Swazi police hunt down democracy advocates

“I escaped arrest by a hairline,” Swaziland United Democratic Front Project Coordinator, Sikelela Dlamini said this morning. He was feared arrested yesterday, as Swazi police and security forces arrested, detained, beat and assaulted everyone that looked like joining yesterday’s Egypt-inspired march for democracy. Several of the leaders of the democratic movement are still held incommunicado by police, and there have been many reports of police brutality against both demonstrators and detainees.

“Cops raided SUDF office where Mary Da Silva [of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign] and I were relaying info on the march to the world. I had luckily briefly locked myself in the still empty room for a telephone interview with a South African journalist when cops pounced at 1245hrs. Docs and my digital camera (and an empty USB flash drive) were confiscated, however,” Dlamini told me.

His colleague, Mary Da Silva, who was in the same office, was less lucky. “Mary was severely assaulted. She needed medical attention after her release late in the day. Cops are still out looking for both me and Mary, perhaps following whatever they thought of camera photos. We can’t leaveour respective houses and yet we want to be able to get feedback from the streets in order to continue reporting until we get arrested, if it gets to that.”

The march is to continue today, says Sikelele, and until the demands of the demonstrators for revoking the state of emergency, unbanning political parties, discontinuing the ‘Tinkundla’ system that allows the King to control government and land allocation and cancelling the cut-backs, redundancies and pay-freezes have been met, although with the mayhem and mass arrests yesterday, there is understandably some confusion within the ranks of the democratic movement. “The march ought to have continued this morning, but I still await info.”

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