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"I am prepared to stand for the truth, whatever might come."

By Bacede Mabuza I am an elected Member of Parliament (MP) who was elected by the people of Hosea for two parliamentary terms: 2008-2013 and 2018-2023. I am also a businessman who established, built, and managed a vast business enterprise that held interests in retail, real estate, and farming, employing, and providing a livelihood to over 500 emaSwati directly and over 4000 emaSwati indirectly.

This excludes those who were benefiting through the Bacede Foundation and the charity projects I was involved in. Long before the people of my constituency – Hosea, asked me to be their representative, I had established a relatively successful business that was paying me way more than the salary and perks of being an MP.

It accordingly follows, therefore, that my submission to my constituency’s request to be a public representative was motivated not by parliamentary perks but rather by my sincere desire to make a difference to what was clearly an economically depressed and struggling rural community. I am the 16th born child, in a large family of 21 children.

My mother has been a housewife who worked very hard to ensure that we never went to bed on an empty stomach – may the good Lord continue to bless her! My father was a member of the first generation of emaSwati who went to the mines in South Africa as a migrant labourer. My father returned after a few years to pursue subsistence farming of maize meal, livestock, and low-scale farming of cotton. He was a strict disciplinarian who instilled in us the noble values of INTEGRITY, HONESTY, HUMILITY, and HARD WORK.

My father used to narrate to us the injustices that were brought by the arrival of white settler colonialists, resulting in the dispossession of the native emaSwati of their land and livestock. He also shared with us how difficult life was for black mining workers in the mines, including naked racism and discrimination of migrant workers.

My maternal grandmother, who passed away recently; may her wonderful soul Rest in Peace, would equally tell us stories of how peaceful native life was before the arrival of white settler colonialists who reduced indigenous people to foreigners in their own ancestral land. She narrated to us how our region – SHISELWENI, was the mother of modern development in Eswatini, including how it then was a hive of economic activities, including farming.

I am recalling all these childhood stories to enlighten the court about my formative years and what shaped the accused and convicted person before this Honourable Court – MDUDUZI BACEDE MABUZA. It was this background and my sincere desire to make a difference that drove me, and at all material times, to seek to truthfully articulate the mandate of my constituency and the suffering people of my country – ESWATINI, the majority of whom are youth and women.

These two categories constitute the majority of the poor and struggling population in our beautiful Kingdom. During my first tenure in Parliament as a public representative, I noticed that not all was well and sought to peacefully influence changes within the Constitution and prescribed laws of our beautiful country.

This Honourable court will remember that, together with my fellow Honourable MPs, following passionate submissions by emaSwati at eSibayeni on the need for the then administration led by Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini to be relieved of their executive duties, we moved a Vote of No Confidence as the 8th Parliament in line with Section 68, subsection 1(e) of the Constitution.

It was on October 3, 2012, when the then Honourable MP, Thandi Nxumalo, moved the motion of no confidence, which was seconded by the then Honourable MP Enock Dlamini, in terms of Section 68 (1)(e) of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland. That motion was voted in favour by no fewer than 42 MPs, while 6 voted against, with 2 MPs abstaining.

This resounding support of the motion, way above the Constitutionally stipulated threshold of two-thirds majority (39 MPs), was completely and blatantly ignored by the authorities. The decision by the authorities to ignore the Parliamentary resolution represented the lowest point of my tenure in that August House, as we had clear directives from emaSwati, who were aggrieved about the mishandling of public affairs, most contentiously being the handling of the SPTC/MTN debacle by the then administration.

It was this courageous move by the then Members of Parliament, informed by cries from the ordinary people, that made parliamentarians targets of the government of the day. Led by the then Prime Minister, abetted by a clearly biased media, particularly the SIBS. The government launched an unprecedented de- campaign strategy against those who had supported the vote of no confidence motion. I was among the prime targets for slander and character assassination.

The community of Hosea was actively mobilised against me using threats to withhold developmental programs to the area if I were to be retained as the elected Member of Parliament. As a result, my endeavour to return to the 9th Parliament to continue the solid work of holding the executive accountable was derailed, with my campaign to return unsuccessful.

It was during this five-year absence in parliament that I used the time to grow my business and expand to all four corners of our country. It was during this period that I was exposed to the reality that the challenges of Hosea were replicating themselves across the length and breadth of our country. This, together with the endless pleas of the people of Hosea, convinced me to avail myself again to serve as a public representative for my constituency in the 2018 National Elections.

I was duly and overwhelmingly elected by the constituency of Hosea to be once more their representative as a Member of Parliament in the 10th Parliament term of 2018-2023. I would sincerely like to thank the people of Hosea and the country for having given me the opportunity to serve in public office during the past ten years as a Member of Parliament of the 8th and 10th Houses of Parliament.

I have sought to use this service at all material times to advance the interests and welfare of the nation, particularly the rural and urban poor. Serving the nation has taught me lifelong lessons that informed my actions to strive to contribute to the upliftment and development of the people. It was during this term that, together with other Members of Parliament, we raised a number of concerns emanating from emaSwati for the government to consider, only to be met with unprecedented hostility and attacks.

I warned the head of the Executive about the imminent dangers associated with failure to heed the people’s cries, including a possible revolt by the masses of our people. Through my interaction with ordinary people, I could sense the deep anguish, frustration, and desperation for a change of their untenable material conditions. I stand before this honourable court with a clear conscience that I committed no crime, nor did I wrong the people of eSwatini in any way.

My only crime is to serve my constituency, the people of eSwatini, and all sections of society dutifully and faithfully across their political persuasions. It never mattered to me if a Swazi was pro this or anti that; all I concerned myself with was the content and substance of their grievances. I continue to believe that our collective future ought to be constructed in the interest of the many, not a selected few.

Irefused to allow my own privilege in life to blind me to the plight of the majority, who remain unemployed, neglected, poor, and without any hope that tomorrow will be better than today. When I accepted the higher calling, that of being a PUBLIC REPRESENTATIVE, I was alive to the sacrifices it would entail. I accepted that for the NATION TO LIVE, INDIVIDUAL INTEREST MUST DIE!!

Even the most benevolent of governments are made up of people with all the propensities for human failings. Parliament is a very important organ in ensuring that the administrative conduct of government and authorities is subject to the scrutiny of independent directly elected representatives of the people. It is my reasonable expectation that independent courts would seek to strengthen, rather than muzzle, the voices of Members of Parliament.

Unlike the period before the adoption of the Constitution, the adoption of the Constitution in 2005 heralded a new beginning. Our Constitution is fully detailed and amply expressed. After its Preamble, it is divided into nineteen chapters, which explain the roles, duties, and powers of all the institutions in the country. Symbolically, the first chapter is the most important. It is titled ‘The Kingdom and its Constitution’, it contains three sections.

The very first section sets out the values on which the Kingdom of eSwatini, as one, unitary, sovereign, democratic state, is founded. These are the express foundational values of the Kingdom of eSwatini’s constitutional settlement. Chapter 1, Subsection 2(2) of the Constitution says, “The King and iNgwenyama and all citizens of Swaziland have the right and duty at all times to uphold and defend this Constitution”.

I have sought to use my position as a Member of Parliament to influence policy changes in government. Simultaneously, I have used the same to conduct advocacy for reforms outside the four corners of the House of Assembly. Pursuant to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, under the Bill of Rights, I have not shied away from expressing my views about what I perceived as ills bedeviling our society.

This I have done without any fear or favour. Where the development of the indigenous business community was stunted by an unreasonably aggressive taxation approach by Eswatini Revenue Service (ERS), I spoke out. When the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, 2018 (POCA) was abused and weaponised against innocent Swazis, I spoke out. When law enforcement agencies were abused to deny certain members of society the right to be elected as Members of Parliament, I spoke out. When emaSwati students in tertiary institutions of learning were unjustly deprived of scholarships, I spoke out.

When overzealous and trigger-happy game rangers were shooting and killing civilians, I spoke out. When law enforcement officers were extrajudicially killing unarmed innocent citizens, I spoke out. And, when the Regulations put in place to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus were misused to threaten the livelihoods of emaSwati, I spoke out.

These are but a few examples of the extent of my commitment to public service, and my zeal to remain a voice of the voiceless masses that were suffering under the yoke of oppression. History will record that throughout my tenure as a Member of Parliament, I was vocal both inside and outside the House of Assembly. As long as there is unemployment, crime, poverty, inequality, nepotism, violence against women and children, gender inequality, and all things that go to the infliction of a person’s inhumanity to another person, there will be a cause for a person of conviction like me to speak out.

I speak on behalf of the children of the country who do not have anything to eat because the government has failed to deliver food at schools. I speak on behalf of the sick who have no medicine because our country’s public healthcare has collapsed, of those whose rights to life and human dignity have been denied. When some of our colleagues in Parliament dithered and prevaricated in the face of people’s suffering, we couldn’t be blind to the people’s suffering.

It would have been an act of cowardice not to stand on the side of the truth and justice during my lifetime. As a devoted Christian and a man of deep faith, I have always drawn inspiration from leaders and human rights campaigners such as Martin Luther King, JR. When many critics accuse me of being a troublemaker and involving myself in matters that didn’t affect me since I am an MP of Hosea and a man of means.

I would like to explain myself through the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in his letter from Birmingham Jail to a group of eight fellow clergymen from Alabama. In explaining why he was in Birmingham, Dr. King had this to say, “…. I am cognisant of the interrelatedness of all communities…I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in as a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

It never mattered to me if it was Daniel Gamedze’s family, a Swazi mercilessly shot by rangers in Mahlabatsini chiefdom or Thabani Nkomonye’s family, a university student mysteriously killed allegedly by police at Nhlambeni, all I saw was injustice that required my attention as a public representative. Our beautiful Kingdom is endowed with natural resources, fertile soil, good rainfall, beautiful mountains, flora, and fauna.

We have a small population with a high literacy rate, and an easy-to-train workforce. There is no need for us to be poor, and poverty in our country is manufactured by a political and socio- economic system that doesn’t allow a situation wherein the national potential is unleashed for the benefit of all. It would be unjust of me to omit in this address to the honourable court the complete shock I endured when the government responded with such a grotesque manner to the killing of emaSwati and destruction of public and private infrastructure during the June 29, 2021, uprising.

Instead of using such an unprecedented sad occurrence, to self-reflect, the State invented imaginary enemies and subsequently arrested us. The events of June/July 2021 will remain a stubborn dark stain on the conscience of this beautiful nation. Those in authority missed an opportunity to heal and unite the nation and instead opted for vengeance.

Indeed, it is my considered view that they missed an important opportunity to address an adaptive challenge that has accosted this great nation for decades since April 12, 1973. I still believe that the government must be fully elected by the people and not appointed by His Majesty the King. Those remain my enduring political views that no one can change, even if you try to convince me otherwise.

While in jail, I have tried to look at what wrong I might have done. I have never found the reason because I think that the only “crime” I have made in my life was to have different views on the political system of this country. Let me tell the truth. Today I am not ashamed of standing for the truth. It is painful because my people are suffering, my children are suffering and my family is suffering because of my unwavering belief in the truth.

I have been in jail for three years of my life without having committed a crime. I have only called for political reforms and the amendment of the Constitution – a duty imposed upon me by my service to the people of eSwatini. I have called for a new political order whereby our government would be independent from the royal family – a separation from the monarchy. That is allegedly the crime for which I have actually been convicted of, that is, merely advocating for the separation of powers.

Today, I am extremely shocked to be called a terrorist and murderer just because I have called for political and constitutional reforms. But one thing I must ask the nation, is that they must not give up on the call for peaceful political reforms in a constitutional manner. What I am calling for is the freedom of the judiciary and the freedom of eSwatini that will change the lives of our people for the better.

But I cannot lie, it is difficult to be in prison: discriminated against, harassed, beaten up, and victimized in all forms of inhumanity and indignity. It is particularly challenging when I am denied the right to see my family, my lovely children, my lovely wives, my brothers and sisters, and my mother, who is still alive. She’s never been allowed to come and visit me in prison.

Even my children have never been allowed to come and visit me in prison, and neither have my relatives and friends been allowed to visit me in prison. I have been assaulted and victimized, but even though this has happened to me, I still believe our country needs political reforms, where people will be treated respectfully, have equal job opportunities in all sectors of government and where there will be no one without work. This is why I plead for her Ladyship to be lenient in whatever she decides to do with my case.

Because what I am doing was and is not all about me. It is about our life in eSwatini and the future generations of this country. I plead for her Ladyship to understand that this was all I was doing. It was all I was calling for. It was not all about my personal life, or for my personal benefit. But it was all about this country, the love of the country and the people of this nation. I did this when representing the people who had sent me to represent them in parliament. I never woke up in the morning, just as an ordinary Swazi citizen, calling for reforms.

I did something that was within my rights of employment to represent the people and their interests. Surprisingly, when I worked in Parliament, we had structures of internal discipline. I was not expecting to be charged and convicted when there were internal remedies that ought to have been exhausted first. I have always adhered to the doctrine of the separation of powers and should have strictly fallen within the purview of Parliament to deal with.

I plead with the above Honourable Court to be reflective and reasonable during sentencing, so that the other honourable MPs, who are representing the people, will feel free to speak without fear or favour and feel empowered to criticise the government for the benefit of the people of this country. I can accept that if the sentence is hard on us, other honourable MPs will never stand for the truth as they will always be afraid that they might be arrested.

Indeed, a harsh sentence by this honourable court would induce a chilling effect, not only on the current MPs but also future ones. But I see the change. I am happy because the people of eSwatini, in the recent Sibaya which was called by His Majesty the King, used their voices to call for some reforms to the system and also called for our release. The emaSwati understand we never committed any crime against anyone in this country.

My Lady, my last request is that, in making your decision, you not only consider my life but also think of my family, my children, and my relatives, who were being supported by me and who are now suffering without their father and breadwinner. It is with this painful yet noble appreciation that I would like to sincerely express my deep gratitude to my legal team, that has given its best under very trying and at times openly hostile conditions. A special appreciation goes to our Senior Counsel, Advocate JLCJ Van Vuuren, SC.

I would also like to extend my thanks, posthumously, to our former attorney Mr. Thulani Rudolf Maseko, who was brutally assassinated. Mr. Maseko, though no longer on official brief, continued to provide us with valuable legal and moral support. He remained an Ambassador of our noble peaceful cause until his last breath. I further extend my gratitude to my family, the lovely people of Hosea, all fellow emaSwati, and the people of the world who continue to stand with us during this ongoing ordeal – SIYABONGA!

Last but not least, I want to thank my beautiful wives, my loving mother, and my ever-supportive children, who have with heartwarming fidelity, remained a pillar of support for me. They have suffered the most in this whole ordeal, and I do not have befitting words to express my gratitude boMshengu. Nkulunkulu wemusa utangibongela kancono. During this hour of adversity in my life, I am neither despondent nor bitter.

I stand encouraged by the immortal words of Nelson Mandela in 1962, uttered at the Old Synagogue in Pretoria on the occasion of his mitigation of sentence for allegedly inciting workers to strike: “To men, freedom in their own land is the pinnacle of their ambitions, from which nothing can turn men of conviction aside.”