The SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) applauds the release from prison of Swaziland’s Nation magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer and columnist Thulani Maseko. The pair spent more than a year behind bars for articles they had written highlighting corruption by judicial officers.
They were convicted on trumped up charges of contempt of court after they exposed that a traffic inspector was disciplined for impounding the official vehicle of a judge after it was used for unauthorized trips.
The two judges at the centre of Makhubu and Maseko’s prosecution are now in trouble over the same incidents the two were persecuted for. Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi, whose vehicle was at the centre of the row, has since been fired and reportedly left Swaziland last week. A warrant for his arrest on charges of corruption and abuse of power was re-issued.
Judge Mpendulo Simelane, who presided over Makhubu and Maseko’s case and sentenced them to prison terms, is presently out on bail following his arrest on charges of corruption and abuse of power.
Also involved in the case is the former Justice Minister of Swaziland, Sibusiso Shongwe, who was denied bail several times and remains in prison.
The case against Makhubu and Maseko was in court again on Tuesday and after the prosecution failed to produce evidence against the two, the Supreme Court, sans Ramodibedi, ordered their release.
Sanef salutes Makhubu and Maseko for their steadfast defense of truth and integrity in the face of harassment and long spells in prison.
The abuse of power in Swaziland by several high ranking government officials is however at the centre of the dilemma in that country.
The absence of democratic traditions and oversight institutions, as well as the absolute power of the monarch, has contributed to the creation of conditions that make media operations acutely dangerous. Ultimately, the real solution to the ongoing suppression of human rights and media freedom in Swaziland lie in democratic reform.
In this regard, we echo the views of our counterpart in Swaziland, The Swaziland Editors’ Forum which said: “We are however proud and encouraged that a journalist who sacrificed his life and freedom has been able to demonstrate to our society the maxim that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We hope our community will take this lesson to heart.
“We hope also that this sets the precedent that will instruct our society and the value of a system of checks and balance so that citizens can enjoy rights in a government of rule of law where right is determined by truth not might.”
For Inquiries: Sanef Chairperson Mpumelelo Mkhabela 0822962541
Sanef Executive Director Mathatha Tsedu 0824540527