5 February 2018

Swaziland: Police 'Fired Live Bullets At Protest'

Police in Swaziland have not denied a newspaper report that they fired live ammunition during a student protest. Students from Swaziland Christian University were protesting about delays in receiving allowances and problems over graduation.

Students marched in protest on Wednesday (31 January 2018) and at least 11 were arrested for damaging property and causing a disturbance.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Friday (2 February 2018), Deputy Chief Police Information and Communication Officer Assistant Superintendent Phindile Vilakati, 'said she could not confirm or deny allegations of police brutality and assault'.

It added, 'When Vilakati was asked if it was true that one of their officers ordered that live rounds of ammunition be used instead of teargas and rubber bullets against the protesting students, she said what happens during police operations was something that was to be decided by those officers on the ground.'

Students, including a mother and her baby were arrested and put in police cells overnight pending a court appearance. Students later accused police of brutality.

Police in Swaziland have been known in the past to fire live ammunition during legitimate protests. In February 2017 they fired warning gunshots at civilians when kombi drivers and conductors brought traffic to a standstill at Mvutshini by blocking the highway and stopping public transport. They were protesting about an alleged corrupt traffic police officer.

Also in February 2017 police fired warning gunshots as University of Swaziland students marched with a petition to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to protest about late payment of their allowances.

Again in February 2017 they fired live gunshots and teargas at workers at Juris Manufacturing in Nhlangano when workers were locked out in a dispute over allegations that management planned to purge the staff of 'troublesome elements'.

In October 2016 police fired gunshots at protesting students at the Limkokwing university in Mbabane. At least four students received 'serious injuries' during disturbances, according to the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom's only independent daily newspaper.

In August 2016 riot police fired shots over the heads of striking workers outside the Plantation Forestry Company who were protesting for an increase in pay of the equivalent of 35 US cents per hour.

In October 2015 police fired shots and teargas at protesting textile workers at the Zheng Yong Garment factory in Nhlangano. They were protesting against the behaviour of security guards.

In June 2013 police fired live bullets and teargas as children protested against alleged corruption at Mhubhe High School in Ngculwini.

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