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Thursday, January 8, 2009

SWAZI POLICE ‘PERVERTED MORALITY’

The following is a statement from the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations following news that a Times of Swaziland writer and former Swazi Government Cabinet Minister Mfomfo Nkambule was taken in by police and told that the articles he was writing for the newspaper could incite people to revolt against King Mswati III.


The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations notes with extreme concern the twisted logic and perverted morality of our police service. It can send three officers to threaten and intimidate a writer yet it takes no action on members of its own force that have been colluding in the rape and prostitution of underage girls.


Community police acknowledged knowing about these so called teenage brothels where underage sex and child prostitution was common. They further admitted to using the girls to get information on petty criminals. This is the sort of scandal that would rock any other government to its foundations and lead to resignations or sackings.


The officers that knew about these crimes and criminals and did nothing about them must be found and must be dismissed. Our daughters’ moral, emotional and sexual development is not a suitable tool for the detection of crime.


Of course this lackadaisical behaviour by the police in terms of serious crime is not found when it comes to them attempting to please their political masters and once again try to tear up our Human Rights.


The Coalition is particularly concerned at the nature of the threats levelled at Mfomfo Nkambule for writing his Monday articles in the Swazi Times. We are unsurprised at the police officers’ continuing lack of awareness of the rights afforded to us all under the Constitution. It is part of a pattern of human rights abuses that the current police leadership seems unwilling to do anything about.


The police invoking unspecified pre-independence legislation (we assume they mean the Sedition Act) shows the depth of their ignorance of the Law. Under section 268, the Constitution (the ultimate law of the land) repeals all previous acts insofar as they are inconsistent with it.


Nothing that Mfomfo has written can seriously be said to destabilise or threaten the State, it might embarrass some people who are making an extremely good living on the back of their loyalty to their stomachs, but that is not a National Security issue. It is no role of the police to protect the blushes of labadzala from legitimate enquiry.


This illegal, unconstitutional and unprofessional bullying must stop. The Coalition has also been visited by security police and its staff have come under pressure to limit what we do and what we advocate on. This pressure will, of course, be ignored. Our freedoms are most easily extinguished when we do it ourselves.


Freedom of Expression includes the right to question not only the actions of the government and the traditional authorities but the motives behind those actions. It is only the weak, and the defenders of the indefensible who cannot respond to debate but instead send in the police to intimidate the messenger. We find it difficult to believe that these officers were acting on their own initiative and so the Coalition would like to know where the orders to interrogate and threaten Babe Nkambule really came from. No doubt those that issued the order will remain as all bullies do, hidden and cowardly, happy for their henchmen to carry the blame for their lack of moral or political courage.


The Coalition sees these two incidents as part of a deep and underlying malaise in policing in Swaziland. The priorities seem to be all wrong. The Coalition has repeatedly called for the RSP to be trained on policing under a Bill of Rights and we repeat that call now. The majesty of the law and the rule of law is being called into question by these actions.


These actions are doing more harm to the image of Swaziland than any number of so called detractors can do. It brings shame on our country when the police take to themselves the right to intimidate our writers, human rights defenders and others while leaving our daughters easy prey to perverts. This is in spite of the country enacting the Constitution with its Bill of Rights as well as ratifying many international human rights treaties. We must stand up for our rights to free expression, assembly and association etc. The Police have no place in the editor’s room. A politicised police force has no place in a democracy. In fact, a politicised police force threatens the very fabric of our democracy.


END OF STATEMENT


(For background information on the issue of community police and child prostitutes, click here and here.)

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