Four pro-democracy activists were arrested in Swaziland on May Day (1 May 2010) because they are ‘unemployed’.
At least that’s the excuse the Swazi state forces gave when they stopped the four from attending a workers’ rally organised by the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions.
Police said they arrested the four before the meeting started because it was a function especially for workers and the speakers were not workers.
Police grabbed the original copy of Sikelela Dlamini’s speech and photocopied it for ‘filing purposes’.
Mphandlana Shongwe is one of the leaders of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign. He says he was subjected to house arrest after police arrested him. He said after being interrogated for two hours, he was taken to his home where he was warned to remain indoors.
He says he was ordered to make a statement in writing, explaining why he attended the Workers’ Day because he was not a worker. He said police also told him that he was not supposed to celebrate with workers because his group, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), was proscribed as a terrorist entity by government.
The four were taken to the Manzini Regional Police Headquarters. A police spokesperson said the four were not charged but were held for questioning.
Police were reported to be on the lookout the rally at the Salesian Sports Ground for anyone seen wearing T-shirts supporting banned organizations or who were heard shouting pro-liberation slogans.
A teenage girl who introduced a drama group by shouting VIVA was whisked away by marshals to safety. The police had wanted to apprehend her. One of the senior officers told the marshals that an offence had been committed.
Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions Secretary General, Mduduzi Gina, received a tip-off that police were planning to arrest him for praising one of the proscribed entities through a VIVA shout.
Plain clothed police confiscated a digital camera belonging to the Swaziland National Union of Teachers (SNAT) and deleted 35 pictures - they were apparently angry that they were being photographed.
Among the deleted pictures were some of police taking the four arrested political activists to a van.