Scores of people were injured, some seriously, by police in Swaziland who fired rubber bullets and tear gas and used batons to attack striking public servants.
At least 13 strikers were taken to hospital, eight with wounds caused by rubber bullets.
More than 200 police officers attacked strikers in Coronation Park, Mbabane, the Swazi capital, as they prepared to march in support of a 4.5 percent wage increase. Members of the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) were on strike for the day, joining teachers who have been on an indefinite strike for more than two weeks.
Police imprisoned the strikers in the park for most of the morning yesterday (11 July 2012) and refused to allow them to leave for a march through the city. At about 2pm some strikers tried to leave the park to get lunch. It was then that police commanders ordered officers to fire rubber bullets and teargas at the strikers.
The public sector strike had been permitted by the kingdom’s industrial court, but police said a march had not been sanctioned by the city council. Freedom of assembly and the right to protest are severely limited in Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Swazi police routinely attack protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets. Last week striking teachers were their latest victim.