Picture: 123RF/MYKHAILO POLENOK
Picture: 123RF/MYKHAILO POLENOK

One of dozens of teachers who were tear-gassed while trying to deliver a petition to the government of Eswatini has alleged they were “brutalised” by the Royal Eswatini Police.

A teacher was on a bus hired by the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (Snat) and destined for Mbabane last week, to join thousands of people wanting to deliver a petition to fast-track cost of living adjustment negotiations with the government.

Mbeketeli Fakudze said that on arrival at Nkoyoyo on October 20, their buses were stopped by police at a roadblock a few kilometres away from King Mswati III’s palace.

“A few metres before we arrived at the roadblock, some of our members had to alight since there were those who were standing while under Covid-19 regulations we should all be seated. We were still to know why our buses were being stopped,” he said on Monday night.

“Colleagues who had jumped off were heard crying for help as they were being chased by riot squad police. I heard someone saying ‘they are throwing teargas inside our bus’. This happened while I was facing downwards. I heard another one saying more teargas was released,” Fakudze said.

“At this juncture I feared for the worst. This was after we asked those at the door to open it so we could plead with them to let us return to Piggs Peak. That attempt failed because the police allegedly prevented us from opening the door.

Fakudze said: “I found myself standing in a queue. I heard something hitting my ankle and found myself on the ground. The police officer said he was going to finish me off since I was faking death. I conditioned my mind that I should drag myself to a safe place. A fellow teacher who was not seriously injured assisted me to get to the other side of the road where I hitched a lift. The car took me to Piggs Peak Government Hospital.

“On arrival, a comrade from the nursing profession took me to the theatre, where they cleaned the wound. They then took me for an X-ray, where it was found the rubber bullet tore ligaments in my ankle. The wound was deep and I could not walk well,” Fakudze said.

He said he has had to change bandages every second day. During an attempt at the weekend, he says he found nurses on a go-slow since they wanted the ministry of health to assure them about their safety.

Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku said in an interview on Monday that the police’s alleged use of teargas was being investigated.

A Royal Eswatini Police spokesperson said she did not talk to international media unless sanctioned by the police commissioner.

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