Seven pro-democracy campaigners arrested on terrorism charges in Swaziland for wearing T-shirts with a political slogan have been remanded in jail for a further week.
The men, including leaders of PUDEMO, the best-known opposition group in Swaziland, were arrested outside the Swazi High Court. They were present with members of the public who had come to offer support to magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko.
The two men are in the High Court on contempt charges arising from articles they wrote for the Nation, a small-circulation independent magazine in Swaziland, that were critical of the Swazi judiciary.
Criticism of the Swazi state is severely curtailed. King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. He picks the government and the top judges and political parties are banned from taking part in elections. All political parties that oppose King Mswati, including PUDEMO, (the People’s United Democratic Movement) have been banned as terrorist groups under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
The seven men, who were remanded in jail by the Swazi High Court until 6 May 2014, are each charged with four counts of terrorism.
One charge reads that at the High Court and at a bus rank and in a street in the capital Mbabane they chanted slogans while wearing the white T-shirts with PUDEMO written on them and ‘reflecting terrorist demands at the back’. They also wore red and black PUDEMO berets.
They are also alleged to have ‘attempted, prepared, and conspired with others to do an act with seditious intentions’.
The seven men are PUDEMO Secretary General Mlungisi Makhanya; Public Relations Officer Brian Clive Ntshangase; Bongani Gama; Bafana Mabandla Magongo; Siza Jabulani Tsabedze; Ntobeko Gideon Maseko and Mangaliso Simanga Khumalo.