Swaziland: Police attack democracy advocates and press

Swaziland’s police and security forces have detained, and probably manhandled, several members of the Swazi democratic movement and several members of the international press even before today’s announced uprising in Swaziland, inspired by similar events in North Africa, has begun.

Amongst those detained were Maxwell Dlamini, President of the Swaziland National Union of Students, and Themba Mazuba, National Organizing Secretary of the Swaziland United Democratic Front. Both were arrested on April 10 together with several other members of the democratic movement at a roadblock in Sidvwashini near Swaziland’s capital Mbabane, coming back from neighboring South Africa, where they had attended a meeting on preparations of today’s demonstrations.

Both are being held incommunicado, even though lawyers representing them have sought relentlessly for them since their abduction. Their mobile phones have been switched of, even though they had agreed to be in constant communication with members of the democratic movement, usually an indication of police misconduct or mistreatment.

April 12, the date chosen for today’s demonstrations by both the “April 12 Swazi Uprising” Facebook campaign inspired by similar Tunisian and Egyptian movements and the broader democratic movement in Swaziland, has immense symbolic value in Swaziland. April 12 1973 was the day that the present King’s father, Sobhuza II, introduced a state of emergency that dissolved parliament and banned all political parties.

Additionally, the more recently introduced 2006 Constitution, which effectively declares all political parties terrorist organisations, and the Suppression of Terrorism Act, which defines terrorism in very sweeping terms, allows the police to detain and charge practically anybody.

And just to ensure that everybody was suitably intimidated, Swaziland’s Prime Minister, Barnabas Dlamini, had warned potential demonstrators beforehand that the regime would deploy all its security forces to “crush protests” and police Commissioner Isaac Magagula, whose police force have raided the homes or arrested and manhandled members of the democratic movement in the days leading up to April 12, had stated that “everyone is a suspect until proven otherwise.”

The behaviour of Swaziland’s security forces and police, today and on many previous occasions where they have violently disrupted peaceful demonstrations, is therefore not surprising. There has been a massive presence of police and security forces throughout the country in the days running up to April 12, patrolling the streets, setting up road blocks and making security checks to ensure that everyone got the message.

The dissatisfaction with the undemocratic regime and the absolute monarch, King Mswati III, who has ruled by decree with increasing disregard for his subjects, has reached a climax in recent months. The mass demonstrations in March, together with today’s demonstration, are unprecedented for Swaziland in their scale and show that ordinary Swazis feel they have nothing to lose anymore.

This is due to the recent economic chaos in Swaziland, that has seen pensions go unpaid, health sector cutbacks, salaries slashed, and public employees fired – all while the King, who lives in a luxury that the two thirds of his subjects who live for under a dollar a day can only dream of, has given himself a rise.

But it is also due to a more long-term dissatisfaction with an all-powerful and undemocratic regime and elite that not only owns most of the land and assets in Swaziland, but also decides where ordinary Swazis may or may not live.

5 Responses to Swaziland: Police attack democracy advocates and press

  1. Dejo Olowu says:

    It doesn’t matter how far or fast the defenders of Swaziland’s obscene monarchy can run. The absolute monarchy in Swaziland is doomed to fail and crumble. Mswati III and his co-brigands in government are short on history: human beings will outlast their oppressors. I stand with the Swazis in this liberation struggle!

  2. Thulani Dvu says:

    Swazis were liberated a long time ago. People from other countries must stop telling swazis how to live their lives. Telling them about democracy when there is no peace in their countries. Swaziland is a peaceful country and we love our king who also love His Nation too. We don’t want to see the chaos that we see in other countries. People please stop being jelous of our peace. We do not want war here. We don’t want to carry heavy loads running from one country to the other. We are one tribe speaking one language. Just imagine in a country of over a million people and only few hundred crazy people say we are oppressed. Just because they are lazy to work and think everything comes as a manner. Its amazing how lies spread like wild fire when the truth is there for everyone to witness. Kings are appointed in Heaven. Only God may permit a King to step down. God is always on our side to fight those who interupt our peace.

    • Nathi says:

      We the people of swaziland are oppressed. We are calling for democracy. Only the Dlaminis are enjoying our tax. Phansi ngetinkhundla phansi.

  3. Dejo Olowu says:

    Swazis were liberated when their democratic Constitution was suspended 38 years ago. Isn’t that your theory? You also mentioned “jealousy” as basis for condemning the brutality of the Swazi regime. Unknown to you, many of us are simply citizens of the world who express concern wherever and whenever there is need. It doesn’t matter where we find injustice and oppression, we will simply lend a hand to the down-trodden. Whether Thulani Dvu is a government agent or not is immaterial. But we know too well that Swaziland has an incredible poverty rate, not to mention its sordid HIV/AIDS prevalence rates that matter not to the absolute king who sits on the realm. You should also be reminded to accept the reality of the twenty-first century: no monarch anywhere in the world can sustain absolutism. Ask the Norwegians, the Swedes, the Tongans, the English, the French, the Buganda, the Oyos, and I can go on all day.
    Sooner or later, I will come back to this posting to remind you that it was my prediction that carried the day.
    King Mswati III’s time is up just as the time was up for Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Fijimori, Bokassa, Mobutu, Abacha, Marcos, Hitler and all those whose names are only remembered in infamy.
    I am glad that you know there are “few hundred crazy people” in Swaziland. Those few hundreds will become the tsunami that will swep away your absolute fiefdom over people created by God in liberty.

    • Mduduzi Kunene says:

      I agree with Thulani they must leave us alone they have their own problems we do’nt want to wonder running around with heavy loads like they always do. Our system works perfectly. We are fine without parties. Everybody has a right to vote in our 55 constituencies why don’t they participate? Even if parties are allowed only parties with sensible swazis will be voted for not these “crazy people”. Please, among them who can be voted for to be the PRESIDENT. This is funny and a joke really. Please leave us alone.

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