Swaziland state forces have broken up a peaceful church service intended to mourn the death of Nelson Mandela after its organisers pledged to honour Madiba by fighting for democracy in the kingdom.
The Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) called the prayer meeting at Manzini, the kingdom's main commercial city, for Friday afternoon (13 December 2013), but police prevented the memorial taking place.
Prior to the service, SUDF issued a statement, which read in part, 'In honor of Madiba's legacy we pledge to do our best in hastening up our struggle for democracy in Swaziland and help ensure another human victory against black to black domination for which Madiba fought fearlessly against his whole life.'
SUDF is one of a number of organisations campaigning for democracy in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, where all political parties are banned from taking part in elections.
Another prodemocracy organisation, the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), in a statement said, 'The Swazi regime continues to show its intolerance for anything resembling democracy by forcing a halt of a Mandela memorial in Swaziland.'
It said, 'Swaziland has proven yet again to be the skunk of the world by breaking up a peaceful memorial service to honour Mandela.'
Most political meetings are banned in Swaziland. Police, often working without a court order or warrant, break up gatherings, including prayer meetings, claiming national security threats.
PUDEMO said, 'Let the world condemn the wanton disrespect to the memory of Nelson Mandela by the Swazi regime in breaking up a peaceful memorial service.'
According to a statement made by Wandile Dludlu from the SUDF, there is a clear connection between Mandela's fight for democracy and justice and that of the democratic movement in Swaziland. 'We love you Mandela and pledge to honour you by hastening our victory for democracy in Swaziland.'
This was not the first time police have attacked meetings organised by SUDF. Last month (November 2013), police raided a studio at the Christian Media Centre in Manzini and closed down the screening of the internationally-acclaimed film The King and the People, which criticises King Mswati III and was organised by SUDF.