Armed riot police in Swaziland (eSwatini) used teargas and rubber bullets to break up a peaceful gathering called to ‘clean-up’ a township and arrest its leaders.
It happened at KaKhoza in Manzini on Saturday (31 October 2020).
Swati Newsweek, an online newspaper, reported an event organised by the Swaziland People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) was broken up by a battalion of heavily armed officers from the riot police known as the Operational Support Services Unit (OSSU).
Vusi Shongwe, SPLM President confirmed the incident. A number of SPLM members were arrested.
Newsweek reported police had earlier told the SPLM not to go ahead with the event. The campaign had been widely publicised online.
Shongwe told Newsweek, ‘Rubber bullets, teargas, batons were used on the KaKhoza residents and SPLM cadres while conducting the clean-up campaign.’
Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarchy. Political parties are prohibited from taking part in elections and groups advocating for change are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
The SPLM describes itself as movement campaigning for ‘a constitutional multi party democratic Swaziland in our life time’. The SPLM is one of six political groups in Swaziland that last year formed the Political Parties Assembly (PPA) to advocate for change.
There are restrictions on freedom of association and assembly in Swaziland. In a review of 2019, Human Rights Watch reported police continued to restrict gatherings even though the Police Service Act of 2018 limited their powers to prevent gatherings as it required only a ‘notice of gathering’ to be submitted to the relevant local authority, unlike the previous 1963 law that needed the police to issue a license to permit public gatherings. The Public Order Act of 2017, which imposes restrictions on the government’s power to limit freedoms of assembly and association, was also ignored.
Freedom House scored Swaziland 16 out of a possible
100 points in its Freedom in
the World 2019 report. It concluded that Swaziland was ‘not free’.
Swaziland democracy leaders call on absolute monarch to arrange talks for political change
Swaziland police say they raided democracy activists’ homes for ‘state security’ https://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2019/12/swaziland-police-say-they-raided.html
Swaziland police in mass raids on homes of democracy activists, some detained https://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2019/12/swaziland-police-in-mass-raids-on-homes.html