A heavy presence of armed police was reported on the streets of Manzini in Swaziland today (30 July 2012) as teachers defied a government ultimatum to end their two-month long strike or be sacked.
Democracy activists from the Centre for Human Rights, Swaziland, reported they visited six schools in Manzini and found children playing outside classrooms and some loitering in the streets of the city.
‘The city of Manzini is marred with the presence of armed police officers and other law enforcement state agents,’ the Centre said in a statement.
The government of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, gave striking teachers until today to return to work. It said they would be fired if they did not. Already teachers have had their pay stopped for striking, but the Swaziland National Teachers Association has challenged this in the High Court.
Teachers have been on strike for two months in an attempt to get a 4.5 percent pay increase.
The Centre for Human Rights said, ‘The governments’ position came at a time when local media reports that the government will hire 130 more police officers and spend about E 8.2 million. Teachers at a meeting held on Friday 27 July 2012 resolved to stay away from work until the government gives them the 4.5 % wage increase.’
It added that in recent week, ‘Sporadic protests have seen protesters being heavily assaulted by members of the police force and some being pelted with rubber bullets and tear-gassed. The government of Swaziland continues to condone violent acts by security personnel despite calls from both local and internationally for the government to ensure the protection and enjoyment of all civil and political rights.’