Swazi democracy talks stumble

2011-07-30 20:32

Mbabane - Talks on democratic reforms in Africa's last absolute monarchy stumbled Saturday as the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, the country's largest labour group, walked out of a civil society meeting.

The "national convention", which opened on Friday, aimed to bring together civil society groups to map out how the kingdom could begin negotiations toward multi-party democracy.

But the labour federation argued King Mswati III - who snubbed the gathering after being invited to deliver an opening address - had not shown a commitment to dialogue.

"Our position is that the king has refused to entertain the question of dialogue. He said this as recently as last year. It would appear that instead of strengthening our mass power we are busy talking dialogue, a language that the king refuses to embrace," said national organiser Fundizwi Sikhondze.

Sikhondze said unions would rather return to the streets to resume the demonstrations that have shaken Swaziland in recent months.

Pro-democracy groups, Aids activists and unions have staged unprecedented protests across the impoverished kingdom since April, complaining about an economic meltdown that is threatening the livelihoods of the country's 1.2 million people.

Swaziland is battling to stay solvent after last year losing 60% of its revenues from a regional customs union, the government's main source of income.

The government has frozen public-sector salaries and asked unions to accept pay cuts, leading to mass protests that have been violently put down by security forces.

Growing public resentment has lent momentum to calls for Mswati to step down.

The king - whose fortune is estimated at $100 million - is famous for his jet-set lifestyle and lavish spending on his 13 wives, each of whom has her own palace.

  • HCrouse - 2011-07-30 21:44

    This d-wad owns HALF of the GDP the country produces. My only question is what kind of paralyzed citizenry allowed the situation to get to this point.

      Marcell - 2011-07-31 03:59

      The same type of sheep that votes for the ancESTORS.

  • Koos - 2011-07-31 06:34

    The author of this article should be asking a question to the RSA trade unions who fully support the Swazi trade unions in their strugle the following question: Why is it a problem for the Swazi leader to be stinking rich, while I do not hear the RSA trade unions complain about the RSA leaders such as the Zuma family and the honourable Sir Julius Malema using their positions to become stinking rich???? Maybe I could be so arogant as to offer a possible answer: After an organization such as a Trade Union eventually manages to help change a country's constitution to one of democracy, you stop complaining about issues such as abusing one's power to become rich BECAUSE this new democracy might enable them to reach such a position where they may achieve the same beautiful result for themselves? I just wonder - - - -

  • letsee - 2011-08-01 11:07

    It is impossible to build a genuine democracy when the parties involved are trying to consolidate their position for democracy is indeed the opposite. And why are Trade Unions involved? Who are those guys to be involved in politics? Aren’t they concerned with the employed people?

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