Tension is mounting in Swaziland as police step up security ahead of the ‘uprising’ planned for tomorrow (12 April 2011), BBC Monitoring reports today.
This is its report released this morning.
Road blocks and police patrols have become common features in Swaziland's two major cities of Mbabane and Manzini in recent days as the Swazi government braces itself for political protest action to call for reforms, starting this week. Police and prison officers are leaving no stone unturned as they step up car searches.
"I've never been through so much security scrutiny since I started visiting Swaziland seven years ago," said Zanele Nkosi, a South African from Pretoria who was visiting friends over the weekend.
She went through three roadblocks from Oshoek border post as she drove to Manzini, where warders and police checked her car. "I was further surprised by the roadblocks, which are also conducted at night," she said. She was also shocked to see security officers keeping surveillance at the overhead bridges that she passed.
Frustration among the Swazis is also becoming palpable as the roadblocks lengthen the commuting time between the two cities. "I now have to leave home an hour earlier than I used to so that I can get to work on time," complained Sindi Matsenjwa, a shop assistant in Mbabane.
Tension is mounting in the kingdom as civil society organizations led by trade unions prepare to take to the streets for four days, starting tomorrow, to force the government led by Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini out of office.
This follows a fiscal crisis that started last year, which saw the government proposing to cut salaries for politicians and public servants. Politicians have agreed to a 10 per cent wage cut from this month, while public servants remain opposed to a 4.5 per cent reduction.
"This government has failed to run the country and it must go," said Muzi Mhlanga, the secretary general of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT). "We want multiparty democracy."
The prime minister said the protest action was illegal and that the no-work-no-pay rule would apply, urging the private sector to follow suit.
In fact, the government is worried that this protest action coincides with a push for regime change mobilized through Facebook. The unions have distanced themselves from this push although their concerns are similar.
"A number of attempts have been made to try and persuade the labour federations and SNAT to shift their protest action to another date so that there is no confusion of overlap of issues between the two groups," Minister of Labour and Social Security Magobetane Mamba said in a statement over the weekend.
The labour movement refused to budge, arguing that it could only call off the protest action if the government addressed its concerns.
"April 12 is of sentimental value to many Swazis given the history of this date," said Vincent Ncongwane, the secretary-general of the Swaziland Federation of Labour. The late King Sobhuza II banned political parties and put in place the Tinkhundla system on April 12, 1973.