Not only are police accused of killing a student, they fired teargas and live ammunition to disperse his memorial service.
The Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) is calling for an end to Swazi police brutality. This follows a series of events during the month of May which led to the death of a student and the arrest of five student leaders.
According to the organisation, on the 10th of May 2021, taxi conductors in the city of Manzini protested against their arrest by police for operating from some of the bus stations they pass by. A protestor, Sanele Shiba, was assaulted in the face and head with a gun.
On Saturday 8 May 2021, at around 21h00, Thabani Nkomonye a University of Eswatini law student was allegedly shot and killed by traffic police officers. His car, according to the SUDF, was then towed by the police that same night and hidden at Sigodvweni police station while his body was dumped near a bus stop.
On Monday, 17 May 2021, the SUDF and the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) joined by other unions and political parties organised a protest demanding justice for Nkomonye. During that protest, the police allegedly shot Phiwayinkhosi Dlamini at close range in the eye. To date, he is in intensive care in hospital.
On Friday 21 May 2021, police fired teargas and live ammunition at Thabani Nkomonye’s peaceful memorial service in Manzini. Elderly members of Thabani’s family were among those who were injured and rushed to hospital. On that day, five students were arrested by the police. Three of them were granted R50,000 bail each, ordered to pay R3,000 and R47,000 as a surety.
The SUDF is a coalition of pro-democracy interest groups, including political parties, unions and churches. It was founded as a result of a growing conviction that in order for democratisation and poverty eradication to be achieved, a strong civil society would have to lead the way.
When reached for comment, Sanele Shiba confirmed he had been assaulted by police during the taxi conductors’ protest and added that he is suffering internal bleeding and is now partially deaf as a result. Elitsha understands that a petition has been delivered to the regional police headquarters demanding #JusticeForSaneleShiba and that the Swaziland Rural Women Assembly has managed to get him a personal lawyer. Shiba feels that his life is under threat as the police are calling him to the station for no reason and have called his girlfriend asking about his whereabouts.
SNUS president, Colani Khulekani Maseko, said that they are demanding justice for Thabani and will not stop protesting until justice is served. They are disappointed that the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Prince Simelane, has urged police and soldiers to fight ‘fire with fire’ in the midst of protest actions. “This is very heart-breaking because the lives of the Swazi people are no longer guaranteed. As SNUS, we are still regrouping and still planning for #JusticeForThabani, #JusticeForPhiwayinkhosi protests,” he said.
In an interview with Elitsha, Mandla Nkomonye, said they are aware that the police are tampering with the evidence to cover-up the killing of his brother Thabani. Nkomonye said that they were shocked to learn that police went as far as inviting members of the public to assist with information to locate Thabani while his car was hidden at Sigodvweni police station.
“We are in pain for what befell us. Thabani’s death has been a mysterious death. This was a peaceful service, but the police, without even consulting with the elders, disrupted the event unprovoked. The service was well organised and all Covid-19 regulations were observed. We are still wondering as to why they decided to disrupt it and we are not happy at all about the police action. All along we have been thinking police were people we can run to for help but now we have experienced first-hand what they do,” he said.
Wandile Dludlu, the national secretary of the People’s United Democratic Movement, the largest opposition party in Eswatini, said that the judgement of the court towards the students is just another brutal act that the Tinkhundla system uses to oppress all people who fight for the liberation and rights of the Swazi people. He decried the very tough bail conditions stating further that a judge must look at a defendant’s economic state, employment history and whether she or he has a criminal record when considering their bail.
Dludlu encouraged the students to keep on fighting for what is right and not to lose focus on the struggle because of the repression they are suffering at the hands of the police and the courts. “The struggle has never been an easy target, but we can see the light now” he said.