Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference has expressed his concern over the death of a political prisoner in Swaziland.
He wrote: "I was shocked to hear of the death in detention in Swaziland of Sipho Jele on 4 May 2010. He had been arrested for wearing a PUDEMO (Peoples United Democratic Movement) t-shirt during the May Day celebration in Manzini. The authorities are claiming that he committed suicide whilst in custody; however, the family of the deceased together with civil society organisations dispute this.
"This tragedy reminds us of apartheid tactics that were used against those who were challenging the Status Quo in South Africa.
"State repression in Swaziland has increased since the new Constitution (finalised in 2006) maintained and strengthened the status quo and disregarded any input that came from civil society organisations.
"There has been an influx of activists from Swaziland seeking refuge in South Africa this year.
"As President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, I have written to President Zuma to ask the South African government to take part in normalising the situation before it resembles what happened in Zimbabwe. I have asked President Zuma to consider a mediating role to facilitate a climate of dialogue among all stakeholders in Swaziland.
"We as the Bishops of Southern Africa support the call by our brother, Bishop Louis Ncamiso Ndlovu of Manzini, Swaziland for the creation of a climate of dialogue between all parties concerned, including the government. We also support and endorse his call for an independent body to be put in place to hold the inquest into the cause of death of Sipho Jele."