13 April 2014

Swaziland: Police Abduct Democracy Leaders

Police in Swaziland illegally abducted prodemocracy leaders on Saturday (12 April 2014), 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.

Police 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.

The intended protests were part of the annual 12 April commemorations in Swaziland. On 12 April 1973 King Sobhuza II issued a Royal proclamation dissolving parliament, banning political parties and placing all power in the kingdom in the hands of the monarchy. This was because he disapproved of some of the MPs elected to parliament by his subjects.

Today, King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.

Swazi media reported that trade union leaders including Vincent Ncongwane, the Secretary General of Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA); Quinton Dlamini, President of National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) and Thandokwazi Dludlu, Secretary General of the Public and Private Sector Transport Union (PPSTWU) were separately arrested by police and taken to a series of police stations for questioning. They were denied access to lawyers.

The Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, reported, they were separately taken to up to 30 km away from the planned meeting place and then dumped.

The leaders were among a number of trade unionists reportedly picked up by police for questioning.

Meanwhile, more than 50 workers from textile firms were blocked from a meeting organised by TUCOSWA at a school in Manzini. Police made sure the workers could not meet elsewhere and blocked the gates to Caritas, a popular venue for prodemocracy meetings, in Manzini, Local media also reported armed police were at the Mandlenkhosi Ecumenical House to prevent a meeting taking place there.

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