A proposal from the Swaziland Government that low-paid public servants should have their salaries cut is a ‘recipe for revolution’, a teachers union leader has warned.
‘The workers’ response will be running street battles if the government goes ahead and implements these cuts unilaterally,’ Vincent Dlamini, secretary general of the country’s biggest civil servants’ union, NAPSAWU, told the AFP news agency.
‘It is a recipe for revolution,” said Muzi Mhlanga, Secretary General of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT). ‘Our members have said they won’t accept salary cuts.’
They were responding to a call from government that public servants who earn less than E100,000 (US$14,500) a year should have their salaries cut by 4.5 percent. Higher cuts of up to 10 percent are planned for workers on larger salaries. There would also be an indefinite pay freeze for all public sector workers, AFP reported today (29 March 2011).
Half of all state spending in Swaziland goes to pay the salaries of its 35,000 civil servants.
Earlier this year the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned Swaziland to slash its ‘unacceptably high’ public wage bill by at least 5 percent in order curb a massive deficit and qualify for loans. But the IMF recommended leaving salaries below E100,000 untouched.
The vast majority of Swaziland’s civil servants fall into the lower-income bracket, including thousands of teachers and nurses who took part in massive protests on 18 March sparked by fears of wage cuts.
The government’s proposal comes ahead of the planned 12 April ‘uprising’ that is being coordinated by a Facebook group and styled on the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
AFP reported that fears of an imminent uprising have rattled the Swaziland’s elite, headed by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Swaziland’s cabinet has been cloistered in talks with the king’s powerful advisory council Liqoqo over the economic crisis and the planned uprising, it said.