Swaziland: From election to prison

Swaziland: From election to prison

By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact and the Red-Green Alliance

Less than a year ago PUDEMO-President Mario Masuku was discussing democracy and freedom of speech with local politicians in Gladsaxe during the Danish municipal elections. Today he is in prison, charged with terrorism in his home country of Swaziland for having shouted “viva PUDEMO” at a union rally on May Day.

“In my country, Swaziland, local authorities cannot implement their own policy because the king controls everything. During the municipal elections in Gladsaxe, on the other hand, I saw an election process that was well-organised and transparent and politicians who were responsible to the electorate.”

The words are Mario Masuku’s, spoken when he visited Gladsaxe during the Danish municipal elections last year. He is the President of the People’s United Democratic Movement, or simply PUDEMO, which is a party that fights by peaceful means for democracy and basic rights for everyone in the tiny absolute monarchy of Swaziland, one of the countries in the world with highest inequalities.

Masuku was invited by the Danish party the Red-Green Alliance and the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy to discuss and be inspired by the Danish municipal elections and Danish politics in general. He was present throughout the election process, including the ballot count, and spoke to Gladsaxe’s mayor Karin Søjberg Holst and several of the other local politicians who stood for election.

“The respect for the election process of the electorate in Gladsaxe was clear to see. They were well-informed of the process because they have access to the politicians and because they have freedom of speech and a free media,” Mario Masuku said at the time.

Now he is in prison, sleeping on a cold and hard prison floor, simply for having used his right to freedom of speech in criticizing his own country’s undemocratic system, and because he demands the right’s that the Danish electorate take for granted.

Mario Masuku and the Mayor of Gladsaxe Municipality
Mario Masuku and the Mayor of Gladsaxe, Karin Søjberg Holst, during the Danish municipal elections.