By Peter Kenworthy, international consultant for the Red-Green Alliance
Wonder Mkhonza, National Organising Secretary of the banned Swazi political party the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and Secretary General of the Swaziland Processing Allied Workers Union was detained on Friday April 12, allegedly for being in possession of 5000 PUDEMO pamphlets. PUDEMO has since 2012 partnered with the Danish political party, the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) on a project to strengthen the capacity of PUDEMO and lobby for democratic reform of Swaziland both nationally and internationally.
The democratic movement in Swaziland was marking the 40th anniversary of the state of emergency and banning of all political parties in 1973 by King Sobhuza II in 1973 when Mkhonza was detained by police at Lavumisa, a small town near the South African border.
According to PUDEMO, Wander Mkhonza is currently under police detention in Nhlangano in the South of Swaziland after he was transferred from Lavumisa Saturday evening. Mkhonza appeared in court wednesday 17 April, where his bail hearing was postponed until 24 April.
There is reasonable suspicion that Mkhonza might be tortured whilst detained. Swaziland ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 2004. Nevertheless, there have been many reports of torture and beatings by Swazi police, security forces and prison officers, including the torture of student leader Maxwell Dlamini and the death of PUDEMO member Sipho Jele, who was detained for having worn a PUDEMO t-shirt and died in prison under mysterious circumstances.
Amnesty International reported in their 2011 Universal Periodic Review hearing on Swaziland, that “severe beatings and suffocation torture” were “persistent forms of ill-treatment” in police custody. And Swaziland’s Prime Minister, Barnabas Dlamini, has warned that sipakatane – a form of torture where people’s feet are repeatedly beaten with spikes – could be used against protesters.
“It is unacceptable that Swaziland’s absolute monarchy detains political activists for being in possession of political pamphlets,” says Danish MP, Foreign Policy spokesperson, and member of the DIPD board, Christian Juhl from the Red Green Alliance. “We have contacted the Danish embassy as we are worried that Wonder Mkhonza might be harmed.”
Sign the Free Wonder-campaign here: http://www.change.org/petitions/free-wonder-mkhonza