23 October 2018

Swaziland Soldiers Accused of 'Torturing' Farmers Searching for Their Stray Cattle

Photo: : Swazi media
King Mswati III in his suit of diamonds and wearing his U.S.$1.6 million watch cuts his birthday cake (file photo).
opinion

Soldiers in Swaziland / Eswatini have been accused of 'torturing' farmers who crossed the border with South Africa to retrieve their straying cattle.

It is the latest in a long line of reports of soldiers physically abusing innocent civilians.

The latest report involves cattle farmers at Dwalile, which is close to the Malutha Border Post between the two countries.

Residents told the Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland (21 October 2018) they were abused each time they crossed a collapsed fence dividing the two countries to collect their livestock, which often stray into South Africa.

The newspaper reported the farmers said when they are found driving cattle from South Africa the Swaziland soldiers who are members of the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (UEDF) 'would dip them in a nearby swamp' in their clothes.

It added, 'They are also made to do frog jumps, rolled on the ground and some are assaulted and kicked by the soldiers. Most of the abuse lasts for over an hour and had left some of the farmers sick.'

The Observer said complaints have been made to the UEDF and community leaders. 'Some of the people who have suffered brutality at the hands of these uncompromising soldiers have threatened to lay charges against government,' it added.

The newspaper called the Army's behaviour 'torture' and said residents 'had suffered intolerable abuse at the hands of the soldiers'.

UEDF Public Relations Officer Lieutenant Nkosinathi Dlamini told the newspaper the farmers made 'false accusations'.

Reports of Army abuse of civilians are common in Swaziland. In June 2018, three soldiers were charged with assault for burying a man alive after they accused him of stealing a phone from them at Mbekelweni.

In December 2017 soldiers were accused of routinely sexually assaulting women as they crossed border posts with South Africa. The Observer on Saturday reported at the time, 'The army troops have been accused by women of abusing their powers by touching them inappropriately as they lay their hands on their buttocks just to allow to cross either to South Africa or into Swaziland.

'Some women when being searched for illegal goods alleged that they are touched almost everywhere by the male army officers and these informal crossings.'

The newspaper said the inappropriate behaviour took place 'almost every day' around the Ngwenya informal crossing.

In July 2017 soldiers reportedly forced a bus-load of passengers to strip naked after it crossed the Mhlumeni Border Gate into Mozambique. Local media reported it happened all the time.

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom's only independent daily newspaper, reported they were ordered to strip 'stark naked' as part of a 'routine body search'. The newspaper said the passengers had been on vacation in Mozambique.

In June 2017 it was reported women at the informal crossing situated next to the Mananga Border Gate with South Africa were made to remove their underwear so soldiers could inspect their private parts with a mirror. The Swazi Army said it happened all the time.

Soldiers were said to be searching for 'illegal objects' using a mirror similar to that used to inspect the underside of cars.

Once the practice became public knowledge, the Army said it would continue to strip people and if people did not like it they should stop crossing the border.

In September 2015, the Swazi Parliament heard that soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows. Member of Parliament Titus Thwala said that the women were among the local residents who were regularly beaten by soldiers at informal crossing points between Swaziland and South Africa.

The assaults are not confined to border areas. In 2011, a man was reportedly beaten with guns and tortured for three hours by soldiers at Maphiveni who accused him of showing them disrespect. He was ordered to do press ups, frog jumps and told to run across a very busy road and was beaten with guns every time he tried to resist.

In July 2011, three armed soldiers left a man for dead after he tried to help a woman they were beating up. And in a separate incident, a woman was beaten by two soldiers after she tried to stop them talking to her sister.

He said that he did more than 50 press ups and he was beaten with guns every time he asked to rest.

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