Workers at the university in Swaziland that King Mswati III has chosen to spearhead his University of Transformation started a strike on Monday (9 January 2016) protesting about short-term contracts.
About 100 workers at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology took to the streets and blocked the university’s main gate.
The strike was led by the Swaziland Union of Non-Academic Staff for Higher Institutions (SUNASHI).
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported SUNASHI Secretary General Fundizwi Sikhondze saying, ‘The staff is concerned that the university offers them short employment contracts. The staff is offered as little as a year’s contract while some get two years.’
Limkokwing has been chosen by King Mswati, who is both sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and the Chair of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), to house a University of Transformation to take students from across the SADC region by August 2017.
The Observer reported Sikhondze saying, ‘We believe the university is not a fly-by-night institution and will be in the country for years to come. The government of Swaziland is constantly investing large amounts to the institution and that gives us hope that it is not going anywhere. Why can’t the university invest in its staff and employ them on a permanent basis?’
Sikhondze said the strike came after the university’s management and staff failed to reach a consensus on their grievances.
Limkokwing Vice Chancellor Professor Cedric Bell reportedly said the strike was set to coincide with examinations at the university and cause maximum disruption.
A statement from Limkokwing management published in the Observer read in part, ‘The university has served notice of a lock out on the union and those staff who choose to exercise their lawful right to strike will not be paid during the period of labour withdrawal and are not to come onto the campus.’
Limkokwing was the centre of controversy in 2016. In December, a Swaziland parliamentary committee ordered an investigation into the standard of qualifications held by academic staff at the university. Students had petitioned the Swazi Government saying many lecturers only held Bachelor degrees and had just themselves qualified from the university.
Limkokwing has been at the centre of continuing protests from students about standards of teaching and equipment since the university opened in 2011. According to its website, Limkokwing in Swaziland only offers ‘associate degrees’ which are at a level below Bachelor degrees and in many institutions are known as diplomas.
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