Major trade union and student organisations have vowed to launch a North African-style civil disobedience campaign today(18 March 2011) to dislodge Africa’s last absolute monarchy, the Business Day newspaper in South Africa reports
18 March 2011
Fed-up Swazis to rally
SWAZILAND’s economic meltdown and a significant fall in revenue from the regional customs union may be the last straw and provide a rallying point against the monarchy.
Major trade union and student organisations have vowed to launch a North African-style civil disobedience campaign today to dislodge Africa’s last absolute monarchy.
Thousands of public servants and members of student bodies are expected to take to the streets to demand an end to the 25-year reign of King Mswati.
The global financial crisis last year forced the five-member Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) to slash Swaziland’s revenue payout by 62%.
SA, Namibia, Lesotho and Botswana are the other Sacu members.
The fall in Sacu revenue resulted in Swaziland receiving R1,9bn last year, down from R5,1bn the previous year.
The revenue has been the major source of income for the kingdom, allowing the king to pay public servants, perform public works programmes and maintain his lavish lifestyle.
"Swaziland’s government is so bankrupt that it can’t even afford a painkiller for a hospital," Lucky Lukhele, spokesman for the Swaziland Solidarity Network, said this week.
Mr Lukhele claimed that the commander of the armed forces would also join the march in sympathy with the grievances of the protesters.
He said various protests were also planned in SA to raise awareness about the plight of ordinary citizens under the monarchy’s autocratic regime.
Last week the president of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, visited Swaziland for talks about a possible rescue package.
The country’s economic implosion could force some citizens to flee to neighbouring countries, especially SA with its bigger economy .
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League have expressed support for democratic reforms in the kingdom.
"We fully support the action planned … which is backed by the following demands: a fair and decent living wage … availability of drugs and treatment in hospitals … and multiparty democracy," Cosatu said.
The ANC Youth League said it was "inspired" by the actions of the people of Swaziland in "rising against the repressive royal regime".
Last year the king clamped down on prodemocracy protesters through arrests and restrictions on the movement of leaders.