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Swaziland: Protest Leaders, Journalists Arrested

Union leaders and activists in Swaziland took to the streets of Manzini on Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13 April, 2011, demanding political reform and calling on King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch, to return power to the people.

Riot police fired tear gas at protesters, arrested union leaders and journalists. The Institute for Democracy in Africa (Idasa) has called on Swaziland to avoid “a repeat of crises we have seen in conflict-ridden Libya and Ivory Coast.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on authorities in Swaziland to allow the media to report freely on anti-government protests following the harrasment of ten local and international journalists.

King Mswati III of Swaziland. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson, in public domain.

King Mswati III of Swaziland. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson, in public domain.

Nastasya Tay, a reporter from Eyewitness News, was detained by Swaziland police on Tuesday:

Nastasya Tay, the Eyewitness News reporter detained by Swaziland police during the protests yesterday (12 April 2011) and escorted out of Manzini, has been speaking about media freedom in the kingdom.

Lutfo Dlamini, the Swazi Foreign Minister, had told South African journalists that the media in Swaziland were free to report anything they liked.

Not so, says Tay, who went on to say that people in Swaziland were too scared of the authorities to speak to the media.

Another journalist, Rob Hartgers (@RobHartgers), tweeted about his detention in Manzini on Tuesday April 12:

@RobHartgers: Btw: got detained by police twice today in Manzini, together with other journo's. No freedom of speech in #Swaziland

Two journalists working for Agence France-Presse (AFP) were also detained on Tuesday.

The Swaziland Democracy Campaign and the Swaziland United Democratic Front have released a statement saying that repression will not dent democracy campaign in Swaziland:

The Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) and Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) are outraged at the continuing repression being meted out to those organisations making up the democratic constituency in Swaziland on the second day of their campaign for justice. Reports that leading trade unionists and other activists have been re-arrested, forced underground, subjected to bullying tactics and having their peaceful and completely legitimate meetings disrupted and criminalised. To emphasise on this situation, reports have just been received that a meeting of SNAT is currently being surrounded by armed security personnel, and the likelihood of further attacks is imminent.

A statement from PUDEMO talks about “uncompromising and rough attitude of the state’s security agents”:

*PUDEMO Statement on the workers protest action: issued on 13April 2011*

**

Today members of the trade union movement were unable proceed with their protest action because of the uncompromising and rough attitude of the state’s security agents. As witnessed yesterday, the workers were again targeted harassed and intimidated in the streets of Manzini. Scores of the worker activists were further detained in the notorious Manzini Regional Headquarters. Seemingly almost all the workers who were in the city have experienced detention in the last two days, turning Swaziland into a police state where people are detained for talking to their cell phones or standing and chatting in threes. Again today scores were forcefully prevented from excersing their freedom of movement from their areas to join the protest action.

More union leaders have been arrested, Swaziland Commentary reports:

The Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) offices were raided yesterday at around 12:30 pm by close to 20 police officers and the staff officers of the federation were assaulted.
We report today that; the Deputy Secretary General of the Swaziland Processing and Allied workers union, Comrade Wonder Mkhonta, Comrade Ntombie Langwenya, of Swaziland National Association of Teachers, women’s wing committee and Comrade Moses Buthelezi have been arrested and they are detained in Hlathikhulu Police station.

The coordinator for the Swaziland Democracy Campaign, Mary Pais Da Silva, has also been arrested:

Mary Pais Da Silva, Coordinator of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign, who was arrested yesterday (12 April 2011) while in the middle of a telephone interview with a journalist at South Africa’s Talk Radio 702, was back on air today to talk about what happened next.

She describes the treatment she received at the hands of police officers:

This below is a personal account of the treatment I received at the hands of police officers today:
1. Two male comrades and I were at the SFTU offices where we were sending out information to our international friends on the happenings of the protest action billed for today.

2. At roughly around 1230hrs, an army of male police barged into the offices and whilst I was in the middle of a telephonic, live interview with talk Radio 702 and headed directly to me and began punching and slapping me on my face.

She concludes:

I will not be intimidated by these bullish antics of the government. Bashing me only strengthens my resolve in the role that I play in the democratic movement in Swaziland.

THE GOVERNMENT OF SWAZILAND MUST GO TO HELL AND ON THE WAY THERE, THEY MUST KISS MY BEAUTIFUL BEHIND!!!!

Has Swaziland turned into a police state?:

It is quite something to watch the machinery of the Swazi state swing into action. I don’t think I have ever seen so many cops on the streets in my life (and I lived through apartheid). If you are driving on Swazi roads right now you will get stopped and checked any time you drive anywhere. If you are travelling on a minibus you will also be required to get out of the vehicle and have your bag searched for weapons. However, if you are not in a minibus you will probably get a ticket for some minor infraction on your vehicle. For some reason every offence in Swaziland costs E6o (that is R60 and €6).

Jinty Jacson says that the president of the Swaziland Union of Students, Maxwell Dlamini, is missing:

Maxwell Dlamini, one of the main organisers behind national protests due to begin tomorrow is missing. So are 3 other youth leaders – while another is on the run, fearing for his life.
Dlamini, who is president of the Swaziland National Union of Students (that’s him above addressing the crowd on March 18th calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation) was on his way back from the border last night. He had gone to South Africa to help plan the demonstrations since organisers did not feel safe doing so in Swaziland.
He was last seen at a police roadblock very near our place in Mbabane last night. Amongst the others who have gone missing are the deputy president of the banned PUDEMO youth organisation, SWAYOCO – Sifiso Mabuza, (who told me in March being arrested is part of his job and he is used to it. He said, “We are saying to people of Swaziland they must get ready. They can’t keep getting crushed by police then they go home and keep quiet”.

For more reports, follow “Swaziland April 12 uprising: reports from the ground” from Free Africa Media.

#Swaziland on Twitter, April 13

Benita Levin (@benitalevin) from Johannesburg:

@benitalevin: For the latest on the situation in Manzini in #Swaziland…catch updates from #EWN‘s @NastasyaTay on @702, @947Highveld and @ewnupdates

Brandan Reynolds (@brandanrey) from Cape Town:

@brandanrey: #Swaziland‘s #Democracy movement gains momentum, Brandan Reynolds’ Business Day Cartoon, Wednesday 13 April 2011: http://t.co/RrUeQSw

Elles van Gelder (@ellesinjozi) from Johannesburg:

@ellesinjozi: protests in #Swaziland died but people defiant and ready to make a new plan to go out on the streets a local journo tells me.

Ylva Kronheffer (@ylvakronheffer) from London:

@ylvakronheffer: @ACTSA_UK#Swaziland protesters not giving up.

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