Thursday, October 3, 2019

Police shoot union leader in back as peaceful workers’ protest turns into a ‘battlefield’

Police in Swaziland / eSwatini once again attacked striking workers using teargas, water cannon and rubber bullets. One union leader was shot in the back with a live bullet.

The kingdom’s main commercial city Manzini was brought ‘to a complete standstill’ and ‘became a battlefield,’ according to local media.

The AFP international news agency reported the majority of shops in Manzini were closed due to the unrest.

This was the third time in a week that police attacked workers. 

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, said thousands of people took part in demonstrations. The Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a prodemocracy group banned in Swaziland, in a statement on Facebook, put the number of protesters at ‘well over 7,000’. The Times of eSwatini (formerly Times of Swaziland), the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, put the figure at 8,000.

The Observer and the Times said about 10 people were injured. PUDEMO put the number at 17. The Observer reported one of the injured was National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) Manzini Branch Secretary General Dumisani Nkuna. It said he ‘was shot at, allegedly with live rounds of ammunition, in the back, just close to the spinal cord’. He was admitted to the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital.

Another person had two gunshot wounds in his hand, the newspaper said. PUDEMO said the injured woman might be permanently disabled.

Public sector workers were striking for a 7.85 percent cost-of-living salary increase.

The Observer reported the demonstration was peaceful until riot police, the Operational Support Services Unit (OSSU), fired teargas after a small fire was lit by protesters in the middle of a street.

Last week during a three-day national strike, police fired rubber bullets and teargas at striking public service workers, injuring at least 15. The workers were at the end of a three-day strike. The violence happened in Mbabane after what local media called ‘a long day of peaceful protest’. 

On Monday the Government applied to the Industrial Court for an interim order to have the march declared illegal which has since been granted. A full hearing is due to be heard on 17 October 2019, the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Union leaders and Swaziland police are expected to meet on Thursday morning.

See also

Swaziland Government goes to court to try to stop public sector workers’ pay strike
Swaziland police fire rubber bullets and teargas injuring 15 during national strike
Swaziland police fire teargas into classroom packed with children

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