Thursday, August 13, 2009


Civil servants in Swaziland are being given weeks to give up any political activity or face the sack.

The long expected purge on people on the government payroll comes a step closer with the publication of the Public Service Bill.

As I wrote in March 2009, Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister, told the Swazi House of Assembly that civil servants who are considered by the Swaziland ruling elite to be ‘political’ would be given the chance to recant and if they didn’t they would be sacked from their jobs.

Now the new bill, which could become law as early as next month, says it will be an offence for a public servant to be ‘visibly associated’ with a political formation or organisation. It will also be an offence to be a member of a political party. Officers found guilty will be dismissed from their jobs.

As is typical of Swazi law making, the wording of the bill is so vague as to be almost meaningless. What on earth ‘visibly associated’ is meant to mean is anyone’s guess.

The real purpose of the bill is to intimidate anyone who speaks out against the government and the ruling elite led by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The new bill states that it is the role of a public officer to ‘serve the government of the day in a way that ensures that the public officer maintains the confidence of the government’.

In March, Dlamini, who has a long history of disregarding the rule of law in Swaziland, falsely claimed the Swazi Constitution allowed him to restrict the political activities of civil servants.

Dlamini has no love of the constitution, he was himself illegally appointed Prime Minister last year and he runs a government that was formed unconstitutionally.

Political parties are banned in Swaziland and some, including probably the most well known People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), have also been labelled as ‘terrorist’ organisations by the prime minister. Anyone supporting these organisations faces up to 25 years in jail under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

The National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) said the new bill restricted the liberties of public servants and could lead to a worsening of public services in Swaziland because people would be employed and promoted on account of their loyalty to government and not on their ability to do their jobs.

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