Swazis march despite arrests

2010-09-07 19:12

Johannesburg - Pro-democracy demonstrators marched on Tuesday in Swaziland against Africa's last absolute monarchy, despite the arrests of nearly 50 people on the eve of the protests.

"It was a success - we were able to put across our message which is that we want Swaziland to be a multi-party democracy," said Zakhele Mabuza, spokesperson for the banned opposition Peoples United Democratic Movement of Swaziland (Pudemo).

Police removed at least three people from the march, including Pudemo president Mario Masuku, who was driven to his home 40km away in the capital Mbabane after being taken to the regional police headquarters, he said.

Mabuza estimated that nearly 1 000 people took part in the march in Swaziland's biggest city Manzini ahead of a second demonstration planned for the capital on Wednesday where demands will be handed to the government.

"At the core is the demand for multi-party democracy because all the problems that workers and the general public are facing comes from the lack of democracy in the country," he said earlier as the protest was under way.

"The people are angry here. They are singing, marching, (chanting) out slogans and showing their demands."

50 arrested

The march took place under a heavy police presence after nearly 50 people were arrested on the eve of the planned protests in Manzini.

Amnesty International said on Tuesday that most of those arrested were released without charge hours later, but added that 16 remained in custody.

"The arbitrary arrest of these political activists, lawyers, trade unionists and journalists is nothing short of police harassment and intimidation," Amnesty campaigner Mary Raynerm said in a statement.

Political organisations have been outlawed since 1973 in the impoverished southern African country, which is known for the lavish lifestyles of 42-year-old King Mswati III and his 13 wives.