Swaziland: Swazi State Opposes Bail for Activist Who Criticised Absolute Monarch, Faces Sedition Charge

Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, the Swaziland (eSwatini) democracy activist arrested for sedition after he was quoted in a news report criticising absolute monarch King Mswati III, had an application for bail opposed at the Swazi High Court.

Detailed papers have yet to be filed in the case. Ngcamphalala asked to be released on bail until the court case was heard. In Swaziland, defendants are often held in jail for many years awaiting trial. He told the court his two children had been reduced 'to mere beggars' while he was locked up.

Ngcamphalala was arrested on 1 May 2020 and charged with an offence under the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act 1938. The bail application is still pending.

Ngcamphalala who is President of the Swaziland Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), was charged for comments he made in an a article published by Swati Newsweek, a news website.

In the report Ngcamphalala was quoted saying, 'We want government to change people's lives, the Swazi Monarchy must know its place. We respect the King, but respect is earned and when pushed into a corner; we will be forced to retaliate. We unapologetically stand for multi-party democracy.'

In Swaziland, King Mswati chooses the Prime Minister and government ministers as well as top judges and civil servants. Political parties cannot take part in elections and groups campaigning for democratic reforms are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

In April, Eugene Dube, the Swati Newsweek editor, was arrested, tortured by police and threatened with a charge of treason for publishing the report.

Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, President of the Economic Freedom Fighters-Swaziland.

Separately, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe) has drawn attention to two Swaziland journalists, Zweli Martin Dlamini and Eugene Dube who fled the kingdom to South Africa, fearing their lives were in danger.

In statement it said, 'Dlamini, the editor of Swaziland News, had in April written a story that King Mswati had contracted COVID-19. The police reportedly visited his home where they allegedly harassed his family members.

'On the other hand, Royal Police visited Dube's house, at least three times, seeking to interrogate him because the authorities were upset that he was reporting about the activities of an opposition group.

'The police, on the other hand, claim they wanted to arrest Dube, the editor of Swati Newsweek because he had contravened COVID-19 lockdown regulations. He was detained for nine hours on 23 April, but Dube said the police did not question him on the alleged contravention of lockdown regulations.'

'We urge the eSwatini authorities to guarantee the safety of the two journalists.'

Dube has written about how he fled from the Swazi police and hid out in a forest for five days.

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