Mbabane: The Government of Eswatini has registered an important victory in its standoff against the Multi-Stakeholder Forum and coerced the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) to back down from its proposed three-day protest action. The protest marches were expected to be held in six urban areas throughout the country.
The six towns and cities that were expected to participate in the civil action are Mbabane, Manzini, Pigg’s Peak, Nhlangano, Siteki, and Hluthi. In Mbabane petitions were to be delivered to the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT), and Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, together with the police.
In the other urban areas, protestors were to march to the Regional Administration offices where they were to deliver their petitions. The march was to be joined by members of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) and the National Public Services and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU).
In a media conference, Prime Minister Sipho Cleopas Dlamini had warned members of the public from taking to the streets. The Prime Minister mentioned that it defies logic that people can engage in protests following King Mswati’s commitment to a national dialogue soon. “We urge emaSwati to remain calm and united as we prepare for the dialogue. His Majesty has continued to pave the way for Eswatini to achieve sustained peace and prosperity.”
The Prime Ministers’ warning followed a directive from the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Prince Simelane that no protest marches are permitted in Eswatini. Prince Simelane announced the directive last Thursday in a press conference wherein he banned municipalities from issuing permits to protesters for marches.
The coercion that also took the form of a brutal crackdown by the security forces over the last few months seems to have taken its toll on the members of the Multi-Stake Holder Forum. Many of their members were reluctant to attend this week’s march and this can be attributed to the low turnout in most of the cities and urban areas where the marches were supposed to be held.
Support for the march was also not forthcoming from the business fraternity as many business people are still attempting to recover from the last weeks’ public transport operators strike that affected all sectors.
Members of the Royal Eswatini Police Services were also visible in all the urban areas in which the marches were expected to occur. The police did not waste time and they instructed the organizers who were attempting to mobilize workers into a cohesive force to disperse. The Secretary-General of the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA), Wonder Mkhonza did not mince his words when he explained that “we called off the march because we feared for the safety of our members after the police threatened us.”
Members of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum who comprise of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), the Peoples United Democratic Workers Union (PUDEMO), the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), The Swaziland Commercial and Allied Workers Union (SCAWU), the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA) and the Public Transport Operators among others have been forced to back to the drawing board to re-strategize.