Monday, March 23, 2015


As Swaziland editor Bheki Makhubu and writer and human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, marked a year spent in jail for writing and publishing articles critical of the Swaziland judiciary, the Nation, the monthly magazine they worked for remained defiant.

In an editorial comment in the March 2015 edition, the Nation stated, ‘This edition marks the first anniversary since the editor of this magazine, Bheki Makhubu, was put behind bars following contempt of court charges the Chief Justice, Michael Ramodibedi, preferred against him. 

‘Together with our columnist and human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, Makhubu is serving a two-year sentence following his conviction on July 27 [2014] after he was arrested on March 18. Maseko was arrested a day earlier. 

‘What we find interesting is that the constitution, which King Mswati III said the nation should defend, has failed to protect the duo.’ It added, ‘They are persecuted for merely exercising their rights as provided in the very same constitution the nation was called upon to uphold. However, this will not deter this magazine from doing what it has always promised its readers; speaking truth to power.

‘The fact that a year later we’re still in circulation despite the challenges resulting from a marathon case that saw the imprisonment of our colleagues is proof that we have earned our credibility. It’s a pity that, as demonstrated during the trial, some people lost their credibility as they were trying to do their master’s bidding.

‘The Nation chooses to remain loyal to the truth, and nothing else. That’s why we’ll remain standing for many more years to come, jail or no jail.’

The defiant message came as news leaked from Big Bend Prison, Lubombo, that Maseko had been placed in solitary confinement for three weeks as a punishment after a letter he wrote from his cell was widely circulated on the Internet and social media.

In the letter Maseko thanked the thousands of people all over the world who have spoken out against his jailing.

The latest move has been condemned around the world. Among the most recent groups to speak out was the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC). It said the United Nations General Assembly called solitary punishment ‘cruel and degrading treatment’. 

Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, SALC’s executive director, said in a statement, the Swazi Constitution provided that ‘a person shall not be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,’ and Swaziland was a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibited the use of torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) asked for the release of the two writers. Mohamed Garba President of FAJ, said, ‘The King Mswati III of Swaziland should order the release of both the journalist and his lawyer after one year in prison.’

Garba added, ‘FAJ is raising serious concerns on the permanent attempts by the Kingdom of the Swazi authorities to muzzle all freedoms.’

FAJ added in a statement, ‘The Kingdom of Swaziland has been portrayed as one of the most repressive regimes in Africa and freedom of expression and freedom of association have been under siege since time immemorial.’

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