The Swaziland police were out for blood during the 12 April protest – and they got what they were looking for.
They ‘behaved like hired mercenaries or drug cartel members’ and abducted ‘innocent citizens for wearing red T-shirts, which are commonly worn by workers during their important gatherings’.
This condemnation came from Innocent Maphalala, editor of the Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland.
Writing in his own newspaper yesterday (24 April 2011), Maphalala reflected on police behaviour earlier this month during what had been billed in advance as the ‘April 12 Swazi Uprising.’
He wrote, ‘The Royal Swaziland Police were out for blood – and they got it. Times of Swaziland lensman Mkhulisi Magongo is actually one of the people who had to be assisted when they started bleeding from injuries sustained during altercations between the police and protestors.
‘Reports are that the altercations were actually a result of the protestors being provoked by the police.
‘The police had apparently been bored on March 18, 2011, when 8 000 workers staged the first protest.
‘On this day, the police had maintained law and order – and only a few incidents of violence of a smaller scale were witnessed.
‘Between April 12 and 13, however, they behaved like hired mercenaries or drug cartel members who just wanted to see blood. The Royal Swaziland Police abducted innocent citizens for wearing red T-shirts, which are commonly worn by workers during their important gatherings.
‘These were illegally driven to distant areas and told to get off the government trucks they had been sorrowfully travelling in, not knowing if they would ever see their families again. The police also beat up people who tried to chant slogans and dance the toyi-toyi.
‘One of the pictures of the man they assaulted at the Manzini Bus Rank shows a group of about…yes, eight of them, surrounding one unarmed man and kicking him while he lay on the ground.
‘If this is not a crime, then we should set free all the killers, car thieves and bank robbers doing time in jail.
‘We should not prosecute any of the men and women who assault their partners.
‘The Swazi Police committed very serious crimes by abducting workers and innocent bystanders who happened to have gone to Manzini, where the protest was to be concentrated, on April 12.
‘They also deserve to be punished for beating them.’
He went on, ‘If the implicated police officers are not prosecuted for these crimes, we might see worse in the next few weeks.
‘I am saying this in the backdrop of reports that, after April 12, Swazi workers have resolved to stage more protests. I am also saying this on the ‘eve’ of Workers Day, which is on May 1.
‘We shall all remember that May 1, 2010 was the last day we all saw Sipho Jele, who was arrested for wearing a T-shirt with a PUDEMO emblazoned across the front of it. Saying sorry to the abducted and assaulted workers and ordinary citizens for what happened last year, as well as to the family of Sipho Jele is not enough.
‘Offending police officers need to be punished, lest they commit more serious crimes against the citizenry. We do not want to start speculating about them committing all these crimes because they were carrying out orders. Who would issue such heinous orders?’