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Wednesday, 4 June 2008


Swazi textile workers are to sue the police after they were brutally assaulted during a legal strike.

The Swaziland Manufacturing and Allied Workers Union (SMAWU) is gathering evidence to make a strong case against the police.

According to the Weekend Observer (31 May 2008) the following are among the ‘alleged victims’.

Moses Vilakati broke his pelvic bone after the police fired teargas canisters at Master Garments on 5 March (2008). He and his friends were whiling away time while on top of an embankment just above the factory when police shot at them.

Moses fell about 10 metres down and broke his pelvis.

Another victim, Nhlanhla Nkambule, was shot just above the knee. He spent some days in hospital and still has a bullet in his leg.

Catherine Motsa, who is a vendor and was not involved in the strike, was shot in the back. Doctors say a bullet is still in her back, but it is risky to operate to remove it because it is so close to her spine.

Vuyile Mavuso was shot in the neck and will not be able to speak normally again.

All these attacks took place while textile workers were on a legal strike for better pay and conditions.

The Weekend Observer (31 May 2008) also gives a revealing insight into what life is like for textile workers in Swaziland. It reports on a group of six textile workers who live together in a single room to save on rent. They earn E5.50 per hour (about 85 US cents). On average a one room flat costs E300 per month to rent.

The workers say that they try to share food, but food is so expensive these days it is difficult to get by. The cheapest meal for one person costs E10 and a piece of fruit costs E1. The six women sleep three to a bed.

The women said it is it ‘almost the culture’ among women textile workers to have a soldier as a lover. ‘This is because soldiers are many in Matsapha and earn enough to support us financially.’

They said that some textile workers ‘moonlighted’ as prostitutes. ‘They do not have any choice. Life is hard on textile workers,’ one of the women said.

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