Teachers vow; no retreat, no surrender
MBABANE – Teachers declared war against security forces during their protest action, yesterday.
Some teachers openly said they were tired of being assaulted by the police during protest matches.
"Enough is enough," shouted one teacher, while others were singing ‘noma besidubula siyaya ku-multiparty’.
This is loosely translated, "Even if they shoot at us, we are moving towards multi-party democracy."
During a confrontation at about 12:50pm, a police officer was seriously injured and rushed to hospital after he was hit by a stone suspected to have been thrown by protesters.
This was moments after the teachers and sympathisers had been addressed by the Swazi-land National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Secretary General Muzi Mhlanga at the Coronation Park.
Initially, Mhlanga had told the protesters that they should find their way to the Industrial Court, via the bus rank.
While marching and singing to the court, just a few metres from where they had been addressed, the protesters were blocked by security officers who had formed a barrier. A verbal confrontation ensued.
The protesters tried to force their way through the human barrier. Members of the security forces retaliated by firing teargas in a bid to disperse the crowd of about 500 protesters, according to former Manzini Regional Commissioner Samuel Mbhamali who is now based at the police headquarters.
It was at this point that a police officer only identified as Seven Dlamini who was in the front was hit with a stone on the head.
He fell to the ground, bleeding.
Seven’s colleagues retaliated by firing teargas canisters at the protesters, who took to their heels.
Interestingly, during the commotion, one protester threw back a teargas canister at the officers. They ran for cover, but not for long. The officers chased after the teachers while others assaulted the protesters with batons.
This lasted for about 10 minutes. After dispersing the crowd, the police re-grouped at the car park next to the Coronation Park for lunch. Injured teachers were driven by their colleagues to the Mbabane Government Hospital where they were treated and discharged.
Later in the afternoon at about 2pm, the teachers assembled at the Industrial Court for the hearing.
While waiting for feedback from their leaders, they sang and danced outside. At about 4:35pm, the leadership was met with a loud cheer from the crowd when it emerged from the court.
SNAT President, Sibongile Mazibuko had to wait for about 10 minutes to address the teachers as they sang on top of their voices, ‘uyeza u Seven.’
After addressing them, the protesters marched towards the Mbabane Government Hospital with the intention of going to the city centre, but there was another confrontation with the security forces.
They again pelted the police with stones. The police in turn fired teargas canisters and rubber bullets at the teachers who ran into the hospital and from their hiding place, continued fighting back by throwing stones and other missiles they could lay their hands on against the combined force of warders and police.
After about 30 minutes the situation normalised as teachers were seen aboard public transport, leaving the city. Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Assistant Superintendent Stephen Dlamini confirmed that a police officer was injured during the skirmish.
He pointed out that no arrest had been made in connection to the incident that occurred near the Coronation Park.
Dlamini said he had not received any statistics on injured protesters at the time of compiling this report at 8pm yesterday. In addition, the police deputy spokesperson said a teacher from Somnjalose High School was arrested for allegedly vandalising property.
He said the teacher who is expected to appear in court today was alleged to have stoned a vehicle near the High Court.
‘We will get what we want’
MBABANE – Teachers are adamant that they will get the 4.5 per cent cost of living adjustment.
SNAT President Sibongile Mazibuko said nothing would stop them in their quest of getting the increment. "We are not asking for anything, but just 4.5 per cent," she said.
Mazibuko said they would not be frightened with threats from government of effecting the no-work-no pay rule.
Besides getting the 4.5 per cent increment, Mazibuko expressed hope that teachers would democratise the country.
She said their strike has attracted a number of sympathizsers from different spheres. "Minister Lutfo asked who our sympathizers were, we told him that in Africa people just come to pass their condolences, unlike the western culture where invitations are sent out," she said to a loud cheer.
Mazibuko pointed out that many people have jumped on their train in a bid to obtain freedom. "Lesiti-mela sitsatsa wonkhe muntfu. Sitsatsa umfati sitsatse indvodza," she said to cheers from the crowd.
This is loosely translated, "This train does not discriminate. Women and men alike can board this train."
Mazibuko said teachers will not retreat nor surrender.
Govt tried to serve court papers at night
MBABANE – Government is alleged to have tried to serve SNAT executive members with court papers at night.
This was disclosed by SNAT President Sibongile Mazibuko when addressing the approximately 500 teachers.
She said government tried to serve them with court documents on Thursday evening.
"They knocked at my gate last night. I did not bother waking up. The membership told me not to leave my house at night. They did the same to the Secretary General (Muzi Mhlanga). Government likes to work at night," she said.
Mazibuko wondered why government did not wait until morning to serve them with papers.
Interestingly, earlier Mhlanga had to be literally carried by some officers after he refused to move away when instructed by senior officers. The senior officers had ordered that the Executive, which had assembled at a car park, move to the designated Coronation Park.
Mhlanga and some of the members were scrutinising the court summons which they were expected to sign.
The president told bemused protesters that to-date about 56 teachers had been arrested.
Mazibuko pointed out that 33 teachers were arrested at Nhlangano, while five were incarcerated in Manzini, and 18 were expected to appear at the High Court, yesterday.
She said the teachers were facing a wide range of charges.
Mario under house arrest
MBABANE – President of the proscribed Peo ple’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), Mario Masuku, says he was yesterday allegedly placed under house arrest by the police.
This, it is alleged as in an attempt to stop him from attending the Swaziland National Association of Teacher’s protest march in Mbabane. The action proved to be successful, resulting in some of the teachers questioning his absence.
One of them reported that Masuku had allegedly been placed under house arrest, adding that there were officers camped outside his house to make sure that he does not leave.
Masuku, interviewed late yesterday, confirmed that he had been allegedly placed under house arrest, adding that there were three officers assigned to make sure that he did not leave his house. He identified the officers as Sergeant Ma-thunjwa and Inspectors Dlamini and Mkhwanazi.
He alleged that they stopped him at around 7.30am while he was on his way to town from his house. "When I reached Mbabane Club, I found a roadblock and about 15 officers pounced on me. They ordered that I drive back home without giving an explanation why," he alleged.
Masuku further stated that no court order or any piece of documentation was provided by the police to support their action. He duly did as instructed and was followed by the three who made sure he did not leave.
Asked if he had intended participating in the protest action, Masuku said it was not an issue where he was going, but what was important was that he was denied his right to freedom of association and expression.
It was around 7pm when he was called last night and he said the police were not watching him anymore. By this time, the protesters had dispersed after the case, in which government is attempting to have the SNAT executive arrested for 30 days for alleged contempt of court, was postponed to today.
"No, nobody is following me now," Masuku said when asked if the police were still camped outside his home.
Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Assistant Superintendent Stephen Dlamini refuted the allegations that Masuku had been placed under house arrest. "Why would he be placed under house arrest?" wondered Dlamini.
However, he stated that the officers identified by Masuku did not deny meeting with him. "They said they saw him at the road block, but they never placed him under house arrest," Dlamini said.
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