A newspaper in Swaziland (eSwatini) has reported the latest in a series of allegations of what it called ‘torture’ by local police. A man said police threw him into a fire.
The Times of eSwatini, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, reported a 20-year-old man from Moyeni had received hospital treatment for ‘bruises on his back, minor wounds on his waist and swollen arms’.
It reported police took Bongani Kunene to Siteki police station after he had allegedly assaulted his cousin. Police also questioned him about other alleged offences.
The Times reported Kunene saying, ‘One of them [police officers] placed a plastic bag round my head and another one hit me with his fists. I cried and shouted for help.’
Kunene was then bundled into a police van and driven to a remote forest.
The Times reported, ‘Kunene alleged that when they arrived in the forest he was handcuffed and then dragged out of the police van.
‘He alleged that one of the officer tightened the handcuffs such that blood stopped circulating on his two hands.’
It added, ‘He alleged that one of the officers assaulted him with the blade of a bush knife and that they slapped him several times ad further kicked all over the body.’
Kunene said police started a fire and threw him onto it but he crawled out of the flames.
Kunene said for days he was unable to walk properly because of the pain.
The Times listed another four cases of ‘similar incidences’ including a 27-year-old man from Siteki who accused police of beating him until he wet himself.
In a separate case a 50-year-old woman from Magwanyana reported she wet herself as police thrashed her all over her body with batons.
Magistrates in Swaziland have a number of times criticised police for beating up suspects.
In January 2019, Magistrate Sindisile Zwane at Mbabane said she had noticed a number of suspects came before her in court with bruises and swollen faces and other parts of their bodies.
The Swazi Observer reported at the time the numbers were increasing significantly. The newspaper added she said police should be able to question people without beating them up.
In March 2018 Principal Magistrate at Manzini David Khumalo told police they must not beat suspects after a man appeared in court with injuries all over his body.
There have been many allegations of police assault in recent times. In November 2018 it was reported a man from Mangwaneni was left close to death after being allegedly assaulted by two officers at a police station. He suffered severe internal bleeding, heart seizures, the swelling of his kidneys and nerve damage on both his arms and legs.
In September 2018 four women were reportedly beaten with sjamboks and pipes and scalded with boiling water at Siteki police station. Two of them needed hospital treatment for burns and blisters. They were accused of stealing from shops.
In June 2016 a United Nations review panel looking into human rights in Swaziland was told in a joint report by four organisations, ‘In Mbabane [the Swazi capital], police tortured a 15-year-old boy after his mother had reported him for stealing E85.00 (US$6). The boy alleges that he was beaten with a slasher (metal blade tool for cutting grass) and knobkerrie [club] for five hours. While enduring the pain, he alleges that he was made to count the strokes aloud for the police to hear. Instead of being charged, the boy was physically assaulted and made to sit in a chair for thirty minutes before he was sent back home.’
The report was submitted to the United Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland by the Swaziland Multi-Media Community Network, Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and Constituent Assembly – Swaziland.