See also:
» 28.03.2011 - SA workers to "invade Swaziland"
» 17.03.2011 - Swaziland uprising "begins on Friday"
» 15.10.2010 - Swazi govt tried to underreport hunger
» 14.10.2008 - Swaziland bans intl civil rights meeting
» 03.04.2008 - Exiled Swazi hero murdered
» 12.04.2006 - Swazi pro-democracy activists arrested in SA
» 24.01.2005 - Strike threat in Swaziland, despite prohibition
» 10.06.2003 - Swazi govt remains "fiercely anti-union"

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Labour | Politics | Human rights

Swaziland unionist denied burial

Sipho Jele wore a T-shirt with the symbols of Swaziland's banned PUDEMO opposition party

© Pudemo/afrol News
afrol News, 14 May
- Sipho Jele, an oppositional trade unionist dying under suspicious conditions while in detention earlier this month, has been denied a traditional burial in his home area. Burial lands belong to King Mswati III.

The local chief in Sipho Jele's home area, eNcabaneni, has refused to allow his family to bury him there. The reasons given for this denial are that Mr Jele was opposed to the Tinkhundla system of government and hence cannot be buried on land owned by the supreme authority within that system, the King.

A further claim by the local chief - who stands in a direct feudal dependency to King Mswati, is that Mr Jele does not belong to that area. "This is despite the fact that he was a well known member of the community," according to information gathered by the Swaziland Solidarity Network.

The Swazi King in 2008 speech made a statement that can loosely translated to mean that, "families should keep watch of their dogs." This, opposition sources hold, meant that any Swazi citizen would bear the wrath of family members who dare to criticise his rule.

Denying a family the right to bury a relative, in Swazi culture, is an abomination.

According to the Swaziland Solidarity Network, the family of Mr Jele "has been extremely brave and unwavering in its quest to unravel the truth about the death of its beloved son. This has not gone down well with the country's rulers."

The denial of a traditional burial for Mr Jele is causing outrage among many Swazis. "It is unacceptable that any man can take another man's soul," a Swazi reader of the 'Times of Swaziland', a Mr Vilakati, responds to the announcement.

The activists at Swaziland Solidarity Network in a statement also express shock. "It is taken for granted that oppression in the banana kingdom of Swaziland lasts from the cradle to the mortuary. However, in the case of the fallen comrade, Sipho Jele, the king and his feudal henchmen have decided to take it beyond the mortuary and even beyond the grave," spokesman Lucky Lukhele comments.

Mr Jele, a trade unionists, was arrested on 1 May for wearing a T-shirt with the symbols of Swaziland's main opposition party PUDEMO, which is banned by the King. A few days after his arrest, Mr Jele died while in detention.

The government of Swaziland claims Mr Jele had committed suicide while in detention, but his family, trade unions and PUDEMO claim he must have been killed by police officers. "We know this is incorrect," PUDEMO says in a statement commenting the "suicide" reports. "A lot of people in Swaziland have died in the hands of the police and fictitious stories fabricated," the party adds.

Swazi citizens do not put much belief into the government version. "We can not be fooled into believing that Jele committed suicide; that will never convince even the stupidest citizen of this country," Mr Vilakati writes.

The case of the death of trade union activist Sipho Jele is gaining increased attention in Swaziland, and even the cautious media in the kingdom are daring to report on the case. Reacting to the increased pressure, the Prime Minister of Swaziland has promised an independent inquest into the cause of death of Mr Jele.

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