Friday, May 15, 2020

Swaziland journalist critical of King flees, hides in forest five days

Eugene Dube, the journalist critical of King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), who was beaten by police and is facing a treason charge hid in a forest for five days as he made his escape.

Dube who edits an online newspaper called Swati Newsweek wrote and published a number of articles critical of the king and calling for democracy.

Writing in his own newspaper on Friday (15 May 2020) Dube told of his escape from police and his flight for freedom.

He said, ‘I find myself on the police’s WANTED list for giving a platform to a pro-democracy movement to air their views on the political situation in Swaziland.

Eugene Dube, in hiding from Swazi police

‘The Swaziland police turned my home into a war zone, fighting a journalist armed with only a pen. They came four times armed with guns within a month. I had to sleep in a forest after I was assaulted by police during their first arrival. This was during their allegedly “lawful raid”. I was subjected to extreme harassment; hence fleeing was the only remedy.

‘I had no food, no shelter in the forest where I was hiding. I had to sleep in the forest in fear of police’s continued torture and arrest. Cops were coming to my home every now and then. If I had committed a crime, they were free to charge me instead of harassment.’

Dube said Police Superintendent Clement Sihlongonyane based in Mbabane Police Headquarters told him ‘When we come back to you Eugene, we will leave you reeling in a pool of blood. Stop criticizing the king.’ 

Dube spent more than five days hiding in the forest. ‘The first two days I had a loaf of bread. I was alerted that police were in my home while I had gone to buy bread. Hence I ended up with the loaf of bread in hiding in the forest.’ He later managed to get more bread.

Further details of Dube’s whereabouts are not being made public.

Swazi police also charged Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, President of the Swaziland Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), with sedition for comments he made in an a article published by Swati Newsweek.

In the report Ngcamphalala was quoted saying, ‘We want government to change people’s lives, the Swazi Monarchy must know its place. We respect the King, but respect is earned and when pushed into a corner; we will be forced to retaliate. We unapologetically stand for multi-party democracy.’

Dube wrote, ‘Cops tried to force me to testify against the EFF leader. This will put my journalism career at risk. I cannot interview a person today, and then once the story is published, the person is arrested. How can I be expected to testify against the same person? No, that cannot happen. It has never happened before that a journalist had to testify in such a political case in Swaziland. Cops are just persecuting the Swati Newsweek for exposing failures of King Mswati’s government. Our approach of promoting democracy has infuriated the Swazi Royal Family.’

See also

Swaziland journalist critical of absolute monarch, beaten, arrested, faces treason charge

Swaziland democracy leader charged with sedition for criticising absolute monarch on news website

‘No media freedom’ in Swaziland, Reporters Without Borders annual report states

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