The following is a media release from the Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN] about police tactics at the recent May Day / Workers’ Day celebrations
03 May, 2010
A Most barbaric form of "Dialogue" at May Day Celebrations by State police
Staying true to its new found but rather imaginary self-image of a tolerant and democratic government that is open to dialogue with the country’s opposition, the government of Swaziland had a rather unique sort of dialogue this weekend during the May Day celebrations. In a move which infuriated members of the two organizations who had converged at the Salesian sports ground in Manzini, the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), the police disrupted the celebrations by arresting invited guests and workers and confiscating their recording equipment.
The four invited guests who were taken into the Manzini police station for questioning were: The People’s United Democratic Movement [PUDEMO] activist Mphandlana Shongwe; Swaziland Youth Congress [SWAYOCO] President, Wandile Dludlu; Dr. Sikelela Dlamini, a PUDEMO activist and Marie da Silva who is part of the recently launched Swaziland Democracy Campaign.
The reason given for taking in these four for questioning and disallowing them from taking part in the celebrations was the false statement they are not employed and thus should not participate in a function of workers. Despite the fact that it is untrue that all four are unemployed and cannot fit the definition of the word worker, unemployed people have always participated in May Day celebrations and in fact many of the people present at the event were not employed. The real reason behind what the workers have labelled “a barbaric act by police” is that these four are associated with the Liberation movement [PUDEMO] in the country. They were later released after it was certain that they had missed out of the celebrations. Other workers, however, were detained and charged.
An unidentified man from Ncabaneni was arrested and charged for contravening the controversial Suppression of Terrorism Act by wearing a t-shirt bearing the PUDEMO logo. Another unidentified man was also detained for unknown reasons but was later released without being charged. A teenage girl who was part of a drama group that performed at the event was saved by throngs of workers from the police who wanted to arrest her under the terrorism act as well for merely shouting the words “VIVA” to one of the proscribed entities. While all this was going on, a group of workers from SNAT, the teachers’ organization were taking pictures. This did not go down well with the police who confiscated the camera and only agreed to give it back to its owners after they had deleted all the pictures that showed their barbaric actions.
Despite being infuriated by the fact that their speakers had been barred from the event by the police who were intent on disrupting it, the workers decided to go ahead with the celebrations. It was evident, however, that the spirit of the event was not as jubilant as it otherwise could have been.
As the Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN] we strongly condemns this barbaric behaviour of the Swazi police under the command of King Mswati and call for urgent intervention by SADC into the Swaziland situation before is too late.
Issued by the Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN] South Africa chapter