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Sunday, 4 May 2008


Is the Swazi army preparing for war?

This is an obvious question to ask after news emerged yesterday (Saturday 3 May 2008) that the Swaziland Government is to purchase ‘hundreds of guns and millions of ammunition’, as well as ‘security gadgets’.

The Swazi News reported yesterday that a total of E25 million (about 3.5 million US Dollars) is to be spent on the equipment.

The official line is that assault rifles worth E1 million, pistols worth E500,000, bullets worth E14 million and E5 million of ‘security gadgets’ such as mine detectors are needed to protect the eight heads of state and other overseas’ dignities who are expected to attend Swaziland’s 40/40 celebrations in September 2008. (The celebrations are to mark the 40th birthday of King Mswati III and the 40th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence from Britain, both of which occur in 2008).

It only takes a moment to see that the amount of equipment to be purchased is far in excess of that needed to protect ‘dignitaries’ for a couple of days during a double birthday celebration. Why on earth does the army need millions of bullets to protect a small number of people?

And, from whom exactly does the army think it is protecting the dignitaries?

An army would only purchase millions of bullets if it were about to go to war. And whom is Swaziland going to fight? There are no external enemies of Swaziland at the moment, so one can only assume that the bullets will be stockpiled for future use, possibly even to use against Swazis. There are fewer than one million people living in Swaziland so there will be enough bullets to go round, with some left over.

The news of the army purchases comes just as the army started to deploy troops all over Swaziland in what it described as an attempt to cut down on crime in the kingdom and round up illegal items such as guns, weapons, cars and smuggled goods.

There is a heightened level of mistrust in the kingdom at the moment regarding the ruling elite. The deployment of the army against its own people is just one fear. The unconstitutional way in which an Elections and Boundaries Commission was selected to oversee the national election expected in November 2008 has also raised suspicions that the election will not be free and fair.

The Swazi News refused to divulge full details of the arms purchase although it claims to have them. The newspaper said it would not publish details ‘as it’s a national security matter’.

Actually, it is not a security matter; it is a matter of public interest. It is clear to anyone who stops to think for a moment that the amount of weaponry that the army is too much simply for ‘protection of dignities’.

The Swazi government is telling lies about this purchase and the media need to expose those lies now – before it is too late.

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