Swazi unions call off protests

2011-04-13 14:14

Manzini, Swaziland – Swazi unions called off mass protests today against King Mswati III, as police cracked down on leaders and activists for a second day.

“We have decided to suspend our strike action and go back to re-strategise,” said Muzi Mhlanga, secretary-general of Swaziland National Association of Teachers.

Heavy police presence in the country’s main city Manzini headed off new protests today against Africa’s last absolute monarch, with random arrests on the streets.

“The state has responded with extreme brutality and people feel unsafe. Many of our people are in police cells,” said Vincent Dlamini, general secretary of the National Association of Public Servants and Allied Workers Union.

“On the ground it is difficult to walk in groups of two or three, people are arrested,” Dlamini said, but added: “We will be back soon.”

The protesters want Mswati to loosen his grip on power and allow multi-party democracy, but are also angry at government proposals to slash salaries for civil servants amid a severe budget crisis.

Unions called for the protests yesterday to mark the 38th anniversary of the banning of political parties.

The demonstrations were meant to run for three days, but police used teargas, water cannons and batons to break up the protest yesterday.

The king has not spoken publicly about the protests, but sent his top advisers to meet with union leaders last week in a failed bid to convince them to drop the protest plan.

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