And water cannons were kept close at hand in case the marchers tried to storm the meeting where the king, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was speaking.
The police were protecting the Smart Partnership Dialogue at the Mavuso Trade and Exhibition centre, Manzini, where the king, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was addressing an audience on how they should work to get his kingdom out of its present financial mess.
The protesters wanted to deliver a petition to the king calling for multiparty democracy; the inclusion of politics in the agenda of the smart Partnership Dialogue and the immediate resolution of the fiscal and judicial crisis.
In a farcical scene, a single policeman stopped the marchers as they started out from the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) headquarters. The marchers from the Constituent Assembly included priests from the Swaziland Council of Churches, members of the African United Democratic Party (AUDP) and representatives of the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC).
They were told they could go no further than 100 metres from SNAT HQ.
The protestors did as they were told and halted their march. Even so, a kombi loaded with plain clothed police officers arrived and confirmed the order from the traffic officer, the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom reported.
It said the SNAT Centre was swarming with more than 300 police officers and correctional services officers, some of whom were armed.
Police water cannon and caspir were also parked close by just in case there was need to diffuse the march.
Member of the CA Secretariat Kislon Shongwe told the marchers, ‘This is a peaceful march and the intention is just to deliver a petition to the King.
‘We were of the impression that the King and the Queen Mother were ours too, but the manner in which we are being stopped here suggests otherwise.
‘If we are being stopped now, we want the whole world to know that innocent Swazis who wanted to deliver a petition to their King were stopped by the police. Our constitutional rights to assembly are being undermined.’
Previously, King Mswati III had said the Smart Partnership was open for all Swazis to air their views . . .