Saturday, March 14, 2020

Swaziland journalist ‘tortured by police after criticising absolute monarch in newspaper articles’

Swaziland journalist and former government cabinet minister Mfomfo Nkambule said he was tortured by police after he wrote articles critical of absolute monarch King Mswati III.

Nkambule writes for the online newspaper Swaziland News.

In an interview he told the newspaper that on Thursday (12 March 2020) police raided his home and seized electronic gadgets. He said he was taken to Manzini police regional headquarters where he was harassed and tortured.

He told the Swaziland News, ‘They tortured me saying I risk being charged with high treason and under the terrorism law.’ He said police complained about articles he wrote critical of the political system.

In Swaziland political parties are barred from contesting elections. Groups that advocate for democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. King Mswati appoints the prime minister and the cabinet. He also chooses top judges and civil servants.

Swazi police spokesman Superintendent Phindile Valakati, told the newspaper, ‘We summoned Nkambule seeking clarity on his published articles. However, we didn’t torture him.’

Mfomfo Nkambule

Earlier this week the editor of Swaziland News Zweli Martin Dlamini told the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s Media Monitor programme that police raided his home after he published articles in his newspaper. He said police tied him up and suffocated him with a plastic bag. He was speaking from South Africa and said he feared returning to Swaziland (eSwatini).

In December 2019, Dlamini called for an investigation after Nkambule reported he had been the victim of an attempt by a government minister and members of an elite group linked to the Swazi Royal Family to poison him at a braai. 

This followed an article in Swaziland News in which Nkambule wrote, ‘He [the King] has given us the status of servants in this country. As servants, we do not have any right whatsoever. We have no right to vote, no right to form political parties, no right to form a government of our choice, no power to legislate and to appropriate resources. We need a referendum on the King!’

Nkambule has been a critic of the political system in Swaziland and the role of the monarch for many years.

He attracted international attention in 2008 and 2009 for outspoken articles he wrote each week in the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper.

Nkambule specialised in criticising Swazi Royalty and the traditionalists who supported the King.

Nkambule, who had formerly been Health and Social Welfare Minister appointed by the King, was hauled in by Swaziland’s state police and threatened with torture if he continued to criticise the King. 

He was later dropped from his traditional regiment, threatened with banishment from his homeland, and his family was threatened because he refused to be silenced.

See also

Newspaper editor flees Swaziland for second time after arrest and police torture

‘Attempt made to poison journalist critic of Swaziland’s absolute monarch,’ editor says

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