“The security forces are literally grabbing everyone they can lay their hands on from the streets and detaining them.” - Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu)
More than 1,000 Swazi citizens gathered on Tuesday in Manzini, Swaziland’s economic hub, to protest the Swazi government. Swaziland is the last absolute monarchy in Africa.
Authorities beat people with batons as they gathered to sing and chant peacefully, according to Swaziland National Association of Teachers spokeswoman Simantele Mmema. More than 150 police officers fired tear gas and water cannons in an effort to disperse the crowd.
Several journalists were detained and then released on Tuesday. A police spokeswoman said they were not allowed to report on the protests because they didn’t have proper credentials.
Nine pro-democracy and labor union leaders were arrested, according to activists.
April 12th marks the 38th anniversary of King Sobhuza II abolishing political parties and repealing the country’s constitution. King Sobhuza’s son is the current ruler, King Mswati III.
King Mswati III has a fortune estimated at $200 million, making him one of the 15 richest monarchs in the world, according to Forbes.
70 percent of Swazi citizens live below the poverty level on less than $1 a day (1.4 million population). The unemployment rate sits at a staggering 40 percent.
King Mswati’s wealth is equal to 8 percent of the country’s GDP.
Protests are expected to continue tomorrow.
Check out a timeline of the political turmoil in Swaziland here. [Photo: AFP]