Magazine article New Internationalist

Swaziland

Magazine article New Internationalist

Swaziland

Article excerpt

There is loud cheering and whistling as King Mswati III enters Ludzidzini Royal Cattle Byre, about 20 kilometres south of the capital, Mbabane. This is no purely ceremonial visit. The King is one of those few hereditary monarchs around the world who retains real power over his country. On this occasion, a large audience anxiously awaits his address to what is called a Sibaya or 'People's Parliament'.

The Sibaya took place in August 2012 at a vital time - at the height of a teachers' strike where over 4,000 members of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers downed chalk for six weeks demanding a 4.5 per cent cost of living adjustment. The government had responded first by cutting the striking teachers' salaries by a third and then by firing some of them for engaging in an 'illegal strike' that fuelled discontent against King Mswati III's regime.

Speakers at the Sibaya boldly called on the 44-year-old monarch to dismiss the prime minister, Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, and his cabinet, while others called for multiparty democracy. The unpopularity of the Dlamini government had been rising fast as the country plunged into economic crisis and as security forces clamped down on peaceful protesters who were also calling for political change. In addition, while the government continued to award politicians lucrative perks, public servants had been landed with a three-year salary freeze.

Further fuelling the animosity between the government and civil society were media reports that Dlamini and four other cabinet ministers had awarded themselves huge discounts when buying Crown land. When Parliament tried to probe the matter via a vote of no confidence, Dlamini went to court to try to stop it - only for King Mswati to intervene first and stop Parliament from debating the issue.

Although the government and the teachers challenged each other in court, the verdict of the Sibaya prevailed because it carried the voice of the King. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.