Maxwell Dlamini, the Secretary General of the Swaziland Youth Congress and former President of the Swaziland National Union of Students, was pre-emptively detained and tortured by Swazi police before the April 12 uprising in Swaziland, where the Swazi regime violently clamped down on demonstrators and detained the entire leadership of the Swazi democratic movement.
“They handcuffed us and put us on benches looking up. They covered our faces with plastic bags, and then a cop sits on your stomach so it’s not easy to breathe,” stated PUDEMO’s Themba Mabuza whom Maxwell Dlamini was arrested with.
Klaus Kristensen from Africa Contact, who visited and interviewed Maxwell and his co-accused Musa Ngubeni on February 23 2012, also reports of torture against the pair:
Returning from a student meeting in South Africa on the 10th of April 2011, Maxwell Dlamini was apprehended by police a couple of kilometres after crossing the Swazi border. He was arrested with charges of terrorism. At the police station, the officers pulled a plastic bag tightly over his head. While suffocating him, they shouted that he should stop his campaign and association with the civil rights movements in Swaziland.
And in a statement from 3. March 2012, Maxwell says that he was tortured. “I was tied to a bench with my face looking upwards and they suffocated me with the black plastic bag with a huge police officer on my stomach. They [Swazi police] asked me where the guns were and who was going to come to Swaziland to overthrow the king. They did that over and over again till I collapsed. They told me that they will kill me for causing trouble in the country and organizing the April 12 uprising.”
Maxwell Dlamini has, together with his fellow accused Musa Ngubeni, been denied bail on several occasions. Maxwell has also been denied the right to sit his exams at the university of Swaziland where he is a student, and the Swazi authorities have done their utmost to obstruct their lawyer, Mandla Mkhwanazi.
Torture in Swaziland
Swaziland ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 2004. In article 1, the Convention defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
Even so, there have been many reports of torture and mistreatment by Swazi police and security forces, as well as by Swazi prison officers.
For instance, 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.
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.
And Swaziland was recently reported to the African Court of Human and Peoples Rights – an institution that makes “final and binding decisions on human rights violations” in regard to the African Charter. According to the Times of Swaziland, Swaziland is being urged to “stop police brutality, arbitrary detentions and torture … [and] amend the Suppression of Terrorism Act and repeal the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act.”