SHAFAQNA – Riot police fired stun and smoke grenades within South Africa’s parliament complex on Wednesday in a clash with striking workers who stormed committee rooms and forced lawmakers to abandon meetings.
Amid swirling multi-coloured smoke, police used their shields to drive some 200 parliamentary workers, including secretarial and catering staff, from the steps of the national assembly.
The workers have been on strike for better pay and conditions for three days.
The stand-off continued for several hours, with workers who remained in the precinct chanting: “We work here, we can’t be removed. The police must go.”
“We are all demanding a living wage, that’s why we are here,” said one protester who was briefly held by police.
The deputy chief whip for the ruling African National Congress said the police had to intervene.
“What we didn’t like is the workers storming into committee meetings to disrupt them,” Dorris Dlakude told eNCA television.
She said negotiations between the workers’ union and parliamentary management would continue.
It is the second time in less than a month that police have fired stun grenades within the parliamentary complex.
On October 21, the tactic was used against student demonstrators who had forced their way through the gates to protest rising university fees.