By Info | May 6, 2010
A People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) activist died following annual Workers’ Day celebrations on 1 May in Manzini, Swaziland which were mired by police disruptions and arrests. Members of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Union (SFTU) and Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) congregated at the Salesian sports ground to highlight workers’ rights and entitlements, but were soon met with police crack-downs on proceedings. Four guest speakers at the event – PUDEMO activists Mphandlana Shongwe and Dr. Sikelela Dlamini, Swaziland Youth Congress President Wandile Dludlu and Marie da Silva of the newly formed Swaziland Democracy Campaign – were detained by police on the grounds that as unemployed, they were not entitled to attend a Workers’ Day event. Police also confiscated a camera belonging to SNAT members and destroyed images of the arrests.
PUDEMO activist Sipho Jele was arrested during Workers’ Day celebrations after being found wearing a PUDEMO T-shirt. He was taken away for questioning by police who also searched his home. On Tuesday 2 May, whilst in police custody, he was found hanging in his cell. Police have claimed that Jele committed suicide whilst being held at the Sidvwashini Reman Centre; but this has been rejected by opposition movements in the region, who have alleged that police officers were involved in Jele’s death. His family have been contacted by authorities, advising them to proceed with a swift burial. Juliet Jele, Sipho’s aunt said:
“The family is yet to meet to discuss what to do next on the matter, but the police should give me an explanation why my son died like this. As a family, we want our own doctor,”
Political parties are banned in Swaziland, political and civic activists are imprisoned, and the judiciary, media and other authoritative bodies are controlled by the monarchy. ACTSA campaigns for democracy and human rights in Swaziland, working alongside civil society organisations to raise issues of democratic and human rights abuses to the UK, Commonwealth and EU, as well as supporting initiatives to pressure the Government of Swaziland and its neighbours on issues affecting the country.