A schoolteacher in Swaziland who was waiting for a bus was detained by police because he was carrying a bag with an inscription of a trade union federation on it.
Wandile Ndlela was approached by uniformed police officers at the Satellite Bus Rank in Manzini, the main commercial city in the kingdom, and accused of carrying a bag inscribed with TUCOSWA – the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland.
TUCOSWA was recently deregistered by the Swazi Government after it called for a boycott of national elections due to be held next year. TUCOSWA is not a banned organisation in Swaziland where all political parties are proscribed and King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The Human Rights Centre, Swaziland, said in a statement that police officers led Ndlela to the police post situated at the bus rank where he was briefly detained, before being taken to regional police headquarters in Manzini.
The statement added, ‘There he was interrogated by senior police officers, who wanted to know where he had taken the bag from; and why it had the TUCOSWA inscription.
‘When he tried to ask if he had done anything wrong, they curtly told him that he knew that TUCOSWA was banned by the state, and he should not be carrying the bag. After a lengthy interrogation he was released without any formal charges being laid against him. Before releasing him, the state police recorded his details, his place of residence and place of work and gave him his bag back before warning him never to carry it.’
The Human Rights Centre said the case ‘illustrates the level of police impunity in the violation of fundamental rights’ taking place in Swaziland.
It added, ‘Despite the many cases of police violence and brutality reported almost daily, there is no record of prosecution of any police officer for human rights violations.’