afrol News, 18 March - Some 10,000 pro-democracy protesters in the totalitarian kingdom of Swaziland are met with police forces "armed to their teeth" and roadblocks throughout the city of Manzini.
"The predictions that today's demonstration for democracy in Swaziland, announced by the unions and Democratic movement in an attempt to highlight and protest against the planned cuts in public expenditure and salaries, are unfortunately about to come true," Peter Kenworthy from Africa Contact's Swaziland group reports to afrol News.
According to the representatives of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), who are part of the demonstrations, security forces are blocking off the streets of Manzini, "armed to the teeth with various armaments and these include their armoured vehicles, caspers, water canons."
The security forces are also "visible and heavily armed" in "every corner of the country," the protest organisers today told Mr Kenworthy.
The government of Swaziland's King Mswati III prepared for demonstrations against its increasingly unpopular, undemocratic policies and cut-backs on public services and salaries, by positioning an estimated 20,000 troops in and around Manzini.
Spokespersons for the SDC, Mary Pais Da Silva and Sikelela Dlamini, also believe that the security forces have been instructed to "crush the people's demonstration using brutal and deadly force."
The estimated 10,000 demonstrators that have braved the police blockades and intimidation are not deterred, however, according to Ms Da Silva and Mr Dlamini. "No amount of brutality shall deter us from our goal - multi-party democracy," they say.
iland's largest city and an industrial hub - meanwhile report of a "good atmosphere" amongst them, chanting anti-government slogans. They however fear imminent police brutality.
In a press statement yesterday, the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) - an umbrella organization of democratic forces in Swaziland - insisted that "the time for an all-inclusive interim government has come. We appeal to the international community to finally heed our call for targeted smart sanctions on the collective leadership of the Tinkhundla regime until our demands are met."
In another press statement, the Swaziland National Union of Students was even more explicit in stating that their "demand in tomorrow's protest action is for the government to resign and the immediate establishment of a transitional government that should draft, in consultation with our people, a democratic constitution that will lead us towards free and fair democratic elections."
On previous occasions mass protests in Swaziland, such as the "Global Day of Action" in September 2010, have been met by acts of violence by the Swazi police and armed forces, according to Mr Kenworthy.
Swaziland is nominally a middle-income nation, but the income differential in the country is huge. Unemployment is around 50 percent, 40 percent have HIV, the average age is 31 years, and two thirds of the population has to get by for under a dollar a day. Meanwhile, a small minority, especially the Royal family, live in luxury.
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