SWAZILAND COALITION OF CONCERNED CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS
28 November 2008
Police Force Abandonment of Meeting Between Diplomats and the Swazi Civil Society
It is six years to the day that the Swazi Government’s infamous 28 November declaration that the state would not respect the decisions of the courts and so abrogated the rule of law. As if to remind the Swazi nation of the events of that day and its continuing disdain for legal norms, the Swazi Government through the Royal Swazi Police have forced a cancellation of a meeting between Diplomats accredited to Swaziland and the Civil Society. The meeting was convened by the Council of Swaziland Churches to take place at the Tums George Hotel at 2:30 PM.
The Police Station Commander in Manzini summoned the Secretariat of the Council of Swaziland Churches with His Lordship Bishop N. Ndlovu and the Coalition’s Musa Hlophe to the Manzini police station, where they were told that this meeting could not take place without the police’s presence, both inside and outside of the conference room, and taking notes of all the proceedings. He informed the organisers that only the government should speak to diplomats and it was none of civil society’s concern.
Confronted with this outrageous and bizarre demand by the police, Bishop Ndlovu and his delegation restated the citizen’s Constitutional right to privacy and freedom of assembly and expression. The police responded by referring to the Suppression of Terrorism Bill, which in their interpretation, trumped the Constitution.
The delegation pointed out to the police that if their International and Constitutional rights could not be respected by the police, they would rather call off the meeting than expose their members and their invited guests from the diplomatic community to the risk of being labeled ‘supporters of terrorism’. Therefore the delegation reluctantly came to the conclusion that for the in the interests of avoiding a possible violent confrontation and placing the diplomatic community in this untenable position it was better to abandon the meeting.
Mr Hlophe went on by saying, ‘We challenge the police to tell us what crime was likely to be committed and by whom? These actions show that the real use of the Anti-Terrorism Act is not to protect the state from violence but to protect the blushes of this government from legitimate scrutiny and debate.’
He finished by saying, ‘Today on the sixth anniversary of the Rule of Law Crisis, the behaviour of the government and the police spoke more eloquently to the diplomats than we ever could have about the reality of human rights in this country.’
For More Information Please Contact Musa Hlophe +268 604 8988 +268 505 5911