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MANZINI – The police might have successfully quashed TUCOSWA’s protest action yesterday but Manzini was brought to a standstill as conductors demanded to join in the action.

The public transport conductors protested at the bus rank and ordered drivers to remove all vehicles from the rank.
As a result, Manzini Bus Rank became an open battlefield for the protesting conductors and members of the security forces.

Information gathered was that the conductors had resolved that they would work until 9am yesterday and join the protesting workers in the protest action hosted by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).

However, the plan was spoilt by the fact that workers who are members of unions affiliated to TUCOSWA failed to convene at King Somhlolo Park as they were rudely turned back by the police and warders, who had painted the park navy blue and army green. They told the workers to go back to work and made it clear that they were not supposed to be seen around town.

As a result, the workers who were intending to protest in the city communicated via social media that they should gather at the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Centre.
While the number of workers was increasing bit by bit at SNAT Centre, the police learnt about the protesters’ strategy and they assembled just adjacent to the venue.
The presence of the police nearby seemed to have angered the workers as they started protesting on the public road outside SNAT Centre. In the process, they collected stones and all sorts of rubbish by the road.


In response, the heavily armed police officers drew closer to the protesting workers. Meanwhile, the protesters pelted them with stones and they responded by throwing explosive stun grenades at the group of workers, who dispersed and bolted into SNAT Centre.

By that time, the insiders said the conductors who were coordinating the move to join the protest action called the workers to find out about their whereabouts. They said it was then that they discovered that their plan was foiled.
They ordered a certain number of kombis to go and fetch them at SNAT Centre but that move was blocked by the vigilant police.

However, the insiders said the determined conductors started protesting around the bus rank by singing and dancing to political songs and slogans. In the process, they burned tyres on the road from the bus rank and their actions attracted heavy police presence.


Meanwhile, the protesting workers were stuck at SNAT Centre as the armed police surrounded the building and threw stun grenades, while firing tear gas canisters at anyone leaving the venue.
However, after the conductors ordered drivers to vacate the bus rank and find an alternative place to park the vehicles, the situation became worse as they clashed with the police several times.

The conductors were pelting stones and all sort of rubbish at the police, who responded by throwing explosive grenades and fired tear gas canisters at them. This forced the law enforcers, who were at the bus rank, to call for backup and the nearest was those who were at SNAT Centre.
As a result, the focus shifted from SNAT Centre to the bus rank where several fires were started along the main road from the bus rank. Two police water cannons and a Casspir came through.

Meanwhile, members of the public walked from the bus rank towards Manzini Central Galp Filling Station, where most public transport vehicles had parked but it was gathered that only a few ferried them to their respective destinations.


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