In the week that a radio station in London is set to broadcast a programme claiming Swaziland is an idyllic place for tourists to visit and is one of Africa’s best kept secrets, the UK Government has issued a new alert to visitors on the dangers of visiting the kingdom.
In an update on its travel advice, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warns travellers that they should be alert to ‘terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers’.
As well as the new terrorist development, the FCO continues to warn that motorists ‘should avoid travelling into or out of Swaziland by road at night. There have been numerous incidences of car hijacking on major routes from South Africa and Mozambique’.
It says, ‘Do not use public transport (buses and taxis). Vehicles are, generally, poorly maintained and overloaded.’
It also warns that ‘street crimes and burglaries do occur, sometimes involving violence. There have also been incidents of vehicles being taken at gunpoint. Avoid walking in the downtown areas of Mbabane and Manzini after dark and do not picnic in remote rural areas unless in a large group.
‘Keep valuables in a safe place and avoid carrying large amounts of money or wearing conspicuous jewellery.’
The FCO also warns visitors that the Swazi police will use force to disperse demonstrators. ‘The political situation is stable, but periodically there are organised demonstrations relating to labour and political issues in the Kingdom. Certain political parties have been banned and designated terrorist organisations. We advise visitors to avoid gatherings which, if regarded as unauthorised demonstrations, could be dispersed by the police authorities using a degree of force,’ it says.
For some reason that I can’t explain, the FCO has not caught up with this piece of advice to tourists. ‘While in Swaziland do not dare to speak about the numerous human rights abuses in the kingdom because Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini has said he will have the feet of tourists whipped as punishment.’