Saturday, April 20, 2013


Only days after democracy activists accused Swaziland police of being a personal militia for King Mswati III, police broke up a meeting to discuss forthcoming elections because, in the words of a police spokesperson, they were, ‘having an event when all Swazis were gathered at Siteki to celebrate with His Majesty [on his birthday]’.

The Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) tried to hold a rally in Msunduza Township, Mbabane, on Friday (19 April 2013) at the same time that King Mswati III was holding an E10 million (US$1.1 million) party in another part of the kingdom to celebrate his 45th birthday.

The Swazi Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula had warned SWAYOCO in advance that his officers would stop any attempt at meeting.

In a statement carried by media in Swaziland, the police chief said, ‘As a police service and organ of state responsible for internal security and maintenance of law and order, we wish to state it in no uncertain terms that the political rally planned by SWAYOCO for April 19, 2013 will not be allowed to take place.’

He added, ‘[I]t is unthinkable that an event whose agenda includes sabotaging the forthcoming national elections can be allowed to take place.’

SWAYOCO supporters went ahead with their attempt to meet with residents to discuss with them why they should boycott the national election due later this year. Political parties are not allowed to contest the so-called Tinkhundla election and the parliament that is selected is not independent, but serves the wishes of King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

SWAYOCO is the youth wing of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the best-known opposition group in Swaziland. Both have been branded ‘terrorist’ organisations and banned by King Mswati’s government.

SWAYOCO Secretary General Maxwell Dlamini said, ‘We were able to inform the people about genuine elections. We want a genuine political dialogue that will lead to a lasting solution that will stimulate economic growth. In light of the way the police have been treating our members we will be compelled to lobby the international community not to recognise the Tinkhundla elections.’

Police said two people were arrested at the rally.

Police spokesperson Wendy Hleta told the Swazi News newspaper,  ‘It took us by surprise as to what kind of people were these who were having an event when all Swazis were gathered at Siteki to celebrate with His Majesty.’

There has been increasing criticism of the use of King Mswati’s police and army in Swaziland to stop legitimate protest in the kingdom.

The Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) in a joint statement last week called the police a ‘private militia’ with the sole purpose of serving the Royal regime.

This was after a public meeting to discuss the forthcoming election was banned by police, acting without a court order. Armed police physically stooped people from entering the venue of the meeting, claiming it ‘presented a threat to national security’.

Separately, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported that recently Swaziland police and state security forces had shown ‘increasingly violent and abusive behaviour’ that was leading to the ‘militarization’ of the kingdom.

OSISA told the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia, ‘There are also reliable reports of a general militarization of the country through the deployment of the Swazi army, police and correctional services to clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country’s undemocratic elections.’

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