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Swazi journalist attacked while covering chieftaincy dispute

(MISA-Swaziland/IFEX) - 9 January 2013 - Eugene Dube, a freelance journalist who writes for the state-owned Swazi Observer, is recovering after he was beaten by an angry mob while covering a long-standing chieftaincy dispute.

The Swaziland Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Swaziland) visited Dube after learning about the attack. The journalist suffered injuries on the forehead, right shoulder and elbows.

The incident, Dube said, occurred around 18:30hrs on Friday, 4 January 2013 during a vigil at a homestead in Machobeni, a town in southern Swaziland. Family members had gathered at the homestead in preparation for the funeral of a relative, which was planned for the next morning.

As things happened, Dube accompanied the deputy sheriff of the region, Pat Jele, to the homestead, where Jele was to deliver a subpoena, ordering the family to appear in court first, before proceeding with the funeral.

According to reports in the Times of Swaziland, a privately-owned newspaper, Jele was delivering the subpoena after Thami Thikazi, a representative of Chief Malambule Mduli (who is in charge of an area known as Mbilaneni Umphakatsi), filed to stop the funeral so that a chieftaincy dispute could be settled first. The town of Machobeni falls under the chieftaincy jurisdiction of Mbilaneni Umphakatsi.

Dube says mourners manhandled Jele when he produced the court papers and they became increasingly angry and violent.

The journalist says he began taking photographs when the mob started to attack Jele. When they saw that Dube was taking photographs, the mob turned its attention on him.

Despite trying to escape the attack, Dube says the mob kept catching up with him and beating him with sticks, pelting stones, punching and kicking him while he lay on the ground. Efforts to clarify that he was a journalist were ignored and his camera was damaged in the process.

Both Jele and Dube have since made statements to the police and have received medical attention. According to reports in the Times of Swaziland, six men from Machobeni have been charged over the incident. They are charged with assault and damage to property. The case has been postponed until February 18.

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