19 April 2011
Swaziland unions to hold monthly protests
MBABANE — Swaziland’s trade union today (19 April 2011) said it will hold monthly anti-government protests calling for multi-party democracy despite a heavy police crackdown on demonstrations last week.
"We are now calling for the total transformation of the political system," Vincent Dlamini, secretary general of the country’s civil servants union NAPSAWU, told AFP after a meeting of the main trade unions.
Dlamini said mass demonstrations and stayaways will now be held every month in order to increase pressure on King Mswati III’s royalist government.
"We are saying the present government has failed and they must resign," he said.
Last week planned three-day protests ended in chaos as police rounded up anyone suspected of wanting to join the demonstrations, declared illegal by Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini.
Security forces also used tear gas and water cannons on protesters gathered inside a teachers' trade union building.
However, Vincent Dlamini said workers were adamant they wanted to continue with their protests despite the crackdown.
He also said they were not distancing themselves from a "national uprising" organised using the social networking site Facebook.
"We need all kinds of solutions to this problem," he said.
Swaziland’s trade unions blame the government for the country’s current financial crisis and are resisting attempts to cut civil servants’ salaries at the International Monetary Fund’s behest.
Foreign Minister Lutfo Dlamini during last week's failed demonstrations called on all the parties to talk in order to address the unions’ grievances.
The country has been under a state of emergency since 1973 and political parties are banned. Trade unions are the only organisations legally allowed to hold demonstrations.
Vincent Dlamini said the exact date date for May’s demonstrations had not yet been finalised.