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By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact
While yesterday’s reports of Swazi police killing two demonstrators in Swaziland’s industrial centre, Manzini, have not been confirmed, this does not make the crimes of the Swazi police any less severe.
One death as a result of the teargas used by the Swazi police has been confirmed, three people were hit by live ammunition fired by the police, and many others were injured, including the several police officers who had to be hospitalised.
“Confirmed information, which I got from the Secretary General of the Kombi Association Sabelo Dlamini, is that one child lost his life after inhaling a tear gas. Ten police officers were injured and a number of bus operators were injured as they were assaulted with sjamboks [large whips] and fired upon with live rounds and rubber bullets,” says Dumezweni Dlamini from the Swazi NGO Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice.
Bus operators were protesting the many traffic-related fines that the police have been handing out with increasing regularity in recent months. The fines have become an alternative source of income for police officers, who are beginning to feel the recent cut-backs on civil servant salaries in near-bankrupt Swaziland, as well as an additional source of income for the Swazi regime.
According to Dumezweni Dlamini, the demonstrating bus operators are part of an increasing wave of people who want democracy and socio-economic justice in Swaziland, an absolute monarchy where political parties are banned and two thirds of the population live below the poverty line, while the king and a small elite live in luxury.
As the demonstrations continue today, with reports of gunshots in the capital Mbabane, Swaziland seems to moving slowly but surely towards a change of system.
“This is one struggle, which is shaking the status quo in Swaziland and a sign that people no longer respect this government as it continues to pass unjust laws,” Dumezweni Dlamini says.
“More of such sporadic protests are yet to take place because we hear that more strict and inhuman laws are yet to be enacted. These will of course fast track the journey to a democratic Swaziland. Also, the demonstrations happen at a time when schools are still closed, lawyers are on boycott, and teachers and head teachers are on strike.”