Saturday, June 6, 2009


Swazi dissident Mfomfo Nkhambule is said to be in hiding in South Africa to escape arrest in Swaziland on sedition charges.

Nkhambule, who came to world attention for his anti-establishment writings in the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, fears he will go the same way as Thulani Maseko, the human rights lawyer who was jailed on Wednesday on a charge of sedition.

As I reported on Monday (1 June 2009), Nkhambule believes a warrant has been issued for his arrest because of his writings. After the Times dropped his regular weekly column after pressure from King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, Nkhambule set up his own website to publish his writings.

The Swazi state has been clamping down on the pro-democracy community and on Wednesday Maseko, who is the lawyer for Mario Masuku, the jailed president of the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), was arrested and jailed on remand pending trial. He is alleged to have made seditious comments at a May Day rally.

According to the Swazi News today (6 June 2009) police had wanted to arrest Nkhambule at the same time as Maseko. The newspaper (a stablemate of the Times) reported that before his arrest Maseko was on TV where he spoke about his pending arrest and indicated that according to information he got Nkhambule was also to be ‘collected’ by the police.

The Swazi News reports that Nkhambule has opted to remain in South Africa where he had gone on a private visit in fear that on his return he would be locked up. Attempts to contact him proved futile.

Meanwhile, Maseko has refused bail pending his trial. The Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, says this is part of a new strategy by progressives in Swaziland. They hope by opting to remain in jail they will speed up the judicial process.

Whether this is the true reason I do not know, but it doesn’t seem to be effective. Mario Masuku, who also refused bail has been in jail awaiting his trial since November 2008 and there is no sign yet of a court date.

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