Above Photo: Communist Party of Swaziland
We, a group of progressive news publications from around the world, stand together against the attacks on New Frame journalists Magnificent Mndebele and Cebelihle Mbuyisa by the government in eSwatini.
On Sunday 4 July 2021, Mndebele and Mbuyisa, who were on assignment in the country were detained, assaulted and tortured by security forces.
They were in eSwatini to report on the pro-democracy protests and the state murder of citizens in this context. While in the country, they were stopped at roadblocks on a number of occasions, threatened and forced to delete material from their phones and camera. They also received threatening messages on Whatsapp.
On the morning of Sunday July 4 while returning from the funeral of Vincent Bhembe, who was allegedly shot by security forces on 30 June and died in hospital the following day, they were threatened at gunpoint, their cameras were seized and they were forced to delete important footage and photographs from the funeral, including interviews with people who had been shot and injured.
They were then taken to a nearby police station where they were interrogated and assaulted with punches and kicks. Plastic bags were placed over their heads to suffocate them. This act, sometimes described as “tubing”, is globally recognised as a form of torture. Following an intervention by their legal team in South Africa and lawyers in eSwatini, they were released and brought to a hospital where they were cared for while they waited for a safe and secure return to South Africa.
New Frame noted that throughout their detention and torture, it was difficult to maintain communication with the journalists as internet connection has been cut off as part of the repressive measures against the mass protests.
We stand with New Frame and Mndebele and Mbuyisa who have taken risks to their personal security and safety in order to break the communication shutdown and tell the stories of those risking their lives to fight an oppressive government. The attacks they suffered are not isolated, and are part of the larger repressive attacks on dissent and democratic freedoms by the government in eSwatini.