The following is an editorial comment from the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom. It criticises the police destruction of the funeral of Swazi democracy activist Sipho Jele.
17 May 2010
Enemy of the state
Perhaps the time has come for us to ask the question if the police in this country are the enemy of the state; for we are struggling to make sense of either their decisions or their rationale. We are also appalled at the manner with which they go around flouting the constitution by denying the people of this country their God-given right of assembly and to associate, in their sorry excuses to maintain law and order. It is clear now that the cops only know how to fuel mayhem and disorder.
The evidence is there for all to see; they bulldozed their way into a workers day celebration and yesterday they bulldozed Sipho Jele’s funeral, the very same man whose death is now the subject of an inquest because of their role. Despite this, the overzealous police officers couldn’t leave the family alone; to allow it to grieve, to allow it to bury its loved one, despite that all fingers are pointing towards them for the role they played in this man’s death. This is not enough for them to back off, and allow things to simmer down, and for this country to live in peace.
There simply was no need for the police to be at that function, and the laughable excuse for the police to go around arresting anyone wearing a T-shirt they do not like is not making things any easier.
However, as if their role in this sorry situation has not been shameful enough, they went ahead and caused further mayhem at Jele’s funeral. Their heavy presence, over 300 police officers disrupted the operations to such an extent the family decided to stop the funeral, was again reason enough for us to ask what their agenda is.
We can’t fathom what really could have happened at Jele’s funeral that warranted such police presence, and when this country has such a high crime rate, when people are being raped in broad daylight and at bus stops because there is no police visibility, it is shocking that the top brass can then send 300 police officers to a funeral—for what? What is the worst that could have happened at Jele’s funeral; what was the threat? Where was it coming from? And why are the police behaving like this—throwing this country into a dark period it is trying to emerge from?
Why are they undoing the hard work of Their Majesties, the Prime Minister and Swazis who love this country? Their reasoning for this is also very contemptuous; to say that they were not there to harass anyone is not only making us fools, but it is taking the leadership of this country for granted. Sending 300 police officers to any funeral will intimidate the mourners, and if the cops didn’t see this coming then no wonder they are failing to arrest the crime rate.