The National Union of Students has reported that Maxwell Dlamini, the outgoing Swaziland NUS President and current Secretary General of the Swaziland Youth Congress, was last week detained by the country’s government on charges of sedition. This is a severe charge in Swaziland and entails actions that are considered to be insurgent or rebellious towards governmental authority.Arrests such as Maxwell’s have become all the more frequent in recent years, with student unionists unable to carry out their work free from fear of harassment or detainment from governmental forces and police.
As such, the UK’s NUS has called on students provide nationwide support to Dlamini and have asked students to “urge the Swaziland government to listen to and act on their legitimate calls for democracy and rights for the people of Swaziland.”Support for the NUS’s campaign is already widespread, with calls for Dlamini’s unconditional release with immediate effect, being backed by numerous organisations including the NUS itself, Action for Southern Africa and the Free Maxwell Dlamini Campaign.
The NUS added: “We are also calling that any and all wrongdoings committed by Swaziland’s police forces and security forces towards Maxwell Dlamini and other members of Swaziland’s democratic movement are investigated, and that any perpetrators are brought before a court of law.”
The NUS has asked that the British government put pressure on Swaziland authorities to free Maxwell and has written to Mark Simmonds MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with this request.
In a video replying to the NUS’ actions from the 2013 NUS Conference, Maxwell Dlamini speaks of the struggle that the Swaziland NUS has endured to operate effectively since its formation in 1986. Dlamini recounted that “a number of student activists were forced into exile and some systematically kicked out of their universities.” He states that the support and backing he’s received from a large amount of organisations has given him the “strength and courage to fight even more.”
To support the campaign, the NUS is urging students to sign a petition via the NUS’ website, write to the Swaziland Ambassador, contact their local MP, and send messages of solidarity to Maxwell via [email protected] The NUS will have to gain the backing of more organisations, but with momentum increasing, it is hoped they will be successful.