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16 PEOPLE WANTED BY COPS FOR UNREST TERRORIST ACTS

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MBABANE - At least 16 people are wanted by the police in connection with alleged terrorist activities committed during the civil unrest in 2021 and 2022.

According to the police, on the list of those who are at large, are security officers and civilians who were employed. They are alleged to have abandoned their different occupations, homes and children after they were made aware that they were wanted in connection with terrorism offences. They are believed to be hiding outside the Kingdom of Eswatini. The number of the people who are now of interest to the police is contained in court papers where the prosecution is strongly opposing the bail application of the University of Eswatini (UNESWA) student, who was arrested for alleged terrorist activities committed during the civil unrest in 2021 and 2022.

Arrested

The student, Mayibongwe Pupu Nyawo (20) of Siphofaneni, is the 23rd person to be arrested and charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, for crimes that were committed during the unrest. He is accused of the same offences as Bonginkhosi ‘Bongo’ Nkambule and Menzi Bhembe, who were arrested in the past two weeks. Nkambule is a member of the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS). The trio is alleged to have burnt a police car at the Mbabane Government Hospital and a national flag at UNESWA Mbabane Campus, during a students’ march to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security on September 30, 2022. So far, none of the 23 accused persons have been granted bail. Detective Collen Mazibuko, who works under the Criminal Investigations Department (Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Unit), told the court that it would not be in the interest of justice to release Nyawo on bail. 

He alleged that in the event the accused was released on bail, he would flee the country and join those who were wanted by the police. Mazibuko told the court that the overwhelming evidence, coupled with the likelihood of being convicted, as well as the heavy custodial sentence, would entice the accused to escape the jurisdiction. “About 16 of the accused persons who participated in the terrorist acts are at large and out of the court’s jurisdiction,” submitted the investigator. He averred that in the event that Nyawo was released on bail, he was likely to join them as they seemed to have many sympathisers, who were readily available to sponsor their stay in the foreign jurisdiction.

According to the investigating officer, Nyawo could fit easily in a foreign jurisdiction, as he was still young and could be able to enrol at any university and continue with his education. It was further his contention that it would be easy for Nyawo to flee the jurisdiction as he was unemployed, without assets, but just a student.   Detective Mazibuko also averred that the accused was likely to interfere with and influence two independent Crown witnesses, who accompanied the police during point-outs. “It is submitted that the applicant’s (Nyawo) release on bail will, therefore, endanger the lives of the witnesses, mostly because he is aware of who was present when they torched the police van. He can easily reach to them directly or indirectly, through those in solidarity with overthrowing the current government,” he argued.   

He implored the court not to release the applicant on bail, as he would allegedly endanger the safety of the public. The investigator pointed out that during the march, the applicant failed to heed orders of the Hhohho Police Operations officer, when he instructed them to disperse and return home. It was alleged by the investigating officer that the applicant was able to threaten to assault a police officer, who was in full uniform, before allegedly setting alight the police van. “So clearly granting him bail will undermine or jeopardise the objectives or the proper functioning of the criminal justice system, inclusive of the bail system,” submitted the law enforcer. He added that the allegation that the applicant was a student at UNESWA did not make him entitled to being granted bail.

He said even though the applicant alleged that he would be sitting an examination, he did not take the court into his confidence by stating the exact date. He highlighted that the applicant and his co-accused were facing charges of terrorism, arising from the civil unrest and that the objective of same was to bring about an unlawful regime change. “The blanket statement is a result of the fact that he was writing no test and that no examination is commencing on February 24, 2024. Such has been alleged to mislead the court,” argued the investigator. The bail application is pending before Judge Nkosinathi Maseko and appearing for the applicant is Noncedo Ndlangamandla. The Crown is represented by Mxolisi Dlamini from the chamber of the director of public prosecutions (DPP).

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