Armed police were sent to deal with striking workers at a coal mine in Swaziland partly-owned by the kingdom’s autocratic monarch King Mswati III.
About 250 workers went on strike on 24 November 2014, after the Maloma colliery mine management refused to meet a claim for between E425 (US$42) and E800 a month housing allowance.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported, ‘The workers were surrounded by police equipped with riot shields, protective headgear, guns and teargas.’
It added, ‘During the strike, management refused the workers access to water, toilets and medical facilities.’
The Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa reported, ‘Maloma colliery produces anthracite, and is the last remaining official mine in Swaziland and an important source of revenue for the country. Chancellor House Holdings, which was started as an investment arm of the ruling ANC [African National Congress] in South Africa, own 75 percent of the mine, while the remaining 25 percent is owned by the Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, a billion-rand trust effectively controlled by Swaziland’s King Mswati III.’
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, ‘The Swazi dictatorship is well-known for its absolute intolerance of trade unions, or any other form of democratic activity. These workers simply want justice and have done nothing to justify the threat of violence from the Swazi King’s security forces.’
The Mail and Guardian reported, ‘Mswati’s regime has clamped down heavily on trade union activity in Swaziland, which critics say is thanks to the King’s stake in every major business in the country. The newly formed Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) was effectively declared illegal in 2013 following protests demanding greater democratic mechanisms.’
Dumezweni Dlamini, programme manager at the Foundation For Social Economic Justice, told the newspaper that police response to strike action had become a regular feature in Swaziland.
‘The royalty has shares in most of the major companies in Swaziland so it is a case of protecting of those interests,’ the newspaper quoted Dlamini saying. ‘The trade unions have been banned because there were coming together and challenging as a united force’