Swazi police have fired live bullets at schoolchildren protestors.
They also fired rubber bullets and teargas.
It happened as about 700 pupils are said to have been demonstrating against their school’s deputy principal.
The incident happened on Tuesday (28 October 2008) at Nhlangano Central High School when the pupils attacked the deputy principal, who has been accused of engaging in witchcraft at the school.
The Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (29 October 2008) that police arrived at the school ‘and fired shots to scare the pupils away, restoring order’.
The Observer continued, ‘Police Public Relations Officer Superintendent Vusi Masuku confirmed that police used live rounds but said it was necessary to disperse the rioting pupils.
‘He said the police had initially used teargas but the pupils refused to budge.’
Today’s Times of Swaziland has a different version of events. It reports that some people had claimed that only rubber bullets were fired, ‘but the pictures captured by our photographer suggest rubber had very little to do with the cartridges found on the ground’.
The police in Swaziland are ill disciplined and out of control. They regularly use excessive methods, such as firing teargas and rubber bullets, to disperse crowds – even, as in the case of striking textile workers earlier this year – people who are lawfully going about their business.
The firing by police on children is disgraceful. The fact that they fired live bullets should be condemned. It shows us just how quickly the state is prepared to unleash violence against its own people.
I hope the international community condemns this action. Those of us with long memories will remember that in apartheid South Africa the tide of international opinion turned against the ruling elite once it started shooting and killing schoolkids.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that in Swaziland.