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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

GOVERNMENT PROMISES RING HOLLOW

The Swazi Government’s promise that health and education would not be affected by the economic meltdown in the kingdom is ringing hollow as nurses and teachers separately have mounted protests.


The nurses were on the streets of Mbabane yesterday (8 March 2011) demanding that their overtime payments be paid. The Swaziland Government had said cheques would be delivered, but they have not been.


Meanwhile, schoolteachers have threatened to take to the streets themselves if government cuts or freezes their salaries. The teachers are so angry that they have demanded the resignation of the government.


And they warned that there might be a revolution in Swaziland similar to that in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia.


More than 3,000 teachers held an extra-ordinary meeting at the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) headquarters on Saturday (6 March 2011).


One speaker said, ‘In fact, we have to stand up now and fight the enemy. The enemy here is the system of governance. Change is inevitable in the country. Let the government consider happenings in Libya, Yemen, Tunisia and Egypt. Don’t say such things cannot happen in Swaziland. A revolution is an easy thing.’


The Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, reported the teachers dispersed with a mandate to hold a public meeting that would launch a nationwide strike aimed at forcing out the government, headed by Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister.


Ever since the present economic crisis became public and the Swazi government ordered cuts of 20 percent in government departments this coming year, it has maintained that it would not cut the health and education budgets.


But, it looks like the government may be using teachers’ pension funds to pay its own bills.


The SNAT executive told teachers at the meeting that government had failed to remit subscriptions deducted from their salaries to their cooperative society.


Management of the SNAT Credit and Savings Cooperative Society also reported that they had not received a cheque for February. They said banks complained about unexecuted stop orders for teachers.


The Times Sunday reported, the teachers fear government could be using their monies to settle its debts.


Sibongile Mazibuko, the president, said that government’s current liabilities stood at E900 million. She said these debts were supposed to be settled within six months.


Mazibuko said the financial situation was so bad that government had failed to remit deducted pensions to the Public Service Pension Fund (PSPF).


Teachers unanimously agreed that politicians should be the ones accepting pay cuts.

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