On Saturday police had to stop a prayer meeting at the Manzini Cathedral Church, because they were acting on information that this was a meeting to plan to disturb the forthcoming elections.
This is according to Inspector Khulani Mamba, who defended the action of the police in raiding the church. Mamba further stated that in the circumstance, a court order was not necessary for police to raid the church, when they stopped a prayer meeting organised by the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) together with the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC).
They did so without a court order or any form of a warrant.
Inspector Mamba, the deputy public relations officer, defended the action of the police and said they had information that the aim of the meeting was not prayer.
On Friday, His Majesty King Mswati III urged all Swazis to go to the polls so as to shape the political and socio-economic dispensation of the country.
He urged Swazis to elect men and women of integrity, character and probity. The prayer had been scheduled to take place at the Bosco Skills Centre. But police presence in the city forced the meeting to be shifted to the Cathedral Church.
It is alleged that this was because the police did not allow anyone to walk into the premises to attend the service.
The police then got a tip-off that there was a change of venue and quickly rushed to the Cathedral.
“When we see a crime happening, we don’t need a court order,” said Mamba.
Leading the armed police officers, Matsapha station commander ordered that the prayer meeting be stopped.
Police continued to patrol the streets afterwards. According information sourced online, the Catholic Cathedrals are considered as sanctuaries and they are recognised places of refuge.
This makes it possible for offenders to run into the church for safety, especially those of political nature.
Mamba, however, said the Royal Swaziland Police (RSP) treated every church the same and would move in if an offence was being committed.
Police Cathedral raid a violation of constitution
POLICE officers who allegedly stormed the Manzini Cathedral violated the country’s constitution, according to human rights activists.
The raid comes barely a month after the Minister of Labour and Social Security Lutfo Dlamini attended a conference in Norway, where issues relating to public gatherings were discussed.
One of the issues discussed in Norway was Swaziland’s intolerance to public gatherings and freedom of expression such that the country is classified under the special paragraph by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Dlamini, upon arrival, defended the country as he stated that freedom of expression was allowed, as political parties were free to meet.
In fact, Dlamini said the only groupings not allowed to meet freely were those who threw bombs although he did not specify which entities he was referring to.
He further said a 1973 Decree that regulated public gatherings of a political nature was obsolete.
Human rights lawyer, Mandla Mkhwanazi, however, said the action was a violation of the country’s constitution.
“It is a violation of the right to freedom of religion,” said Mkhwanazi.
Mkhwanazi also said the action would have been justified if police had a court order, adding that it was unlawful if there was no court order.
Police allegedly accused the worshippers of holding a meeting with the agenda of sabotaging the next elections.
Meanwhile, Inspector Mamba said the Catholic Church should scrutinise the people it associates with.