Swazi activists vow protests despite ban

2012-04-11 14:19
Mbabane - Swaziland activists on Wednesday vowed to push on with protests to mark 39 years since the banning of political parties, despite a court blocking initial demonstrations.

Pro-democracy protests have mushroomed over the past year amid deepening frustration among impoverished Swazis over a crippling financial crisis under the government of King Mswati III.

Africa's last absolute monarchy obtained a court order late on Tuesday prohibiting a march on Wednesday, the first of four days of planned demonstrations.

"Nothing has changed, we are going ahead with tomorrow's [Thursday's] protests," said Vincent Dlamini, secretary general of the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union.

"Of course we anticipate that the police will use their underhand tactics, but we won't back down."

The protests commemorate a ban on political parties and suspension of the constitution that have allowed the king to rule by decree since 1973.

Police had arrested two activists and set up roadblocks across the capital Mbabane and the commercial hub Manzini in anticipation of the demonstrations, said Dlamini.

"We see this as an intimidating tactic meant to frustrate and destabilise tomorrow's protests."

A South African journalist working for the private etv television news channel was also arrested, and his notes and laptop were confiscated, said an AFP reporter at the scene.

Amid the country's financial crisis, students and labour unions, angered at the closing of schools and moves to slash salaries, have spearheaded the pro-democracy protests.

Demands for reform are expected to increase as Swaziland heads for legislative elections next year.

Last week authorities closed down the country's only labour union, the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland, after the group said it would lead protests.

Read more on:    king mswati iii  |  swaziland  |  southern africa

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