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SOLDIERS JUMP SA BORDER, SHOOT ALLEGED THIEVES

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MBABANE – Can soldiers enter another country to carry out an operation and apprehend or kill suspects?

This is reportedly what happened near Matsamo Border Gate, at the South African (SA) side, when soldiers from Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (UEDF) allegedly jumped the borderline into that country to carry out an operation against alleged robbers. It is alleged that the local soldiers jumped the SA borderline through a fencing gap normally used by border jumpers at the informal crossing line. The place where the border jumpers cross is only a few metres from the official border gate in Matsamo.

Since SA and Eswatini share a borderline, communities living near both sides of the fence separating the two countries often cross into either of the countries illegally, or using army checkpoints. Sometimes, these official army checkpoints are considered to be very far, resulting in some of the residents crossing illegally instead of using the border or army checkpoints.

The incident happened last Saturday and many travellers were allegedly crossing from the SA side of the border, heading into Eswatini to attend the Buganu Ceremony. It is alleged that hundreds of people had flocked towards the illegal crossing where soldiers sometimes guard the area. Some of the travellers heading for the ceremony at Buhleni were allegedly robbed by four people who were purportedly targeting them and even assaulted some of them before they entered the country. It was revealed that the travellers were robbed of items such as cellphones, cash and other valuables.

Residents around Matsamo said it was not the first time travellers were robbed, allegedly by the same people. Some of the people who were robbed allegedly arrived in the country with injuries and complained that their items were taken by force from them. This was said to have angered some of the residents who reported the matter to the soldiers who normally guard the borderline.

Tracked

Eyewitnesses allege that upon being called, the soldiers tracked down the suspects and opened fire on them. It could not be established whether there were shots fired by the alleged robbers at the soldiers. However, two men aged 33 and 30 were allegedly shot by the soldiers. The younger of the two men died while the older one was rushed to the nearby hospital where he was still being treated for gunshot wounds as of Thursday. The deceased’s body was taken away by South African emergency personnel including police officers who arrived at the scene.

Some of the residents who live on both sides of the fence were asked whether the area where the two men were shot was in SA, or Eswatini. However, *Jomo, who lives in SA, said the area was in fact on the South African side. He said this was the reason only SA emergency personnel attended the scene. He emphasised that there was no way SA officials could have intervened in the matter if the place was in Eswatini.

“This was not the first time soldiers attend to issues at this spot as both emaSwati and South Africans have been using this informal crossing path to avoid issues of immigration paperwork. Soldiers have always guarded the area so that border jumpers cannot illegally enter either of the two countries, but people just do not want to use the border gate,” he said.

Initially, it was reported that four people were shot and that two died. A questionnaire was sent to the UEDF Public Affairs Officer 2nd Lieutenant Tengetile Khumalo on the incident where four people were allegedly shot by soldiers from Eswatini, in SA.

Concerns

She was informed that it had been gathered that the soldiers from this country entered the neighbouring country after concerns about emaSwati being robbed. Khumalo was further asked to explain the circumstances that could have led to the killing. She was also asked if the matter had been reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS). She was then informed about the high rate of crime in the area which allegedly led to the supposed shooting.

The questions were sent to Khumalo via WhatsApp on Wednesday. However, on the following day, Khumalo, in a telephone conversation, stated that there was no report of such an incident. “I will let you know if they come back to me,” said Khumalo after she had revealed that she had made enquiries from the relevant stakeholders in the army.

Last Saturday, this publication reported an incident whereby soldiers in Dwalile, near Malutha borderline under Shiselweni Region, allegedly failed to respond to an incident where a man was beaten to death by a mob.  The deceased, Mciniseli Zwane, was dragged into the SA side after being accused of cattle rustling and whipped with sticks. He was also allegedly assaulted with all kinds of objects and left hanging on a tree where his lifeless body was discovered the following day.

At the time, the army’s Public Affairs Officer (Khumalo) stated that the army’s core interest was to protect human life. The residents of Dwalile had accused the army of watching as Zwane was whisked away into SA by a mob which eventually killed him.
*Not real name.

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