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More than 30 people have been injured as police opened fire on demonstrators during a public sector strike action in Eswatini. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has condemned the government’s brutality against the peaceful demonstrators.

“Respect for workers’ rights, good faith dialogue and a government that responds to people’s needs and concerns – just like any other country, this is what Eswatini needs, not state violence against the people. Eswatini’s King Mswati pledged to us earlier this year to build these bridges, yet now we are seeing the government pulling all stops to undermine them,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

In a bid to quash the strike, the government resorted to the National Industrial Relations Court to have the strike declared illegal. In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo, the ITUC highlighted past commitments to establishing dialogue and further recalled that “the use of violence, even for purported reasons of internal security, constitutes a serious violation of human and trade union rights”.

The General Secretary of the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU), shot with live ammunition, was among those injured. The violence comes amid a broader pattern of curtailment of democratic freedoms in the country. The United Nations’ Human Rights Council has called on the government to put in place measures for the protection of public events and demonstrations.

“The government claimed that the strike was a threat to national interests. If the Swazi people asking for decent working conditions is against this government’s version of ‘national interest’, then the government has got it totally wrong,” said Burrow.

Further information:
Letter to Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo

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