Mario Masuku, the former President of Swaziland’s People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), has died. No cause has been given but local media report it was from coronavirus.
PUDEMO, a prodemocracy group that is banned in Swaziland, made the announcement on Tuesday (12 January 2012). He was aged 70 and had been a founder of PUDEMO and President until 2018.
He was one of the best known prodemocracy activists in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch.
He has been arrested many times and charged, though never convicted, with terrorism and sedition.
In May 2014, Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini (a student leader and member of the PUDEMO youth league, the Swaziland Youth Congress, SWAYOCO) were charged under the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSA) and the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) for having addressed workers on May Day in Manzini, and shouting slogans in support of PUDEMO. Initially denied bail, they were kept in pre-trial detention and were eventually granted conditional bail and released by the Supreme Court 14 months later.
Masuku was no stranger to the jails and lawcourts. In 2001 he was charged with two counts under the SSA, accused of allegedly making statements that were seditious. At the close of the Crown’s case he was acquitted and discharged of the first count and later also acquitted on the second count.
In 2008, following a spate of bombings of some Government buildings and some local government centres, the STA was enacted. Immediately PUDEMO and three other organisations were listed as terrorist organizations.
In the same year Masuku was charged under the STA and, alternatively, under the SSA. In September 2009 he was acquitted and discharged by the High Court of Swaziland, because the State failed to prove the its case. He had been in jail on remand for 10 months.
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