Swaziland police have threatened a youth rally due to protest against the imprisonment of Swazi democrat Mario Masuku.
The Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) wants to rally on Saturday at Msunduza in the kingdom’s capital Mbabane, but, according to the Times of Swaziland today (25 February 2009), Swaziland’s acting police commissioner Isaac Magagula has said, ‘Should they dare to stage that rally I can assure you that the full extent and weight of the law will take its course.’
In Swaziland when the police talk about the full weight of the ‘law’ they don’t actually mean ‘the law’ they mean the state. This means SWAYOCO supporters can expect police to fire bullets, rubber bullets and tear gas and to use whips and water cannon against them.
When SWAYOCO tried to rally last December for a similar protest supporters were beaten up by police.
The police chief is angry because SWAYOCO is a banned organisation in Swaziland. Last November, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini declared SWAYOCO to be a ‘terrorist’ organisation. This means its members and supporters could be jailed for up to 20 years.
SWAYOCO wants to rally to protest against the jailing of Masuku, the President of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), who was arrested last November and charged with terrorism offences. He has been in jail awaiting trial since then.
Police Commissioner Magagula dismissed SWAYOCO’s concern. According to the Swazi Observer he said Masuku was ‘enjoying his stay in jail’. As a point of principle Masuku has refused to apply for bail and despite ill health has opted to stay in jail pending his eventual appearance in court.
SWAYOCO supporters have been distributing pamphlets advertising the rally. According to the Observer, a newspaper that is in effect owned by King Mswati III, ‘pamphlets contain sensitive demands which cannot be reproduced because they are derogatory to the leadership of the country’.