Monday 2021-12-06

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THABANI’S PROTEST MARCH TURNS VIOLENT

By Bongiwe Dlamini | 2021-05-18

Manzini- THRONGS of tertiary students, organisations and members of the public brought Matsapha and Manzini to a standstill as they marched to Sigodvweni Police Station and Manzini Police Headquarters yesterday.

The purpose of the march was to demand justice for the late University of Eswatini (UNESWA) student Thabani Nkomonye, who allegedly died in a nasty car accident at Nhlambeni on May 8, 2021.

Although his car was towed from the accident scene on the same night, his body was only discovered four days later after a missing person announcement was issued by Manzini police.

His family and members of the public believe that there was foul play on the police side as the body was found close to where the accident had occurred yet the police had reported that he could not be found anywhere near the scene when they towed his car.

For this and other discrepancies in the police’s statement of events, the public was of the view that Thabani was killed and his body was later dumped at the scene.

This infuriated students and members of the public as they said police brutality had been going on unabated in the country.

To express their exasperation and further call for the culprits to be punished, the demonstrators marched from Kwaluseni to the Sigodvweni Police Station via Ndlunganye route.

Along the way, empathisers joined the march while others cheered the crowd on. When this happened, traffic flow was disturbed as motorists had to park on the roadside to allow the marchers through.

Police officers were visible throughout the march, and when at New Casino, just before Esibayeni, some uniformed soldiers got the unexpected when stones and bottles were hurled at them.

They ran for dear life and sought refuge in homes close to the road while others hid behind buildings.

When at Ndlunganye, a group of students came from the Mahhala direction and joined the main marchers in the cross-section.

Contrary to expectation, the demonstrators did not proceed towards Mathangeni, but they stopped at the cross-section just after the tunnel while some ran up to the Mahhala/Manzini Highway to halt oncoming traffic.

Before leaving the scene, the grass on the side of the road was set on fire.

Fast forward to the Sigodvweni Police Station where police officers and vehicles from the Operational Support Services Unit (OSSU) were on standby, the students pounced on the OSSU police while other officers stood guard at the entrance of the police station.

Speeches were made by unions and association leadership, but the marchers could not follow proceedings any longer, so tyres were burnt, attracting the OSSU water cannon closer to the premises.

At first the demonstrators tried to block the vehicle but as soon as the high-pressure water was shot at the direction of the fire, the marchers ran helter-skelter.

This is when the chaos started as trees outside the police station were torched at intervals and stones were thrown at the police.

This was much against the orders of the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) leadership.

The continued violence by some protesters believed not to be students resulted in an unceremonious end of the gathering as warning shots were fired and water was sprayed on to marchers.

Along the way to Manzini where another petition was to be delivered at the police headquarters, the police managed to stop the marchers at Nazarene traffic lights as the demonstrators were dispersed using water and teargas.

Only a handful of marchers ended up delivering the petition at the police headquarters.

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