Swaziland threatens human rights protesters with foot-stabbing torture

By Sarah Ostman

After a week of tension with foreign and domestic pro-democracy protesters, the government of Swaziland has come out with a new message: Keep it up, and you won’t be walking — let alone protesting.

Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini released a statement Thursday saying the government would consider punishing protesters with sipakatane, a practice that involves “using metal or wooden spikes to beat someone’s bare feet repeatedly, leaving them bleeding and potentially unable to walk,” according to a report by The Guardian.

The announcement comes at the tail end of a week of violence. Fifty activists were arrested and several foreigners were beaten and deported on the eve of a planned pro-democracy march meant to highlight human rights abuses by Swaziland’s absolute monarch, King Mswati III.

Speaking to the Times of Swaziland newspaper, the prime minister warned foreign activists from butting into Swaziland’s affairs.

“Each person should mind the politics of his own country and not come here to meddle in our affairs, especially if that country has a lot of its own problems,” he told the newspaper.

Activist groups and labor unions have condemned the statement and urged the prime minister to retract it.

South African activists said police barged into their hotel rooms last week and questioned them for four hours before loading them into a van and driving them to the border.

“To deport five people, (the government) mobilized about 300 members of the police, military and other officials. It was ridiculous. It was all about the pretense of a strong state,” one activist told South African’s Mail & Guardian newspaper.

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