Tuesday, April 14, 2020

More reports of police and army violence against civilians as Swaziland coronavirus lockdown continues

A lawyer was left with broken ribs after soldiers assaulted him, two women were whipped with sticks by police and a man was hospitalised after police beat him about the head with a baton. These are among the latest reports from Swaziland (eSwatini) of violence against civilians by security forces during the present coronavirus lockdown.

Mbabane lawyer Sabelo ‘Mngo’ Mngomezulu said he was assaulted by soldiers and run over by a car. He broke ribs and needed hospital treatment. 

The Times of eSwatini reported soldiers were on patrol near Msunduza Sports Ground in Mbabane on Saturday evening (11 April 2020) making sure people adhered to the lockdown A 20-day partial lockdown of the kingdom started on 27 March 2020 and among other things it prohibits gatherings of more than 20 people.

It reported, ‘The armed security forces are reported to have invaded the sports ground after having received information that there were people who had gathered in the area and were enjoying alcoholic beverages.’

Mngomezulu said he was at the gate of a homestead near the sports ground talking with people when the assault happened. They were fewer than 20 people and they were not drinking alcohol. 

He said, ‘The soldiers, who were on foot, emerged from the corner of the sports ground and started assaulting people without uttering a word. There was a commotion which is when I decided that it was time for me to leave as well.’

The Times added, ‘Elaborating, Mngomezulu said as he attempted to open the passenger door in readiness to board his vehicle, which was being driven by a friend, one of the soldiers kicked him on the back and he lost balance and fell.’ The car accidentally ran over him.

Mngomezulu said, ‘The problem is that the officers never said anything, they just pounced on us in attack mode. If they had engaged us and ordered that we leave the area, we would have complied.’

Traffic police took him to the Mbabane Clinic for medical attention.

Police reportedly whipped two women because they had left their home in the informal settlement Macembeni at Pigg’s Peak on Good Friday. The woman told the Times of eSwatini they had gone to a neighbour to recharge their phones because there was no electricity where they lived.

One of the women told the newspaper a police van stopped beside them as they were walking. She said, ‘While we were still talking to the driver, two police officers alighted from the vehicle carrying sticks.’ She said she was surprised that they were already carrying sticks in the vehicle, adding that they were probably looking for people to beat up.

She said without asking any further questions, the police officers began to whip them. She added her friend tried to shield herself using her hand as the police officer aimed for her upper body.

They were left with bruises on their bodies. They reported the incident to local police.

In a separate earlier incident, Sabelo Ginindza, aged 29, of Hilltop in Mbabane was reportedly assaulted with a baton by a police officer on the right side of his head after he was accused of loitering.

He was admitted to Mbabane Government Hospital for four days after he sustained injuries which left his right ear with a burst eardrum and partially paralysed and he now has difficulty hearing. 

Various reports have been circulating on social media about similar assaults. Last week mainstream newspapers in Swaziland reported an 85-year-old woman collapsed and died when security forces raided her home because they thought she was selling alcohol. 

Armed military police officers also forced members of the public to do press-ups when they were found at a bus rank in Manzini during the coronavirus lockdown.

Some businesses previously claimed they were being asked to pay bribes to police and army in order to remain open.

Police were also reportedly stopping people on the streets of Mbabane and demanding proof of residence.

See also

Swaziland armed police, army intimidate people to obey coronavirus lockdown. Woman, 85, dies

King puts Swaziland into partial lockdown in bid to beat coronavirus. Army and police on standby

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