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Tuesday, 19 November 2013

STUDENTS UNDER SIEGE BY ARMED POLICE

Armed police guarded the entrances to examination halls at the University of Swaziland to stop students disrupting exams.

This followed a series of attacks by police, using teargas, on student dormitories. Security forces arrested student leaders and beat them at local police stations.

The police action described in local media as ‘unprecedented’ was a reaction to student protests that the examinations should not go ahead because lecturers at the university had not finished teaching their courses following a series of disruptions during the present semester. The university’s Kwaluseni campus had been closed for part of the semester.

Students failed to get a High Court order to postpone the start of the exams.

Monday (18 November 2013) was the first day of examinations at the university. In the hours before exams started armed police using teargas raided dormitories, searching for leaders of the university’s Student Representative Council (SRC). An unidentified number of students were taken to police stations in the early hours of Monday.

Uniswa Today, an online newspaper, reported SRC Vice President Anthony Mthembu, was taken from his dorm room to Malkerns police station with other students, where they were forced to confess to arson and vandalism at the university.

Uniswa Today reported him saying, ‘They isolated me to a cell with the Station Commander and about seven cops forced me to identify students who set the Info Centre on fire and vandalized the exam rooms.’

He added, ‘They said they wanted names but [I] told them it was dark and couldn’t identify them. One grabbed me by the neck, the other put my head in between his knees and another grabbed me by the arms and twisted them.

‘The remaining ones sjombocked me, from head to toe, while the Station Commander uttered insults which I had long forgotten existed. They said they will beat me to pulp and can even shoot me because I'm pretending to be Jesus and dying for other's sins. They said as Vice President, I should know every student of the university.

‘They asked me once again and I mentioned no names but “the students”. They tortured me again, this lasted for about an hour. They then took me to another room wherein they said I should write a statement in which I narrated the ordeal as in above.’

Mthembu and other students were released at 5.30 am to return back to the university.

Police Public Relations Officer Superintendent Wendy Hleta denied police assaulted Mthembu. The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported her saying, ‘Mthembu was questioned alone because the police wanted to reason with him’.


See also
STUDENTS FLEE ROOMS AS POLICE ATTACK

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