21 September 2011
Police fire teargas and rubber bullets
MANZINI – Police fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse public transport workers during the second day of a protest action by the operators in Manzini yesterday (20 September 2011).
However, fewer scenes of violence and unbecoming conduct were witnessed.
Their only sin was failing to compose themselves and resume business. They rather marched through the bus rank and kept demanding the release of other operators who were arrested for traffic offences.
Police decided that the scene was getting out of hand and immediately drove them out of the bus rank with rubber bullets and teargas.
The operators initially ferried passengers to their workplaces between 5 and 8am, sending an impression that all would be well.
However, chaos later erupted when the operators parked their vehicles within the yet undeveloped Manzini Business Park, a private property opposite Woodmasters Township.
They then marched to the bus rank. A battalion of police and correctional officers patrolled the outskirts of the bus rank armed only with batons, while a police water cannon, tanker and an armoured SUV kept patrolling the vicinity.
At about 9am operators started convening a meeting within the bus rank, where they were updated on the release of Manzini/Mbabane kombi driver Sikelela Robert Mnisi, for whom the local Kombi Association paid E6 000 fine.
The operators said they would not resume work until Mnisi had been released from jail.
The security forces then resolved to drive the operators out of the bus rank. When the operators were adamant, rubber bullets and teargas were fired until they scampered out of the bus rank to join others who were at the Manzini Business Park.
Mnisi was released yesterday morning from the Sidwashini Correctional Institution and driven to the operators, with the hope that this would dampen spirits for a further protest action.
Secretary General of the National Road Transport Council, Mandla Dlamini later arrived chauffeuring Mnisi in a black BMW to the jubilation of the operators.
Dlamini told the gathering of close to 500 operators that they had to return to work because Mnisi had been released.
"We went to Sidwashini Correctional Institution to fetch him and we believe this is what you were all looking for. We are currently in talks with the police to stop arresting you but to give you summons, which you have to respond to within seven to 14 days," Dlamini said.
Though this move was calculated to end the protest, it did little to that end as operators said they had heard that more operators had been arrested for similar offences.
"We want you to release them too," they shouted.
Secretary of the Kombi Association Sabelo Dlamini asked the operators to drive their vehicles to the bus rank so that work would resume.
The operators heeded the advice and drove to the bus rank, where another meeting was held to explain further what had transpired.
It was during this meeting that chaos erupted again, as operators demanded the release of all other operators who were arrested for traffic offences.
They danced around the bus rank and further crowded the police post.