Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Swaziland’s only independent daily newspaper the Times of Swaziland has blamed the kingdom’s former Prime Minister Themba Dlamini for misleading the people over the purposes of the Suppression of Terrorism Act. It also says that the Act was brought forward unconstitutionally.

The newspaper said that despite an assurance from Themba Dlamini that the Act would not be targeted at the kingdom’s political parties, the opposite has happened.

The Times pointed out last Wednesday (19 November 2008) that when Dlamini piloted the parliamentary bill that eventually became the Suppression of Terrorism Act he brought it to the House of Assembly with a certificate of urgency. A certificate of urgency means that the bill does not take the normal course but it has to be dealt with quickly.

The normal course is that the Bill is published in a government gazette for 30 days. During that time, people who might have objections get a chance to register those concerns and also try to lobby lawmakers on the issues. The Bill would then be debated in Parliament afterwards.

The Times pointed out that a number of legislators expressed reservations about the certificate of urgency action, observing that there seemed to be a sinister move behind the law as well as the fact that there was no constitutional provision for a certificate of urgency. However, these were ruled out of order and told that this was allowed in terms of the law.

A report by the then portfolio committee of the Prime Minister’s office indicates that there were concerns regarding the definition of a terrorist. The concern was that the law only defined a ‘terrorist group’ and not an individual ‘terrorist’.

The issue of political parties was brought up. The report stated, ‘there are no political parties allowed to contend for power [in Swaziland] but there are political parties, we know they exist, who are mounting pressure on the government and they have gone to the extent of saying people should boycott the forthcoming elections. Would these people be labelled terrorists under the provision of this Act?

‘…In his response to the questions raised by the House, the Prime Minister observed that it must be borne in mind that in politics an opposition is an opposition and not a terrorist.

‘This is regardless of the fact that in the country we are not a multi-party democracy. All in all this law is not to intimidate people, but to put in place the systems that will ensure that Swaziland has a conducive environment for its people.’

When asking the House to adopt the report, the committee stated that ‘this bill is not made in haste to target certain formations in Swaziland but is being enacted for the good of the country.’

Barely six months later, the new government has branded four political groups as ‘terrorist organisation’ and arrested one political leader within a month of coming into office.

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