Be Careful Where you have Coffee

I had no idea it was illegal to interview teachers in Swaziland but apparently it is. I was speaking to 4 teachers – 2 of whom had spent much of Tuesday in police custody – when we were surrounded by policemen. They frogmarched us out of Nandos before I could even alert my journo buddies I was being taken or finish my coffee. I guess that is what freaked me out the most as they quickly took my cellphone, accreditation letter and notebook so that I could not call my office or even alert the colleague I was with.
I was quickly released once we got to the station and my interrogation panel read my accrediation letter but of course, by then they had gone through my notebook. The teachers were not so lucky. I know enough Siswati to have understood the interrogation team did not appreciate their attitude (they refused to speak when spoken to).
I have no information as to their whereabouts. One is Dominic Nxumalo, one of the SNAT leadership – a clearly spoken man with an angular, striking face, another was Futhile Dlamini also of the SNAT exec. I don’t know the other two womens’ names.
Anyways, Dominic had just been reflecting on the reasons this week’s protest got so thoroughly squashed when we were so rudely interrupted. “Maybe this time government had the upper hand because we did not have the strategies to counter them,” he said, “Sometimes we win, other times we lose”. The last I saw of him he was sitting in the police station and looked like he would be there a while.
When I left Manzini several weary hours later, the teacher’s union offices were completely surrounded by police. The smell of teargas still hung in the ear and you could hear those inside singing. The teachers said they would not leave until their leaders were freed. Their secretary general, Muzi Mhlanga had been under house arrest since the morning.
I have since heard that, after several tense hours during which no one was sure whether the teachers would be beaten on their way out (as they apparently were yesterday), the police agreed they could be transported home in cars belonging to the union rather than in police vans, while others will spend the night at a centre belonging to the catholic church.

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2 responses to “Be Careful Where you have Coffee

  1. Sounds like Nandos needs a non-extradition agreement. That’s crazy Jinty. You sound very glam and brave to me over here in soft ol’ LA area.

    • Hi Jean funnily enough I thought this is pretty bad press for Nandos. There I was trying to alert my photographer of my disappearance – he had his back to me- and the waitrons just looked at me completely blankly. I was desperately pointing and saying, “tell him tell him!” but they just kept on staring.

      Miss you
      love
      J

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