Some of the largest demonstrations in Swaziland’s history, this time against growing poverty, took the shine off twin celebrations to mark King Mswati’s 40th birthday and 40 years of the kingdom's independence, the IRIN news agency reports today (Monday 8 September 2008).
In a report headed SWAZILAND: Pro-democracy gains momentum, IRIN says that at least 10,000 pro-democracy activists ‘crowded the usually quiet streets of Manzini, the country's central commercial hub, on 3 September, before reassembling in the capital, Mbabane, the following day.
‘No mention was made of the march by government leaders during festivities on Saturday to mark the so-called 40-40 celebrations, but security forces were on high alert.
‘“We are elated by the historic outpouring of ordinary people to say to the royal government, Enough!” said Andrew Simelane, a member of the umbrella Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU).’
IRIN reports, ‘The labour unions have demanded a public accounting of the money spent on the 40-40 event. Marchers in Mbabane were also angry that on the evening of the march, on 3 September, an elaborate party was held at Mswati’s Lozitha Palace on the occasion of his eldest daughter’s 21st birthday.
‘“The Americans this week scaled down a big political party for John McCain [the Republican presidential nominee] because of a humanitarian crisis [the impact of Hurricane Gustav]. A government must show its sensitivity toward the people's plight,” said Cynthia Hlatshwako, who works as a secretary in Mbabane.’
SFTU Secretary-General Jan Sithole has announced a week of mass action from 15 to 19 September.
To read more from IRIN click here.