King Mswati’s regime wants me dead: Exiled eSwatini editor Zweli Dlamini says Mpumalanga court case is a ruse

The government of eSwatini has launched a court bid in South Africa to have veteran investigative journalist Zweli Martin Dlamini extradited to Mbabane to face charges including terrorism. Picture: Supplied

The government of eSwatini has launched a court bid in South Africa to have veteran investigative journalist Zweli Martin Dlamini extradited to Mbabane to face charges including terrorism. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 18, 2024


Veteran eSwatini investigative journalist, Zweli Martin Dlamini insists the eSwatini government’s court application to extradite him to face a myriad of charges is a ruse to kidnap and send him back to Mbabane.

“The eSwatini regime is fighting me merely for being the voice of the voiceless and demanding transparency and accountability in the public administration,” Dlamini said speaking to IOL.

The eSwatini government has launched a high court bid in Mpumalanga, to have the South African government extradite the editor of Swaziland News, which the regime led by King Mswati III insists has to answer a plethora of serious charges including terrorism.

In an interview with IOL, an unfazed Dlamini said for a very long time, he has had to fend off multi-pronged efforts by the eSwatini government to shut down his independent publication, in a country where media is heavily controlled by the State.

“The Mpumalanga High Court case is just another strategy to try and fight the publication and apart from that, the regime was hoping that, I will be dragged to court and then after attending court proceedings, I will be traced and assassinated or abducted. The regime is so desperate,” said Dlamini.

eSwatini’s King Mswati III. File Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters

“The issue here is that the King’s regime has been striving by capturing the media to mislead emaSwati and the world, that the current ruling Tinkhundla system is the best, I must say that, the King’s government is one of the most cruel and oppressive in the world.”

The editor said his publication, the Swaziland News, is registered in South Africa “where there is democracy and the rule of law”.

“We will ensure that the media, as an institution that acts as the voice of the voiceless is protected from this oppressive regime,” he said.

“This is regime wants to spread propaganda and mislead the world without being exposed in a country were innocent civilians and human rights defenders are killed for demanding democracy,” said Dlamini.

“In the first attempt, they tried to push for an extradition by following the legal procedures in South Africa and after realising that those efforts were not successful, they are now working with certain senior police officers in South Africa to try and abduct and traffic me to eSwatini.”

Last year, leading eSwatini human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko was brutally shot dead at his home in Mbabane.

At the time of his death, Maseko chaired the Multi-Stakeholders Forum, a collaboration of political parties and civil society groups working to amplify the calls for democratic reforms in eSwatini.

Murdered eSwatini human rights lawyer. File Picture

On Saturday, IOL reported that the eSwatini has filed papers in the High Court in Mpumalanga, in an escalation of efforts to have South Africa extradite Dlamini back to Mbabane to face the myriad of charges.

In an interview with broadcaster Newzroom Afrika, Alpheous Nxumalo, spokesperson for the eSwatini government led by King Mswati III, said Dlamini has a myriad of cases to answer before the courts in eSwatini.

“From the Mpumalanga High Court, the government (of eSwatini) has made an application to bring Zweli to answer on a number of terrorism charges which he has conducted in the past through his terrorism publication called Swazi News,” Nxumalo told the news channel.

“It is him perpetrating, joining, abetting terrorism activities where a number of people in the country, including security officers and innocent people such a chief were ruthlessly murdered,” he said.

Editor of Swaziland News, Zweli Martin Dlamini. File Picture

“Zweli was in the forefront in many aspects. He was not only encouraging the murderous expedition at that time. He was also, through his publication, promising to reward those who are going to carry the merciless murder of emaSwati,” Nxumalo said.

“Secondly, Zweli has made a number of allegations, untested allegations against the authorities in the country, stories which are not factual, stories which are not factual, disingenuous and seditious.”

The eSwatini government also accused the editor of the popular online publication of crimes including “threatening to shoot someone, housebreaking and failure to appear in court”.

However, the Swaziland Solidarity Network which has over the years been at the forefront of leading pro-democracy calls and pickets in South Africa believes the charges against Dlamini are a desperate bid to silence the media and intimidate the editor.

In an interview with IOL, Lucky Lukhele, the spokesperson of the Swaziland Solidarity Network said there is no way Dlamini would receive a fair trial in Mbabane.

The well-known activist said courts in eSwatini “from the chief justice to the lowest magistrate takes instructions from Mswati.

Lukhele said once anyone dares to challenge the monarch led by King Mswati III, as Zweli Dlamini has boldly done, they should sleep with one eye open.

National spokesperson of the Swaziland Solidarity Network, Lucky Lukhele with #NotInMyName president Siyabulela Jentile and secretary general Themba Masango at a pro-democracy picket at eSwatini High Commission in Pretoria. File Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/Independent Media

“My father passed away three years. I cannot travel back home to commiserate with my family. The king wants my head on a platter. When my father died, soldiers and police descended on my community, seeking information on whether I will be coming for the funeral. It will be worse for Zweli if he is to return to Swaziland. He has exposed them so much, and this whole court case is a ploy to ruin him financially,” Lukhele said.

“The court case in Mpumalanga launched by the government of eSwatini is a continuation of intimidation of journalists, media practitioners and activists in Swaziland. The reality of the matter is that because the Swaziland government can no longer control Zweli Dlamini since he relocated to South Africa, they are now using all processes to destroy him. The Swaziland government is doing this to collapse Zweli Dlamini financially, using the bottomless government cookie jar,” he said.

#NotInMyName activists picketing at eSwatini High Commission in Pretoria. File Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/Independent Media

“This case launched in Mpumalanga is intimidation in the extreme. They want to cripple the editor of a loved independent publication and we would like to thank the people helping Zweli,” Lukhele insisted.

“Mswati’s government knows that they will lose this case. They had not anticipated that Zweli would fight this much at this level. The court case was a bid to get Zweli’s address so that they can send down their specialized people to eliminate him, as they did to Thulani Maseko.”