Police in Swaziland (eSwatini) fired live ammunition and shot a university student with a rubber bullet as class boycotts entered their second day.
It was the latest police shooting during legal protests in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III.
Students across the kingdom are angry that the government failed to keep its promise to pay them their allowances for books, accommodation and other equipment.
The shooting happened at the Southern Africa Nazarene University (SANU) in Manzini.
Armed police patrolled the campus after students boycotted classes and set up a roadblock and started fires near the university.
The SANU administration ordered the university to be closed indefinitely and told students to vacate the premises immediately.
That was when police moved in, the Times of eSwatini reported. It quoted sources saying, ‘That is where all hell broke loose and the students clashed with the law enforcers who were trying to drive them out of the institution.’
It added students lit a fire on a public road. ‘As a result of the students’ behaviour, the police fired several warning shots in the air and also used rubber bullets to disperse the scholars, who ran helter-skelter.’
Phephile Sifundza, aged 20, a student, was shot in the leg.
The Swazi Observer reported, ‘[Sifundza] said she was not among the protesting students but was crossing the road at the traffic lights towards Manzini City. She said she was in the company of her friend when she heard gunshots.’
It quoted her saying, ‘In a moment, I was on the ground and I realised that I was hurt. I tried to call out for help but everyone was running around.’ When the chaos died down her colleagues took her to hospital.
On Thursday (31 October 2019) workers marched in protest against police brutality and delivered petitions to the Ministry of Public Service, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Ministry of Education and Training and the police headquarters in the Swazi capital, Mbabane.
Police recently used live ammunition, rubber bullets, teargas and water cannon against public service workers engaged in legal protests. More than 30 people were injured by police.
Last month (October 2019) the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) condemned police brutality. ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said in a statement, ‘Respect for workers’ rights, good faith dialogue and a government that responds to people’s needs and concerns – just like any other country, this is what eSwatini needs, not state violence against the people. eSwatini’s King Mswati pledged to us earlier this year to build these bridges, yet now we are seeing the government pulling all stops to undermine them.’
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