Swaziland: Regime cracks down on democracy activists

The deputy president of Swaziland’s People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) Sikhumbuzo Phakathi was arrested on September 6 at the Phongola border post.

The arrest came as Swazi police and soldiers were deporting a delegation of South African activists from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC).

Pudemo president Mario Masuku was detained before the start of a protest march on September 7 to mark the global day for democracy in Swaziland. He was “escorted home” by police to prevent his participation.

The Royal Swaziland police force detained a group of about 40 political activists and journalists at a hotel in Manzini on September 6, as the country’s rulers were celebrating Independence Day.

The activists, about half of whom are South Africans, were in the middle of a meeting planning the next day’s protests when the police invaded. The locals were later released without charge.

The crackdown came as the country’s trade unions started mass strikes to force the Swazi government, an absolute monarchy, to address its demands.

Hundreds of pro-democracy protesters marched in Manzini on September 7, outnumbered by heavily armed security forces.

A banner carried by the marchers pledged unions to “the pursuit of democratic and civil rights”. Unions have been at the forefront of the democracy campaign in a country where political parties are banned.

Mduzi Gina, head of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, said police raided federation headquarters before the march. Gina said they took away international visitors and confiscated signs and pamphlets prepared for the protest.

The crisis in Swaziland is deepening, and so is the resolve of the fighting masses. No amount of arrests and brutal repression will break the resistance building up in the country. This was the observation of the SDC South Africa team that was deported after interrogation by Swazi police and intelligence.

The SDC organised a protest action at the Johannesburg offices of the Swazi Consulate on September 8.

[Abridged from . Lucky Lukhele is spokesperson for the Swaziland Solidarity Network.]