These four reports on the protest march in Mbabane, Swaziland, yesterday (17 November 2010) are from the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper.
18 November 2010
Demonstration turns political
MBABANE – The one-day ‘encouragement demonstration’ staged by organised labour unions yesterday in the capital city was turned into a political rally.
The placards carried by the more than 500 workers who took part in the event did not make mention of any of the issues that resulted in the protest action.
The list of issues over which the workers were demonstrating include the ‘removal of the SEC E55 monthly charges’, ‘withdrawal of Circular No 1 of 2010’, ‘abolishment of Scholarship Policy’, ‘shortage of drugs at health centres’, ‘removal of Public Service Bill’, ‘Removal of new Taxation roadmap’, ‘removal of labour brokers’, ‘introduction of transport and housing allowances for all workers’, and ‘representation of workers on the Tender Board’.
However, none of these issues were reflected on the placards. Instead, demonstrators displayed messages critical of Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini and his Cabinet, as well as the Kingdom’s system of governance.
Some of the posters carried by the workers read: ‘Viva Swaziland United Democratic Front’, ‘Tinkhundla uncaring, oppressive, misgoverns’, ‘workers unite against Tinkhundla’, ‘the world demands democracy in Swaziland now’, ‘Swazis march...cry democracy’, ‘Barnabas spend resources on the poor not politicians’ and ‘Majozi retrench politicians not the poor workers’.
During the demonstration, some of the union leaders were heard shouting ‘viva SWAYOCO’ and ‘viva PUDEMO’, in reference to two of the country’s banned political entities.
Previously, the country has witnessed political activists being arrested for shouting ‘viva’ for the proscribed entities but, yesterday, the police simply listened and did nothing.
Ironically, the demonstration was attended by Wandile Dludlu, former President of the proscribed Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO).
Also at the protest action was Professor Dlamini, a former leader of the banned SWAYOCO as well as a member of the People’s United Democratic Movement. Political activist Siphasha Dlamini, who is a school principal, was also part of the demonstration.
Dludlu, who not so long ago was removed by the police from a similar workers’ demonstration, joined yesterday’s protest action about two hours after it had commenced.
Wearing a red and black Nike sports jacket, a dark green cap, jeans and grasshopper shoes, Dludlu was not given a hard time by the police, numbering close to a hundred.
Dlamini, on the other hand, whose pinstriped blazer and leather cap stood out from the crowd, joined in the latter stages of the march until the end, when he was seen shaking hands with the union leaders, before leaving.
President of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers, Sibongile Mazibuko, made a speech and called upon the country’s authorities to allow the existence of political parties.
"It’s not that we’re against the King. Even in Lesotho and the United Kingdom there are political parties but the monarch is also there. Wake up Swazis. Let’s get out of this darkness," the first SNAT female president said.
She said, as workers, they cannot avoid political issues when there are actions taken by politicians that touch directly on their welfare.
Rain fails to discourage workers
MBABANE – Yesterday’s incessant downpour failed to dampen the spirits of over 500 workers who took part in the ‘encouragement demonstration’.
Shortly before 10am there were fears that the turnout would be poor because of the rainfall but that was not to be, as buses coming from as far as Siteki and Nhlangano began arriving with hundreds of workers.
With some clad in rain coats, jackets, and boots and carrying umbrellas, the workers assembled near Coronation Park, where they displayed high spirits through song and dance before taking to the streets after an address by their leadership.
For close to four hours, the workers marched around the city in complete disregard of the rain, which gained momentum along with the demonstration.
Leaders of the demonstration could not help but praise the workers for having braved the wet and cold weather to be part of the protest action.
"I would like to thank you for being here despite the wet weather. Taking to the streets is our way of expressing discontent at the way our government is operating," said Muzi Mhlanga, the Secretary General of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers.
SNAT President Sibongile Mazibuko also said: "We’re not here for nothing. We’re not facing the rain for sweet. We shall fight on."
However, there were those workers who decided not to face the rain throughout and opted to take cover under the verandas and shelters available along the demonstration route.
Teachers show up in numbers
MBABANE – There was a huge presence of civil servants during yesterday’s demonstration in the capital city.
Teachers, with the Swaziland National Association of Teachers President, Sibongile Mazibuko, and Secretary General Muzi Mhlanga, appeared to form a majority of the public servants who took part in the protest action.
Mhlanga had announced the availability of transport for teachers wishing to be part of the demonstration.
Other civil servants present were nurses, as well as a couple of employees from the Central Transport Administration.
Workers out of order -Minister Magobetana
MBABANE – Minister of Labour and Social Security Patrick Magobetana Mamba said it would be very unfortunate if workers touched on political issues during yesterday’s demonstration.
The minister said even though he was not privy to what the workers had spoken about during the demonstration, he was however well aware of what the protest action was all about.
"All I know is that the workers were demonstrating over socio-economic issues. If they spoke political issues then they were out of order. It’s a pity," Mamba said.
The minister then admonished the workers: "I would like to warn them strongly if they are touching on political issues."
He then said he hoped they would address some of the issues that were of concern to the workers through the regular meetings of the Labour Advisory Body.