Prodemocracy leaders in Swaziland (eSwatini) who had their homes raided by police are calling on the absolute monarch King Mswati III to allow people to talk openly about the political future of the kingdom.
Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and groups that advocate for democracy are outlawed by the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
Six political groups have formed the Political Parties Assembly (PPA) to advocate for change. Leaders of these groups had their homes raided by police on Friday (20 December 2019). They were interrogated by police and had laptops, phones, tablets and other gadgets taken.
At a media conference on Saturday the PPA called on King Mswati to allow talks. The Times Sunday, a newspaper in Swaziland, reported Mlungisi Makhanya, President of the outlawed People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), said, 'The King should convene a session where the people will dialogue. He has to mandate a team to engage with us. We don't mean we should engage with him personally because that would lower his status as King but he can delegate a team mandated to discuss the governing of the country alongside the reigning monarch.'
The Times reported the PPA said if the King did want to be personally involved in talks they would need to adopt international standards, appoint a facilitator, have clear ground rules and a neutral venue.
There is open hostility in Swaziland between the supporters of the PPA and state forces, especially the police.
Jan Sithole, President of the Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA), told the media conference the police service had been politicised and were taking actions on behalf of the government.
Separately, Ngomyayona Gamedze, the former Deputy President in the Swaziland Senate and now acting Chairman of Sive Siyinqaba, one of the groups in the PPA, warned government and the police against the continuous detention of political activists who were calling for democratic reforms.
He told the Swaziland News, an online newspaper, 'Harassing political activists, breaking into their houses and seizing their cellphones amounts to the violation of human rights. A cellphone is a personal gadget with personal information that should not be accessed even by the police without the consent of the owner and what they doing now is wrong. I am not talking about hearsay here because I was there as a Presiding Officer when Parliament ratified these UN Conventions that ensured the protection of human rights. It's now surprising that even the Human Rights Commission is silent on this.'
He added, 'Is it a crime to openly express my political view that I don't want the current government? Are these political activists expected to embrace the current government by force? Why are we allowing the police to violate human rights in this manner? Any detention of a person even if its five minutes amounts to human rights violation because you have taken that person out of his or her comfort zone, it's worse when you have seized his cellphone because by so doing you have disconnected that individual from communicating with the world and gained access to personal information.'
Further police action is expected. The Times reported Sithole telling the media conference, 'We are committed to the spirit of no retreat, no surrender, forward forever.'
He added, 'Even if it meant being arrested, even if it meant being eliminated; we are prepared to lay our lives on the block for the liberation of the people that have given us that mandate.'
The PPA consists of six groups: People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO); Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA); Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS); Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC); Swaziland People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and Sive Siyinqaba (Sibahje Sinje).