Cops stop prayer for peace
MANZINI – A contingent of police officers yesterday forced their way into the Manzini Cathedral Church and prevented political activists from conducting a prayer.
The over 60 police officers who were armed with batons went inside the church and ordered worshippers to cut the sermon short and vacate the building. The police ordered that the service be abandoned and gave worshippers seven minutes to completely vacate the church building.
The prayer was already in session when the police came in and the attendees were singing worship songs including, Sizowanyathel’amadimoni ngegama likaJesu (we will crush the devil in Jesus’ name) and we bless your name, Almighty God.
The prayer, which had been organised by the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) together with the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), had been scheduled to take place at the Bosco Skills Centre.
However, as early as 8am, police had been deployed all over the city. There were also over 20 police officers deployed at the Bosco Skills Centre. They did not allow anyone to walk into the premises to attend the service.
However, those who were turned away later proceeded to the Cathedral Church where they eventually met as a group. The police seemingly got a tip-off that there was a change of venue and quickly rushed to the Cathedral.
At first, the police stood a distance from the church while they watched political activists flocking in.
At the main gate, there was a private security officer who had been instructed not to allow the police inside the church. When the police approached, he locked them outside and further said he would only allow them in if the organisers of the event instruct him to do so.
The church also has a smaller gate which is adjacent to the main one where the police had been negotiating with the security officer to allow them in.
At this gate Wandile Dludlu, SUDF Coordinator, was the usher, welcoming those who came for the service.
The police quickly noticed this and headed straight to where Dludlu was.
As soon as he saw that they were coming his way, Dludlu went inside and closed the gate. However, Howard Hlophe, Matsapha Station Commander, demanded that he open the gate. In response, Dludlu told the police that the gate was not locked hence they should come in to pray if they wanted to.
The police wasted no time but pushed the gate and went inside. They headed straight for the building where they found the attendants worshipping God. Inside the church, the officers convened a brief meeting with Dludlu, asking him to tell the congregants to stop the service and vacate the building.
The Matsapha Station Commander explained to Dludlu that the congregants should also be out of the church within seven minutes.
It was after the brief meeting that Dludlu went to the stage and told the people that the police were demanding that the service should stop.
"I greet you all in the name of Jesus," Dludlu addressed the crowd.
"I would like to thank you for attending the prayer service. As you can see for yourselves, we are now surrounded by the police. They are saying we should stop the service and vacate the church. We will do as they are saying. However, before we call off the prayer I would like to invite to the stage our invited guest Bishop Paul to close the service with prayer," he said.
Bishop Paul Verryn from Johannes-burg prayed for peace in Swaziland. He prayed that there should be no use of force on every citizen of the country who come out to speak about their rights.
As the bishop prayed, the police waited next to the stage and afterwards, they escorted everyone out of the church.
Among the attendants were Mario Masuku, PUDEMO President, Mpha-ndlana Shongwe, attorney Mary Da Silva, Quinton Dlamini President of the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU), to mention a few.
The banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) released a statement later in the day, condemning this act and labelling it as satanic.
"PUDEMO condemns the devilish and satanic behaviour of the Swaziland Police of invading the Manzini Roman Catholic Church (The Cathedral) in pursuit of innocent and unarmed citizens who had gathered to pray for justice, peace and democratic change in the country," the statement read in part.
"The Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) had organised the prayer gathering at St John Bosco Hall, a facility belonging to the same church but the people were refused entry and were forcefully removed from the place.
"After this forceful eviction, the people found shelter at The Cathedral, hiding from the pursuing police who were dressed and armed for war. The fully armed police forcefully entered the church premises and disturbed those gathered in prayer while refusing others to gain entry into the church."
On behalf of PUDEMO, National Spokesperson Zakhele Mabuza said this was a clear indication that the Swaziland government played double standards.
While on one hand it is talking about peace and dialogue, the police carry guns and batons and pursue people who want to pray for justice, peace and democracy.
That was not a prayer – cops
MANZINI – Charles Tsabedze, Manzini Regional Commander, said they stopped yesterday’s prayer because it was aimed at coming up with logistics to sabotage the national elections later this year.
Interviewed after police drove off all those who had attended the prayer at the Manzini Cathedral Church, Tsabedze said police received information that the prayer was solely aimed at strategising on how political activists would sabotage the parliamentary elections.
Elections are expected to be held around August. "We received a tip off during the course of the week that the prayer was not like other prayers. We heard that the prayer was aimed at strategising logistics that will be used to sabotage the national elections," he said.
He said prior to the prayer they met with the organisers and asked them to convey a message to the attendees that the event will not be allowed to continue.
"We told them that we would not allow the prayer to take place at Bosco Skills Centre or any other place within Manzini," he said.
This is not a free country – bishop
MANZINI – Bishop Paul Verryn says if the Government of Swaziland is afraid of a prayer, Swaziland is not yet a free country.
Bishop Verryn is from Johannes-burg, South Africa.
He said he was here representing the South African Council of Chur-ches. "We have been profoundly disrespected by the police that in the middle of the prayer, they came in and stopped us," he said.
"If the authorities are afraid of a simple prayer hosted by the citizens of the country, then we cannot say Swaziland is a free country. I will report back to the South African Council of Churches and the Bishop of the Methodist Church what unfolded here," he said.
The bishop had not been aware that the prayer had been banned from taking place. "I was only informed when I was at the border gate that police had called for the cancellation of the prayer," he said.
Meanwhile, Pastor Casper Mhlanga said, "How can a Christian country like Swaziland prevent its people from worshipping the Lord?"
"I came here all the way from Sithobela to worship and pray for my country but I am very disappointed by what has happened," he said.
- Government is missing a point here because if they were sincere in having opposition politics and democracy in this country they would, by now, have openly accepted the political parties that are on record to have denounced violence. We have good political parties like SWADEPA under Jan Sithole, Sibahle Sinje and others all which seem to be sincere in building this nation. They are crated on principles of building this country, especially SWADEPA, and they pose no danger to anyone. Why can't government officially bring these political parties to the fore because they have (rightly or wrongly) branded PUDEMO a 'terrorist' organization. We need an effective opposition in parliament desperately and I think it can only come through sensible political parties like SWADEPA and others like them. It's time to put to a stop to the shenaningans of a wayward government through an effective opposition.
February 17, 20132, 10:00 am, kim