Swazi police video records, victimize protesters


JOHANNESBURG :Police in the Kingdom of Swaziland are video recording and keeping data of protest marches by the banned political parties and labour federations, Superintendent Khulani Mamba, the police Spokesperson has confirmed. This Swaziland News publication gathered information suggesting that the police films protesters and keep the data in servers kept at the Police Headquarters. Among others, the Police Intelligence Unit subsequently uses the information to compile reports. Furthermore, the information is used to deprive Swazis scholarships, jobs in the army, police, and Correctional Services or promotions in government departments. It is alleged that the information is further used to identify and subsequently conduct surveillance on protesters who are seen to be a major threat to the State. While other political leaders understand this as part of modern day policing strategies, others believe the information is manipulated to victimize members of the various banned political movements.

On or around 29 June 2018 a police officer identified as Simelane based at the Headquarters in the Communications Department was captured with a video camera filming a protest march by the Trade Congress Union of Swaziland (TUCOSWA). Khulani Mamba, when asked to give a comment on this said it was a normal practice for officers to record marches to have evidence on what transpired during the day. “There is nothing wrong with officers capturing marches to have evidence on what transpired during the day” he said.

Mduduzi Gina, the TUCOSWA Secretary General said he was currently indisposed and advised this journalist to seek an official comment from Muzi Mhlanga.

“Please contact Muzi for an official comment, I’m currently indisposed” said the TUCOSWA Secretary General.

However, Mhlanga did not respond to a message sent to him via his mobile phone seeking a comment on the matter. Vusi Shongwe, the President of the Swaziland People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) said while this might be a standard practice in the policing fraternity, in Swaziland it seeks to serve two main objectives.

“The recording of the TUCOSWA march proceedings by members of the regime’s forces although a standard practice in the policing fraternity, in Swaziland it seeks to serve two main objectives. To instill a cloud of fear and intimidation to the marchers. It is also used to single out the ringleaders when the videos are reviewed later. As the SPLM, we encourage marchers to continue with their noble duties of fighting for workers rights in the country notwistanding such intimidation” said the SPLM President.

But Mfanafuthi Tsela, the Deputy President of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) said the purpose of recording protesters was meant to intimidate and keep information about protesters with the intention of victimizing them.

“The purpose is both intimidate and to keep information about protesters, in order to victimized them. It’s a thing that they have been doing for sometime” he said.