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SFTU leader Jan Sithole on Focus on Africa
"My fundamental rights are being abused"
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Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 17:52 GMT
Swazi striker shot
Swaziland's parliament
The King choses all candidates for parliament
Trade unionists in Swaziland say police have attacked workers in the capital, Mbabane, and in the eastern industrial city of Manzini, on the second day of their strike to press for democratic reform in the kingdom.

The secretary-general of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers, Musa Dlamini, said striking workers had been beaten up and a school teacher shot in the eye.

He also said a trade unionist arrested and then freed yesterday, had been re-arrested today.

It was not clear whether the teacher, Bonginhlahla Gama, had been shot with a rubber bullet or a live round.

Leader confined

The head of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), Jan Sithole, told the BBC security forces were trying to limit his freedom of movement.

Meetng in South Africa
Union leader Jan Sithole: meeting banned in Swaziland
He said he had been stopped at a road block and denied access to his colleagues.

Most schools remained closed, as did many industries in the central sugar belt.

But most commercial outlets and offices stayed open.

Mr Dlamini said workers would return to work as planned on Wednesday as they had achieved their objectives.

Strike banned

The strike, called for Monday and Tuesday, was banned by a court order obtained by the government late on Sunday.

Trade union leaders are specifically objecting to a new law which makes workers liable for losses suffered as the result of industrial action.

They are also demanding democratic reform in the country, where King Mswati has absolute power, and rules by decree.

The government recently re-introduced provisions enabling police to hold suspects for 60 days.

External protest

The strike follows a meeting of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) in neighbouring South Africa a week ago which endorsed calls to end Swaziland's ban on political activities

King Mswati III:
King Mswati III: Criticised as increasingly autocratic
Political parties were banned by the late King Sobhuza II in 1973 when he suspended a constitution which allowed multi-party democracy.

On Friday police arrested Mario Masuku, the leader of the banned People's United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), on charges of uttering seditious statements against the king.

As a result of Swaziland's new new labour law, the United States has excluded it from some benefits under the recently passed Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.

T-shirted protester
Wearing the message: "Liberate Swaziland now"
It could also lead to Swaziland's expulsion from the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), an allied trade agreement for developing countries.

The government is due to hold discussions with a visiting delegation from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) over Swaziland's worsening industrial relations.

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See also:

06 Nov 00 | Africa
Swazis protest at king's rule
31 Aug 00 | Africa
No new bride for Swazi king
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