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MBABANE – Political activist Peter Mphandlana Shongwe has revealed the number of times he has been arrested by the police.

Shongwe, a senior member of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), is popularly known  as victim. He said he had already been incarcerated 35 times for political crimes. Speaking during the Commemoration of Human Rights Defenders in Eswatini, he said he had never been found guilty in all the charges. The event, organised by the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC), was held at Hilton Hotel yesterday.
During the event, the SALC honoured deceased political activists like Mario Masuku, Mandla Mkhwanazi, Thulani Rudolph Maseko, Advocate Rudolph Jenson and Leo Gama.

The SALC is a non-profit organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa, which supports human rights lawyers in Southern African countries with expert legal advice, technical support and funding. SALC was founded by Nicole Fritz and she served as director for 10 years. Shongwe took the participants down memory lane where he recalled how he was arrested by the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) in more than 35 instances.
He applauded the late attorney, Leo Gama, for representing in courts with aplomb and professionalism, showing vigour and determination in ensuring and upholding of his fundamental human rights.


“I would like to applaud one of the greatest lawyers, Leo Gama. I never paid a cent to him. This time allows me to remember Leo Gama’s good deeds towards the struggle. I have been in and out of prison for more than 35 times and as we are speaking now, I am currently out on bail,” lamented the political activist. Shongwe revealed that he had been reporting every last Friday of the month. He challenged lawyers to represent clients charged with crimes smacking of political connotations.

He made an example of the late Gama, who frequently visited his incarcerated clients. “I am challenging lawyers to take up some of these cases in this country as we are released partially and actually we are still in jail,” Shongwe said. He added: “I understand how the lawyers are feeling towards the case of the ‘commander’ (referring to self-styled commander of the underground forces, Thabo Kunene). I must say I know it is very challenging and difficult to represent the members of the mass democratic movement (MDM) in these trying times.”

Further, Shongwe said that he didn’t remember a single day when he had to pay a fee to the late Gama, despite the fact that he represented him in almost all the charges preferred against him. “I am not saying that we shouldn’t pay lawyers,; they also need money,” he said. Shongwe applauded organisations like SALC that had always been there for the struggle for liberation. He advised practising lawyers to join the call for political transformation in the country. He pitied the situation in which a person charged with a political crime would not be represented because lawyers were afraid.