On Wednesday, 10 August 2022, the Royal Eswatini Police reportedly heavily
assaulted and injured activists who had gathered in Msunduza for a protest in
support of two jailed pro-democracy Members of Parliament (MPs) who were
appearing at the High Court in Mbabane.
Nkhululeko Gamedze and Muzi Gwebu, both members of the Swaziland Liberation
Movement (SWALIMO), sustained serious injuries and had to be treated at the
Mbabane Government Hospital. Gamedze’s leg was broken and is now in a cast,
according to SWALIMO spokesperson Thantaza Silolo.
Silolo said: “The police came and attacked the protesters who were mainly
SWALIMO members. They discharged teargas and stun grenades. In the skirmish
they held two members of SWALIMO and beat them up severely, using a taser on
one comrade and also beating him up with batons.”
eSwatini has been in a state of political unrest since May 2021 when one Thabani
Nkomonye died allegedly at the hands of the police. Protestors demanded police
accountability, with many across the country delivering petitions to their MPs
demanding democracy and an accountable government. However, in June 2021
then-acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku issued a decree banning the delivery of
these petitions. Widespread protests would ensue in June and July, leading to
injuries, arrests and deaths. By mid-August 2021, the Foundation for SocioEconomic Justice had tallied over 70 deaths, while the government’s Commission on
Human Rights and Public Administration insisted on only 36.
On 25 July 2021, two members of the House of Assembly, Bacede Mabuza of Hosea
and Mthandeni Dube of Ngwempisi, were arrested for calling for democratic reforms.
They have been denied bail a number of times and remain in jail. A third, Mduduzi
Simelane, fled to neighbouring South Africa. He remains in exile, and a warrant for
his arrest is still out.
The police continue to persecute protesters. On 15 August, they violently dispersed
a crowd in Mbabane that had come out to support Mbongwa Dlamini, president of
the Swaziland National Teachers Union, who the government is accusing of
misconduct. On 7 August, Dlamini warned teachers against going to school as there
were reports that there would be attacks by an organisation called the Swaziland
International Solidarity Forces.
Articles 24 and 25 of the Eswatini Constitution provide for freedom of expression,
assembly and association. The Campaign for Free Expression condemns the attack
on the protesters in Msunduza and calls upon the Eswatini government, especially
the police, to operate within the ambit of international human rights law and the
country’s Constitution to enable its people to exercise their right to free expression.
Board of Directors:
Prof Tawana Kupe, Carol Steinberg, Adriaan Basson, Dr Ismail Mohamed, Anton Harber (Executive Director)
The Campaign for Free Expression (CFE) is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation
dedicated to protecting and expanding the right to free expression for ALL and
enabling EVERYONE to exercise this right to the full, whether it by speaking out, by
protesting, by revealing information, by blowing the whistle on wrong-doing, by
arguing, debating, writing, painting, composing or just by shouting out an opinion.
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