Another eyewitness has described how Swaziland police harassed and assaulted pro-democracy activists during this week’s freedom demonstrations.
Christine Olivier, deputy president of South Africa’s National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa), told how she and other non-Swazis were deported from Swaziland after they entered the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and attended a meeting to support the Global Day of Action for democracy in Swaziland.
‘We were deported on the basis that we entered the country illegally and we want to disrupt peace,’ she told a press conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.
They were rounded up on Monday (6 September 2010) while meeting to be briefed on a march.
Olivier said Swazi police asked local union leaders to identify the foreigners at the meeting, and when they refused, herded everyone into police vans and took them to a police station in Mbabane.
‘We were made to write statements that we were not arrested, but being questioned for being illegally in the country,’ she said.
‘We were humiliated and if they felt that your statement is not the one they wanted, they made you rewrite it.’
She said a delegation of 33 members, six from Numsa and 27 from the SA Municipal Workers’ Union went to Swaziland for the pro-democracy campaign.
‘Two of our members were assaulted on Tuesday evening, while being taken to the border,’ the South African Press Association reports her saying.
‘We were handled in an inappropriate manner. For once, we experienced the brutality of the Swazi police.’
She said about 10 police officers escorted her to a hotel in Manzini to collect her bags.
‘It was scary, at one stage I was not sure whether I will be taken to the border,’ she said, adding that by expelling foreign nationals Swaziland's government wanted to spread fear among the locals.
‘Our telephones were bugged on Monday, even today [Wednesday 8 September 2010] our numbers have been blocked. We are unable to speak to comrades in Swaziland.’
Olivier’s eyewitness testimony follows that of Peter Kenworthy of Africa Contact, Denmark, who reported this week that he was detained by Swazi police, assaulted told he would ‘never return to your country. You will die here’.