Striking workers at a mine in Swaziland linked to the ANC fear that a strong police presence could lead to a second Marikana.
In a scene reminiscent of the Marikana massacre, hundreds of striking miners were on Tuesday engaged in a tense stand off with heavily-armed police at a Swaziland mine owned mostly by the ANC-linked Chancellor House.
Over 250 miners downed tools on Monday at Maloma colliery mine demanding between R425 and R800 a month in housing allowances, general secretary for the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Swaziland (Atuswa) Wander Mkhonza told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday.
Hundreds of Swaziland police officers wielding riot shields, protective headgear, guns and teargas descended on the mine, according to Mkhonza. He said police presence at the mine began as soon as the union served their notification to strike two weeks before the strike.
He insisted that the strike had been peaceful to date and that the police presence was unwarranted.
The Times newspaper in Swaziland reported on Tuesday that the striking miners had retreated to a hilltop near the mine, following a minor confrontation with the police after they tried to cross a barrier line put in place by police officers.
Mail and Guardian
A new report shows Swaziland spent about US$112 million on the military in 2013 and US$478 million over the past four years.
In 2013 military spending amounted to 8.6 percent of all government, spending in Swaziland, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in its Military Expenditure Database for 2014.
In 2011, the Swazi Government set aside more than E1 billion (US$100 million) for spending on the army and police force and the then Finance Minister Majozi Sithole admitted that the army was prepared for an uprising by the population in Swaziland.
This followed a series of prodemocracy uprisings in North Africa, leading to what became known as the ‘Arab Spring’. King Mswati was fearful something similar could happen in his kingdom. A Facebook group calling itself the April 12 Uprising had already called for an overthrow of the King.
Nearly 7 000 slaves are held in subjugation in Swaziland, according to the Global Slavery Index 2014.
Swaziland is listed as having a medium-high level of slavery, compared with South Africa, which has a low level.
However, in absolute numbers South Africa’s population, which is five times higher than Swaziland, contains 105 000 persons defined as slaves.
Calling modern slavery a hidden crime often involving forced labour and human trafficking, the Australia-based human rights organisation Walk Free Foundation said: “All forms involve one person depriving another person of their freedom: their freedom to leave one job for another, their freedom to control their own body.”
In Swaziland, 6 700 people were reported as being possessed or controlled “in such as a way as to significantly deprive that person of their individual liberty, with the intention of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal”.