Sunday, April 1, 2018


The Army in Swaziland will shoot-to-kill suspected rustlers, it has confirmed.

A newspaper in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch said the army had ‘declared war’.

There has been much evidence in past years that the Army – officially known as the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) – the police and game rangers have shoot-to-kill policies against civilians.

The Swazi Observer reported that in the latest move Captain Thembumusa Nsibandze of USDF told a meeting that included representatives of the Swazi Army, the kingdom’s police force and their Mozambican counterparts at Lomahasha on Tuesday (27 March 2018) a spate of cattle rustling incidents had gone too far and ‘they will now be unapologetic as they wipe out the syndicate’. 

The newspaper added, ‘Nsibandze clarified that they were not declaring war with any nation, but were declaring war with criminals, regardless of their nationality.’

It went on, ‘He said as an armed force, they can only use their guns to bring these criminal activities to an end. “If the crime syndicate show no intention of stopping their unlawful activity, we will be forced to shoot-to-kill.”’

Alleged rustlers and poachers in Swaziland have been the target of shoot-to-kill policies for years. In April 2017, Survival International wrote to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, saying Swaziland ‘appears’ to have a shoot-on-sight policy that allows game rangers to kill suspected poachers.

In its letter it said, ‘We say “appears” because usually the policy is not defined by any law, or even written down.  As a consequence, nobody knows when wildlife officers are permitted to use lethal force against them, and it is impossible for dependents to hold to account officers whom they believe to have killed without good reason.’

Stephen Corry, Survival International Director, said the shoot-on-sight policy directly affected people who lived close to game parks and guards often failed to distinguish people hunting for food from commercial poachers.   

It is not only alleged poachers and rustlers who are targeted. In November 2015 soldiers at border between Swaziland and South Africa, near Mankayane ambushed a truck and riddled it with bullets, killing the occupant, because it would not stop when requested. The dead man ‘had his skull and chest split open’, according to a report in the Times of Swaziland at the time.
In October 2015, soldiers put 16 bullets into a man at Gege and killed him because he would not stop his car at a road check. The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported at the time that the soldiers, ‘found themselves with no option but to open fire when a Toyota Tazz bearing foreign registration numbers was smuggled into the kingdom with the occupants failing to stop when ordered to do so’.

It added, ‘A total of 16 bullet wounds were found on the deceased’s body. This incident came less than two weeks or so after soldiers also gunned down another suspected car smuggler near Mshololo not far from Zombodze Emuva. 

In July 2015, it was reported by Titus Thwala a member of the Swazi parliament that Swaziland soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows. They were among the local residents who were regularly beaten by soldiers at informal crossing points between Swaziland and South Africa.

Soldiers have been out of control in the kingdom for a very long time. In January 2010 they were warned by the Swaziland Human Rights and Public Administration Commission that their attacks on civilians amounted to a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy and this was unconstitutional.

In April 2013, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) condemned Swaziland police and state security forces for their ‘increasingly violent and abusive behaviour’ that is leading to the ‘militarization’ of the kingdom.

In a report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia, OSISA said, ‘There are also reliable reports of a general militarization of the country through the deployment of the Swazi army, police and correctional services to clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country’s undemocratic elections.’

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