TROUBLED KINGDOM: OP-ED

Mswati’s iron fists and hollow handshakes mask moves to conceal crimes against a mourning nation

By Zweli Martin Dlamini 14 July 2021

King Mswati III of Eswatini. (Photo: Reuters / Stringer)

The king of Eswatini has summoned the nation to convene at Ludzidzini Royal Palace on Friday ahead of another mass anti-monarchy protest as police collect bullets from dead bodies to conceal evidence for crimes against humanity.

Zweli Martin Dlamini

This comes in the midst of political tensions that manifested into chaos after the King, through Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku, issued a decree banning all pro-democracy protests; dozens have been killed while State security agents desperately grab dead bodies, remove bullets to conceal evidence.

Police took the body of Sicelo Mathunjwa (35) of Hosea in the southern parts of Eswatini to Good Shepherd Hospital where a bullet was allegedly removed from his body.

Kholiwe Mathutjwa, Sicelo’s aunt, said an autopsy was conducted on Sicelo’s body on Thursday, 8 July at the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial ( RFM) Hospital. She said as a family they managed to take pictures.

“At the post-mortem, we discovered that he was shot at close range behind his left ear and the bullet pierced through to the other end, there were no other visible scars. On Friday, 9 July we learnt that the body was taken to the Good Shepherd Hospital in Siteki for a second autopsy which was done by the police and an unidentified non-governmental organisation (NGO). When the body was brought to us on Sunday morning by Nhlangano Funeral Parlour we discovered that it had a fresh scar on the forehead and the funeral parlour could not give us clear answers, that’s when we suspected foul play. You can also contact Thandeka, who is Sicelo’s sister for more information on the second autopsy,” she said.

But Thandeka Mathunjwa, a sister to Sicelo, confirmed the matter but declined to give further comments saying their lives as a family were at stake.

“What I can confirm is that the body was indeed taken to Siteki for a second autopsy but let me not give further details since our lives are at stake,” she said.

Wandile Dludlu, the Secretary-General of the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) told Maverick Citizen that it was absurd for the king to summon the nation to the cattle byre when his security forces continue to kill civilians and further grab bullets to conceal evidence.

“Mswati has lost legitimacy but he continues to hold on to power, killing people with opposing views and removing bullets to conceal evidence. It’s very unfortunate that there is no regional and confined legal framework that will hold him accountable for the ongoing killings — even SADC seems to be staggering. It is for these reasons he continues to command his security forces to kill people while, on the other hand, he plays his propaganda so that he can appear to be a person who embraces dialogue,” said the PUDEMO secretary-general.

When reached for comments, Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza, a pro-democracy Member of Parliament (MP) who advocate for democratic reforms said what the king was trying to achieve by summoning people into his palace was not what they have been calling for.

“We need a dialogue to discuss democratic reforms not to be summoned to Sibaya (Cattle Byre) where the King has absolute authority. Actually, we need a neutral political ground, you can’t go to someone’s home and speak politics,” said the MP.

It has been disclosed that as the calls for democratic reforms intensified with local and international organisations calling for an investigation that might see the king charged for crimes against humanity.

On 10 July 2021, Zwelakhe Moahloli, the Communications Officer of Good Shepherd Hospital, told The Swaziland News that he was not aware of any autopsies that were conducted in the hospital on Friday evening.

“I’m not aware of this matter, but under normal circumstances, an autopsy is done in the presence of relatives. I cannot reveal any details regarding our clients since as a hospital we are guided by ethics,” he said.

But Mayibongwe Masangane, the Secretary-General of the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (Swadnu) confirmed that the police conducted autopsies on Friday evening at the Good Shepherd Hospital without involving the affected relatives.

“The matter has reached our attention, it is ethically wrong for the police to view bodies without involving the affected family members, we have also received reports that they also invaded the RFM Hospital grabbing bullets from injured victims. Even here, it shows that they are still pushing their agenda of concealing evidence. Nurses are also advocates for justice, it is also wrong for the government to intimidate them since those who died in the hands of police also need justice,” said Masangane.

Eswatini Police Spokesperson Phindile Vilakati had not responded to our questionnaire at the time of compiling this report.

On another note, Mlungisi Makhanya, President of the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), when speaking to The Swaziland News, confirmed that the matter was reported to them by the family.

“We are aware of the matter, it is suspected that the police were looking for bullets that might have been lodged in the body. They were afraid that we might engage our own pathologist to remove the bullets that would be used as evidence. These people used bullets that were only meant for open combat which explains why they are trying by all means to conceal the evidence”, said Makhanya.

Eswatini is facing growing calls for democratic reforms. According to opposition parties and civil society, dozens have been killed, over 200 treated for gunshot wounds and hundreds missing. DM/MC

Zweli Martin Dlamini is the editor of The Swaziland News, an independent newspaper whose journalists work under difficult conditions in Eswatini.

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