Prodemocracy campaigners in Swaziland (eSwatini) who had their homes raided and property seized by police lost their High Court case calling the raids unconstitutional on a legal technicality.
Police acting on warrants from the Manzini and Mbabane magistrates courts raided homes of members of the newly-formed Political Parties Assembly (PPA) in December 2019.
Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) President Sibongile Mazibuko; Chairman of Sibanhle Sinje National Movement Musa Nkambule; People’ United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) Secretary General Wandile Dludlu and President of the Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA), Jan Sithole argued the warrants had been issued illegally.
Laptops, phones and other devices were confiscated by police in the raids.
High Court Judge Nkosinathi Maseko dismissed their application saying they should have gone to the magistrates’ court to have the warrants overturned. Only if the magistrates refused to do this, should they approach the High Court.
Previously the High Court had blocked the police from proceeding with arrests on the strength of the warrants they obtained. Judge Maseko said this was no longer in force.
After the decision, Jan Sithole told the Swaziland News, an online newspaper, the PPA leaders would attempt to appeal the High Court ruling.
Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch. In the Swazi political system known as tinkhundla parties are barred from taking part in elections and groups calling for democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The King appoints the Prime Minister and government members as well as top judges and civil servants.
Following the raids the Swaziland United Democratic Front, one of the groups targeted, in a statement circulated on social media said, ‘This comes weeks after the all progressive formations in the country resolved to unite under the banner of the Political Party Assembly to fight against the Tinkhundla regime. This led to the start of a campaign that was dubbed #MSWATI MUST FALL and has since been gaining momentum and meeting equal resistance from the autocratic regime.’
At the time the Southern Africa Litigation Centre in a statement said, ‘We are concerned by the actions of the police, which appear to be targeted at those activists who have been prominently involved in protests relating to workers’ rights and who have been promoting multi-party democracy and government accountability in the country.’
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