Swaziland’s nurses took to the streets of the capital Mbabane yesterday (8 March 2011), blocking traffic for two hours, because the government failed to pay them their allowances as promised.
Benedict Xaba, the Swazi Minister of Health, had said on state radio that the cheques were being issued, but this wasn’t true.
Sabelo Lushaba, Secretary General of the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union, said no nurse had received payment of the overtime allowances.
Lushaba told the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, ‘What the minister said was a lie because no one has been paid.’ He said, as nurses they had lost confidence in the minister and the level of trust they had for him, even though it was minimal before, had now vanished.
The nurses are demanding that government pays them overtime allowances dating back to 2007.
The nurses plan to meet today to review their campaign. They have already said they will protest on two days each week, until the allowances are paid.
There are now serious doubts about the Swaziland Government’s ability to pay its bills. At the weekend teachers heard that money deducted from their salaries for pensions was not being forwarded by the government. There is a wide spread belief that the government is using the money to pay its day-to-day bills.
Majozi Sithole, the Finance Minister, has constantly said that even with the present meltdown of the economy, health and education services would not be affected.
Events are now showing that he can’t be trusted on this. Instead, slowly we are beginning to realise that the budget he announced last month was a fiction. Technically, the budget is an estimate of how much will be spent in the coming years. Just because the government estimates it will spend E824 million on primary education in the coming year, it doesn’t mean it will spend that money. Put simply, it can only spend the money if it has it – and all indications are that the government doesn’t have it.
So all we really have are empty promises from the government.