Three Swazi political activists who were denied political asylum in South Africa are expected to leave the country on Friday (15 August 2014).
But, it is not clear if they will return to Swaziland, amid fears that they might be imprisoned by King Mswati III’s regime.
There is speculation that the three, all high-ranking members of the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS), might try to find asylum in another country. They are CPS General Secretary Kenneth Kunene, Goodwill Du Pont and Sithembiso Simelane. Du Pont is originally from Siteki, Simelane from Manzini and Kunene from Bhunya.
The trio left for South Africa in 2005 when they faced arrest for engaging in political activism in the kingdom. Political parties are banned in Swaziland and many have been labelled ‘terrorist organisations’ by the Swazi state. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The fear for the activists’ safety in Swaziland heightened last week after the kingdom’s Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini called on two workers activists who spoke against the government while on a visit to the United States to be ‘strangled’ on their return home.
Dlamini later withdrew his comment after he was condemned by the United States and human rights organisations across the world.
The three activists were reportedly told by South Africa that Swaziland was a democracy and they faced no threat if they returned to the kingdom when it revoked the political asylum permits that had allowed the three to remain in the republic.
In Swaziland democracy campaigners are routinely beaten and arrested by police. In May 2010 Sipho Jele was killed in custody by state forces. He had been arrested for wearing a T-shirt with the name of the banned political party PUDEMO written on it.
CPS National Organizing Secretary Njabulo Dlamini called for the unconditional and safe return of the exiled activists if they were forced to return to Swaziland.