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MANZINI - At least five public transport workers were shot as police dispersed them from the city of Manzini, while three others were hospitalised after allegedly being assaulted by soldiers.

The shot public transport workers were part of those who attended their meeting which was convened by the Swaziland Transport Communications and Allied Workers Union (SWATCAWU) at the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Centre yesterday afternoon. Yestreday morning, at around 9am, a group of the on-strike public transport workers gathered at the Manzini Bus Rank and some of them noted that most businesses were operating. Thereafter, they suggested that some of them should visit the businesses with the aim of forcing them to close. Indeed some of them walked along Ngwane Street and up to Manzini LifeStyle Centre. As they marched, they shouted; ‘Vala’ (close), and the businesses, which operate along the street, closed. However, they spared the vendors who sell fruit and vegetables at the President Centre Market.


When they arrived at Manzini LifeStyle Centre, they found that the main entrance or exit routes were closed and they failed to gain entry. Thereafter, they shouted at the businesspeople to close. At that time, armed police officers from the Operational Support Services Unit (OSSU), Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and Serious Crime Unit (Lukhozi), arrived. The OSSU officers arrived in a Casspir and fired rubber bullets. The workers’ ran helter-skelter and the armed law enforcers pursued them, while shooting at them with rubber bullet.

The hot pursued took different directions as some ran towards Coasts Valley while others bolted through the clustered Mangwaneni Township. However, by the time of compiling this report, it could not be ascertained if there were public transport workers who were injured in the process or not. In the meantime, those who were at the Manzini Bus Rank were informed about the developments and they tried to rush to their colleagues, but they were stopped by another group of armed police officers, just before they joined Ngwane Street at KFC traffic lights. According too some of the public transport workers who were shot, when the police stopped them, they clashed because their aim was to go and assist their colleagues whose lives were in danger as the law enforcers were using force to disperse them.

“Since we did not see eye-to-eye, we ended up clashing. We were determined to go to our colleagues and the police ended up shooting us with rubber bullets,” they alleged. Thereafter, they said most of them ran towards Mzimnene River and up towards the Grand Valley (GV).  They said the police chased them while shooting them with rubber bullets.  They also claimed that some of them were assaulted by the law enforcers with batons. “They (law enforcers) also used tear gas canisters to disperse us from the city,” they added. They claimed that in the process, a number of the protesters were shot. The protesters alleged that more than five were shot, but the others did not attend the meeting at SNAT Centre.  The five who attended the meeting had rubber bullet wounds mainly on their thighs and buttocks. It was further reported that a bus conductor was shot allegedly by the police during an altercation at Msahweni. 

On the other hand, the trio, who said they were assaulted by members of the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (UEDF) at Mpaka on Monday afternoon, claimed that they were from the public transport workers’ strike action in Manzini. They said they were aboard a Toyota Quantum kombi, which was ferrying them back to Lomahasha. They said when they passed Malindza; they found an army bakkie loaded with armed military men, parked next to the road.  As they travelled, they claimed that they noted that the army bakkie was following them.


When they arrived at Mpaka Filling Station, the army van stopped and the military men jumped off the vehicle. They claimed that the soldiers were about 14 and they ordered them to get out of the kombi and lie on the road. “They assaulted us with sticks and kicks all over the body. Motorists who tried to stop and ask what was happening were ordered to continue with their journey and were threatened with guns,” the affected public transport workers claimed. Later on, they said an army truck arrived and they were ordered to board it and lie inside, facing down. Thereafter, they said the truck travelled for a while and when it stopped, they discovered that they were next to the Marula Oil Manufactures at Mpaka.

“Upon our arrival there, they ordered us to jump off the truck and they assaulted us again. This time around, there were more soldiers, including females,” they said. Afterwards, they alleged that the soldiers assaulted them under their feet with iron rods and ordered them to leave. They alleged that before they were ordered to leave, the soldiers took their cellphones and shoes. They said they limped to the main road (Manzini/Lomahasha) and were rushed to the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital by a good Samaritan. At the hospital, the trio were treated and discharged around 8pm on Monday, but since it was late, a medical practitioner organised space for them to sleep in one of the wards.

They said some of their relatives brought them shoes yesterday morning, while others received some pair of sandals from their leaders. On the other hand, SWATCAWU Acting Secretary General Sticks Nkambule said so far, they had recorded eight casualties, which were a result of police and soldiers’ brutality.  He said as an association, they condemned the members of the State security organs’ brutality on their members and public at large. Thereafter, he said if there were others who were assaulted or arrested, they should contact his office so that they could assist them. On the same note, SNAT President Mbongwa Dlamini sent words of comfort to the injured workers.  He encouraged them to overcome the situation and use the incident as a learning curve so that in the future, they could be able to use the tools (which injured them) better.

Meanwhile, the UEDF Public Relations Officer (PRO), Lieutenant Tengetile Khumalo, said one would have to wait for the battalion in charge of the operational area to advise and furnish her office with details of the alleged incident. She said that was if at all, it involved EUDF members, because it would be near impossible to respond to hearsays and allegations.


However, she urged the affected individuals to report to the relevant structures as opposed to the media, so as to ascertain the underlying facts on the alleged matter at hand. On the same note, Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati said they did not have records of the said incidents. In fact, she said no one had reported the matter to the police. It is worth noting that several other people, including public transport workers, were shot by members of the State security organs during the ongoing strike action last week. One of them, Sicelo Dlamini, who was a kombi conductor was shot dead while at Luyengo.

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