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MATSAPHA - For about two hours, the President of the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS), Colani Maseko, endured torture at the hands of members of the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (UEDF).

Maseko, who was partaking in the University of Eswatini (UNESWA), Kwaluseni Campus protest at around 9am yesterday, was taken away towards Ngabezweni by a group of armed soldiers, where he was heavily assaulted. He was ‘abducted’ subsequent to students protesting over the delayed disbursement of allowances for all students in the kingdom. The protest was also about security concerns within the institution, as three scholars were sexually assaulted last month, while another attempt was made to another student over the past weekend.


The protest action by the students started at around 7am through the vusela exercise. Maseko, who is a student at the Southern Africa Nazarene University (SANU), reportedly arrived around 8am at the UNESWA Kwaluseni Campus, where he also participated in the protest march around the institution. Then, at around 10am, there was communication to the effect that the university was being closed indefinitely, and students were advised to vacate the premises. During this period, armed members of the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) at the campus and ordered students to vacate the premises. At about 11am, there was an addition of armed personnel from the UEDF, who also arrived at the institution in a truck. They parked their truck outside the campus’ main gate, and gave the students only three minutes to take their belongings and check out of the university premises, while firing shots in the air.


They identified Maseko and ordered him to board a kombi that was parked nearby, believed to be servicing the Manzini-Matsapha route. When he got into the kombi, the president of the students union discovered that he had left his cellphone with a student who had been taking pictures and videos for their social media platforms. He then alighted from the kombi to get his cellphone. At this point, the armed soldiers started attacking him with kicks, and further assaulted him with fists. They also ordered him to roll on the ground in full view of the protesting students. After a couple of minutes, they took him inside the army truck, which was reportedly headed to Ngabezweni, near a river.

According to SNUS Secretary General (SG) Wakhile Lukhele, the soldiers assaulted Maseko all over the body, and when they had finished, they took him back into the army truck, and sent him to Sigodvweni Police Station, where they left him. This was at around 1pm. “They were shocked to see us (at the police station), such that one of the soldiers said Maseko’s cellphone had a tracker. They started pushing us around with the intention to provoke us,” Lukhele narrated. He further relayed that the national organising secretary of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) was allegedly intentionally hit by a soldier’s shoulder while making his way out of the police station.

The SG mentioned that the police denied Maseko medical attention for about 10 minutes and said they were conducting an investigation on him. He wondered how someone who had not done anything could be taken in for investigation while injured. “Instead of asking the soldiers why they assaulted him, they took him in for questioning. After the investigation, we took him to Mkhiwa Clinic,” Lukhele shared. Upon arrival at the private clinic after 1pm, political activists from SNUS, People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), Swaziland Transport and Communications Allied Workers Union (SWATCAWU), Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO), Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) were found at the hospital. They were there to support Maseko.

Healthcare workers were seen moving Maseko to the radiology (X-ray) room, to have him checked. It was reported that he had a fracture, as well as injuries to the head. There was tight security around visitations to the president of the student’s union. No one was easily allowed in to see him. When asked if there was any communication sent by the police to the UEDF to request for assistance in the students’ protest at the Kwaluseni Campus, Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati said she would not discuss security operations with the media.


She was further asked if there was any situation that compelled the police to require the assistance of soldiers at the university. The police spokesperson was also questioned if there was a report of a crime committed by the SNUS president. Vilakati maintained her initial response. “I can only confirm that Colani was handed over to the police and investigations are ongoing into how the situation unfolded,” she said. Vilakati further advised that if there were any concerns on the operations of police officers, anyone was encouraged to open a report so that an investigations could be conducted. Worth noting is that, in most instances, when a suspect who is indisposed or they injured is investigated by the police, they are usually guarded by officers of the law. However, in this instance, Maseko was fetched by the political activists.

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