Friday, August 2, 2019

Workers in Swaziland locked into their factory and ‘forced to work into the night’

A member of parliament in Swaziland / eSwatini has called for an investigation after workers were locked into their factory by their bosses and forced to work into the night.

It happened at Africa Chicks, a Poultry and Egg producing company at Ngwenya in the Hhohho region.

The workers, many women, were made to stay at work because a delivery of eggs from neighbouring South Africa had not arrived by the time they were due to finish at 5 p.m.  The truck eventually arrived at 9 p.m. and they worked ‘under duress’ sorting eggs until 11.30 p.m.

The Swazi Observer reported, ‘It is alleged that superiors indirectly hinted that if anyone left against the order to remain within the premises  would face the music.’

It added, ‘After 5 p.m. the premises’ gates were locked, meaning no one could either enter or leave the premises unless authorised to do so.’

The Observer said the 20 workers stayed at work ‘out of fear’. As a result many of the women were unable to collect their children from a day care centre.

No one at the factory was available for comment. Motshane Member of Parliament Robert Magongo said the matter was reported to him and he went to engage the authorities at the farm.

Magongo said should he find that the allegations were true he would take the matter up because he could not allow Emaswati to suffer at the hands of their employer.

Swaziland, which is ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, has one of the worst records in the world for workers’ rights, according to a report from the International Trade Union Confederation. Reviewing the year 2018, ITUC said ‘police brutality reached unprecedented levels’ and ‘security forces fired live ammunition at protesting workers’.

In September 2018 police fired live bullets, rubber bullets and teargas at workers and demonstrators who had been legally protesting during a three-day strike. The streets of Manzini, the kingdom’s main commercial city, were turned into a ‘battlefield’, according to local media. The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, said the bus rank in Swaziland’s major commercial city was ‘turned into a warzone as stun grenades, teargas, teasers and rubber bullets became the order of the day’.

The Times of Swaziland , the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, called it an ‘open battlefield’.

Armed police had been deployed across Swaziland. Videos and photographs of brutal police attacks were uploaded on social media. The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) in a statement said the videos showed ‘unlawful police actions’.

It added, ‘Several workers were wounded after police fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd in Manzini. These police officers then unleashed a wave of assaults against striking workers in an effort to quell the protests.’ 

Human rights are severely curtailed in Swaziland where political parties are banned from taking part in elections and opponents of the King are charged under a number of laws, including the Suppression of Terrorism Act. 
See also

Swaziland police fire gunshots during textiles dispute, third attack on workers in a week

UK solidarity with Swazi workers

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