Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Swaziland: Solidarity with the students — Down with Mswati

"The military and police in Swaziland (Eswatini) have been deployed all over the country as students’ protests continued on Tuesday. During the Monday protests, the security forces shot, arrested and tortured students who defended their right to education", reads a statement by the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS). 

Over 80 schools across Swaziland have been indefinitely shut down since the protests intensified in the last three weeks.

Among other incidents, the police today invaded classrooms and assaulted students at John Wesley and Mater Dolorosa schools in Mbabane.

Mswati, who rules Swaziland as Africa's last absolute monarch, has been deploying his military and police forces to schools amidst political tumult intensified by students’ protests countrywide.

On Monday 11 October 2021, students from about 50 schools boycotted classes, demanding quality learning equipment, free education along with the abolishing of school fees, improved learning conditions including availability of teachers, release of arrested students as well as justice for their peers who were tortured from last week's protests, release of all political prisoners, and the removal of the tinkhundla system, among other demands.

About 10 students were abducted by the police on Monday. They are feared to have been tortured as they were targeted by the police with allegations that they were responsible for inciting the protests.

The government claims that the students are being used, but the students are adamant that their demands are just.

"We independently resolved to protest as our grievances have never been heard for a long time. It is a pity that instead of resolving our issues, we are beaten, shot, and arrested by police. It was the case even today as we had to escape as police were shooting us," said one student on Monday in a video interview posted on social media.

Of note, these protests are a progression of last week's protests. They follow protests initiated by the Swaziland National Union of Students, under the Democracy Now campaign.

Concomitantly, William Pitcher College students in Manzini once again boycotted second semester examinations still demanding their refunds, improved learning conditions, to name but a few. Last week Tuesday when the students approached the college administration requesting responses to their petition, the college principal summoned police who then deployed a battalion of armed police to intimidate and silence the students.

Yesterday (Monday) morning, police invaded the William Pitcher college, fired teargas canisters and live rounds on students.

The college’s Student Representative Council President, Bheka Mabuza, said, "Instead of addressing students’ issues with the SRC, the principal now communicates with the police. Just recently, she called the police who attacked students in their dormitories. As a result, three students were critically injured. Today she called the police again, who fired teargas and live ammunition in a bid to silence the students.”

“But she should know that there is no amount of intimidation that will ever silence the students unless their demands are settled," added Mabuza.

The Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) calls for intensification of protests across the country for free quality and relevant education, for the release of all political prisoners, including the students who were recently arrested, and for democracy.

The CPS also calls for unity between primary and high school students with students from colleges and universities.

The CPS also calls upon the teachers’ union, the Swaziland National Association of Teachers, as well as its members in the schools, to give solidarity to the students. Unity between teachers and students is crucial in the final push for the overthrow of the ruling autocracy, for the attainment of democracy.