Swazi activists raided ahead of planned protests

MBABANE — Swazi police Monday raided the home of a top union leader as security forces cracked down on activists on the eve of planned protests against King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch.

“People who are suspected to be behind the hostile events planned in the country are being raided, irrespective of their position,” said police commissioner Isaac Magagula.

“Everyone is a suspect until proven otherwise,” he told AFP.

“Right now we are conducting massive raids at places suspected of hiding material which is considered to be a threat to national security,” he said.

The early morning raid was at the home of Barnes Dlamini, president of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, who is one of the organisers of the demonstrations planned to start Tuesday.

“They produced a warrant. They were looking for guns, explosives and any material within my house that would connect me to any terrorist act,” said Dlamini.

Dlamini said police had visited his home over the weekend, while he was in South Africa, and harassed his family. He said they did not find anything.

Three activists — Sifiso Dlamini, Themba Mabuse and Samkelo Ginindza — have also been reported missing after they were last seen being arrested at a roadblock near Manzini on Sunday night, their lawyer said.

“For now there is no confirmation that they have been detained. They were last seen at a roadblock outside Mbabane,” lawyer Mary Pais da Silva said.

Unions are at the forefront of the protest calls because political parties are banned in Swaziland.

Last week the national organiser of the banned Swaziland Youth Congress, Mcolisi Ngcamphalana, said he was held and tortured by police for 24 hours.

Three days of protests are to be held from Tuesday in the main city of Manzini, said Vincent Ncongwane, secretary general of the Swaziland Federation of Labour.

Last week Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini declared the demonstrations illegal and warned anyone who took part did so at their own risk.

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