Supporters of the Swaziland pro-democracy leader arrested on a terrorism charge are to petition the Swazi High Court to be allowed to visit him in jail.
Mario Masuku, President of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) was arrested the day after PUDEMO was declared to be a ‘terrorist’ organisation by Swaziland’s illegally appointed Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini.
The Voice of America radio station is reporting today (8 December 2008) that Masuku is due to appear in court today for a remand hearing. Supporters of PUDEMO are going to try to get the court to rule that people be allowed to visit Masuku while he is in jail. Until now the prison authorities have restricted visitors, including church leaders and a foreign diplomat.
Mphandlana Shongwe, a founding member of PUDEMO, told VOA that Masuku would be appearing on remand for the third time. ‘And also there will be an urgent application to allow us, members of his organization to see the president behind bars because as of now it is only his close family members and lawyers that are allowed to see him. The rest of the people that he is leading are not allowed to see him, including diplomats,’ he said.
Shongwe also said church members were not allowed to visit Masuku. ‘These members from different denominations tried to visit the president to give him a spiritual encouragement, but they were turned down by the prison authorities. The reason given for that was that everybody who associates himself with members of this banned organization is indirectly or directly supporting terrorism. So they were viewed as people support terrorism.’
Shongwe denied that PUDEMO is a terrorist organization. On the contrary, he said PUDEMO is fighting for democracy.
‘First of all not only my organization, but most of the organizations in this country are calling for a constitutional multi-party democracy where our king will be protected from the daily politics by having him as a ceremonial leader. On top of that, the government has passed a law called Terrorism Act that resulted in the banning of about four organizations. Our president has been locked up for having spoken words in a funeral, and he is purported to have supported terrorism,’ Shongwe said.
He said many organizations and individuals worldwide have joined in the call for Masuku's release from prison.
‘Quite a number of people are directly communicating with the head of state, the king, that our president should be released.’
Click below to hear an interview with Mphandlana Shongwe broadcast by Voice of America.