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MORE SUGAR CANE FIELDS SET ABLAZE

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image Tambankulu Estate workers march to the administration offices yesterday morning.

TAMBANKULU – An undisclosed number of hectares of sugar cane were yesterday set on fire at Tambankulu Estate as over 700 armed workers forced their way into the administration building.


The people who set the cane fields on fire are not known for now as no arrests were made by last night. Fire and Emergency Services officers rushed to the cane fields in a bid to put out the flames.


The hectares destroyed by the fire could not be ascertained yesterday as there was no response from management when called. The burning of the fields comes after other fields were burnt last week at Big Bend and Tambankulu. The employees are currently on strike demanding a salary increase.


The workers forced their way into the administration offices in an attempt to confront their managers. In the build up, employees had gained entry into the premises of the administration block by going through a locked gate.


They overpowered a group of police officers who were blocking their way. The over 700 workers went through a locked gate and further went through a human wall which had been created by police officers and warders.


This prompted the police to call for back-up in the form of officers from the Operational Support Service Unit (OSSU). The back-up swiftly arrived and blocked the workers from going closer to the administration offices.
There was near confrontation between the police and workers when the police used their vehicles to push them out of the premises of the administration offices.


Some workers were seen arming themselves with stones while the police riot squad took its position. Some officers, who were carrying stun grenades and tear gas, were also seen taking their positions in readiness for firing.


Despite seeing the riot squad taking its position, the defiant workers kept on pushing the police and seemed not intimidated. The situation got even more tense when nearby sugar cane fields were set ablaze by unknown people.


A cloud of black smoke engulfed the whole arena as the sugar cane fields were set ablaze.
Fire and Emergency Services personnel were called, and they promptly arrived and immediately began putting out the fire.
Seeing that the situation was getting tense, Secretary General of the Swaziland Agricultural Plantations and Allied Workers Union (SAPAWU) Archie Sayed ordered the workers to disperse. “Comrades! Let us call it a day and we will return tomorrow to continue with the demonstration,” he said as the workers shouted Amandla ngawethu!


About half of the workers dispersed while others continued demonstrating but this time they were marching towards the exit.
Meanwhile, there was no statement from Tambankulu Estate regarding the burnt sugar cane fields.


Tambankulu Estate General Manager George White was called at 4:14pm and again at 4:49pm, but his phone rang unanswered.
A message was sent to his mobile phone at 5:50pm, but by the time of compiling this report he had not responded to the message.


Close to 1 000 workers at Tambankulu Estate downed tools last Monday demanding that salaries be increased by 10 per cent across the board, but management is reportedly offering 10 per cent for low earners (Grade A), eight per cent for middle earners (Grade B) and eight per cent for high earners (Grade C).

Comments (4 posted):

Sipho Fakudze on 24/06/2014 05:53:42
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I find it ludicrous and plain stupid that millions is emalangeni worth of damage can be incurred by a company for a small salary increase proposed by its workers. Over E8M worth of sugar cane was set ablaze last week alone - that money could probably pay for the workers for the 3 to 5 years including the 10% increase! How preposterous!
Msandie Dlamini on 24/06/2014 11:52:03
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Is this Swaziland's own Marikana? Things are seemingly changing now in Swaziland, kwangatsi luvalo luphelile kulamaningi eMaswati.
Gogo on 24/06/2014 17:51:10
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These are criminals that White must stop to negotiate anything and seek the governments help to protect his assets. All these clowns he needs to send them back home packing- there are laws in this country that provides guidance in cases where manager and workers do not agree regarding salaries issues. Burning the hand that feeds you is stupid and selfish- no love there shown for sure
TM on 25/06/2014 04:49:41
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I wish swazi people could be wise enough and look beyond the now moment. Lessons should be learnt from the past! Can anyone remember what happened to SAPPI? it started in a similar manner burning forests at the end who was a winner? Bhunya area is a ghost communities around are suffering who benefited so much from the company.
Im not supporting low wages but lets be realistic where else in the world except in Swaziland where people get 10% increase? Study all the first world countries how much they offer for annual icreaments? With the current economic situation globally how do you think the companies in the country are going to sustain production and consequently your jobs?

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