Teacher strikes met with police violence

Peaceful Assembly

On 24th August 2018, teachers took to the streets to protest against the government’s failure to offer an annual cost of living allowance to civil servants. The demonstration quickly descended into chaos after police arrived on the scene and demonstrators threw stones, blocked roads and burnt garbage on the streets. In response, the security forces fired live ammunition at demonstrators. The country's para-military force was subsequently deployed to restore calm by the regular officers. One teacher is said to have been injured after a bullet hit his arm.

In an interesting turn of events, one of the protestors, Maxwell Myeni, confronted a gun wielding officer and tackled him to the ground. Two days later, on 26th August 2018, Myeni was picked up from his home by six heavily armed officers from the Lukhozi arm of the police forces. This section of the police has gained notoriety for 'torturing prisoners who end up dead'.

Later, on 13th September 2018, The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) voted to go on strike to demand a 6.55% cost of living adjustment. The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) also declared that it would take national protest action on 18th September 2018, these demonstrations would take place across Mbabane, Manzini, Nhlangano and Siteki. The protest action was taken in relation to a number of demands against the government including calling for a cost of living adjustment, increasing the national minimum wage, increasing the elderly grants, legalisation of solidarity strikes, increase in health and education funding and an end to arbitrary evictions especially for the working class and poor, among many other demands.

In keeping with their promise of strike action, on 18th September 2018, protestors took to the streets in the capital city Mbabane, and the towns of Siteki, Nhlangano and Manzini. Protesters in Manzini were met with police violence, as police fired stun grenades to disperse the crowds. Several protestors were injured in the incident. There were no reports of violence or clashes in the other three towns.

In recent months, the country has witnessed three protests by public servants seeking better pay, education and healthcare. The unrest started in April 2018, when the public servant’s pension fund is reported to have contributed $70,000 to King Mswati III’s lavish birthday celebrations.