Swazi democracy activist charged with sedition

A pro-democracy activist in Swaziland appeared in court Wednesday on sedition charges for allegedly distributing material critical of the country's autocratic monarchy.

Wonder Mkhonza, a top organiser for the banned People's United Democratic Movement, is accused of attempting to distribute 5,000 political pamphlets according to a court charge sheet.

Mkhonza, who is also a union leader, was arrested on April 12, the 40th anniversary of a royal decree that turned the mountainous kingdom from a democracy into an absolute monarchy.

The Swaziland Royal Police confirmed they detained Mkhonza in the east of the country. The arrest prevented him from taking part in the day's rallies against King Mswati III.

The king has faced sustained criticism of his autocratic rule, fuelled by high levels of poverty.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Swaziland is one of only two countries in Africa likely to see negative economic growth this year, along with Equatorial Guinea.

Mkhonza's bail request was denied by the Magistrates' Court in Nhlangano.

He was remanded in custody and advised to move an application for his freedom at the High Court, with the case postponed to April 24.