Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Wife of Swaziland King’s critic seeks court order to stop police harassing, beating her

The wife of Zweli Martin Dlamini, the Swaziland (eSwatini) editor and journalist being hunted by police for writing and publishing articles critical of absolute monarch King Mswati III, has asked magistrates to issue a restraining order to stop police harassing and beating her.

Nompendulo Nokuthula Mkhonta filed an urgent application at the Mbabane Magistrates Court on Monday (27 April 2020). 

In her application she said a group of eight police officers entered her home on 10 April seeking her husband. They were ‘armed to the teeth’ and did not have a warrant.

They took her to the national police headquarters where she was handcuffed and suffocated with a plastic bag over her head. They wanted to know the whereabouts of her husband who is in hiding.

She said police threatened to return to her home at a later date.

Earlier this month in an annual report the group Reporters Without Borders concluded there was no media freedom in Swaziland.

Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and King Mswati chooses the prime minister and cabinet ministers. He also appoints top judges and civil servants. Groups advocating for democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Police have stepped up their campaign against online newspapers and social media that are calling for reforms. Zweli Martin Dlamini, the editor of the Swaziland News, an online newspaper, told the Voice of America radio on Monday that he was in hiding and feared arrest.

He reportedly fled to neighbouring South Africa in March 2020 for the second time. He said he had been arrested and tortured by Swazi police who accused him of sedition. 

Also, on 7 February 2020, The Swaziland News reported Dlamini was being harassed and receiving death threats from King Mswati’s first born daughter Princess Sikhanyiso, who is the Minister of Information Communication and Technology.

Dlamini had previously fled to South Africa in fear of his life in 2018. He had received death threats from a local businessman and his newspaper Swaziland Shopping was shut down by the Swazi government.

Separately, on 23 April 2020 Eugene Dube, the editor of another online publication, Swati Newsweek, was arrested and beaten by police. Police accused him of writing and publishing critical articles about King Mswati. He could face a charge of treason.

At a press briefing last week the Swazi National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini said police were investigating people who had critical websites online. He wanted to find out who hosted them.

See also

‘No media freedom’ in Swaziland, Reporters Without Borders annual report states
Swaziland journalist critical of absolute monarch, beaten, arrested, faces treason charge

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

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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