Swazi police stationed in square to arrest demonstrators, prevent pro-democracy protests
12 April 2011
MANZINI, Swaziland - More than 150 Swazi police guarded the square where pro-democracy protesters had planned to demonstrate Tuesday, rounding up and detaining anyone standing in groups.
Outside of the square, uniformed and plainclothes police kept watch on the streets in southern Africa's usually peaceful tiny mountain kingdom. In recent weeks, an online campaign has tried to rally support for Tuesday's protests, which come exactly 38 years after the current Swazi king's father, King Sobhuza II, banned political parties and abandoned the country's constitution.
COSATU, South Africa's biggest trade union federation, said police arrested seven labour leaders Tuesday morning.
This prompted more than 700 teachers to gather at their centre in Manzini, chanting and singing in protest. There was a standoff between teachers and police, who demanded the teachers disperse, said Simantele Mmema, spokeswoman for the Swaziland National Association of Teachers.
Thuli Makama, director of the Swaziland Legal Assistance Center, said police are blocking people and buses from travelling between towns. "It's the whole force," she said. "They are in every corner of the country."
Several reporters for a South African radio station were detained and released Tuesday and prevented from reporting on the protests. News of the reporters' arrests followed a statement by a pro-democracy group in Swaziland that five activists were arrested ahead of planned mass protests.
Observers have reported police putting up road blocks throughout the country in recent days.
An anti-monarchy movement has gained momentum since the government declared a budget crisis and proposed freezing civil service wages. But many Swazis revere the monarchy.