It was cold and windy this morning. The policewoman on point duty looked like she was doing a little dance. Her arms and legs were moving rhythmically as she stood on the crown of the road. As we got closer, it became obvious that her shimmy was really an attempt to keep warm. Perhaps she was the syncopated majorette leading the Royal Swaziland Police Band, which is wheeled out at all major events?
The police in Swaziland don’t bear a strong resemblance to the police in UK. True, they sometimes wear flat-topped caps with a black-and-white chequered band and look smart in white short-sleeved shirts with epaulettes. But more often they dress like paramilitaries, with dark blue overalls, baseball caps and army-style black boots. Like UK armed response units.
When they are directing traffic, their hand signals are very stylised and stiff, a pastiche of a British copper. They are also usually friendly, so I have to avoid acknowledging them a wave when our stationary vehicle is directed to move. They are quite likely to wave back and cause traffic chaos.
At exhibitions and public events, the Royal Swaziland Police often have a stall to educate the public on their role. I picked up a few of their leaflets in Mbabane last month:
“Stock Protection” – How can you protect your livestock? Keep shepherds around your stock. Make sure your stock is locked into a strong kraal by sunset. If your stock is stolen, you will need indisputable evidence that it belongs to who claims it (sic). Full descriptions of the stock needed, eg colour, etc.
ROAD BLOCKS: Help us to make the roads safer for you. Roadblocks are intended to prevent accidents by lowering the speed at that specific point and to make positive contact with road users. People die on our roads because of: driver’s attitude, etc.
“What GUNS do to people” – Did you know? Because guns are designed to kill, the injuries they inflict are very severe, and so expensive to treat. If you want to defend yourself, why not try some alternatives such as self defence classes, carry gun sprays, personal body alarms, paralizers or shock umbrellas (sic). If you feel you are in danger, seek help. Anyone living with a threatening should seek support. Report all illegal guns, save yourself and your loved ones. Report any suspicious incidents which may lead to gun fire.
Yesterday, just before noon, there was a gunfight around the corner from the MSF office in Manzini. According to the press, it was a dispute over money.
“While everyone’s eyes were glued to the scene that seemed to turn ugly, one of the five men is said to have shouted that the …man in the Mercedes should do what he wanted to do. In fact, the man is said to have shouted “Shoot me if you can” little did he know that the man was fully armed as he had a 9mm pistol as his side arm.
In response the gunman also shouted “Sengidziniwe nguwe mine”. Within two shakes of a duck’s tail, onlookers said the passenger in the Mercedes produced a gun and shot at the man.”
Realising the seriousness of the matter, the four other men ran helter skater (sic) and this is when the gunman shot at the other two.”