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April 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 4)
World Press Review contributing editor
It is in many
ways a battle between modernity and tradition. In one corner
is King Mswati III who, at the age of 33, supports eight wives,
15 children, and 200 siblings, and whose taste for absolute
monarchy has led him to ban opposition political parties. In
the opposite corner is Mario Masuku, the leader of the Peoples
United Democratic Movement, who is currently facing sedition
charges for allegedly calling for Mswatis removal in favor
of a multiparty democracy.
Masuku (R) faces sedition charges for allegedly calling
for a multiparty democracy in Swaziland (Photo: AFP).
The 51-year-old Masuku, who suffers from diabetes and hypertension,
has been in jail since November awaiting trial for anti-monarchist
comments. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison. But
getting his day in court is proving to be difficult. Having
been subject to repeated delays, his trial finally began on
Feb. 4 but was stopped abruptly on Feb. 6 when it was revealed
that the presiding judges contract had expired in December.
I do not know why the government decided not to renew
[Judge] Josiah Matsebulas contract in time, Masakus
wife Thembi told The Guardian of Swaziland (Feb. 20).
For now it looks like my husband has to suffer the consequences
of mistakes by the government.
I dont know what to think of the countrys
judicial system anymore, wrote a commentator in the Times
of Swaziland (Feb. 7). A High Court that has judges
with questionable work contracts...and an attorney general who
seeks to charge the chief justice with contempt....At the rate
we are going, we may just as well be regarded as another Zimbabwe.
Despite his intolerance for political opposition, King Mswati
III remains popular. But the longer Masuku languishes in prison,
the more momentum his banned political party seems to be gaining.
There is no word yet on when the trial might be resumed. But
for Musa Magagula, writing in the Times of Swaziland
(Feb. 10), the outcome is preordained. Whether it is finally
proven that Masuku uttered seditious statements and he is convicted
or released...[he] will be viewed by the international community
as a symbol of an oppressive Swazi government.