By Sisho Magagula | 2018-09-20
DESPITE strong warnings from the police to suspend their protest action, workers defied the order and took their industrial action to another level yesterday as they literally took over the Manzini bus rank and turned it into a warzone.
So serious was the situation such that innocent commuters were left stranded as drivers and conductors abandoned their duties and joined the protest.
They drove their buses and kombis out of the bus rank, parked them along the Mavuso Trade Centre public road before returning to the bus rank to actively partake in the protest together with the workers. Yesterday’s events degenerated into a serious battlefield as for over four hours, the workers engaged in fierce confrontation with the police, mainly officers from the Operational Support Services Unit (OSSU).
Instead of being a normal bus rank, the rank was turned into a warzone as stun grenades, teargas, teasers and rubber bullets became the order of the day. The town was totally shut down as shops were closed and street vendors halted business. Some terrified and frightened commuters sought refuge in offices and shops as the ‘war’ between the police, bus conductors and workers took centre stage, unabated.
A rather weak tactic by the security forces, including the police and correctional services officers to unsettle the workers, failed dismally to yield the desired results.
The security forces did this by insulting and threatening everybody who was wearing a red t-shirt. TUCOSWA quickly understood this strategy and changed their red t-shirts and wore other clothes. At the end, it was difficult for the security forces to differentiate between a worker and a bus conductor or driver. Yesterday’s activities in Manzini also caught the attention of the international media who fully covered it. In Nhlangano, several union leaders were detained by the police, including SNAT Secretary General Sikelela Dlamini. There was pandemonium earlier in the morning when protesters clashed with the police at Zheng Young textile factory. Teargas was fired to disperse the strong crowd of workers. In town, police prevented people from walking in groups. In Siteki, people wearing red shirts had difficulty getting into town as uncompromising police officers prevented them from stepping foot into town. Also, people in the same t-shirts were told to immediately leave town.
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