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Sunday, 10 April 2011

‘UPRISING WILL GO AHEAD DESPITE BAN’

The Sunday Independent newspaper in South Africa today (10 April 2011) published the following report ahead of Tuesday’s banned proposed protests in Swaziland.

Protest leaders say they will defy a ban on the protests.

This report appeared in the print edition of the Sunday Independent, but not online.


Uprising will go ahead despite ban
 
Swazi union leaders vow
 
 
Maureen Isaacson, Sunday Independent, Johannesburg, 10 April 2011
 
The April 12 Uprising in Swaziland will go ahead on Tuesday despite a banning order and intimidation by Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini, and a meeting by the Swazi regime with union leaders on Friday to call an end to protests against sub-Sahara’s last remaining absolute monarchy.
 
Mduduzi Gina, the secretary-general of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, said yesterday that the meeting with advisers to King Mswati III may have yielded an agreement to back down on certain socio-economic issues – such as the hike in electricity tariffs and the question of grants to the elderly.
 
“They said they would get the government to engage us on the question of cutting the salaries of civil servants. But the issue of the dissolution of the current government and its replacement by a transitional government, a move towards forming a multiparty democracy was non-negotiable,” he said.
 
He was joined by other leaders and civil society groups who said they would defy threats of force to stop the planned pro-democracy protests that would continue for three days.
 
Some protests were planned independently of the April 12 Uprising, styled on the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts, touted by “a faceless” Facebook group claiming to be “the voice of the people”, with “no political affiliations”.
 
April 12 is traditionally a day of protest by civil society. It marks the suspension of the constitution and introduction of the rule of Swaziland by royal decree 38 years ago.
 
“It will be a pity if force will be used. We have applied for permission in the sense that we have reported concerns in terms of our labour relations act. We acknowledge that Swaziland is a kingdom. Mswati may remain as a monarch, but not as an absolute monarch, absolute power corrupts absolutely. We are calling for a process of democratisation and the work towards a multiparty democracy.”
 
Vincent Ngcongwane, the secretary-general of the Swaziland Federation of Labour, joined in a call for an end to corruption, the cutting back of exorbitant pay cheques for the royal and government elites, the provision of basic necessities, grants for the elderly, free tertiary education and the provision of medication in state-owned hospitals.
 
On Friday Zodwa Mabuza, the chief executive of the Federation of Swaziland Employers, said: “We don’t know about an uprising. We heard about the uprising informally and nobody has approached us about it. The formal position we have from unions is that there will be protest action. We are concerned about the safety of business and the economy.
 
So concerned is the regime that Swaziland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lutfo Dlamini was in Pretoria this week to speak about his country’s economic crisis and the possibility of imposing civil servant pay cuts.
 
He was reportedly looking to endorse a bailout in the event of a deepening crisis on account of the protests.
 
Maxwell Dlamini, the president of the Swaziland National Union of Students, said: “We are aware of what we want and nobody is going to stand in our way. Members of the police force as well as the army are actually oppressed and so we will mobilise them for this uprising.”
 
Lucky Lukhele, the spokesman for the Swaziland Solidarity Network, a network of activists operating from South Africa, said: “It’s now or never.”
 
He called for all progressive forces to join hands on Tuesday. He said the solidarity network “unashamedly supports the April 12 Uprising”.
 
Steve Faulkner, SA Municipal Workers’ Union international officer and co-ordinator of the South African chapter of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), said none of the constituent organisations of the SDC – a broad-based body which represents all trade unions, faith-based bodies, civil society and human rights bodies – had aligned themselves with the uprising.
 
“The SDC firmly believes any uprising must be organic and must come from accountable organisations,” he said. “We always said the propagandising of the uprising would lead the security police to start fishing around.” This week it was reported that Nkolisi Ngcamphalana, a member of the youth wing of PUDEMO (People’s United Democratic Movement), was tortured ahead of the scheduled April 12 Uprising.
 
Today at 10am the Swaziland Democracy Campaign will bring together 40 representatives from Swaziland to link up with Cosatu and its affiliates, human rights bodies and campaign groups, to develop a new “plan of action”. The programmes of action will be unveiled at a special Swazialand Demicracy Rally at the Civic Theatre in Braamfontein.

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