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February 19, 2013

Swaziland Police Break Up Church Meeting

by Peter Clottey

The national coordinator of Swaziland’s United Democratic Front, (SUDF) says the country’s police violated the constitution by disrupting church prayers organized by the group.

Wandile DluDlu says despite repeated requests, the police refused to show any court order or warrant that authorized them to break up the gathering last Saturday.

“They had no legal instrument in their hands, something like a warrant of arrest or something like a court order,” said DluDlu. “They literally had their sjambok [heavy leather whip] and their batons and their attitude is what they came with.

“As Christians, we are naturally all expected to have a right to go to church, notwithstanding our political affiliation or orientation. So, there was nothing hidden here,” he added.

He said the police told the gathering they had instruction that the prayer meeting “cannot happen today.”

About 60 police officers broke up a recent prayer meeting at Our Lady of Assumption cathedral in Manzini. They cited a tip off that the prayer meeting was part of a plan to disrupt this year’s election - a charge organizers denied.

Political groups and all political activities are banned in the southern African kingdom.

Supporters of the government say the prayer meeting was a political gathering disguised as a church meeting to deceive authorities, which they said is illegal.

“There is no iota of truth whatsoever in that assertion, because the program of the prayer was right in front of them and we gave it to the police. We asked them to show us the politics in the program because the majority of the program [included] pastors preaching and peoples testimonies, period,” said DluDlu.

Supporters of the administration argue that both the SUDF and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) claim they are civil society groups but often organize political activities to create chaos and destabilize the country.

DluDlu says the gathering was organized in partnership with both the Swaziland Council of Churches and the South African Council of Churches.

He says his group will keep up the pressure on King Mswati III’s government to implement democratic reforms.

“Definitely we will do all within our power to organize through prayers, through mass action and all sorts to pursue the democratization campaign until we achieve it,” said DluDlu.

Clottey interview with Wandile DluDlu, SUDF national coordinator