Police in Swaziland (eSwatini) used whips, batons and teargas to break up groups of revellers who had gathered together breaking new stricter coronavirus regulations.
Police in the capital city Mbabane and the industrial town of Matsapha were reportedly patrolling streets on the lookout for people breaking the rules introduced on Friday (18 December 2020.)
They found people drinking alcohol on the streets and gathered at entertainment venues, including bars.
The eSwatini Observer reported that police broke up a crowd on the streets of Matsapha on Friday but when they returned later they found they had regrouped.
The newspaper reported, ‘Around midnight, the police came back to find the imbibers back at the same spot. Police started assaulting everyone they found drinking on the streets, accusing them of failing to heed to instructions. The drinking spree ended abruptly as everyone ran for safety with the police hot on their heels.’
Under new regulations which are in force until 6 January 2020 people are not allowed to consume liquor at a gathering, including a family gathering of more than 20 people. A gathering shall not take place after 8pm. Night vigils and cross-over events or parties are prohibited. Non-essential travelling between 11pm and 4 am is prohibited. A restaurant or food outlet operator shall not sell or serve liquor to diners after 7pm. Festive season sports tournaments are prohibited.
There have been a number of cases of Swazi police and other security forces using violence when dealing with people breaking coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations since a partial lockdown was introduced in March in response to the pandemic.
In August police reportedly fired a shot and severely kicked and punched residents at Murray Camp, outside the main commercial city Manzini. A shot was fired at a woman but missed. Witnesses said police broke up a group who were drinking alcohol outside a homestead.
In 15 April the then Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini endorsed police beating people during the lockdown. He told a press briefing, ‘If you are found to be violating these regulations, the law will definitely take its course, we won’t compromise on this. Maybe those who were assaulted were found to be on the wrong side of the law by breaking the regulations put in place by government. We would like to encourage members of the public to abide by these regulations, there shouldn’t a need for the law enforcement to force you to respect these regulations.’
A 15-year-old boy was shot and wounded by police when he played football with friends on a dusty field near Gege. The Times of eSwatini reported their game was being watched by two adults. It said the police officer allegedly fired his weapon to disperse the spectators.
In April security forces reportedly whipped a destitute woman in Eteni when she was on the streets desperately trying to get food for her three children.
Mbabane lawyer Sabelo ‘Mngo’ Mngomezulu was left with broken ribs after soldiers assaulted him, two women were whipped with sticks by police and a man was hospitalised after police beat him about the head with a baton.
An 85-year-old woman collapsed and died when security forces raided her home because they thought she was selling alcohol.