Swazi security police attacked students at the University of Swaziland campus by driving an armoured troop carrier at speed into a crowd, injuring one so badly her back might be broken.
The assault was the latest violent attack on students by police and security forces dating back a number of years.
The latest happened on Monday night (22 February 2016) at the Kwaluseni campus of the university, known as UNISWA.
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported, ‘a Royal Swaziland Police (RSP) Operational Services Unit (OSSU) casspir drove at high speed into a group of about 2,000 students, who, when they realised that the vehicle was not stopping, ran in all directions.
‘Ayanda Mkhwanazi, (22), a second year B-Ed-Science student, was run over by the RSP vehicle and is fighting for her life at the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital.’
The newspaper added, ‘Mkhwanazi is said to have suffered severe injuries, including a broken spinal cord, fractured ribs and further injuries to the body, face and legs.’
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, named the student as 23-year-old Andile Mkhabela. It reported, “The official police version of events was to the effect that Mkhabela tried to climb on the body of the casspir and fell, thus injuring herself.
‘This was said by Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Khulani Mamba yesterday afternoon.
‘He denied that the casspir could have been used as a weapon by the police and when he was asked if the officers were qualified to rush a person to the hospital instead of waiting for paramedics considering that Mkhabela had spinal injuries, Mamba said they were trained in first aid and acted due to the emergency of the situation.’
The Swaziland National Union of Students (NSUS), in a statement posted on Facebook, named the student as Ayanda Mkhabela. The statement said newspapers had distorted the truth to make the incident look like an accident.
SNUS said, ‘Truth of the matter is approximately 1,000 protesting students at Kwaluseni UNISWA were targeted by the police casspir which sped to disperse them and as their desire hit our very own desperate Ayanda Mkhabela. Upon knocking her down, as expected the casspir switched off lights and she was taken away, fortunately to hospital.’
Students at the university have been protesting and boycotting classes to protest about delays in registration. The university has been closed until further notice.
Police and security forces in Swaziland routinely violently attack students when they engage in protest.
In November 2013, police raided dormitories and dragged students from their rooms. Later they beat up the students at local police stations. Students had wanted the start of examinations postponed. Armed police stood guard outside examination halls as the UNISWA Administration attempted to hold the exams.
In August 2012, two students were shot in the head at close range with rubber bullets, during a dispute about the number of scholarships awarded by the government. Reports from the Centre for Human Rights and Development, Swaziland, said several other students were injured by police batons and kicks.
In February 2012, police fired teargas at students from Swaziland College of Technology (SCOT) who boycotted classes after the Swazi Government did not pay them their allowances.
In November 2011, armed police attacked students at the recently-opened private Limkokwing University. The Swazi Observer said Limkokwing students reported that police ‘attacked them unprovoked as they were not armed’.
The newspaper added, ‘During a visit to the institution about 10 armed officers were found standing guard by the gate’. The Observer said police fired as they tried to disperse the students.
In January 2010, Swaziland Police reportedly fired bullets at protesting university students, injuring two of them. They denied it and said they ‘only’ fired teargas. Students from UNISWA had attempted to march through the kingdom’s capital, Mbabane, to call for an increase in their allowances.
STUDENTS UNDER SIEGE BY ARMED POLICE
POLICE FLEE ROOMS AS POLICE ATTACK
BOYCOTTING STUDENTS CLOSE UNIVERSITY
POLICE SHOOT TWO STUDENTS IN HEAD
ARMED POLICE STOP STUDENTS PROTEST
SWAZILAND STUDENT UNREST SPREADS
STUDENTS UNDER FIRE FROM POLICE
SWAZI STUDENTS BEATEN TO PULP
SWAZILAND POLICE ‘SHOOT STUDENTS’