There is tension within Swaziland as the kingdom’s public sector workers protest over pay rises.
The government of the tiny kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has refused to publish a report on public sector pay review.
There have been attempts to picket and to march in protest, but the draconian anti-labour laws in the kingdom prohibit such action.
Two trade union activists were arrested and charged with obstruction when they took part in a picket organised by public service unions.
They were Mcolisi Ngcamphalala, a Communist Party of Swaziland Central Committee member and member of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) and Mbongwa Dlamini, Manzini Regional Chairperson of SNAT.
Officers from Swaziland’s serious crimes unit, also known as the Swazi anti-terrorism squad, raided their homes on Thursday (4 February 2016). They were then held in custody before being granted bail of E1,000 (US$60) each pending their trial.
Kenneth Kunene, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Swaziland said in a statement, ‘The picket, which is being held regularly every Wednesday to protest the secrecy of government pay policy for public sector workers, is part of a defiance campaign by public servants.
‘They are banned from organising protest demonstrations and are resorting to more flexible and small-scale ways of highlighting their demands, such as pickets. Ngcamphalala and Dlamini’s offense was to have blocked the road where the picket was held, for which an arrest warrant was subsequently issued.’
Meanwhile, a proposed march to deliver a petition in Swaziland’s capital city has been put on hold after the Municipal Council of Mbabane enforced a law that makes it unlawful to protest on the streets without permission, the Times of Swaziland reported.