his use of money generated by Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, a conglomerate of businesses that is controlled by the King on behalf of the Swazi people; mining royalties and income from MTN the mobile phone company.
In a list of accusations, Sibiya said the King stripped the powers of two chiefs to the benefit of his brother Prince Maguga. The King forcefully grabbed young girls to be his wives and the King appointed Barnabas Dlamini as Prime Minister in contravention of the constitution, ‘so that he can meet his own greedy interest’.
The statement made at the Nhlangano police station was dated 21 January 2019. According to the Times of Swaziland (27 May 2019) Sibiya attempted to file the document at the High Court on 21 May 2019, but was stopped by staff members who then informed the police.
The Times reported police raided Sibiya’s home with a warrant searching for documents that brought ‘hatred to and incited dissatisfaction against the King’. In its report the Times did not detail Sibiya’s accusations, ‘because of their sensitive nature which borders on treason’.
Sibiya was arrested and appeared at the High Court on Sunday. He was remanded in custody until 1 June 2019.
In Swaziland, King Mswati rules as an absolute monarch, political parties are banned from taking part in elections and he chooses the prime minister and government members. He is immune from any prosecution under s11 of the Swaziland Constitution.
Opposition to the King is crushed by use of the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act. Both Acts have been used to stop advocates for democratic reform.
In 2015 Amnesty International renewed its criticism of Swaziland for the ‘continued persecution of peaceful political opponents and critics’ by the King and his authorities.
The human rights organisation called for the two Acts to be scrapped or drastically rewritten.
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’.
Amnesty said the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act also violated Swaziland’s human rights obligations.
In September 2016, the Swaziland High Court ruled parts of the two Acts were unconstitutional. The Government appealed the case to the Supreme Court and it has yet to be heard.
Swazi law used against human rights