The Swazi Government must recognise the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) as one of the legitimate voices of youth in the kingdom.
This is technically true and is a situation that the Swaziland Government must rectify at all possible speed.
Whether the minister likes it or not, SNUS has a mass support in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. On Tuesday, between 500 and 3,000 students (depending on who you read) marched through the Swazi capital, Mbabane, to deliver a petition protesting about a new policy on scholarships that the government intends to implement.
Students from tertiary instructions, including the usually conservative Southern Africa Nazarene University, defied college authorities to take part in the march.
One of their complaints was that students had not been consulted in the process that decided the new scholarship rules. This was revealed to be true yesterday when Minister Mamba said he would distribute copies of the scholarship policy to student representative councils in educational institutions across Swaziland. Clearly, he had not previously done so and it follows that students wouldn’t have been able to give their views on the policy.
The SNUS also accused Mamba of being arrogant in his dealings with students. The offhand way Mamba dismissed the students as irrelevant tends to support the SNUS case.
According to a report in the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in Swaziland, today Mamba ‘kicked’ SNUS President Maxwell Dlamini out of a meeting, accusing SNUS of being an ‘illegal student organisation’.
The Times quotes Mamba saying, ‘I will not make any responses on the contents of the said petition until I am given proof that SNUS is a properly registered union.’
The solution is simple: register the SNUS. It is clear that SNUS commands support among students and that it can mount large-scale protests in the kingdom.
SNUS deserves to be part of the consultation process. Mamba is a very short-sighted politician if he doesn’t recognise that it is in the government’s interest to have the SNUS on board.
As the former US President LBJ once put it, ‘It’s better to have them in the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.’