The number of Swaziland democracy activists arrested by police this afternoon (Monday 6 September 2010) has been put at up to 50 by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).
Previously the number had been put at ‘more than 30’.
OSISA said in a statement that police broke up ‘a peaceful meeting of pro-democracy activists at the Tum’s George Hotel in Manzini before loading scores of them into police vans and taking them away to the Manzini Regional Police headquarters.
‘While exact details are still unclear, it seems as if up to 50 people have been detained, including Swazi activists and representatives from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), who were in the country to lend their voices to the call for democracy and the protection of human rights.
‘“The authorities in Swaziland have become more and more repressive and intolerant in recent years and this is yet another example of the police acting with impunity and outside the rule of law,” said Sisonke Msimang, Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). “We call on the police to release all these activists immediately.”'
Two of OSISA’s staff are among those detained as is the organisation’s former Swazi Board Member, Musa Hlophe, who is 76 years old and has been campaigning for decades for democracy and human rights in Africa’s last absolute monarchy.
OSISA said the arrests come a day before people in Swaziland and across the world were going to take part in a Global Day of Action to highlight the ongoing abuse of human rights in Swaziland and the fact that King Mswati III still rules by decree.
‘There have been no reports yet of anyone being harmed but the police in Swaziland have been suspected of abusing detainees before. Earlier this year, Sipho Jele, an activist from the opposition People’s United Democratic Movement, was detained by the police and later died in custody,’ OSISA said.
‘It is time that the world understood what kind of regime runs Swaziland. It is a regime that has no respect for human rights, no respect for the rule of law and no respect for democracy,’ said Msimang. ‘It is also time that governments across this region took firm action to make sure that the Swazi authorities abide by SADC principles.’