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3 HELD IN MSUNDUZA PETITION MAYHEM

By Sicelo Maziya | 2021-06-26

Three people were arrested for allegedly damaging property after police officers had a busy day trying to contain the throngs of protesting youths, including children at Msunduza in Mbabane yesterday.

The youth defied Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku’s directive of banning all deliveries of petitions to Tinkhundla centres. However, the might of the police crushed the march planned for the delivery of a petition to the Mbabane East Inkhundla and the Mbabane Municipal Council officers.

Chaos continued throughout the day and into the night when protesters burned tyres, looted and gutted shops with fire. There was a total mayhem at the high density township. The youth, who came out in their numbers,were joined by children as little as five years old who were seen in action as they tried to break the police barriers in their effort to proceed with plans to march to deliver their petition to Member of Parliament Harries ‘Madze’ Bulunga. Burning of tyres, emptying of the garbage bins and blocking of the road with stones were the order of the day at Msunduza, one of the oldest and densely populated townships in Eswatini. Members of the Royal Eswatini Police Service had to cordon off the road leading to town, denying the defiant youth passage to proceed to their Inkhundla centre, which is right in town.

Police were forced to maintain their position by firing teargas canisters, stun grenades and sometimes rubber bullets to disperse the uncompromising youth in an effort to discourage them from accomplishing their mission.

Frustration In frustration, the youth responded by throwing projectiles in all directions towards the police, which would sometimes force the men and women in blue to retreat and reorganise to ensure that their mission of stopping the march was achieved.

Unlike in other protests, where police contained the situation and allowed protesters to deliver the petition to their Member of Parliament, yesterday police were on a mission to stop the youth from organising to reach their Inkhundla centre.

Police had a hard time the whole day trying to contain the uncompromising residents and youth, who were trying to force their way to their Inkhundla centre. Teargas The youth made police work very difficult to manage, as they emerged from all directions, thus forcing the police to spread out and break barriers.

Teargas canisters were also shot in all directions and to nearby residential places and in the absence of the Red Cross volunteers, journalists were forced to assist some children who were overwhelmed by the teargas by whisking them to safety.

A journalist from one of the local publications, The Independent News, was also rescued by other journalists to safety after he fainted as a result of inhaling the gas and was taken to safety. Police had to rush the journalist to the Mbabane Government Hospital.

The police found themselves in a cat and mouse situation just like the youth. “We have all the time, we are not employed, police will attend to this defiance campaign for three weeks at Msunduza unless they allow us to deliver the petition,” said the protestors.

The local protest actions in the country were sparked by the discovery of the remains of Thabani Nkomonye, a law student in Nhlambeni, Manzini on May 12. The protesters alleged that Thabani died in the hands of the police. Furthermore, protests also occurred on May 21, coinciding with the victim’s memorial service.

The protests were then taken to different Tinkhundla centres and all along it has been contained and police were able to maintain peace and order during the delivery of the petitions. The banning of delivery of petitions has led to the confrontation that occurred yesterday, as police seek to disperse protesters.

Police were yesterday forced to use teargas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades to disperse protesters, something that had not been the case as the youth delivered their petitions since the campaign started.

Chief Police Information and communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati confirmed that police arrested three of the protestors following the Msunduza defiance protest march.

\“Yes, we can confirm that police arrested three protestors for damaging property, which happened later on the day yesterday,” said Vilakati. Vilakati further shared that the damage had not yet been quantified, as the property included motor vehicle.

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