Prodemocracy activities in Swaziland to mark the 12 April anniversary of the Royal decree that turned the country from a democracy to a kingdom ruled by an autocratic monarch were abandoned at the weekend amid fears that police would attack participants.
The US-based Solidarity Centre reported, ‘Swaziland’s union movement cancelled a planned rally over the weekend after concerns the police would break up the gathering as they have multiple times in the past several weeks. In February and March, large numbers of police disbanded meetings of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), injuring at least one union leader.
‘Two weeks ago, the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) gathered for a prayer service, when a large number of police showed up and sought to disrupt the event, physically injuring the union’s secretary general in the process, according to union leaders. Union members refused to be intimidated and carried on their service, say union leaders, adding that the government is increasingly prohibiting workers from meeting or publicly speaking out.’
Sunday 12 April 2015 marked the 42nd anniversary of the day in 1973 King Sobhuza II told his subjects, ‘I have assumed supreme power in the Kingdom of Swaziland and that all Legislative, Executive and Judicial power is vested in myself.’
He repealed the Swaziland constitution that had been in effect since independence from Great Britain in 1968 and said that any laws in the kingdom could be changed so that they would conform to his decree and any other decrees he might make in the future.
The decree has never been properly repealed, making the state of emergency the longest in African history.
According to the Swaziland United Democratic Front, one of the more vocal opposition groups on Swaziland, ‘The decree criminalised political activity, saw the banning of political parties and the introduction of a system of governance benefitting a few elites and their cronies; all at the expense of the majority of Swazi’s who continue to languish in poverty, underdevelopment and perpetual neglect.’
In recent years the 12 April anniversary has been met with street protests and other demonstrations.
In 2014, police illegally abducted prodemocracy leaders and drove them up to 30 kilometres away, and dumped them to prevent them taking part in a meeting calling for freedom in the kingdom.
Police staged roadblocks on all major roads leading to Swaziland’s main commercial city, Manzini, where protests were to be held. They also physically blocked halls to prevent meetings taking place. Earlier in the day police had announced on state radio that meetings would not be allowed to take place.
In 2012, four days of public protest were planned by trade unions and other prodemocracy organisations. They were brutally suppressed by police and state forces and had to be abandoned.
In 2011, a group using Facebook, called for an uprising to depose the present King, Mswati III. State forces took this call seriously and many prodemocracy leaders were arrested. Police and security forces prevented people from travelling into towns and cities to take part in demonstrations. Again, the protests were abandoned.
SWAZILAND ‘BECOMING MILITARY STATE’