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Tear gas, shots fired in Waya waya!

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MBABANE – The police had to discharge tear gas canisters and allegedly fire rubber bullets in an effort to bring order in at least two towns around the country as the teachers’ ‘Waya Waya’ strike entered day three.

These tense drama-filled scenes are reported to have unfolded in Ezulwini and Pigg’s Peak.

In Pigg’s Peak, teachers from the northern Hhohho branch of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) disrupted classes at Peak Central High School and once they had been joined by the school’s pupils they proceeded to Mhlatane High School where they sought to disrupt classes as well and that is where there was a confrontation with the police.

The teachers are calling these disruptions ‘operation vusela’.

This operation involves striking teachers going to schools which are continuing with lessons and persuading their colleagues to join in the strike action.

The operation was authorised during a SNAT meeting last Thursday where it was resolved that teachers would engage in an indefinite strike action to force government to give them a 4.5 per cent cost of living adjustment.

Teachers took this decision even though government had successfully applied for a court order declaring the strike action illegal.

According to Police Public Relations Officer, Superintendent Wendy Hleta, the police had to discharge their weapons after the teachers allegedly became uncontrollable after failing in their mission to disrupt classes at Mhlatane High School.

The striking teachers said it was not fair that Mhlatane teachers were not participating in the strike, yet they would also get the 4.5 per cent adjustment if the protest is successful.

When a team from the Times arrived at Mhlatane yesterday morning, the gate was locked and police officers were guarding the school.

Reinforcements from the police and correctional services were called after teachers were heard chanting political slogans as they approached the school.

The protesting teachers were in two groups as some of them used paths going through a forest while others used the public road leading to the school.

Teachers using the path were chased back by the police and correctional officers. They told them to go back because they did not have permission to enter the school.

Some of the teachers hurled insults at their colleagues at Mhlatane High School.

They alleged the teachers were being abused by the principal, who they alleged was forcing them to teach when they wanted to join the strike.

While the police were preventing the teachers from proceeding to Mhlatane High School, some pupils from Peak Central High School arrived, carrying sticks and stones. They were ordered by the police to return to their school but the pupils tried to force their way into Mhlatane.

The pupils at Mhlatane High School heard the noise being made by their colleagues from Peak Central High School and left their classrooms. They, however, couldn’t leave the school premises since the gate was locked.

It was then that the police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the pupils who wanted to force their way into Mhlatane High School.

Some of the teachers and pupils were injured in the skirmish. At least two teachers were admitted to Pigg’s Peak Government Hospital.

Police also had to fire tear gas to disperse teachers who were trying to invade Ezulwini Community Secondary School.

"Police refused to let us enter the school. While we waited outside, the pupils were allowed to disperse. Running towards us, the police thought they had come to join the strike and they fired tear gas," a teacher who was present said in an interview yesterday afternoon.

She said there were moments of chaos as the pupils ran for their lives as rubber bullets were also allegedly being fired.

Superintendent Hleta, however, said police only fired stun grenades to disperse the teachers who were provoking them.

Police blamed for violence

 

PIGG’S PEAK – The Swaziland National Association of Teachers’ Pigg’s Peak Branch Secretary, Lofana Dlamini blamed the police for almost violent scenes outside Mhlatane High School yesterday.

Dlamini said they tried by all means to reason with the police officers but the officers were not interested in hearing anything they had to say.

He said they were supposed to hold a meeting at Peak Central Primary School but the school principal told them that the school committee refused to grant them permission.

He said in the meeting they wanted to discuss how they would attend the funeral of a teacher who was a member of SNAT. The funeral is scheduled to take place this weekend, according to Dlamini.

The teachers then opted to hold the meeting at the Pigg’s Peak Park, he said.

The police officers told them that the city council said they should not hold the meeting there because they had not sought permission.

While they were busy arguing with the police officers, Dlamini said they received information that pupils from Peak Central High School were going to Mhlatane High School to disturb classes.

He said they wanted to go and calm them, but the police said they must not march on the public road but must either use their cars or hire a bus. He said he told the police that they arrived by public transport and had no money to hire a bus. Some of the teachers are said to have got annoyed and started running towards Mhlatane.

He said the pupils would not have become violent had they been given the opportunity to go and calm them in time.

Police Public Relations Officer, Superintendent Wendy Hleta, said it was the teachers who were out of control and she alleged that they burnt a forest belonging to the Pigg’s Peak municipality.

 

Hleta said while police dispersed the protesting teachers, they retaliated by setting alight the forests.

Hleta asked teachers to be exemplary and stop involving pupils in their protests.


Comments

Question: Why shouldn't teachers involve students in their strike action when government has involved police in their refusal to give what rightfully belongs to them. The 4.5% rightfully belongs to the teachers as it is to be sourced from tax payers funds. Honestly, how does government think teachers are to survive given the recent increases in the cost of living brought about by VAT and other increases?
Jun 27, 2012, 4:01 PM, Mpho Sethlabi (mpnosethlabi@yahoo.com)

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