“I’m dreaming” – how it feels when your husband comes home

Bheki Makhubu, a Swaziland editor and Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, was freed on 30 June after being jailed alongside human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko.

Here, his wife Fikile describes her relief at his release, and the pain of having her husband locked away for over a year. 

Let me start with the fear. 
This man that I am married to… I don’t think that he can do anything else other than writing. And I wouldn’t want him to be anything else. That’s what he is. Writing is in his blood. That’s what I am worried about. That he will go back there. That he will be arrested again. 

But at the same time, I do have faith that things are going to change. There will be change in Swaziland. I have that faith. Our kids, they see what is happening. Their generation, they see the problems that we are facing as a country. Not even just as the Makhubu family, or the Maseko family, but as a country.

Telling the children

It was so difficult. Having to explain to the kids that their father is not coming out of jail. That I don’t know how long he is going to be there. We were not expecting that it would be this long.
“Mummy, when is daddy ever going to come home? When?”

“So July is when? Is it on Sunday?”

No, it’s not on Sunday. It’s that other Sunday, far, far away.

But they are proud of their father. It has been difficult, honestly. But the community has been supportive. I have seen Swazis in a different light.

Coming home

Tuesday’s experience [when Bheki was released] was such a big change. Hearing the state admit that they shouldn’t have arrested them… I felt like I was dreaming. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was shocked. It was a wonderful surprise!

Now I am super excited. Now we just need to learn how to pick up the pieces. It hasn’t been easy for any of us – for Bheki or for me and the children. But we are all so excited to have him home. 
Bheki and I have been married for 10 years. We wanted to celebrate our 10th year anniversary last year, but we couldn’t because of the circumstances that we found ourselves in while he was in prison.

‘He stands for what he believes in’

I like his mind. He is an independent man. He is so opinionated. I think I fell in love with that. And he stands for what he believes in. Yes, sometimes it doesn’t work out well for me, because I can’t change his mind. Once he decides on something, there is just nothing that I can do. But he is a loving man. He is a family man. 

It was painful. Sometimes you would hear people talking. This has opened my eyes in a lot of ways. It made me realise that there is no freedom of speech in Swaziland. There is no rule of law.

Bheki doesn’t like the limelight. He doesn’t want to be a hero. He just wants to do his job and be an ordinary man.

On 25 July 2014, Bheki Makhubu, editor of Swaziland’s monthly news magazine The Nation, and Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer, were sentenced to two years in prison on contempt of court charges. The charges related to two articles published in The Nation magazine in which the convicted men had raised concerns about judicial independence and integrity in Swaziland. On 30 June, they were released by the Supreme Court of Swaziland after the state admitted it had no case against them.

Amnesty International adopted both men as Prisoners of Conscience and campaigned for their release. Thousands of letters from Amnesty International supporters around the world were delivered to the men and their families.