If anyone is in doubt that King Mswati III is the absolute ruler of Swaziland and his word cannot be challenged look at the events this weekend surrounding the striking teachers.
At the Sibaya (‘people’s parliament’) held last week King Mswati made it clear that teachers who have been on strike for five weeks should return to work and government must start talks with them to solve the 4.5 percent wage claim that is at the heart of the dispute. The King ordered all teachers to go to school today (13 August 2012).
The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) immediately announced it would obey the king and ordered teachers to return to the classrooms.
But, yesterday (12 August 2012), Minister of Education and Training, Wilson Ntshangase, said teachers who had been sacked for taking part in the strike should not return to work. It was up to the Swazi Cabinet to decide their fate.
Now, Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, acting Ludzidzini Governor, otherwise known as the ‘traditional’ prime minister, has said no one has a right to further deliberate on an issue that the king has already pronounced on.
Mtetwa is considered in traditional Swazi society to be more important than the nominal Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini. Mtetwa is said to speak for the king and his word is law.
Upon hearing of the Education Minister’s statement Mtetwa told local media, ‘My understanding of Swazi culture and etiquette is that the king’s word is final. Once the king issues an order regarding anything, the order has to be implemented by the relevant structures.’
He told the Times of Swaziland, ‘It doesn’t matter which position you could be occupying, the truth is no one is allowed to defy the King’s order. There is no exception to this long held Swazi cultural ethic.’