Articles Blog


August 27, 2019

Good afternoon my friends, my name is Thulani Maseko from Swaziland as you have heard. Indeed, my wife and I are humbled and honored to become part of the Oslo Freedom Forum family. As you may know, two years ago I could not attend as I was held in prison by the dictatorship ruling my country, Swaziland. Instead my wife, my lovely wife Tanele who is here present today came here to read a letter I had written while I was in prison. Today, I am out of jail, and stand before you just to say thank you very much for your support. I’m sure that without your support I would have been kept in jail. And to the last day of my sentence I do believe that I was released early because of a sudden change in government. and that there was justice in Swaziland all of a sudden. Instead, I was freed due to the fact that the pressure that you brought to bear on my government broke them down. I must say, though, that being out of jail does not mean that I am free. You might think that the time for kings is over. But I still live under a supreme and absolute monarch is Swaziland. The first time, therefore, I was sent to prison was in 2009. There had been a series of bomb explosions in my country and I explained that this was caused by the absence of freedom of speech and expression in Swaziland. And for these words, for my statements I was arrested for the crime of sedition. In 2014, police stormed into my office with a warrant of arrest signed by the King’s chief justice working together with my government. I spent a month in pre-trial detention and three months of a sham trial. When the verdict came I was sentenced to two years in prison without the option of a fine. It occurred to me that my country had failed me. You know, to be brought in court in lead iron like an animal is shameful. For my wife, my son, my young son, and my friends to be subjected to abuse when they came to visit me was the worst experience. The purpose of all this by my government was to break me down and to break my spirit. So that I could give up on the values that I hold so dear. But I refused to give up. We shall never surrender. For we know there is a price to pay for the truth. I stand here to tell you about abuse of power by my king who is an absolute monarch. I could see how he and his cronies ruled our country. For example, citizens of my country are denied and deprived of their land and property for the king’s purposes. They are evicted and removed from their lands and are rendered homeless and landless. This happens routinely because the king takes what he wants. This is the system which I and others are fighting against. This greed by my king, and thirst for power is destroying my country. More than 60 percent of my people live below the poverty line. A third of them live with HIV and AIDS. Instead of the king addressing those issues he buys himself Bentleys and Maybachs and BMW’s for his fifteen wives, and a dozen of his children. But winds of change brewed in South Africa around 1994. And when I saw Nelson Mandela democratically take over his country was indeed moving and inspiring. I do believe that it is not right for anyone to be able to use supremacy and absolutism to suppress a people. In South Africa it was oppression based on the color of their skin. In my country, it is based on bloodlines. This, in my view – I call it bad system of government. Of course when Mandela struggled and my own brush with the draconian and repressive regime in Swaziland I learned that fighting for rights is something that is not an easy walk in the park. From this I learned perhaps one of life’s best lessons that if you are persistent in what you want, if you insist, you know what you believe in you are likely to get it, no matter how difficult it may be. And no matter how much the price to pay. I do believe that here in Norway we have more than seven major political parties. In my country, to the reverse, we have one political party who is the king’s party, ravaging our country. Our plea, therefore is that we are calling for a constitutional monarch like here in Norway. And others, who is not democracies, who are calling for assisting whether people have the real opportunity and a capacity to form a democratic government. Change is to come peacefully through dialogue and negotiation in Swaziland. I do believe that my people desire democracy and good governance. Yes, I am here to appeal to you for support. We need to bring pressure on the king and his government to open up the doors for dialogue. We need to name and shame this dictatorship. For I know that when I was in prison, and you, people of the world supported and spoke about us and called for our release. The king had to back down. For that he released me, and my co-accused Bheki Makhubu. I believe we can learn from that lesson. And I appeal that today we need targeted pressure on the king. From the media, from democratic governments from companies and business, on the king and his family. We say that Swaziland should not access international markets unless meaningful, peaceful change is achieved. I say to you, my friends our king and his government are destroying and ravaging our country. He needs to be held accountable. And, as Obama says, change can happen. Change, is possible. And until that day when change comes to my country I will be on the road to justice. Thank you very much.

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