2 August 2012

Swaziland: Crackdown on Striking Teachers

King Mswati has demonstrated many times in recent years that he is not one to back down in the face of protests - and so it has proved again.

Five weeks into an increasingly bitter strike by teachers, the Swazi government has done what it does best - use force to silence its critics.

Since Monday, hundreds of teachers across the country have been fired, including the entire executive of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT).

In a normal country, the government would have seriously negotiated with the teachers, who are demanding a measly 4.5% salary increase. This would be the first increase for 3 years and is way below inflation, which currently stands at 9%. But Swaziland is not a normal country. It is an absolute monarchy and the King absolutely refused to allow his government to negotiate with the teachers.

Unsurprisingly, this rigid stance simply worsened the situation - with other civil servants joining the strike amid increasing calls for democratisation.

As the Swaziland Diaspora Platform said in a statement, "In Swaziland, an autocratic Kingdom runby King Mswati III and his iron-fisted Prime Minister, Barnabas Dlamini, the government does not even care to negotiate with civil servant unions and has taken the route of cutting salaries way beyond what is permissible by law and illegally firing over 250 teachers."

Firing so many teachers is another shocking example of the crisis of governance that has left Swaziland facing economic, political, social, health and food crises. Shocking but not surprising. Indeed, it is par for the course for King Mswati and his clique.

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