Workers in Swaziland (eSwatini) are to march in protest against police brutality in the kingdom, ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III.
Police recently used live ammunition, rubber bullets, teargas and water cannon against public service workers engaged in legal protests. The police and security forces have a long history of using violence against striking workers and people demonstrating for democracy.
Political parties are banned from contesting elections in Swaziland and groups advocating for democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
The protest on 31 October 2019 will include marches to deliver 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.
Earlier this month (October 2019), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) condemned police brutality during the public servants’ strike where more than 30 people were injured by police.
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.’
In a letter addressed to Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini, the ITUC said, ‘The use of violence, even for purported reasons of internal security, constitutes a serious violation of human and trade union rights.’
In the letter to the PM, ITUC, which represents 207 million workers across 163 countries, called for an ‘urgent and impartial investigation’ into the police shootings.
Swaziland has one of the worst records in the world for workers’ rights, according to an ITUC report. 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’.
In July 2018 the ITUC protested to the Swaziland Government after police attacked peaceful demonstrators in the kingdom’s capital Mbabane. Four people were seriously injured, with two left critical, after police fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannon.
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