Responses to Information Requests

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6 December 2012


Swaziland: Membership cards of the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), including appearance, information contained on the card, expiry date, security features; requirements and process to become a member of PUDEMO and receive a membership card; treatment of members and supporters (2008-Oct. 2012)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Background

According to its website, the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) is a political movement promoting "a constitutional multi-party democracy" (PUDEMO 28 Aug. 2010). Sources report that PUDEMO has been active since the 1980s (ibid; PHW 2012, 1382; Political Parties of the World 2009, 559). Some sources note that the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) is PUDEMO's youth wing (Times of Swaziland 22 Oct. 2012; PHW 2012, 1382).

PUDEMO is officially banned in Swaziland under the Suppression of Terrorism Act (US 24 May 2012, 10, 13; Freedom House 2012; UN 15 Apr. 2011). According to sources, the Act came into effect in 2008 (US 24 May 2012, 10, 13; Freedom House 2012). Two sources note that SWAYOCO was also banned under the Act (US 24 May 2012, 10, 13; UN 15 Apr. 2011).

The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 states that those found associating with groups proscribed by the Act may face prison terms of between 25 years and life (24 May 2012, 10, 13). Country Reports 2011 adds that, according to the country's attorney general, "persons or groups that abet, aid, sympathize with, shelter, or provide logistical support to these organizations invite the 'wrath of the law'" (US 24 May 2012, 13).

2. Membership Cards

PUDEMO issues membership cards (PUDEMO 6 Nov. 2012; Member 30 Oct. 2012). In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, the PUDEMO secretary general stated that the design and security features of membership cards have changed as the movement has grown, explaining that there had been at least five different designs of cards issued over the last 30 years of the movement's existence (PUDEMO 6 Nov. 2012).

2.1 Description of Membership Cards

The Secretary General stated that PUDEMO's flag and emblem are found on the front of membership cards (ibid. 8 Nov. 2012a). Images of PUDEMO's flag and emblem may be found on websites affiliated with the movement (ibid. 28 Aug. 2010; SUDF n.d.). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a current member of PUDEMO in Swaziland, who also previously served as a regional chairman of the organization and as a member of its national executive, described the flag and emblem, stating that the colours of the cards are green, red, yellow, and black (Member 30 Oct. 2012). There is a logo on top of the yellow in the middle of the card that depicts a hand holding a shield with a spear, sorghum and a sugar cane (ibid.). The base is a tree with roots (ibid). The member also added that there is also "a sign of a sun" in the logo and that the words embili mawati are found beneath the tree (ibid.).

Both the Secretary General and the member stated that cards have spaces for a name, a number, the date of issue and the expiry date (ibid.; PUDEMO 8 Nov. 2012a). The Secretary General specified that this information was found on the back of the card, adding that cards also display a date of birth and that they identify the branch and region (ibid.). According to the member, "some" cards also have a space for the signature of the person who issued the card (30 Oct. 2012). However, according to the Secretary General, signatures of both the member and of the chairperson or the secretary of the branch or region are found on the back of cards (PUDEMO 8 Nov. 2012b).

The Secretary General specified that the number on the card is uniquely allocated to a member and is linked to the region of which an individual is a member (ibid.). He subsequently explained that the regional divisions of the movement correspond to the political regions of the country (ibid. 9 Nov. 2012).

The Secretary General stated that individuals join PUDEMO at the branch level (ibid.). The Secretary General explained that "[e]very Member MUST belong to a branch" (ibid). He further explained that "[e]very Branch falls under a particular sub-region and every sub-region falls under a region. There are physical locations, even though there may not be offices" (ibid.).

2.2 Validity of Membership Cards

The PUDEMO secretary general stated that cards must have an expiry date, adding that cards are valid for "at least a period of five years" and must be signed every time they are renewed (ibid. 8 Nov. 2012b). In further correspondence, the Secretary General explained that "[m]embership is supposed to be renewed every year" and that cards may indicate up to five renewal dates (ibid. 9 Nov. 2012).

2.3 Purpose of Membership Cards

The Secretary General stated that membership cards were "very important" (ibid.). He stated that they are used for identity, noting in particular that cards are used for meetings such as congresses and conferences to verify whether individuals are members in good standing (ibid.).

3. Requirements and Process for Membership and Obtaining a Membership Card

Article 3.1 of the PUDEMO constitution states that "[m]embership of PUDEMO shall be open to all Swazi citizens aged 18 years and above regardless of race, colour, sex, religion or social status" (PUDEMO Dec. 2006).

Both the Secretary General and the member indicated that, to receive a membership card, an individual must fill out a membership form (ibid. 9 Nov. 2012; Member 30 Oct. 2012). The member also noted that a membership fee must be paid, but did not provide details on the cost of membership (ibid.). The PUDEMO secretary general added that the membership form and its personal information are kept by PUDEMO (9 Nov. 2012). According to the member, cards are under the control of PUDEMO's national executive, but are issued by the regional-level executive (30 Oct. 2012).

3.1 Lost Cards

The member stated that, if a card is lost, the card-holder needs to report the loss to the regional structure to which he or she belongs and a new card will be issued (30 Oct. 2012). The Secretary General specified that a lost card is replaced by buying a new card (PUDEMO 8 Nov. 2012).

3.2 Verification of Membership

The Secretary General stated that, when provided with relevant details, it is possible for PUDEMO to quickly verify an individual's membership in the movement (ibid. 6 Nov. 2012).

4. Treatment of Members and Supporters

The member emphasized that joining PUDEMO and obtaining membership cards were done "underground," explaining that it was "a criminal offence" to keep membership cards and membership forms (30 Oct. 2012).

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that, in February 2012, the former chief editor of the Swazi Observer, who was fired for having printed interviews with leaders of PUDEMO in his newspaper, had fled to South Africa after reportedly receiving information that police were planning to arrest him under the Suppression of Terrorism Act (27 Feb. 2012). Sources report that police seized material related to the editor from the Swazi Observer's offices (Times of Swaziland 28 Feb. 2012).

Several sources report an activist was arrested in 2010 for wearing a PUDEMO T-shirt (US 24 May 2012, 2; ITUC 2011; The Swazi Observer 8 July 2010). According to sources, a PUDEMO membership card was reportedly found by police after they searched the home of the activist (US 24 May 2012, 2; ITUC 2011; The Swazi Observer 8 July 2010). Sources report the activist later died in custody, with authorities declaring that his death was suicide (US 24 May 2012, 2; ITUC 2011; The Swazi Observer 8 July 2010).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France-Presse. 27 February 2012. "Swazi Editor Flees to SA in Fear of His Life." <> [Accessed 9 Nov. 2012]

Freedom House. 2012. "Swaziland." Freedom in the World 2012. <> [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). 2011. "Swaziland - 2011." Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights. < > [Accessed 29 Oct. 2012]

Member, People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO). 30 October 2012. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate.

People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO). 9 November 2012. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by the Secretary General.

_____. 8 November 2012a. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by the Secretary General.

_____. 8 November 2012b. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by the Secretary General.

_____. 6 November 2012. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by the Secretary General.

_____. 28 August 2010. "About Us." <> [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

_____. December 2006. Constitution: The People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO). PUD No. 2/1983. <> [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

Political Handbook of the World 2012. 2012. "Swaziland," p. 1378-1383. Edited by Tom Lansdorf. Washington, DC: CQ Press.

Political Parties of the World. 2009. 7th ed. Edited by DJ Sagar. London: John Harper Publishing.

The Swazi Observer [Mbanane]. 8 July 2010. Phinda Sihlongonyane. "Sipho Jele Had Links With Lozitha Bombers." <> [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF). N.d. "SUDF Members." <> [Accessed 2 Nov. 2012]

Times of Swaziland [Mbabane]. 28 February 2012. Sibongile Sukati. "Musa Ndlangamandla Flees From Cops to SA." <> [Accessed 9 Nov. 2012]

_____. 22 October 2012. Welcome Dlamini. "Siphasha Kicked Out of PUDEMO Conference." <> [Accessed 2 Nov. 2012]

_____. 6 August 2012. "PUDEMO Claims to Be Behind Strikes." <> [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

United Nations (UN). 15 April 2011. Integrated Regional Information Networks. "Swaziland: NGOs Accused of Being with 'the Enemy'." [Accessed 29 Oct. 2012]

United States (US). 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Swaziland. " Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. <> [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The Canadian High Commission in South Africa and a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response. A researcher and lecturer at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies of the University of London specializing in democratic transition and political change in sub-Saharan Africa could not provide information for this Response. Representatives of the Centre for Human Rights and Development and the Swaziland United Democratic Front did not provide information. Attempts to contact a tutor in political economy at Ruskin College in Oxford who has studied social and political movements in southern Africa were unsuccessful.

Internet sites, including: Action for Southern Africa; Africa News Search; Afrika Kontact; Africa Portal; AllAfrica; Amnesty International; Australia – Refugee Review Tribunal; BBC; The Commonwealth Secretariat; Factiva; Human Rights Watch; International Institute for Justice and Development; Institute of Commonwealth Studies; Institute for Security Studies; Southern Africa Litigation Centre; Swaziland Solidarity Network; Swaziland Vigil; United Kingdom – Home Office; United Nations – Refworld.