Tuesday, May 31, 2011


The Swaziland forces' shoot-to-kill policy continues unabated. Three unarmed South African men were shot dead by Swazi soldiers when they were caught trying to smuggle four cows from Swaziland into the Republic.

They were killed at different spots along the very bushy and dense Sivule borderline, the Times Sunday reported.

Khanya Dlamini, PRO for Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF), told the newspaper that the men were shot because they did not heed to army officers’ instructions not to move. They instead tried to flee. ‘The officers, from the Sivule Army Camp, first identified themselves before ordering them to halt, which is procedural.

‘Normally, when this happens you have to stop whatever you are doing and if you do not, then there’s a chance that you could be shot. This was what happened to the three,’ he said.

Or put another way: the soldiers shot three unarmed men in cold blood. They were not dangerous and they were accused of committing a relatively trivial offence.

The spokesperson said army officers were trained to open fire if a suspect continued to make movements, more especially at night along the borderline, which is a serious danger zone. This is because crime suspects operating along borderlines at night are known to return fire with fire.

Dlamini added that the officers were not about to put themselves in danger because they had no idea whether or not the three men carried weapons of some sort.

Had the men heeded the soldiers’ command, they would have been arrested and taken to the nearest police station. He believes they would be alive today.

Dlamini said the rustlers’ refusal to surrender only led to their sudden death. He emphasised the importance of not making a move if one has been ordered by army officers to stop. Failure to do so was dangerous and could lead to being shot.

Or put another way: the army has a shoot first – ask questions later policy: AKA a shoot-to-kill policy.

This killing is not an isolated incident in Swaziland, where police have been involved in a number of controversial shootings.

Last week it was reported police shot dead a man who was tending his dagga field and then planted a bullet in his underwear.

In October 2010, a suspect was shot six times even though he was handcuffed. Police said he was trying to escape.

In March 2010, police shot a man in cold blood who was trying to surrender to them.

In January 2010, Swazi policeman shot dead a man and critically wounded another when they shot at a car that failed to stop when they instructed.

Also in January 2010, police gunned down three men in cold blood. A man police claimed was shot while running away from them was later found to have bullet wounds in the front of his body.

Swazi police have been criticised for having an unofficial ‘shoot to kill’ policy. They have also been involved in a number of heavy-handed attacks on members of the public, including shooting near school children.

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