Swaziland: Swazi cops fire water cannon at strikers
Mbabane - Swazi police used batons and water cannon to disperse a crowd of protesting students on Monday, as taxi drivers joined a nearly month-long public service strike that has crippled the tiny kingdom.
About 1 000 students were beaten with batons and sprayed with water cannon in the capital Mbabane as they demanded a salary increase for their teachers, student Christopher Dlamini told AFP.
"We were on our way to meet... to deliberate on the teachers' strike as students when police pounced and dispersed us," Dlamini said.
Teachers and other public servants have been striking since mid-June for a 4.5% salary increase.
Meanwhile protests spread to nearby Manzini, the commercial hub, where drivers of minibus taxis and large buses refused to ply their routes.
"It all started in the morning when a traffic police officer fined a kombi driver R4 000 for not giving passengers tickets," the spokesperson of civic group the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice, Mbale Dlamini, told AFP.
"This led to transport operators taking an immediate resolution to have a transport stand-off. Currently no transport is moving in nor out."
About 60% of Swaziland's 1.2 million people live on less than two dollars a day.
The country's problems have been blamed on the state-funded extravagance of King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch, and his refusal to implement democratic reforms.
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