SNAT to take government to ILO over protesting members shooting



BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI

JOHANNESBURG: The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) has vowed to report the government of Swaziland to the International Labour Organization (ILO) over the dramatic shooting that manifested in Manzini where a teacher was shot in the arm. The teachers union disclosed this through its Secretary General Zwelithini Mndzebele after the arrest of Maxwell Myeni, the teacher who tried to stop a senior police officer Raphael “Skheshekheshe” Maseko from firing more bullets at the protesting teachers. Myeni was subsequently granted R7000 bail by the Manzini Magistrate court after spending two days in police cells.

An independent investigation by this Swaziland News publication uncovered that Manzini Station Commander Raphael “Skheshekheshe” Maseko arrived at the privately owned teachers SNAT Centre in Manzini with about six police officers and tried to disperse the teachers who had peacefully assembled to discuss a way-forward regarding government’s decision to grant 0.00% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). The Station Commander allegedly fired shoots until his firearm went out of bullets with one teacher already bleeding after he was shoot in the arm. Information gathered suggest that Maxwell Myeni then went straight to the top cop and tried to stop him that was the beginning of a fight. Myeni was later arrested by police officers at his home in Lavumisa at night and political activists said the timing of the arrest was to make sure he spend a night in police cells so can be tortured until the next morning.

Swazi police Spokesperson Superintendent Khulani Mamba confirmed to this publication that Myeni was charged with assault and obstruction. “Yes he has been charged for assault and obstruction” said the police Spokesperson. Zwelithini Mndzebele, the Secretary General of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) released a statement on behalf the National Executive Committee (NEC) where he mentioned that the main crime of the teachers who were brutalized by the police was to demand 6.55% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for the current year.

“The main crime of the teachers was to demand a Cost of Living Adjustment for the current year. The act by the police is in conflict with several international instruments on Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Association, to name but a few” he said.

The Executive of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers has vowed to report the matter to the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) where it is an affiliate, so the matter could be taken ILO. Mduduzi Gina, the TUCOSWA Secretary General said his organization condemn the shooting of unarmed SNAT members. In a media statement Gina said it was surprising to note that the workers were attacked and shot during their gathering in their privately owned Centre. “The interference by the police which resulted to the shooting was not warranted in the first place as the gathering was not held in a public place. Their provocation and trigger-happy attitude was and remains not in line with the spirit of harmonious industrial relations promotion and it is conflict with the Public Order Act and all international Standards governing freedom of association and assembly “he said. Gina said they were surprised that the Manzini Station Commander was not arrested despite evidence that he was the one shooting at teachers. He said the arrest of Maxwell Myeni; the TUCOSWA Secretary General of the Lavumisa Shopstewards Council and a member of the SNAT came as a surprise as the Station Commander was never held accountable in accordance with the law. Freedom Dlamini, the SNAT President when addressing teachers at Sgodvweni Police Station said this situation called for them to stand firmly on what they believe in. The teachers had assembled at the Sgodvweni Police Station in solidarity with the arrested teacher.

“It starts with a vision of few people who said this needs to be addressed, we wont wait until we are a huge crowd because at the end, the success of whatever struggle may not be dependent on the numbers but is it dependent on what Steve Biko calls consciousness, the feeling that you have inside yourself about that situation such that you cannot even sleep. In most instances you are even ready to give up your life for that situation to be resolved” he said. Kenneth Kunene, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) said they appreciate the brave workers who stood in solidarity with Maxwell Myeni including the Swazis who had been spreading the news through their media platforms. In a statement, Dlamini said this exposed the brutality of King Mswati regime.