On February 1, 2022, police in Manzini used force to restrict students’ peaceful protest activities in response to the arrest of Colani Maseko, the president of the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS).
A large group of students from Southern Africa Nazarene University gathered to protest Maseko’s arrest and march to the university’s administrative block to deliver a petition. Police armed with a water cannon and other weapons appeared on the scene when a number of primary and secondary school students began to leave their classes and join the march. As the students left the administrative block — they were reportedly unsuccessful in delivering their petition — police ordered them to disperse and fired tear gas and, according to one source, a stun grenade, which sent students fleeing. As police chased after students, plain-clothed officers abducted Sakhile ‘Awuviva’ Nxumalo, SNUS’s political educator, and brought him to a police outpost located under a shopping mall. Nxumalo reported that, over the course of an hour, police beat and tased him, knocking him unconscious. They then dropped him off at a local hospital.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by the use of force and the detention and torture of a student in an apparent effort to restrict or retaliate against students’ nonviolent exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Eswatini is a party. State authorities are obliged to respect such nonviolent conduct and must refrain from using force to restrict nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, efforts to restrict nonviolent student expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.