Jan Sithole, the former Manzini North Member of Parliament and President of the Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA), has died. He was taken ill at home and later died in hospital. He was 67 years old.
He was one of the best-known campaigners for democratic reform in Swaziland (eSwatini) which is ruled by King Mswati III, as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.
In 2013, Sithole was elected to the Swaziland House of Assembly. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and King Mswati appoints the Prime Minister and government ministers.
Sithole had campaigned for many years for multi-party democracy and came in for much criticism at the time from prodemocracy campaigners for standing for parliament and giving the poll legitimacy.
In an interview at the time with writer / journalist Shaun Raviv, Sithole said his change in strategy was a continuation of his past actions and beliefs.
Jan Sithole who has died
'I still subscribe to social justice, human dignity, democracy, rule of law, separation of powers. I believe in seeing a Swaziland that is economically vibrant, with jobs for all. And a Swaziland that provides equality for men and women and respects the international covenants that it has ratified. That's me in the past, that's me now. What has changed is the forum that I want to use to achieve the same principles.'
Sithole came to international attention in when he was leader of the former Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) which led a series of national strikes in the kingdom during 1995-1997 which had '27 demands', for economic and social changes.
His campaign for democracy continued for years and he was arrested many times. The most recent was in December 2019 when he and other prodemocracy leaders had their homes raided by police and were arrested. They had recently formed the Political Parties Assembly (PPA) to advocate for change.