Swazi police shot an innocent woman bystander in the back as they attacked striking textile workers during a legal picket.
Heavily armed police shot five workers by the end of the unprovoked violence. In total 16 workers and one policeman were hospitalised.
Police fired indiscriminately and some people who were not textile workers were also attacked.
Swaziland’s two newspapers were yesterday (15 March 2008) full of eyewitness accounts to the mayhem created by Swazi police.
Even the Weekend Observer - perhaps the newspaper most loyal to the non-democratic regime in Swaziland - gave detailed accounts of the violence.
In its reports the Weekend Observer described the scene as a ‘war zone’. The newspaper reported the ‘heavy smell of teargas and gunfire’.
The Swazi News likened the scene to something from Iraq. Police were ‘armed to the teeth’, according to the newspaper.
The violence happened after striking workers met to listen to their union leader. After he finished speaking ‘police pounced on the unsuspecting workers and immediately fired teargas canisters without uttering a word,’ according to the Weekend Observer.
The report continued, ‘That marked the beginning of complete mayhem as the police assaulted every worker on sight with batons.’
The Weekend Observer quoted a woman eyewitness saying,
‘We ran helter-skelter as the police had a field day on us. Some workers sought shelter in nearby shops but were removed and further assaulted. I have never seen such brutality in my life.
‘They were heavily armed and were scattered all over the industrial area.’
The eyewitness continued, ‘They were literally running after us, obviously enjoying what they were doing.’
The Swazi News reported that a women vendor who was not involved in the strike was shot in the back. The Swazi News reported the woman saying, ‘I just saw a police car speeding towards us and while it was moving I was shot in the back. I just don’t know why they shot me when I am just a vendor selling ice blocks, biscuits and fish.’
The Weekend Observer found the vendor at hospital with a bullet lodged in her back.
The Weekend Observer interviewed a man who said police deliberately fired into his knee. The newspaper quoted him saying,
‘They [the police] came and started assaulting us and asked why we were not at work. One officer pulled out a gun and fired at my knee. I fell down and several of them started assaulting me with batons all over the body, with blood oozing from the gunshot wound.’
This was not the first unprovoked attack by police during the current textile workers’ strike, which is over pay and has lasted two weeks so far. In a previous incident police attacked a woman who was eight months pregnant and hit her all over her body with batons.
The Weekend Observer put several reports of the violence on its website.
To see the reports click
SWAZI POLICE ATTACK PREGNANT WOMAN
SWAZI POLICE RAMPAGE AGAIN