13 October 2018

Swaziland: Riot Police Invade Hospital During Peaceful Nurses' Protest. Latest in Long Line of Attacks On Workers

Armed riot police invaded the Hlatikhulu Government Hospital in Swaziland and it 'almost turned into a battleground' during a legal protest by nurses.

It was another attack by police against workers in recent weeks.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom recently renamed Eswatini by absolute monarch King Mswati III, reported on Friday (12 October 2018), 'The Hlatikhulu Government Hospital was almost turned into a battleground after riot police invaded the facility, while nurses were engaged in a protest action.'

It said police with guns patrolled the hospital. They had entered the premises on Thursday after nurses started singing and chanting slogans, 'in protest over what they described as unfair treatment by their management'.

It added, 'Sparking the anger was the abusive language that was allegedly employed by the over 10 officers, who were sent to the hospital.'

The Times reported, 'Angry nurses who were demonstrating around the hospital premises confronted the police after the latter became aggressive and ordered them to halt their action.'

Police in Swaziland have an written policy to use violence against protestors. In the week up to the kingdom's national election on 21 September 2018 workers organised by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) took part in three days of strikes and protests in Mbabane, Manzini, Nhlangano and Siteki.

Armed police were deployed across Swaziland. Videos and photographs of brutal police attacks were uploaded on social media.

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) in a statement said, the videos circulated on social media indicated 'unlawful police actions, and require urgent investigation'.

It added, 'Several workers were wounded after police fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd in Manzini. These police officers then unleashed a wave of assaults against striking workers in an effort to quell the protests.'

The strike came after a series of protests and rallies which saw police violence in attempts to suppress the protestors. Police shot and wounded a schoolteacher at a vigil protesting their salaries in late August. Nurses in the kingdom's capital city of Mbabane were tasered during a pay protest.

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