Mvuselelo Mkhabela, a 21-year-old activist of the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS), who escaped from a hospital after being shot and tortured by the police, confirmed that he is safe in a video message released on March 9.
Mvuselelo is only the latest victim of the brutal repression unleashed by security forces of King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, against those who criticize the king. Mvuselelo was shot on February 28 while leading a protest against a government campaign to encourage people to vote in the upcoming parliamentary election, expected to be held in the second half of 2023.
CPS International Secretary Pius Vilakati told Peoples Dispatch that these elections “have nothing to do with the interests of the people of Swaziland.” Only those approved by the king’s local chiefs—who also control the community land —can contest the elections to the parliament of the southern African kingdom, where all political parties have been banned since 1973.
On February 28, Mvuselelo was shot, and then “the police picked me up and threw me in one of the vans they had brought,” he told Peoples Dispatch, while speaking from a hideout. The police tortured Mvuselelo for hours, finally bringing him to the hospital in the afternoon. That evening, a fellow party member snuck into the hospital and helped Mvuselelo escape.
The police remain on the lookout for him. Mvuselelo said that he must soon flee the country. Most political dissidents pursued by the monarchy end up in exile, mostly in South Africa, after going underground. Others have been assassinated or imprisoned on charges of terrorism.