22 September 2018

Swaziland Police Fire Gunshots, Set Off Grenades and Rubber Bullets As Voters Protest During Election

Photo: Swazi Media Commentary
Protesters burn tyres in the commercial city of Manzini during pre-election demonstrations against poor pay and working conditions.

Police fired gunshots in the air and grenades and rubber bullets during Swaziland's election as voters protested against completed ballot papers being taken away from a polling centre.

It happened late on Friday (21 September 2018) after voting had ended in the kingdom's national election.

It was the third time in a week that police violently attacked people making legitimate protests in the kingdom recently renamed Eswatini by absolute monarch King Mswati III.

The latest violence was at Sigwe inkhundla. The Observer on Saturday newspaper reported police fired 'several gunshots in the air' to disperse a crowd.

It added police denied firing gunshots but admitted to firing rubber bullets and what spokesperson Superintendent Phindile Vilakati reportedly called 'hand grenades'.

The Observer on Saturday reported, 'Last night's skirmish reportedly led to several people injured, with one supposedly had a rubber bullet "riddling" his chin and had to be rushed to hospital in a critical state as he was bleeding profusely.'

It added the Operation Support Service Unit (OSSU) was called. The scene then became 'a battleground'.

The newspaper said the trouble started after voting finished at the Lulakeni chiefdom and a group did not want the ballot boxes taken from the hall to Lulakeni High School for counting. They forced gates to be locked.

The newspaper reported spokesperson Superintendent Phindile Vilakati saying, 'I have been informed about the violence which led to the police using hand grenades.' The newspaper did not comment on this, but it is assumed she meant stun grenades.

There was tension across Swaziland in the days leading to the election as workers headed by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) took to the streets in support of a pay claim. Police were videoed viciously attacking unarmed fleeing demonstrators in Manzini.

The city was also described as a 'warzone' when police turned stun grenades, teargas, teasers and rubber bullets on protestors.

There was tension across Swaziland during election day. In the kingdom political parties are banned from taking part in the election. People are only allowed to elect 59 members of the House of Assembly; another 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people.

King Mswati chooses the Prime Minister and Cabinet members. He also chooses top civil servants and judges.

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