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.
He has since been released on bail due to international pressure from this campaign and others, but strict bail conditions and a court case that is likely to be ongoing for years on end mean that he is in effect still a prisoner.
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.
There is reasonable suspicion that Mkhonza might have bene 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.
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