Thursday, November 7, 2019

Swaziland soldiers reportedly beat pregnant woman in latest case of assault on innocent civilians

Soldiers in Swaziland (eSwatini) have again been accused of beating and humiliating innocent civilians.

The latest incidents were reported to have happened at Nsubane in the southeast of the kingdom near the border with South Africa. A pregnant woman was slapped and thrown to the ground by two soldiers in one of the incidents, the Times of eSwatini reported on Wednesday (6 November 2019).

It said a 29-year-old woman was walking in the street when she was stopped by a man in civilian clothes who demanded to look her bag. He said he was a soldier and had a right to search her. 

The Times reported she said, ‘He then grabbed the bag but I held on to it. He was trying to pull the bag but I did not loosen my grip. Eventually, he called another man to assist him and before I knew it there were two men wrestling with me over the bag.’

The Times added, ‘She said after the man had thoroughly searched the bag they dropped it down and then slapped her several times.

‘She said they accused her of disrespecting them.

‘She was slapped and kicked several times before the men left her sprawling on the ground.’

The Times said later she went to the Nsubane army camp to report the matter and was again assaulted. ‘She said she was slapped several times and further pulled by the hair.’

In a separate incident also at Nsubane a 36-year-old woman said she was assaulted and dragged on the ground by soldiers. She told the Times a neighbour had told her that her 10-year-old son and younger brother had been taken to the Nsubane army camp. She went to investigate and soldiers told her to leave.

The Times reported, ‘She pleaded with them not to assault her 10-year-old son.’

She told the newspaper, ‘As I was pleading with them they started assaulting me. They slapped me several times and further kicked me all over the body. Another one was hurling all sorts of insults at me.’

She said as she was leaving the camp another soldier stopped her and ordered her to go back inside. ‘Fearing for her life,’ the Times reported, she refused. She said, ‘He grabbed me and dragged me on the ground.’

Police are investigating both incidents.

There is a long history of army assaults on civilians in Swaziland. In March 2019 the High Court ruled the army, known officially as the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (UEDF), should pay E70,000 damages to a man it tortured.

High Court Principal Judge Qinisile Mabuza also criticised the kingdom’s police for not investigating alleged assaults on civilians by members of the army.

The case followed an incident at Vuvulane in the Lubombo region in October 2003 when soldiers attacked Themba Maziya and kicked him with heavy boots, punched him with fists and immersed him in a canal full of water and assaulted him with an electric cable. Soldiers had accused him of stealing an Army vehicle.

The High Court was told Maziya was assaulted all over the body and the head.  As a result he suffered temporary loss of memory, he had scars all over the body and severe trauma.

This was not the only time UEDF forces had been accused of assault. In October 2018 soldiers were said to have tortured farmers who crossed the border with South Africa at Dwalile to retrieve their straying cattle.

Residents told the Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland at the time they were abused each time they crossed a collapsed fence dividing the two countries to collect their livestock, which often strayed into South Africa.

The newspaper reported the farmers said members of the UEDF ‘would dip them in a nearby swamp’ in their clothes.

It added, ‘They are also made to do frog jumps, rolled on the ground and some are assaulted and kicked by the soldiers. Most of the abuse lasts for over an hour and had left some of the farmers sick.’

In a separate case in June 2018 three soldiers were charged with assault for burying a man alive after they accused him of stealing a phone from them at Mbekelweni.

In December 2017 soldiers were accused of routinely sexually assaulting women as they crossed border posts with South Africa. The Observer on Saturday reported at the time, ‘The army troops have been accused by women of abusing their powers by touching them inappropriately as they lay their hands on their buttocks just to allow to cross either to South Africa or into Swaziland. 

‘Some women when being searched for illegal goods alleged that they are touched almost everywhere by the male army officers and these informal crossings.’

The newspaper said the inappropriate behaviour took place ‘almost every day’ around the Ngwenya informal crossing. 

In July 2017 soldiers reportedly forced a bus-load of passengers to strip naked after it crossed the Mhlumeni Border Gate into Mozambique. Local media reported it happened all the time. 

The Times of Swaziland reported they were ordered to strip ‘stark naked’ as part of a ‘routine body search’. The newspaper said the passengers had been on vacation in Mozambique.

In June 2017 it was reported women at the informal crossing situated next to the Mananga Border Gate with South Africa were made to remove their underwear so soldiers could inspect their private parts with a mirror. The Swazi Army said it happened all the time.

Soldiers were said to be searching for ‘illegal objects’ using a mirror similar to that used to inspect the underside of cars.

In September 2015, the Swazi Parliament heard that soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows. Member of Parliament Titus Thwala said that the women were among the local residents who were regularly beaten by soldiers at informal crossing points between Swaziland and South Africa.

See also

Army tortures recruitment cheats 

Army sexual assaults at border posts

Soldiers inspect woman’s private parts

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