Massive police presence at activist's hearing
NHLANGANO – A massive police presence was required to monitor an anticipated strong turnout of activists during the bail hearing of sedition-charged PUDEMO man.
The Nhlangano Magistrates Court yesterday unusually played host to a contingent of law enforcement agencies.
PUDEMO is an acronym for the People’s United Democratic Movement.
Wonder Mkhonta, the organisation’s Organising Secretary, yesterday appeared before Nhlangano Magistrate Musa Nxumalo, where the defence moved a bail application.
The application was opposed on grounds that the magistrates court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter.
The applicants were advised to move the application with the High Court but in the meantime, Mkhonta will be kept in custody until next Wednesday.
Mkhonta was represented by attorney Melusi Simelane, who acted on behalf of Manzini lawyer Leo Gama.
The activist’s bail hearing was well publicised around the small town as flyers were distributed all over, detailing the date and venue. The flyers that were attributed to the proscribed entity – PUDEMO – also demanded the release of Mkhonta and rallied people against participating in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
This may have prompted police to intensify security, as there were also rumours peddled around town that there were plans to facilitate the suspect’s freedom during the hea- ring.
Though there were police in uniform, but mostly it was plain clothed officers who kept a vigilant eye on groups of people assembled outside the court, for various reasons.
It is common cause that relatives of people appearing before court would attend, and some in numbers, depending on the gravity of the case.
As would have been expected, sympathisers of the political activist were also present to witness the bail hearing, but it was not a massive number as may have been anticipated.
Police were able to dodge the activists as the suspect was quickly moved into court, without many people noticing.
The state pressed sedition charges after Mkhonta was allegedly found carrying pamphlets in Lavumisa.
The pamphlets were allegedly inscribed with text considered derogatory to the state hence police decided to bring him to book.
The arrest of Mkhonta coincided with the commemoration of April 12, a date that has much significance to the country’s political landscape as it marked the repeal of the country’s independence constitution – the Westminster blue print – and replaced by a decree.
On the same date, political parties and political activities were prohibited.
This was done by King Sobhuza II at the royal Cattle Byre in Lobamba.
The arrest of Mkhonta and another activist in a separate incident, but also related to the April 12 event, was condemned by PUDEMO Spokesperson, Zakhele Mabuza as a show of force by the state in an interview with our sister publication, the Times SUNDAY.
"They do not tolerate activism. As PUDEMO we condemn this. We call upon government to democratise so that everyone could be free to mobilise and organise politically without any intimidation from the state or its agencies," he was quoted as saying.