Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Swaziland’s Police Operational Support Service Unit (OSSU) has bought three armoured vehicles designed to be used against civilian populations.

The RG12 4x4 armoured vehicle is described by manufacturers BAE Systemsas an anti-riot vehicle.’ It can be deployed in both urban and rural settings.

BAE Systems says, ‘A variety of grenades, rifles and other weapons can be employed from inside the vehicle.’

It goes on, ‘In public order policing configuration, up to 12 fully equipped police officers can operate in the fully air-conditioned vehicle for extended periods. There is also ample space for the accommodation of additional police equipment.’

Three of the RG12s have been bought second-hand from a South African company at a cost of E2million each (270,000 US dollars).

The RG12 is in use all over the world including in such well known democracies as the Republic of the Congo, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

The purchase of the vehicles has caused some excitement among the Swazi media where there are concerns that the vehicles were brought into the kingdom without the necessary delivery notes.

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, spectacularly missed the point when it gave a blow-by-blow account of the bureaucratic pathway that needed to be followed to get the vehicles registered in Swaziland.

The question it missed, of course, is what are the armoured vehicles that can deploy a ‘variety of grenades, rifles and other weapons’ to be used for?

In November 2008 King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch’ declared war on his own people when he instructed Barnabas Dlamini, his illegally-appointed prime minister, to crack down on ‘terrorists’. Since then freedom of speech and association have been restricted.

Later this month Mario Masuku, president of the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) is due to stand trial on a terrorism charge and tensions within Swaziland are mounting. If Masuku were to be convicted we should expect some kind of civil unrest.

The purchase of the RG12 vehicles for OSSU follows the purchase in April 2009 by King Mswati for himself and his family of 20 armour plated Mercedes cars which can resist an attack with small arms projectiles, a grenade or other explosive.

In May 2008 it was reported that the Swaziland Army had purchased ‘hundreds of guns and millions of ammunition’, as well as ‘security gadgets.’

As I wrote at the time, ‘an army would only purchase millions of bullets if it were about to go to war. And whom is Swaziland going to fight? There are no external enemies of Swaziland at the moment, so one can only assume that the bullets will be stockpiled for future use, possibly even to use against Swazis. There are fewer than one million people living in Swaziland so there will be enough bullets to go round, with some left over.’

The news of the army purchases came just as the army started to deploy troops all over Swaziland in what it described as an attempt to cut down on crime in the kingdom and round up illegal items such as guns, weapons, cars and smuggled goods.

Only this month (September 2009), police claimed weapons were being stockpiled in an operation to assassinate the country’s influential politicians and other high ranking members of royalty’.

The purchase of the RG12s is just another piece of a plan designed to impress upon the population of Swaziland that resistance to the regime will be met with force.

We have been warned.

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