Date: Wed, 24 Jan 1996 15:46:33 -0500 (EST)
From: Terence G Sibiya <>
Subject: More News!
To: swazi-net <>
Message-ID: <<

General strike

Associated Press. 24 January, 1996

MBABANE, Swaziland (AP) -- Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in the two main cities of Swaziland on Tuesday, the second day of a nationwide strike called to demand democratic reforms.

Labor leaders said at least six demonstrators were injured in the clashes at the capital of Mbabane and the industrial center of Manzini. Police said demonstrators shot and critically wounded two officers.

Soldiers and police patrolled the two cities, while supporters waited outside a Mbabane courthouse for news of three strike organizers who were arrested Monday under an anti-strike law passed earlier that day.

Shops, factories and utilities remained shut down Tuesday, said Vusi Ginindza, news editor of the independent Times of Swaziland newspaper.

Labor unions are calling on King Mswati III's government to legalize political parties banned since 1972.

Swaziland, sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique, has enjoyed relative peace and stability under its non-party political system.

Mswati rules by virtual decree, with the government rubber-stamping his decisions. Political leaders are chosen through a complex system of public meetings.

While most Swaziland citizens respect the monarchy, a vocal pro-democracy movement comprising labor unions and university students has pushed for changes in line with Western principles spreading through other parts of Africa.

The strike will continue until the government agrees to the unions' demands, which include creation of a constitutional assembly to begin the shift to a multiparty system, Jan Sithole of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions said before his arrest.

Sithole, the union federation's secretary general; Richard Nxumalo, the federation's president; and Jabulani Nxumalo, the assistant secretary-general, were detained under the new industrial relations law, which includes stiff jail sentences and fines for organizing and inciting illegal strikes.

The three were charged with public violence and could be held without a trial, said their lawyer, Paul Shilubane.

MBABANE, Swaziland (AP) -- Soldiers and police in armored vehicles patrolled the streets of the two main cities in Swaziland in force Tuesday, after bloody clashes with supporters of a nationwide strike to push for democratic reforms.

Six protesters and two policemen were reported injured Tuesday in Mbabane, the capital. Labor leaders said police fired live ammunition and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators, though police admitted only to using tear gas.

State-run television reported a 16-year-old girl was killed by police gunfire in the industrial center of Manzini when the strike began Monday. Circumstances of the shooting were unclear. Prime Minister Prince Mbilini Dlamini went on television late Tuesday to urge people to return to work.

Citizens must respect the law and ``avoid creating groups or crowds which may be mistaken for supporters of the boycott,'' Dlamini said.

Such bloodshed and protests are rare in tiny Swaziland, known for its natural beauty and as a pocket of stability amid the arfare and political turmoil throughout southern Africa in previous decades.

Dlamini invited unions to talks to end the crisis. The government promised that union leaders arrested for organizing the strike would receive a fair trial.

The strike disrupted the electricity supply and forced newspapers to print by generator power. The international airport remained closed for a second day, but border posts were open and phone links were up.

Most shops stayed closed, although people trying to stock up on food lined up for 40 yards outside one store in Mbabane, under the watchful eyes of police.

Labor unions launched the strike to demand that the government legalize political parties, banned since 1972. The government responded with a new law passed Monday that gave police a free hand to crack down on strikers.

Three organizers were arrested Monday night under the new public order law, which allows for severe prison sentences, and charged secretly in a remote area Tuesday far from the Mbabane courthouse where supporters waited. The three were remanded into custody until a further hearing Jan. 30.

Sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique, this remote mountain kingdom has enjoyed relative peace under its non-party political system. King Mswati III rules by virtual decree, with the government rubber-stamping his decisions.

While most Swazis respect the monarchy, a vocal pro-democracy movement comprising labor unions and university students has pushed for changes in line with Western principles.

Jan Sithole, one of the arrested organizers and secretary general of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, said before his arrest that the strike would continue until the government agreed to take steps toward a multiparty system.

World History Archives Gateway to World History Images from World History Hartford Web Publishing