More detailed accounts of Swaziland police ‘torture’ against women workers have been published in a local newspaper.
The women were reportedly ambushed by armed police and ‘brutally attacked’ during a strike at the Plantation Forest Company, near Pigg’s Peak.
The Observer on Saturday newspaper (17 September 2016) reported what it called a ‘horror’ attack. It said a private security company called Siyavutsa assisted police.
The newspaper reported the attack happened at 4.45pm on Friday 9 September. A group of workers left the plantation premises and walked along a main road to their compound, Goedgegun, about 5 km away, ‘when all of a sudden a Siyavutsa vehicle swerved and came to an abrupt stop in front of the first group of about five workers and a swarm of armed police officers and dog handlers alighted.’
The newspaper added, ‘The different groups of about 15 workers allege that they all ran in different directions while the officers were in pursuit striking indiscriminately at anyone falling down. The women claim that the police officers alighted with rifles and batons while Siyavutsa dog handlers followed suit with the dogs. Shots were fired in the air while other officers bridged their service weapons.
‘At the top of his voice a Siyavutsa security chief shouted at the workers as to why they were burning down the forest, however they wondered how they could have burned the forest because the fires had started from a different direction, far away from where they were going.
‘Vice Secretary of the Workers Union Wendy Simelane said she was struck with a baton by an officer identified as Manqoba Vilakati on the shin before she was dragged and thrown into a police van that had arrived to beef up the contingent on the scene.’
The Observer on Saturday reported, ‘It was then they, together with a handful of others, were driven deep into one of the forests. On the way the vehicle swerved to its sides making its cargo bang on the sides with their heads. By then all their mobile telephones were confiscated. At the swamp inside the forest the beatings continued with their assailants stomping on their arms and legs, including Simelane’s fractured leg.
‘“All this time we pleaded with them why we were being assaulted but to deaf ears. By then my lower part of the leg was dangling signalling that the shin was shattered. At the same time, we were forced to do press-ups but I could not because my leg could not hold any longer,”’ the newspaper reported Simelane saying.
The Observer reported that the police used wood stumps and branches from around the swamp to inflict more injury to the workers. They were then dragged and thrown into the police van, driven back to Mhlatane station where they found Siyavutsa guards waiting for their turn.
Later, they were taken to Pigg’s Peak police station ‘for another bout of torturing’. The newspaper reported that Simelane was tortured by being suffocated with a plastic bag until she vomited. She was forced into signing a confession that she had started fires in the forest.
POLICE ‘BRUTALLY ASSUALT’ WORKERS