25 August 2014

Swaziland: Democrat Leader 'Critically Ill' in Jail

Swaziland's People's United Democratic Movement's (PUDEMO) has reported that its President Mario Masuku has fallen 'critically ill' in prison where he is on remand awaiting trial on a sedition charge.

PUDEMO is banned in Swaziland as a 'terrorist organisation' and is widely regarded as the main opposition political party in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. All political parties are barred from taking part in elections and most are banned outright in the kingdom.

PUDEMO said in a statement, Masuku was 'suffering from pneumonia due to a combination of various horrible conditions he has been exposed to. He has grown physically weak, pale, lost weight and has lost part of his eyesight.'

Masuku has been on remand at Zakhele since 1 May 2014 when he was arrested during a police clampdown on May Day workers celebrations and charged with sedition.

PUDEMO said in a statement posted on social media, 'Having to be subjected to a poor diet of porridge, beans and the occasional poorly cooked cabbage has contributed to his deteriorated condition.

'Zakhele remand centre has refused to put President Masuku in a cell well secured in terms of cold and bad weather conditions since his arrest on the 1st of May 2014. He has been further denied warm clothes and access to his private medical practitioner. Visitors who come to check on him have been made to wait for nothing less than five hours, including refusal of his own son to consult him in his capacity as a lawyer.'

It added, 'Some of his comrades have been banned from visiting him. The ban was constituted after they brought him and Maxwell Dlamini newspapers deemed too political by warders. The reading material included the Nation magazine which is a Swazi monthly publication that is normally critical of the authorities, City Press and the Sowetan which are both South African newspapers.'

When Masuko appeared in court in June 2014, alongside Secretary-General of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) Maxwell Dlamini, who was also arrested and charged with sedition following the May Day event, he was remanded in custody until 24 September 2014.

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