COPS STOP TEXTILE WORKERS’ PRAYER FOR AGOA
MANZINI – A prayer service that was being hosted by TUCOSWA with regard to AGOA was stopped by the Royal Swaziland Police.
The prayer was held outside Tex Ray firm yesterday at 11:30am and it was supposed to last for an hour. The prayer was organised by the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) in partnership with the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) and the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA).
The prayer was attended by about 1 500 workers and the guest speaker was Pastor Zandile Hlophe, who usually preaches at textile firms among other places.
AGOA is the African Growth Opportunity Act and it offers preferential access to the United States market for goods from about 40 Sub-Saharan nations that meet the required political and economical standards.
The country will stop benefitting from the Act in January 2015 after it was removed by the United States of America President Barack Obama.
While the pastor was preaching the word of God to the workers, the police came and ordered them to vacate the venue within two minutes. The first reason that the police gave to the organisers was that the gathering was illegal and it could not be regarded as a prayer because of the presence of union leaders.
SUDF Coordinator Wandile Dludlu, who was with TUCOSWA Secretary General (SG) Vincent Ncongwane and ATUSWA Secretary General Wonder Mkhonza, questioned the police’s reason of stopping the prayer. Dludlu asked why they regarded the gathering as illegal and not a prayer because there was a pastor preaching.
Without answering Dludlu’s question, the police called some senior officers for back-up and they confronted the organisers. During the talks, the police maintained that they would not allow the prayer to continue on the basis that it was attended by members of unrecognised and unregistered trade unions, TUCOSWA and ATUSWA.
Again, Dludlu said if the police had a problem with the trade unions, they should talk to them and allow the prayer to proceed.
While the officers and the organisers of the prayer were engaged in talks, another group of officers arrived and emphasised that the prayer should be immediately called off on the basis that it caused public disorder. They said the gathering prevented the free flow of traffic and that they did not have permission to use the venue from the Matsapha Town Council.
However, Dludlu said the venue was usually used by the workers during their lunch time, thus they did not see the reason to seek permission.
The talks between the police and the organisers went on until 12:30pm, the time for the workers to return to work.
In an interview after the prayer was stopped, Dludlu condemned the police act. He said it was unbecoming.
“The police act is totally unbecoming. It is wrong for them to be the law unto themselves. However, their act will not stop us from popularising the issue of AGOA,” Dludlu said.