Wonder Mkhonza, National Organising Secretary of the banned Swazi political party the People’s United Democratic Movement 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.
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. He is expected to appear in court Wednesday, although the authorities have yet to reveal the charges.
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 and Foreign Policy spokesperson, Christian Juhl from the Red Green Alliance, who have recently started a government-funded project together with PUDEMO that aims to democratize Swaziland. “We have contacted the Danish embassy as we are worried that Wonder Mkhonza might be harmed.”
Sign petition to free Wonder Mkhonza: http://www.change.org/petitions/free-wonder-mkhonza
By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact
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