Swaziland protesters arrested at border post

Sixteen members of the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) in Swaziland were arrested on Thursday morning during a picket at Mananga border post, said Pudemo treasurer Vusi Mnisi. South Africa’s Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) held a simultaneous picket on its side of the border post.

Speaking from a police station in Swaziland where the 16 were being held, Mnisi said that his colleagues had been arrested for carrying “seditious” pamphlets while protesting against the country’s autocratic government.

“I was here to bring food and water to my brothers and I have been told by the station commander that I am also going to be arrested,” he said.

Mnisi said that demonstrators at other border posts were attacked by Swaziland’s “baton-wielding” police who wanted to stop the pickets.

“Before our colleagues were arrested, the picketing was going very well at the Mananga gates. After the arrests, the people got scared and some have already left.”

Mnisi said the party is dissatisfied with the way Swaziland is governed.
It chose Thursday to picket as the anniversary of the date that then King Sobhuza II declared absolute monarchy for Swaziland in 1973, repealing the country’s 1968 constitution.

“He took all executive, judicial and legislative powers and things have remained the same ever since. There is no democracy here,” he said. “No political parties are allowed as it were—we are just an illegal party in the country. The king just rules by himself.”

Cosatu said its members had gathered on the South African side of the border at all five of the border posts with Swaziland—Oshoek, Matsamo, Lavumisa, Mahamba and Mananga.

Cosatu’s Mpumalanga provincial secretary, Norman Mokoena, said the federation wants to help raise the profile of the political crisis in Swaziland.

“Swaziland’s problems have been clouded by the media and the problems in Zimbabwe. We want people to know that the brutalities that are happening in Zimbabwe are also happening in Swaziland. We also want to show solidarity to our brothers and sisters in Swaziland,” he said.

He said Swaziland’s police had intimidated those protesting within Swaziland’s borders but that the Cosatu protests were going well. “We are even being joined by the members of the community as they are also originally from Swaziland,” said Mokoena.

In Johannesburg, Cosatu and the Swaziland Solidarity Network planned a lunchtime protest at Swaziland’s consulate in Braamfontein.—Sapa

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