Swaziland's Queen Mother the Indovukazi has turned up the heat in a dispute between King Mswati III and his government over sacked teachers.
Last week, during a 'people's parliament' session, the King, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, ordered teachers who had been on strike for more than five weeks to return to work. He also told his government to talk to the teachers and solve the dispute over pay.
The teachers did as they were told, but, the Swazi Cabinet refused to reinstate more than 200 teachers who had been sacked for striking. The Minister of Education Wilson Ntshangase said the king had not meant that sacked teachers could have their jobs back.
This caused a crisis in the kingdom where nobody is allowed to dispute the king's rulings and it put the government on a collision course with the monarch.
Now, the Indovukazi is reported in the Times of Swaziland saying that the king did mean the striking teachers should have their jobs back.
The Indovukazi, who is considered by many observers to be the real power behind King Mswati's throne, met a delegation from the teachers' union, SNAT.
Timothy Mtetwa, the traditional Prime Minister, who speaks for the king, was at the meeting.
He later told the Times that the Indlovukazi said all teachers should return to class in accordance with the king's order.
'His Majesty said during Sibaya that all teachers, including the fired ones, should return to work. This is what the Queen Mother said she heard the king pronouncing during the People's Parliament,' Mtetwa said.
The President of SNAT, Sibongile Mazibuko, who was also at the meeting told the newspaper, 'The Queen Mother cordially welcomed us. We were overwhelmed. We then reported to her that we were shocked that there were people who were ignoring His Majesty's call that all teachers should return to work to end the impasse in schools.'
She added, 'The Queen Mother was equally shocked that there were people defying the King's pronouncement. Her Majesty said she did not know where those people were getting that mandate from. She promised she would warn those people to stop expelling teachers.'
Earlier in the week it was reported that Ntshangase could face a fine from a traditional court for defying the king.