- Police in the autocratic kingdom of Swaziland have started a new round of attacks on opposition and trade union leaders and members, accusing them of "terrorism" following a wave of petrol bombs.
Since the weekend, the police force of Swaziland has intensified its raids on homes of leaders of the country's opposition, trade unions and civil society groups.
All opposition groups, including some unions, have been termed illegal and "terrorist groups" by King Mswati III and his government. PUDEMO, the main democratic party in the kingdom, is among the prohibited groups strongly targeted in the ongoing purge.
Over the past weekend, police raids were taken into Swaziland's deep rural poverty stricken Hluti-Lavumisa area, the home area of PUDEMO Deputy President Skhumbuzo Phakathi. A number of homes were raided in the area, according to information provided by PUDEMO.
Also other rural areas experienced police raids against local opposition leaders and activists. At least eight homes were raided, including those of several PUDEMO leaders and of officials from the youth organisation SWAYOCO and the trade union SPRAWU.
Several opposition leaders - the number is still not known - were arrested under reference to Swaziland's controversial the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The widely criticised law includes a very wide definition of "terrorism".
According to the South Africa-based Swaziland Democracy Campaign, police attacks on "democracy activists and their communities" have continued also after the weekend and even "over the last 24 hours."
"Trade unionists, religious leaders, democracy activists and all those deemed to be associated with the main democratic opposition organisation, PUDEMO have been subjected to extreme harassment, illegal arrest and intimidation. Their persons and property have been assaulted," according to a statement by the organisation.
The crackdown comes after a wave of public opinion favouring the democratic opposition, whose leaders had been treated with exaggerated brutality by Swazi police. Also a new series of petrol bomb attacks was by many Swazis seen as planned by the police rather than the opposition.
Authorities last week claimed opposition "terrorism" had reached a new level. The pro-government 'Swazi Observer' even alleged it had uncovered a secret training camp in Nelspruit, across the border in South Africa. Here, members of the youth league SWAYOCO were trained on how to make petrol bombs, the report said.
According to a SWAYOCO statement, however, these allegations were completely false. The 'Swazi Observer' rather had printed the report about a "secret army" of SWAYOCO members to provide police officers "the moral boost to continue their crackdown and harassment of our members."
"SWAYOCO is a youth organisation that knows nothing about military combat and we have openly distanced ourselves from any form of terrorism, violence or bandits," the statement added.
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