Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Swaziland’s government could be on a collision course with King Mswati III over the sacking of striking teachers.
King Mswati pronounced last week that a national teachers’ pay strike that has crippled schools for more than five weeks should end; that teachers should go back to work and the government should enter into talks to end the dispute.

In Swaziland, where King Mswati is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, his word is law. When he pronounces on something there is no further discussion, people are expected to just do as they are told.

The teachers union, SNAT, immediately told its members to go back to work and classes resumed on Monday (13 August 2012).

But, Education Secretary Wilson Ntshangase said that teachers who had been sacked by the government for striking would not be allowed to go back to work.

Traditional authorities, led by Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, who is known as the ‘traditional Prime Minister’, and who is said to speak for the king, rebuked the minister, and said no individual had the right to overturn anything promulgated by the king.

Mtetwa, told local media, ‘We cannot afford to have a Kingdom where citizens will act against the orders of the authorities.’ 
It was earlier suggested that Ntshangase might be brought before a traditional court where he could face a fine.

Then, Swazi Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini said only Cabinet had the authority to reinstate the teachers. 

Yesterday, the Cabinet met and confirmed the sacked teachers would not be allowed back to work. This was despite an Industrial Court ruling earlier this month that the teachers were fired illegally.  

The Swazi Government is saying it listened to a recording of the king’s speech in which he told the teachers to go back to work and cannot find where he said the dismissed teachers could have their jobs back.

King Mswati is presently on an official trip to Sri Lanka and cannot be asked to confirm his position.

The government ministers, all appointed by the king, are taking a risk in second-guessing what the king really meant. It may all be semantics, because what is clear is that the king wanted the teachers’ dispute ended now. By not reinstating the sacked teachers, the government has gone against the king’s wishes.

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