April 12, 2007

Pro-democracy activists arrested

Six members of the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a banned political party, were arrested as pro-democracy activists picketed Swaziland's western border posts with South Africa in April. PUDEMO treasurer Vusi Mnisi said the number of activists arrested was higher, but Swazi police spokesman Vusi Masuku maintained that only six protestors were arrested for carrying "seditious" pamphlets. The protest during which the arrests took place was held on the anniversary of a royal decree in 1973 by King Sobhuza, father of current monarch Mswati III, banning organised political opposition groups. The country has a 'Tinkhundla' system of government, in which Swazis living under palace-appointed chiefs elect members of parliament who vote on laws prepared by the king's hand-picked cabinet.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which participated in the protests, said its members had gathered on the South African side of all five the border posts with Swaziland: Oshoek, Matsamo, Lavumisa, Mahamba and Mananga. Chris Maroleng, an analyst with the Institute for Security Studies, a South Africa-based think-tank, said the protests highlighted the "decline in democratic space" in Swaziland. "There is a need to create a more inclusive system in Swaziland," he said, adding that the Southern African Development Community could "play an important role in fostering an environment which is more inclusive." (Rts)

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