The Swaziland (eSwatini) Army has started an investigation after video that appeared to show two soldiers whipping two civilians circulated widely on social media.
The 30-second video shows two men laying on the ground while one is whipped with what appears to be a branch of a tree. It is reported the assault went on for several minutes.
There is some confusion as to the role soldiers took. In some accounts the two men doing the whipping are soldiers and in others it is said soldiers who are not seen on the video but whose voices are heard were the soldiers.
According to a later report in the Times of eSwatini the incident is believed to have happened in an area near Matsamo on Saturday (26 September 2020), close to the border with South Africa.
The video also shows piles of South African banknotes in front of the two victims.
The Independent News, eSwatini, reported the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (the official name of the Army) had started an investigation. A spokesperson said, 'The defence force has since launched meticulous, internal investigations to determine the veracity of the clip.'
The News reported an unnamed male soldier saying that the defence force did not work like the police who opened charges against suspects. 'As soldiers they just deal with you on the scene and set you free once you finish your punishment,' the newspaper reported.
Soldiers in Swaziland have a long history of assaults on civilians, especially in border regions. In November 2019 a pregnant woman was slapped and thrown to the ground by two soldiers at Nsubane in the southeast of the kingdom. When she went to the army barracks to report the matter she was assaulted again.
In March 2019 the High Court ruled the army should pay E70,000 damages to a man it tortured. High Court Principal Judge Qinisile Mabuza also criticised the kingdom's police for not investigating alleged assaults on civilians by members of the army.
In October 2018 soldiers were said to have tortured farmers who crossed the border at Dwalile to retrieve their straying cattle.
In a separate case 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.
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.
In June 2017 it was reported women at the informal crossing situated next to the Mananga Border Gate 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.
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.