Wander Mkhontha released on bail, not free

Asked whether his imprisonment would dampen his political activism, Wander Mkhonta replied “of course not! The threat of jail can no longer dent our spirit as we push for democracy in Swaziland.”

Wander, who is the National Organising Secretary of Swazi liberation movement PUDEMO and Deputy General Secretary of the Swaziland Processing, Refining and Allied Workers Union (SPRAWU), spent a month in prison on charges of sedition but was released on bail yesterday. His alleged crime –  being in possession of political pamphlets.

“I was interrogated by an army of police who used a variety of strategies to make me speak,” Wander said of his prison ordeal. “The prison authorities refused me visitation rights for my colleagues and friends and I was to moved to the maximum section in solitary confinement at Matsapha.”

Wander thanked those who had contributed to his bail and campaigned for his release. “I appreciate the support that was given to SPRAWU, PUDEMO and to me and family personally” he said. “And I appreciate the support from our international allies – both organizations and individuals – who went out of their way to support our struggle for a just society in Swaziland. On that note I wish to applaud the speed with which the campaign for my release was implemented; it made a huge difference.”

Although he is now out of prison, Wander is not a free man. Amongst other things he has to report every week to a police station and surrender his passport, and the court cases of political activists in Swaziland such as Wander are deliberately drawn out for years.

“He joins a growing list of many political prisoners [in Swaziland] who have been out on bail, but their cases are deliberately not finalized. In the process these are suffering from the extremely stringent conditions that are imposed on them,” as PUDEMO National Spokesperson Zakhele Mabuza put it.

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