Swaziland police fired over the heads of textile workers protesting that they had not been paid by their employer.
In what is becoming a standard practice with Swazi police, the cops threatened the workers with violence, even though they were engaged in a legitimate protest.
Reports in Swaziland say that as many as 4,000 workers at the Taiwanese-owned Zheng Yong Garment Factory protested against the company bosses because they had not been paid salary and bonuses they were due.
The workers were also angry because they were not told on what day the factory would close for the Christmas holidays.
The Swazi Police were called and according to a report in the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, two officers became confused and fired ‘several times’ above the heads of the workers. This triggered the anger of the workers ‘as they replied by hurling a rain of stones directed at the two officers’.
The Observer reported, ‘The police bakkie that had been at the gate was stoned and vandalised with all its windows shattered. It was then that reinforcement was necessitated and within a blink of an eye, there arrived close to 30 heavily armed police officers who started ‘cleaning’ the area by chucking out everyone.’
Police attacks on workers are common in Swaziland. Earlier this month (December 2009) one guard was shot in the head with a rubber bullet by police and five people in total were injured when police opened fire on striking security guards in Swaziland’s capital Mbabane. Police also used teargas to ‘calm’ the strikers.