The Swaziland (eSwatini) Acting Prime Minister has told police to halt mass demonstrations expected to protest the police’s action surrounding a suspicious death.
They were due to take place on Friday (21 May 2021) and follow protests on 17 May that ended in violence. Police shot an innocent bystander in the eye with a rubber bullet at point blank range.
Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku cited government rules around the present coronavirus pandemic that bans large gatherings.
In a statement he said, ‘We have asked the police to be vigilant and ensure there are no gatherings that will breach these regulations and expose emaSwati to the dangers of this uncompromising virus.’
Describing the 17 May protests, he said, ‘It is most concerning when a group of unruly people intentionally resort to violent confrontation towards the police and private citizens.’
He added, ‘In upholding the rule of law we implore the police to ensure that all perpetrators of this violence are brought to book to prevent any future incidences that will violate the rule of law and the rights of others.’
The protests are about the circumstances surrounding the death of Thabani Nkomonye, a 25-year-old law student. Police say he was the victim of a car accident on 8 May, but his body was not discovered until 13 May.
There is widespread suspicion in Swaziland that Nkomonye was killed by police.
In a statement the Swaziland Solidarity Network, a group campaigning for democracy in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch, said. ‘Police brutality in the country is endemic. Throughout the years it has claimed many innocent lives. If taking to the streets will lead to a change in attitudes from those in power then Swazis should neither be intimidated nor blackmailed.’
Colani Maseko, President of the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS), one of the groups organising the protests, said, ‘The youth must not listen to anything that will come from the Acting Prime Minister or anyone representing the King’s Government because they just want to disturb the protest and we can’t allow that.’
Swaziland police shoot student in eye during protest unrest