PUBLIC AI Index: AFR 55/01/00
UA 354/00 Fears for safety / ill-treatment 15 November 2000
SWAZILAND Musa Dlamini, trade union official
Mario Masuku, leading opposition politician
Jan Sithole, leading trade unionist
Other trade union officials and political activists
In the past few days a number of leading trade union officials and opposition
leaders have been arrested, detained and severely beaten as part of what appears
to be a mounting campaign of harassment and intimidation against political
opponents. Amnesty International is concerned for their safety and for that
of other political activists in Swaziland.
Musa Dlamini, the Secretary General of the Swaziland National Association of
Teachers, was allegedly severely beaten by security force officers on 14
November, and required hospital treatment as a result.
Mario Masuku, the president of a banned opposition party, the People’s United
Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), was reportedly manhandled and verbally abused
on 7 November when trying to deliver a petition to the Prime Minister as part
of a peaceful protest against repressive laws and the lack of political freedoms.
On 10 November, he was detained, and his whereabouts were unknown for several
days. He was finally brought before a magistrate and transferred to prison
where he was held in solitary confinement.00 On 15 November he was charged
with two counts of sedition and released on bail on condition that he reports
daily to the police and plays no public role in political activities before
his trial. Mario Masuku has been detained a number of times previously, including
in 1990 when he was held under renewable 60-day administrative detention orders,
along with other government critics. When brought to trial, he was acquitted
of high treason and sedition, but was convicted of contravening a 1973 decree
prohibiting people from organizing or attending any meetings of a political
The police and security forces have also harassed and detained a number of
other political activists taking part in the 7 November protest, including
Jan Sithole, the Secretary General of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions
(SFTU). He and other trade union officials were reportedly detained by the
security forces at a roadblock outside Mbabane for five hours, apparently in
an attempt to prevent them from joining the protest. A number of South African
journalists attempting to cover the protest were briefly detained, verbally
abused and ordered to leave the country.
Since 14 November, the security forces have placed Jan Sithole under constant
guard and restricted his rights of movement and speech, although they have
no legal basis for doing so. When challenged by Jan Sithole’s lawyers, the
security forces resorted to verbal abuse and threats, and claimed to be acting
under orders. Jan Sithole has been subjected to arbitrary detentions, death
threats and other forms of harassment many times during the past five years.
During a nationwide strike on 13 and 14 November, other political activists
and trade unionists were detained. Bongihlanhla Gama, an official with the
Swaziland National Association of Teachers, reportedly required hospital
treatment after being shot and injured by the police during the strike.
Amnesty Interational believes that these incidents are part of a campaign of
harassment and intimidation by the Swaziland authorities in an attempt to
repress the current wave of anti-government protest in the country. On 28 October
the Prime Minister announced a ban on all future meetings of the Swaziland
Federation of Trade Unions and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers,
and warned that there would be “bloodshed” if they continued with their plans
for “mass meetings”. The authorities have also threatened to reimpose a former
law allowing 60-day detention without trial, which in the past has been
associated with the ill-treatment and torture of government opponents.