Responding to the arbitrary detention and malicious charges of sedition and damage to property brought against Colani Maseko, the President of the Swaziland National Union of Students, and the brief arrest and subsequent release of activist Sibusiso Nkwanyane by police officers on 31 January, Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, said:
The arbitrary detention of Colani Maseko by the security forces — under the guise of “questioning” and subsequent charges of sedition and malicious damage to property amounts to intimidation and harassmentDeprose Muchena, Amnesty International's Director for East and Southern Africa
“The arbitrary detention of Colani Maseko and Sibusiso Nkwanyane, who has since been released, by the security forces — under the guise of “questioning” and subsequent charges of sedition and malicious damage to property against Maseko — amounts to intimidation and harassment of those peacefully exercising their human rights by challenging the monarchy’s power. Clearly, the authorities are desperate to weaken the pro-democracy movement that is pushing for political reforms in Eswatini.
“Colani Maseko must be immediately and unconditionally released and all these politically motivated charges against him must be withdrawn. Otherwise, he must be promptly brought to court and guaranteed a fair trial.
Maseko must be immediately and unconditionally released and all these politically motivated charges against him must be withdrawnDeprose Muchena
“The Eswatini authorities must urgently end their crackdown on political activists and human rights defenders. The views of these activists should be welcomed in the arena of public debate, not repressed. Authorities must allow people to freely exercise their human rights without any reprisals.”
Colani Maseko was abducted by plain-clothed security officials from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) on 31 January. He is currently being held at the Royal Eswatini Police Headquarters in Manzini.
His arrest has sparked a new wave of protests at the University of Eswatini’s Kwaluseni Main Campus and the Southern Africa Nazarene University Main Campus in Manzini. Sibusiso Nkwanyane was also arrested for attempting to record Maseko’s arrest on his phone, but later released.
Since May 2021, Eswatini has been rocked by pro-democracy protests following the mysterious death of 25-year-old law student Thabani Nkomonye, allegedly at the hands of the police.
Protesters are demanding political reforms and the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.
Political activism has been suppressed for years in the Kingdom of Eswatini, the last absolute monarchy on the African continent. The authorities have used repressive laws, including the 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSA Act) and the 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA), to silence critics.