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We speak truth to power

 

After Jele’s arrest and interrogation at the Manzini Police Regional Headquarters, Simelane tells us in her report, Sergeant Edward Dlamini and Constable Thulani Mtsetfwa were “assigned to go with the deceased to his home wherein a search was to be conducted.” At Jele’s home, Constable Mtsetfwa is quoted as telling the inquest that “various items were retrieved and these were then handed in before the inquest.”

The CoronerThese items were discovered to be of a seditious nature, hence a second charge was slapped on Jele under the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act. Among the items discovered was a Pudemo card which had expired on 16/01/10. In terms of the law, this means Jele had ceased to be a member of Pudemo in January 2010 but was slapped with a crime of sedition some three and a half months later for such membership.

How non membership of Pudemo becomes a crime in this country remains unclear.

Also handed in for the inquest’s attention was the t-shirt Jele was wearing on the day of his arrest, and another written Gabriel Thandokuhle Mkhumane, Deputy President of Pudemo and bearing a picture of the said Mkhumane; two posters, one bearing a picture and name of Adv. Musa M.J. Dlamini and the other bearing a picture and name of Jack Govender.

We all know that Mkhumane is no longer Deputy President of PUDEMO because he died in 2007 and the other two, Dlamini and Govender, whose pictures were found in Jele’s house died in 2008. On discovery of these items at Jele’s home, the mysterious Methula, who may or may not have been a police officer took the “seditious documents and proceeded with the deceased to the chambers of the DPP for advice on crafting the charges under the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act.”

The DPP was to later testify at the inquest that she was called by a certain Mr Mthembu who, it can be assumed was a police officer, to be told of Jele’s matter. Readers of Simelane’s report are not told who Mthembu really is, what rank he holds in the police force and what his police force number is. Perhaps his identity is hidden from the public because it appears from the report that this is the same man whom Mphandlana Shongwe, also arrested on the same day as Jele, told the inquest “had been swearing at progressive groups and threatening to kill ‘all of you for as long as we live, and you are not going to do what you want and aim to do’”.

This Mthembu fellow, Shongwe told the inquest, seemed to be in charge of operations on the day of Jele’s arrest. His threats, therefore, could not have been taken lightly in view of subsequent events. But, to Simelane, they were neither here nor there. They could well have been a murderous threat with a water pistol.

For purposes of neatness, clarity and logic, let us assume that the DPP is Mumcy Dlamini who officially holds this position in government. Simelane sought to hide the true identity of such an important person in her report by not naming her like all others she sought to protect from culpability over Jele’s death.

In her evidence before the inquest, the DPP states that she received a call from this Mr Mthembu fellow on the 2nd of May informing her about Jele’s arrest and he briefed her on the matters incidental, including the wearing of a Pudemo t-shirt, the search at his home and the finding of material considered seditious.

However, due to her ever busy schedule, the DPP told Mthembu to bring Jele to her office the next day, the 3rd. Indeed, we are told by Simelane that on May 03, “Mthembu brought the suspect, who is the deceased, (and) at around 1pm she arranged with the Supreme Court Registrar to have a judge preside over the deceased’s remand.”

It would appear from the report that it was Mthembu and Methula who took Jele to the DPP’s office on May 03 “for advice on crafting the charges.” Under the guard of two heavyweight police officers and a DPP who wanted to have him convicted of these two very serious crimes, we are not told whether the DPP discussed with the deceased the issue of his being represented by a lawyer during court proceedings.

In fact, given the gravity of the charges, a DPP out to see justice in her jurisdictional function, should have insisted that Jele find a lawyer. Secondly, did the DPP satisfy herself that Jele’s arrest was in order, that the search at his home was legal and that the finding of a membership card that had expired still made Jele, prima facie, a member of Pudemo and therefore a credible suspect to a crime and that being found with t-shirts and pictures of dead friends, acquaintances or such people and other paraphernalia is actually a crime in Swaziland?

Essentially, did the DPP satisfy herself that Jele had a case to answer and his arrest was necessary? Jele’s appearance in the High Court on May 03 was a remand hearing which, when reading the coroner’s report, seems to have been played out as a mere conveyer-belt administrative action rather than an act of judicial inquiry and the execution of the rule of law and maintenance of order.

Evidence of this is found in the report itself where the DPP is quoted as telling the Supreme Court Registrar, who is also not identified, of the importance of remanding Jele on that day. It would appear that on the afternoon of May 03, the Registrar, whom we can assume is Lorraine Hlophe, could not find the duty judge and suggested that Jele be brought to court the next day instead.

Director of Public Prosecutions“The DPP impressed it on the Registrar that it was imperative that he be remanded on that very day (May 3rd) considering that he had been arrested on May 01.”

Clearly the DPP wanted to meet the 48 hour deadline by remanding Jele in order to stay on the right side of the law as an act of self preservation. Jele’s interests, which she was also responsible for, were not a priority to her.

It would be interesting to know why a judge was not available at the High Court during working hours on the afternoon of May 03 2010, a Monday. Had the duty judge, whose identity we are not given, absconded from work? Why did the coroner not ask for an explanation on this? This question is just as important because when Jele eventually arrived at the High Court, the 48 hour detention time without appearing before a court had long elapsed.

In other words, Jele was now in police custody illegally and the DPP knew this. Jele was arrested on the morning of May 01. He only appeared before a judge after 4.30pm on May 03. We know this because the inquest report states that when the clock struck 4.30pm, the DPP, realizing that “the deceased had not been remanded, she then thought that she would need to call the Sidvwashini Correctional Services to ask them to open up and receive the deceased when he is then brought to them.”

This act by the DPP puts beyond dispute that Jele’s rights to a fair trial were already being trampled upon and that the wheels of justice had swung into full action to deny him his rights under the law.

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