Calls mount for eSwatini to release incarcerated pro-democracy MPs

King Mswati III is alleged to have influenced the outcome of the verdict. Picture: Ludovic MARIN/AFP

King Mswati III is alleged to have influenced the outcome of the verdict. Picture: Ludovic MARIN/AFP

Published Sep 5, 2023


The Kingdom of eSwatini (Swaziland) has been urged to embrace a new pro-democratic path by first freeing two pro-democracy MPs who have been languishing in jail since July 2021 on trumped-up charges of terrorism.

The global civil society alliance CIVICUS and the eSwatini rights organisation, the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice (FSEJ) said that would be the best thing for celebrating 55 years of independence by the country on Wednesday.

eSwatini gained its independence on September 6, 1968 after Britain granted it self-rule after years of being a protectorate state together with the likes of Lesotho and Botswana.

On Wednesday the kingdom would host a double celebration dubbed 55/55 to celebrate its independence, while simultaneously celebrating the 55th birthday of its playboy monarch, King Mswati III.

In a call made ahead of the double celebration, Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS’ chief programmes officer said MP Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza, an MP from the constituency of Hosea in southern eSwatini and Mthandeni Dube from the north should have not been jailed in the first place.

The two are currently waiting for their sentencing after Judge Mumsy Dlamini, who is a royal family relative, found them guilty as charged.

Their conviction was condemned by the international community, including the US embassy in the kingdom, as abuse of justice and worrying.

“As eSwatini celebrates the anniversary of its freedom from colonial rule, the authorities must free jailed activists Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube without delay.

“Mabuza and Dube never should have been arrested in the first place, and should not spend one more minute behind bars,” Tiwana said.

Mabuza and Dube face up to 20 years imprisonment after the flawed conviction on the trumped-up charges.

CIVICUS and FSEJ said they recognise both men as part of the Stand As My Witness campaign, which advocates for the release of jailed activists and human rights defenders worldwide.

FSEJ executive director, Thabo Masuku said it is extremely worrying that the eSwatini government continues to silence activists and human rights defenders through the use of the judicial system.

He added that the judiciary should independently uphold the values of justice and equity — not harass and intimidate pro-democracy activists like Mabuza and Dube.

“The eSwatini authorities must respect their constitutional and international human rights obligations.

“They can start by freeing Mabuza and Dube immediately,” Masuku said.

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