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MBABANE – Imagine arriving at an entry point only to be met by a soldier asking you to take off your underwear to have your whole body including your private parts searched.

This is what is currently happening to Swazi women who try to use the informal crossing points, which are widely referred to as ‘emnceleni’ where soldiers allegedly use a certain mirrored security device, similar to the one used for searching cars, to check if female travellers do not have foreign objects stashed in their private parts.

According to a woman who experienced this ordeal last week, she was shocked when she arrived at the informal crossing point situated next to the Mananga Border Gate when members of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF), who are stationed there asked her to spread her legs so that they could check if she was not hiding any foreign or illegal objects.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said they showed her a mirrored machine and asked her to take off her underwear and spread her legs so wide so that it could detect if there were any illegal objects.
She mentioned that when she first arrived at the crossing point, some young looking soldiers asked her to enter the searching tent and take off her underwear.

According to the woman, who was almost in tears as she described her ordeal, even though she was aware that she was using an informal crossing point she had not anticipated such.
“As you can see I am a plus size woman and quite old for that matter, so being asked to take off my underwear by such young soldiers to stretch and show my private parts was embarrassing to me. I know that the soldiers have a duty to ensure safety but this is not good.

I was not amused having to hold my underwear while the soldiers did their security check that exposed my private parts,” she said.
She mentioned that it was not the first time that she used an informal crossing point as she usually went to South Africa to purchase items, which she then sold in the country but said she had never experienced such.

“I do understand that we are checked by female soldiers but I am old and I do not feel comfortable at all. I believe there are other ways that could be used to search us if they suspect that we are carrying drugs but certainly not this method,” she said.
The woman claimed that by the time she got a kombi, which was destined to South Africa, she was already feeling depressed as the experience had been humiliating for her.

When the USDF Acting Public Relations Officer, Lieutenant Nkosinathi Dlamini was called on the matter, he said there was nothing new with the method used by soldiers to search people crossing through the informal points.
He argued that the deployed soldiers had a duty of ensuring safety.

Dlamini justified the process by arguing that all the informal crossings and the Vehicle Check Points (VCPs) had female soldiers, who were tasked with searching women and that there was no way that they could check males or vice versa.
“The informal crossings and the VCPs are operated by a group of soldiers of different genders to guarantee safety to users,” said Dlamini.

When contacted again to determine when this type of arrangement began, he did not offer much details, save to emphasise that all was done for security purposes. He further did not entertain the question on whether the women were indeed requested to take off their underwear as he mentioned that all procedures were known by those soldiers who operated in the tents that were placed specifically to ensure safety at the informal crossings.

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