The army in Swaziland is on standby to break the public sector strikes that have gripped the kingdom for more than a month.
Commissioner of Police Isaac Magagula said soldiers would be available to help workers who wanted to go into work to defy the strike.
The government had already said it would sack any striker who did not return to work by today (24 July 2012). Now the police commissioner has warned that troops will be on hand to ‘ensure the safety’ of people wanting to go back to work.
Teachers and public service workers are on strike for a 4.5 percent salary increase. Over the past weeks Swazi police have attacked peaceful protestors with teargas, rubber bullets and batons in an attempt to stop them gathering and marching.
Strikers have also been voicing concerns over the lack of democracy in Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Magagula met with senior army personnel at the weekend and later told a press conference soldiers and members of the kingdom’s correctional service would be deployed ‘to maintain law and order and to safeguard [workers’] safety. In particular, to ensure that they are not harassed and intimidated in anyway.’
He also banned works from trying to go into workplaces to explain the reasons for their strike. He said anyone who did so ‘would be met with the full extent and might of the law’.
National Public Service and Allied Workers Union Secretary General, Vincent Dlamini, said the involvement of soldiers is unacceptable as the civil servants are not fighting with anyone, but want what is due to them.
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