Public sector trade unions in Swaziland are angry at the announcement that junior police officers are to get 30 percent pay rise.
Unions have been told they will have a freeze on their pay. Last year they held protest actions in pursuit of a 4.5 percent pay claim when the government said it could not afford to pay more.
Meanwhile, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, fears the pay rise is to encourage police to put down dissent among the public.
Swazi Police Commissioner, Isaac Magagula, announced the pay rise on Wednesday (27 February 2013). It will apply to offices of the ranks of constable and sergeant.
He did not say when the pay rise would take effect, but local media reported that he promised it would be ‘soon’.
Swaziland is in an economic mess and the International Monetary Fund has advised the government to cut its total wage bill, not increase it.
Speaking to the Times of Swaziland newspaper, Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) President, Sibongile Mazibuko, said there was no obvious reason why police officers should get more pay, while other public servants did not.
‘If it is merely an increase not equity, it will definitely create unrest. When we engaged in a strike last year, we were stopped by a royal order. We did not receive anything,’ the paper quoted Mazibuko saying.
‘Government cannot leave out other civil servants, as such will definitely create war,’ Mazibuko said.
She also said government had to share with civil servants the little it had to create unity.
National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) President, Quinton Dlamini, told the newspaper it would be unfair for government to give some public servants money when others had been staging protests for 4.5 percent which they did not get.
‘Unless the increments are standard, we would definitely not allow that to happen. If it means fighting for it, we will do so,’ Dlamini said.
In an editorial comment, the Times said, ‘The message being sent by government to the ordinary Swazi on the street is that the government is hiring more officers to put down dissent, paying them comparatively well to ensure their loyalty, rewarding the commissioners with luxury vehicles - all while protecting the three armed forces (army, police and warders) from prosecution.’
It added the last time the Swazi Government acted in this way, ‘it was followed by a year in which the nation struggled without food, medicines and money and the security forces were instrumental in battering down our cries of protest’.
It added, ‘This is the message that the Swazi on the street is getting, loud and clear, from government. And it appears that government is either oblivious to the consequences of its actions – which would denote an order of incompetence so serious it would be criminal – or planning for a security threat which the rest of us know nothing about but perceived to be coming from the general public.’
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