Sun, Apr 15, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Clashes erupt as Swaziland marks 50th anniversary

AFP, MBABANE

Police on Friday fired rubber bullets at protesters in Swaziland who were marching against worsening living conditions and the cost of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the absolute monarchy.

More than 2,000 people took to the streets to take part in a rare demonstration organized by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland in the capital, Mbabane.

One protester was injured in the thigh when police fired rubber bullets at the crowd angered by celebrations marking independence from Britain in 1968 that coincide with the birthday of Swazi King Mswati III.

Police tussled with protesters, some of whom burned tires and blocked roads, as they made their way to the Swazi prime minister’s office to deliver a petition.

Some marchers attempted to tear down the gates at the office and force their way inside, but were blocked by police.

Regional media have claimed that the Swazi government had purchased a fleet of luxury BMWs for the occasion, something that officials have denied.

The Times of Swaziland daily reported that Swazi Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala had instructed judges to contribute at least US$165 each to the festivities.

“Our hospitals have run out of medicine. Of course, ordinary citizens can’t afford to go to Asia or Europe to get proper medical care,” congress official Muzi Mhlanga said. “Authorities have instructed the pensions fund and the provident fund to contribute millions of our hard-earned money to fund the celebrations.”

The congress said that civil servants would receive no pay hike, despite an increasing cost of living, while senior ministers received increases of almost one-third.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is on Tuesday to depart on a state visit to Swaziland, one of Taiwan’s two allies in Africa. She is scheduled to return on Saturday.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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