Swaziland: Anti-royal protests and strikes

September 11, 2011

Thousands of Swazi people marched through Mbabane on September 5, burning images of Swaziland's absolute monarch King Mswati III.

Protesters sung freedom songs and chanting slogans against his agenda of pay freezes and cuts to student allowances.

Striking public-sector staff, who took part in the rally, called for increased taxes on the monarch and his wealthy cronies instead of welfare cuts.

The rally kicked off the Swaziland United Democratic Front's Global Week of Action. Over the next six days, workers planned to stage a series of strikes.

During that time they will press their demands for the abolition of the traditional Tinkhundla system and its replacement with multi-party democracy, the release of political prisoners and the return of all exiles, and an end to austerity policies and high-level corruption.

More protests are expected to take place in Manzini tomorrow.

Political parties in Swaziland were banned in 1973. King Mswati III has maintained a tight grip on all the levers of power — executive, legislative and judicial.

The underdeveloped country is mired in a financial crisis. This is worsened by corruption and declining customs revenue, which has seen the cost of living soar.

National Public Service and Allied Workers Union of Swaziland president Vincent Dlamini explained why his members have resolved to get behind the week of action: "Workers are very displeased — we've got an economy that has collapsed as a result of political mismanagement and high levels of corruption.

"Workers have resolved to embark on a protest action, which means they will basically be on strike nationwide and from various sectors of the economy."

In August, South Africa's African National Congress administration agreed to grant King Mswati III a 2.4 billion rand (about $320 million) loan, provoking criticism from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), a COSATU affiliate, pledged its support yesterday for the week of action in neighbouring Swaziland "with eggs over our faces given un-strategic and ill-informed decision by our government to accede to King Mswati's request for a bail-out”.

"We all know that this bail-out or loan will be bloated by the royal family through their opulent shopping trips overseas and good taste for niceties by King Mswati's wives, as opposed to meeting the pressing needs of the people of Swaziland, particularly addressing medication shortages or workers wages," a NUMSA spokesperson said.

[Reprinted from www.morningstaronline.co.uk .]

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