Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Swaziland organisations are lining up to condemn the war Swazi King Mswati III has declared on his own nation.

At the centre of the assault on democracy is the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008. Last Friday the illegally-appointed Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini declared four political formations to be ‘terrorist’ organisations. The legislation gives authorities unlimited powers to name and declare virtually anyone or anything to be a terrorist entity. Police do not need warrants to search homes of people suspected to have links with what the state defines as ‘terrorists’.

The first victim of the clampdown was Mario Masaku, president of the Peoples’ United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO). He appeared in court yesterday (17 November 2008) on a charge that he spoke in favour of terrorism at a funeral held in Swaziland.

The use of the Suppression of Terrorism Act has been roundly condemned by pro-democracy organisations in Swaziland.

The latest to join the chorus is the Law Society of Swaziland. In a statement its president Cyril Maphanga said the way the legislation was being applied gave the impression that it was being used to silence dissenting voices and outlaw political associations that are critical of the government.

‘Its most ominous and insidious effect is that it abrogates most of the fundamental rights of ordinary individuals protected under Chapter III of the constitution including freedom from arbitrary search and entry of a person’s premises, the right to privacy and the right to personal liberty and property,’ the statement said.

The lawyers said the legislation was so vague it rendered even innocent undertakings to be susceptible to certification as terrorism. ‘The act purports to give the executive authority such wide powers to certify and declare any person, group, trust, partnership, firm, association or institution including non-governmental organisation or anything for that matter, to be a terrorist group or terrorist entity,’ the lawyers said.

The society said the legislation gave authorities unlimited powers to name and declare virtually anyone or anything to be a terrorist entity. ‘Once declared such an “entity” the law then takes away the common law and constitutional rights of the individual by prescribing its own “limited” process for appealing to the Attorney General and for reviewing the minister’s decision to the courts under conditions where the individual has no proper due process and may not even be allowed access to the evidence relied on to certify him or her a “terrorist entity”,’ the lawyers said.

Also joining the condemnation of King Mswati’s declaration of war is the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU). The SFTU Secretary General Jan Sithole criticised the king’s public declaration of war against his own people.

The SFTU said His Majesty King Mswati III was king over all of his people, irrespective of their affiliation, belief and status in life.

Other organisations to already criticise the war on terror include PUDEMO, The Swaziland Solidarity Network, the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

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