Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Lawyers want Swaziland PM arrested for breaking coronavirus lockdown regulation

Lawyers in Swaziland (eSwatini) want the Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini and senior ministers arrested for breaking the coronavirus lockdown in the kingdom.

On Wednesday 3 June 2020 the PM and others visted the Mhlambanyatsi Inkhundla for a COVID-19 sensitisation exercise and about 150 people attended. As part of the present lockdown gatherings of more than 20 people are illegal. 

The Law Society of Swaziland Secretary General Thulani Maseko called on the National Commissioner of Police to be impartial and arrest the organisers of the event.

He said the law applied equally to everybody.

‘If the regulation states that a gathering of more than 20 people is prohibited it means just that. There are no exceptions. Whosoever was involved in organising that gathering should be dealt with accordingly. You cannot make a law for others and a different one for yourself,’ he told the eSwatini Observer.

The PM agreed that that more than 20 people gathered and said he was exempted from the regulation because the gathering was to teach people how to cope during the lockdown.

Maseko said the assertion that they were not arrested because of the purpose of the gathering could not be used as an excuse for breaking the law.

‘Everybody has a reason for breaking the law, if we accept that as an excuse, then no one can be arrested as every person can state his own reason,’ he said.

Separately, Law Society Acting President Lucky Howe said the regulation had no exception and the police should hold those who violated the regulation accountable.

Howe said failure to do so would breed anarchy as it is becoming a norm that people at the top were not held accountable.

‘The law should take its course in the similar fashion that they had been doing when it was ordinary people. Government should lead by example. We have had judges shooting people and magistrates hitting their wives now those at the top have violated the law and they have not been held accountable,’ he said.

Howe said it was not for the police to justify the gathering or the violation of the law, that should be left for the judicial officers.

He said that the regulation did not give exceptions. The regulation reads in part, ‘In order to contain the spread of COVID-19, a gathering of more than 20 people is prohibited.’

The regulations permit enforcement officers which may be public health officers, immigration officers, members of the police service, defence force and correctional service to order the persons at the gathering to disperse immediately.

If they refuse, the enforcement officer may take appropriate action which may, subject to the Criminal Procedure Act, include arrest and detention.

In April police arrested four pastors for contravening the same regulation and they were sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with and option fine of E2,000 which they paid.

Section 33 of the regulations states that a person who contravenes a provision of the regulations commits an offense and on conviction is liable to a fine not exceeding E25,000 (US$1,500) or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years.

See also

Swaziland PM, ministers break own regulation on crowds at coronavirus awareness event

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