Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Swaziland activist who called on King to be charged with human rights crimes freed from jail after a year

Goodwill Sibiya, the democracy activist who was arrested after calling for King Mswati III the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), to be charged with embezzlement and human rights violations has been released from jail after a year.

He had been charged with terrorism and sedition. All charges against him have been dropped.

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.

He was charged in May 2019 after he 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’.

Goodwill Sibiya

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.

Sibiya was originally charged on two counts. In the first, he is alleged to have professed to be a member the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and the Communist Party of Swaziland which are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. He is also charged with being a member of the South African Economic Freedom Guerrillas.

In the second count, Sibiya is alleged to have unlawfully attested to an affidavit containing ‘falsehoods’ with the intention to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the King in breach of the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act.

The charge under the Suppression of Terrorism Act was withdrawn in October 2019. He was released on Tuesday (19 May 2020) after the other charge was dropped.

Sibiya’s case attracted international attention. The United States in its annual report on human rights in Swaziland listed him as a ‘political prisoner’.

See also

Swaziland activist who called for prosecution of King for embezzlement charged under terrorism law

Swaziland State wants activist who tried to prosecute absolute monarch to take mental tests

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