MBABANE:Under age children are amongst the over 600 citizens that were arrested for looting during the recent protests for democratic reforms and have been packed alongside adults in the country’s correctional services centres.
Eswatini, a tiny Kingdom in Southern Africa has about 70% of its population living below the poverty line, most poverty stricken citizens took advantage of the recent protests to engage in the looting of shops for something to eat and this included under age children who were subsequently apprehended by the royal police.
Speaking to this Swaziland News, Lawyer Mzwandile Masuku expressed his sense of deep disappointment in the justice system of the country adding that their charge sheets were vague and the value of the looted items were unknown.
“Children below the age of 18 years are kept in remand centres with adults, they are kept all over the country, in places such as Zakhele remand, Nhlangano and Piggs Peak. There aren’t any social workers provided for these minors. This is totally wrong, this act of arresting minors with adults will demoralize them instead of teaching them a lesson. I also don’t get the logic behind imposing a E4000.00 fine to a person who looted items worth E114.00, it’s really unreasonable. They are also not given a chance to speak to their families as well as their lawyers, because they are on remand. They deserve to be granted a chance to speak to their families since they are not convicted”, said the Lawyer.
When reached for comments,Dumsani Mnisi the Executive Director of Save the children Eswatini said children shouldn’'t be kept in prison for a long time let alone sharing cells with adults.
“It is wrong to keep children with adults in a cell or prison and for that matter the Child Protection and Welfare Act is clear that children must be kept in the shortest possible time.In fact there are supposed to be government social workers at all facilities where these children are kept. They should screen and discharge these children home for diversion and correction at umphakatsi level”, the Director said.
Efforts to reach Phindile Dlamini, the Correctional services Commissioner proved futile as she simply read the questionnaire and ignored it.
Phindile Vilakati the eSwatini Police Spokesperson demanded a ground call from this journalist as opposed to a WhatsaApp call or questionnaire.
“I don’t respond to WhatsApp calls, please call me through a ground call”, said the Police Spokesperson.
Thabo Masuku, the Director of the Foundation for Socio Economic Justice, (FSEJ) appealed for financial assistance from the public.
“We have tried to cover the fines of those who were arrested while attending funerals and court proceedings, however, due to the large number of people arrested, we cannot afford to pay for everyone’s bail and fines. We have rather set up a legal team which will offer legal assistance to the arrested emaSwati. There are various organizations who have assisted us financially. A lot of emaSwati require financial assistance, an example is a liSwati who was granted a E4000 fine last week but is still in custody because they could not raise that amount of money7.
Correctional boss Phindile Dlamini