Swaziland: Police Block Democracy Meeting


Police stopped a pro-democracy meeting taking place in Swaziland. They said they had not given organisers permission to meet.

It happened on Friday (8 September 2017) during a Global Week of Action for democracy in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III.

About 100 people reportedly intended to meet at the Mater Dolorosa School (MDS) in the kingdom’s capital, Mbabane. The Observer on Saturday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported that ‘proscribed pro-democracy groups’ led by the Swaziland United Democratic Front tried to meet.

In Swaziland groups advocating for multi-party democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

The Observer reported a police spokesperson saying the meeting was unlawful. Superintendent Khulani Mamba told the newspaper the organisers had not sought permission to meet from the police and therefore it was illegal.

Meetings on all topics are routinely banned in Swaziland. In 2013,the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported that 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.’

Again in 2013, after police broke up a meeting to discuss the pending election, the meeting’s joint organisers, the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) said Swaziland no longer had a national police service, but instead had ‘a private militia with no other purpose but to serve the unjust, dictatorial, unSwazi and ungodly, semi-feudal royal Tinkhundla system of misrule’.

In April 2015, a planned rally to mark the anniversary of the royal decree that turned Swaziland from a democracy to a kingdom ruled by an autocratic monarch was abandoned amid fears that police would attack participants. In February of that year In February and March, large numbers of police disbanded meetings of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), injuring at least one union leader.

In 2014, police illegally abducted prodemocracy leaders and drove them up to 30 kilometres away, and dumped them to prevent them taking part in a meeting calling for freedom in the kingdom. Police staged roadblocks on all major roads leading to Swaziland’s main commercial city, Manzini, where protests were to be held. They also physically blocked halls to prevent meetings taking place. Earlier in the day police had announced on state radio that meetings would not be allowed to take place.

In 2012, four days of public protest were planned by trade unions and other prodemocracy organisations. They were brutally suppressed by police and state forces and had to be abandoned.

In 2011, a group using Facebook, called for an uprising to depose the King. State forces took this call seriously and many prodemocracy leaders were arrested. Police and security forces prevented people from travelling into towns and cities to take part in demonstrations. Again, the protests were abandoned.



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