Friday, November 29, 2013


Swaziland police broke up a screening of a documentary critical of King Mswati III and detained the owner of the studio.

Swazi police, acting without a warrant or court order, broke up the screening of The King and the People at a studio at the Christian Media Centre in Manzini.

The screening had been organised by the Swaziland United Democratic Front, an organisation campaigning for democracy in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

About 50 people had gathered to watch the documentary when police arrived and closed down the screening. They detained the owner of the studio and questioned him for about three hours, according to reports from Swaziland.

The King and the People, made by Simon Bright, is a recently-released documentary that investigates the present situation in Swaziland. It has been shown across the world.

In a preview of the movie, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) said, ‘The film shines a light on a crisis forgotten or misunderstood by many and unravels the reality of the existence, in the 21st century, of a governing system that is based on royal supremacy, greed, power and zero tolerance to fundamental human rights.’

Percy Zvomuya, who reviewed the documentary for OSISA, said, ‘In the movie, there are gritty, frenetic close-up shots of activists on strikes and state thugs beating them up. The grit is placed side by side with the rather drowsy shots of talking heads: an academic, a teacher, an activist and a politician deconstructing the crisis.’

He added, ‘But connecting all of this is a sad story of a country (or half a country?) presided over by an elite that controls the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, business and the media. A scene in which the king is seen having 'consultations' with his subjects gives new meaning to the phrase “bootlicking”.’

The breaking up of the public gathering is not the first of its kind in Swaziland. In April 2013 armed police physically stopped people from entering a public meeting at a restaurant that was called to discuss the undemocratic nature of the impending national election. Police said it ‘presented a threat to national security’.

In March 2013, riot police with batons halted a prayer meeting in Manzini because it had been organised by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), an unregistered organisation in the kingdom. 

In February 2013 about 60 armed police broke up another prayer meeting, this time at the Our Lady of Assumption Catholic cathedral in Manzini.  Police said the prayer was a political meeting, organised to disrupt the election that was later held in September.

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