Riot police in Swaziland fired shots over the heads of striking workers who were protesting for an increase in pay of the equivalent of 35 US cents per hour.
Two shots were fired by the Royal Swaziland Police (RSP) when workers demonstrated outside the Plantation Forestry Company.
The strike has lasted more than nine days. Chairperson of the Swaziland Agriculture & Plantations Workers Union (SAPAWU) Sibusiso Masuku said workers demonstrated in front of a group of police.
The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Wednesday (25 August 2016) that one police officer fired two shots into the air, ‘which caused panic amongst the workers’. However, no one was hurt.
The newspaper reported Masuku saying, ‘We were shocked by the gunshots but we are not backing down. It seems our complaints are not being heard by the administration. First we were told that we cannot hold our legal strike inside our work premises so we were forced to demonstrate along the dangerous road.
‘Then we were allowed to picket inside the Plantation Company premises but now we want to take the strike to our work stations.’
Police in Swaziland regularly intervene on behalf of employers in industrial disputes.
In October 2015 police fired shots and teargas at protesting textile workers at the Zheng Yong Garment factory in Nhlangano. They were protesting against the behaviour of security guards.
In June 2015, Swaziland was listed as one of the top ten worst countries in the world for workers’ rights. It was grouped alongside some of the worst human rights violators on the planet, including Belarus, China, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
SWAZI HUMAN RIGHTS WORSEN: AMNESTY