President of the Kingdom of Eswatini’s proscribed People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), Mlungisi Makhanya, has stopped short of saying that the Swazi monarchy was liable for killing the organisation’s founder, Mario Masuku.
Masuku (69) died at a government hospital on Monday due to Covid-19 coronavirus complications.
He was diabetic, a condition that Makhanya alleged Masuku had developed as he spent a cumulative seven years in the kingdom’s prisons from the 1990s, because of his fight for democracy. He was charged with treason.
The former Pudemo president had retired from active politics in 2017 due to ill-health following persecutions and jail stints at the hands of Eswatini King Mswati III’s regime.
Masuku was honoured with the Democracy Award by the Danish government and also received the Gregory Rockman Award from the Police and Prison Civil Rights Union (Popcru), which recognises excellent and loyal service rendered by individuals or collectives to the organisation.
Makhanya said that Masuku had come into contact with someone who had attended King Mswati’s Incwala festivities – an annual ritual to celebrate the first fruit of harvest and strengthen the king.
“Of course, we are all going to die, but we must ask ourselves: Who killed Mario?” he said.
“He got diabetes in prison where he spent a cumulative seven years and it is funny that he would succumb to Covid-19 after being in contact with someone who went to Incwala, an event that was organised against the World Health Organisation’s protocols,” Makhanya said.
The event ran from December 14 to January 2 but, according to Swazi media, Covid-19 protocols were strictly adhered to, as people were screened and the number that went into the cattle byre was strictly controlled.
Makhanya said it was sad none of Africa’s leaders, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, had condemned King Mswati III for organising a mass event during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, tributes have been pouring in following Masuku’s death.
KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson and premier Sihle Zikalala said Masuku’s name would be etched in people’s hearts and live in the annals of history.
“Despite repeated persecution, torture and harassment, he remained a steadfast activist leading from the front in the battle to democratise Eswatini. He did not spare himself in the ongoing struggle of ensuring that the aspirations of all his countrymen and countrywomen were fulfilled to achieve democratic participation as opposed to the archaic and undemocratic tinkhundla [system of government]. Our continent and the SADC region have indeed lost a pillar in the struggle for democracy, justice and equality,” Zikalala said.
Popcru’s spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said: “As part of remembering this great giant, Popcru will continue intensifying its solidarity work with its sister organisations across the SADC region and beyond.”
Masuku remained resolute, said Swaziland Solidarity Network spokesperson Lucky Lukhele, even when he was faced with the worst brutality, prison and torture at the hands of the “despot” King Mswati’s tinkhundla (constituencies) regime.
Masuku and university students founded Pudemo in 1983 as an underground organisation that lobbied the international community to denounce Eswatini’s undemocratic system.