Percy Simelane, the government’s official spokesperson, said the US was ‘very, very, very, very ill-informed’.
Simelane was reacting to a statement from the US Embassy in Swaziland which said, ‘We urge the Swazi government to take the necessary steps to ensure the promotion and protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Swazi citizens as outlined in the Swazi constitution, including freedom of conscience, of expression, of peaceful assembly and association, and of movement.’
The statement went on, ‘The United States government is deeply concerned about increasing infringements on freedom of assembly, as evidenced by the recent actions taken by Swazi security forces to prevent peaceful citizens from gathering for a prayer meeting on Saturday, April 14 in Manzini as well reports of those same forces preventing people from gathering in groups of more than two people in Manzini and Mbabane on April 11 and 12.’
The US Embassy also voiced concern at the deregistration of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), a new umbrella body for labour unions.
Simelane reacted bitterly to the US statement. He told the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the Swazi King Mswati III, who is also the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, that the Americans seemed ill-informed on the matter and other issues taking place in the kingdom.
‘America is very, very, very, very ill-informed. One would have expected them to do a better job than what they have done on researching on the matter,’ he said.
Simelane said there were no restrictions in Swaziland. ‘There is no one who has been silenced. We are such an open country and to prove that, in 1996 we allowed a lengthy strike by workers and to me that is a sign that freedom is respected in the country. I repeat, Americans have been ill-informed on the matter.’
COPS BAN PRAYERS, ARREST ACTIVISTS
STATE CRUSHES DEMOCRACY PROTEST