afrol News, 17 March - Trade unions and student organisations in the totalitarian kingdom of Swaziland are to start mass protests and strikes tomorrow, Friday, demanding democracy and economic reforms.
Originally, ad-hoc groups of discontent Swazis youths through social media and internet forums had called for a "North Africa inspired" uprising on 12 April. The call rapidly gathered wide support, also from the different opposition groups in Swaziland - all being illegal as no opposition is allowed in the kingdom.
But now, the mostly banned trade union movement in Swaziland has taken the initiative to hasten the protest movement. A wide range of unions - including two umbrella organisations, teachers and nurses - together with the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS), took the initiative to announce mass protests on Friday 18 March.
During the last days, the protesters have organised "under the revolutionary leadership of the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF)," which claims to include "all civil society, political, workers, youth, church, rural and business groups." All are calling for the regime to step down.
The "Swazi uprising begins on Friday," the organising groups announced. Tomorrow, "government employees and tertiary students from various sectors" were to "take to the streets to protest" against the Swazi government, headed by totalitarian King Mswati III.
According to Lucky Lukhele, who organises the South African solidarity movement for democracy in Swaziland, "all workers in the country are expected to stay away from work and all students will not attend classes as the country will ground to a halt."
The associations plan to deliver a petition to the Swazi government that lists various demands all of which stem from the country's worsening economic crises and the continued mismanagement of public funds, directly attributed to King Mswati's personal luxury spending.
SNUS, the Swazi student union, in a statement says that "the time for the seizure of power has arrived in Swaziland." Student leader Maxwell Dlamini adds that "tomorrow will mark the end of the royal misrule in Swaziland," as SNUS is now calling for a democratic revolution in the kingdom.
"Our demand in tomorrow's protest action is for the government to r
Maxwell Dlamini, leader of the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS)
esign and the immediate establishment of a transitional government that should draft, in consultation with our people, a democratic constitution that will lead us towards free and fair democratic elections," Mr Dlamini says in a statement forwarded to afrol News.
"We have lost confidence in the present government and call for it to hand power back to the people," Mr Dlamini adds.
He explains that SNUS, since 2009, had negotiated with King Mswati over a controversial scholarship reform. "In our last petition, delivered in early February this year, we promised the government that in the next protest march we will not come back demanding the review of the scholarship policy but would be calling for a regime change. Our genuine caution was ignored and now the government will face our wrath."
Also Swazi workers are currently furious as overspending by King Mswati and an increasing international isolation has led to dramatic budget cuts. Government plans to sack up to 7,000 civil servants, cut salaries for other state employees and make further cuts in social spending. Strikes had been in the planning.
Mr Dlamini made a "humble call" for cooperation with the Swazi police and army, but added that this "does not mean that we will not defend ourselves in the event we are attacked." He also called on the many Swazi youths abroad, in particular in South Africa, to come home and help topple the regime.
The Swazi protest movement earlier this week was encouraged by South Africa's President, Jacob Zuma, who made it clear that the powerful neighbour would not assist King Mswati in the way the Saudis are assisting the King of Bahrain in suppressing the protesters.
Addressing the wave of pro-democracy protests in Africa and the Middle East, President Zuma in a speech said "Exile, torture, jail or even killing did not succeed to stop the masses of South Africa from demanding their freedom and cannot succeed anywhere else. The recently erupted and massive protests happened because people were tired of autocratic governments which had been there for a long time."
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