Mass demonstrations are expected across the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
But yesterday a court in Swaziland ruled protests by public service unions were illegal, which met with defiant words from workers’ leaders that the marches would go ahead.
Percy Simelane, spokesperson for the Swazi Government, said, ‘We shall deal with all those who will want to defy the law. The Industrial Court stopped any form of protests and we therefore do not expect any protest.’
He told journalists, ‘We can promise them now that those who will attempt to defy the ruling will be dealt with harshly.’
People will not be allowed to walk in groups of three or more, he said.
The Swazi Government has state police and troops at its disposal and will not hesitate to use them. Last year during similar protests teargas and rubber bullets were used against demonstrators.
Security forces also picked up anyone they decided were trouble makers – including innocent bystanders – and drove them into the middle of the bush, kilometres from anywhere, and left them there to find their own way home. They also raided the homes of protest leaders and arrested them.
Troops and police were seen on the streets of Mbabane, the Swazi capital, today and road blocks were set up across the kingdom. Two South African television journalists were detained by police and later released for attempting to cover the protests without the permission of the government.
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