Swaziland prison warders attacked a journalist in a public street when he took photographs of them travelling in the backs of overcrowded vehicles.
It happened near Kwaluseni. Swazi Observer photographer Lucky Simelane was on his way to cover a job for the newspaper when he saw a convoy of two vans and a truck of officers from His Majesty’s Correctional Services.
The Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (7 February 2018), ‘The correctional services officers who were travelling in an overloaded truck and two vans caught the attention of the public as they were packed like sardines in the truck and vehicles.’
Simelane decided to take photographs.
The newspaper said, ‘While everyone was surprised as to why the two cars had suddenly stopped in the middle of the road about 10 correctional officers from both cars sprang out asking why the journalist was taking pictures.’
The officers started grabbing the camera from the journalist who was still seated inside his car.
The Observer reported, ‘More officers came to the car which was transporting the photojournalist and a reporter. Soon the road turned to a sea of green as officers blocked the vehicle demanding that the photo journalist hand over his camera.
‘Some officers went to the extent of trying to snatch the camera from the journalist however the journalist held on to the camera as it was also strapped around his neck making it hard for the officers to take it.’
The car with the journalists sped off.
His Majesty’s Correctional Services is one of three arms of state security in Swaziland which is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The others are the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) and the Royal Swaziland Police Service (RSPS).
In 2013 a Swaziland police officer pointed a gun in the face of a newspaper photographer to try to force him to destroy pictures he had taken of police beating up a protestor. Walter Dlamini, of the Times Sunday, had taken photos at Gege where police had broken up a peaceful protest march by youth in the area. They were protesting against alleged irregularities at the recent election.
The Times Sunday reported at the time, ‘Dlamini’s only sin was taking pictures of some police officers who were mercilessly beating a protestor, who was only identified by his name Brother next to a police vehicle. The officer pointed a short gun at Dlamini’s face and demanded why he took pictures of the officers who were at work.
‘The intervention of his colleague Mduduzi Magagula saved the day as the officer was informed to stop interfering with the work of journalists. He left in a huff as the reporters told him that the pictures they had taken would not be deleted.’
In an editorial comment, the paper’s companion title, the Times of Swaziland, said, ‘The casual work-a-day savagery of these police officers and their sense of entitlement to brutalising Swazi citizens with impunity goes a long way to explaining why they would attack with teargas and batons what was a peaceful protest march before their intervention; once again proving the police are responsible for much of the violence that erupts during protests.’
Police later apologised.
Police later apologised.
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