Police in Swaziland have banned a public debate to discuss the political situation in the kingdom due to take place this afternoon (12 April 2013).
But, organisers say it will go ahead anyway. Local embassies, church leaders, community organisations, the local and international media are among those invited to attend the meeting.
Police banned the meeting under the Public Order Act (1963), even though they did not have a court order.
The public meeting was to mark the 40th anniversary of the Royal Decree made by King Sobhuza II in 1973 that turned Swaziland from a democracy to a kingdom ruled by an autocratic monarchy.
The three civil society activists who were due to speak at the meeting were ordered to attend at police headquarters this morning. They were Sam Mkhombe, a spokesperson for the pro-monarchy political party Sive Siyinqaba; Dr Alvit Dlamini, President of the conservative political party Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNCL) and Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer working in Swaziland.
The Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), the joint organisers of the meeting, said that the Deputy Police Commissioner instructed them that the meeting could not go ahead.
In an open letter to Swaziland Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula they said they were told the meeting ‘presented a threat to national security’.
The organisations say they were also told that King Mswati III’s birthday celebrations next week was ‘under threat’.
They say the Deputy Police Commissioner told them it was the responsibility of the police ‘to defend the country and that our event was not serving the interest of the country’.
In the letter they said, ‘We had planned a small, but peaceful, open debate to discuss the 1973 Royal Decree in Manzini this afternoon. It was not our intention to do anything other than allow ordinary Swazi’s to hear from distinguished Swazi leaders what the significance of the decree is for us as Swazi’s today and how we as Swazi’s can transcend our current political impasse. All we seek is a country that benefits our people and not only His Majesty King Mswati III, his family and their cronies.’
The letters added, ‘On this significant day in the Swazi political calendar the Royal Swazi Police has demonstrated in no uncertain terms that Swaziland remains a state of emergency’.
POLICE THREAT TO DEMOCRACY DEBATE
DEMOCRACY PROTEST TO BE ‘MUTED’
SWAZILAND ‘BECOMING MILITARY STATE’