Times of Eswatini
PM on BBC: Cops shot, killed some
MBABANE – The fears by many that live rounds of ammunition were used by the police when dispersing protestors during the unrest have been confirmed.
The allegations of police having used live rounds of ammunition were sometimes denied by some government officials who insisted that only rubber bullets were used.
In an interview with BBC World News, the Prime Minister, Cleopas Sipho Dlamini, said police shot and killed some demonstrators during the unrest.
Dlamini was speaking during an interview with BBC World News months after the shootings occurred, where he was interviewed by reporter Nomsa Maseko.
The PM had been questioned about the killing of civilians by security personnel as some of the pro-democracy activists claimed that about 70 people had been killed but government disputed this and placed the deaths due to shootings to around 35. The Human Rights Commission, on the other hand, in its verification report, placed the figure at 47.
When responding, the PM clarified that nobody knew whether everyone who died was killed by the police because there were also owners of property who were protecting their businesses and in the process shot back at those who were looting.
“I am not saying that the police did not kill anyone but I am saying not everyone who died was killed by the police,” he said.
Following the political unrest, some government officials denied that police shot and killed some protestors, leaving others injured. There was an assertion that mercenaries invaded the country and were shooting citizens.
Meanwhile, a preliminary assessment report on the civil unrest, which was recently issued by the Commission on Human Rights, verified that a total of 47 people died, 245 sustained gunshot injuries, 36 of which were upper body injuries, four head injuries and 63 lower body injuries. The report further states that two people had been amputated at the time of the assessment, while 22 sustained multiple gunshot injuries and 118 sustained unspecified injuries.
The commission at that stage could not verify if these injuries were as a result of rubber bullets or live rounds of ammunition.
Acting Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku touched on the shootings when responding in a matter between Nathi Dlamini, Azi Comfort Hlatshwako and Mandla Dladla, who took government to court for stopping the physical delivery of petitions to tinkhundla centres. The applicants also wanted the court to order the removal of soldiers who were deployed to the streets during the unrest.
In response to the application, Masuku said the country had been under siege from insurgents who vandalised, burnt, and looted many business establishments. He said government establishments were not spared. According to Masuku, tinkhundla centres were set ablaze, including ministers’ homes and properties that were bombed. He said the situation was out of control and members of the police service could not contain it any longer, thus assistance from the military personnel was sought.
Deputy Government Spokesperson Thabile Mdluli, when asked on the latest statement made by the PM on the shootings, stated that they had never disputed that people died during the unrest.
However, she said as to who killed who and why remained to be determined.
Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati, in a previous interview where public servants were injured on October 20, 2021 at Nkoyoyo while on their way to deliver a petition, said as far as they were concerned police shot no one.
Vilakati said the truth on whether people were shot could be revealed by investigations which could be made after a report has been made that someone had been shot.
She said such reports could help the courts establish as to where and how the individual had been shot. “Until now, there is no one who has reported an incident of being shot,” she had said.
When questioned on the latest statement made by the PM, who is in charge of the police, she said he was in a better to position to speak for the police, hence he could give clarity on the matter.
Government had indicated that they would institute an investigation regarding the shootings.