Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) has published this ‘review of 2010’ in the latest edition (Winter 2010) of its quarterly magazine ACTSA News: ‘Focus on Swaziland’.
Throughout 2010 the efforts of progressive forces in Swaziland to campaign for democracy and rights have been met with an increasing brutality.
In January student protests against education funding cuts were met with a heavy handed response. Colleges and the University were shut down, students were detained, and the police were accused of opening fire on protesters and torturing a prisoner who had been detained for taking photos.
On 1 May ‘non-workers’ who attempted to attend a workers day rally were arrested. All were well known activists who had been invited to speak at the event. One rally attendee, Sipho Jele, was detained for wearing a t-shirt promoting the banned political party PUDEMO. He was later found dead in a police cell. Police have claimed that Jele committed suicide, however, an independent forensic pathologist’s report found no signs of suicide.
In September, police raided a meeting of pro democracy supporters in a Manzini hotel, arresting nearly 50 individuals. Foreign nationals in the group were questioned and forcibly deported, and a number of Swazi campaigners were detained and interrogated. Swaziland’s Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini later threatened foreign pro democracy activists who visit the country with torture.
In spite of increased harassment and intimidation, the resolve of pro democracy campaigners in Swaziland has not weakened. In November activists marched through the streets of the capital Mbabane to highlight their calls for democracy and rights and oppose forced evictions and demolitions in a number of suburban communities.