They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well that's lucky, because I don't really remember what happened here. I'll let you imagine the misfortunes of these two Swazi men.
TIMES OF SWAZILAND (Swaziland), REUTERS, MAIL & GUARDIAN, INDEPENDENT (South Africa), AFP (France)
As weeks of protest culminate in an ongoing teachers strike and public enterprises’ workers threaten to down tools en masse this week, reports the Independent, King Mswati III of Swaziland has launched a three-day "people's parliament" in an attempt to appease the growing public dissent.
Named the sibaya, the parliament is a traditional practice in Swaziland where people can air their views before the king, although it has not been held since 2004, reports the Times of Swaziland.
Reuters reported that King Mswati told the crowd: "Some from the Western world have been waiting patiently and nursing hopes that the people of Swaziland will revolt and bring about regime change."
"Swazis are known the world over for being peace-loving and I would like to urge you to remain like that," he added.
The king urged the nation to come up with strategies to deal with the economic crises, particularly unemployment, which stands at 23 percent of the workforce, says the Independent.
As the country goes to the polls next year, he charged citizens to come up with recommendations on the best form of governance.
Over one hundred teachers were fired last week for refusing to return to work, however a court demanded that the government overturn the decision, AFP reported. Teachers, nurses and other public sector workers are demanding a 4.5 percent rise in wages: a modest demand when compared to the monarchy's lavish lifestyle.
"The Commonwealth totally ignores mass plight of the Swazi people due to the concentration of all the country’s wealth by Mswati" says CPS
— @COSATU TODAY (@_cosatu) August 7, 2012
South Africa's the Mail & Guardian reported last week that three of Mswati's 13 wives, each with their own palace, were planning a trip to Las Vegas.
Vincent Dlamini, general secretary for the trade union movement Napsawu, told the Mail & Guardian: "This just shows the utter disdain that the royal family has for the people of Swaziland, that they can go on an expensive and indulgent trip like this when the country is on strike demanding better living and working conditions."
Swaziland is the last remaining absolute monarchy in Africa, which has ruled since its independence from Great Britain in 1968. It now has the world's lowest life expectancy rate, with an average of 32 years according to the CIA World Factbook, which is mostly indebted to the HIV epidemic in the country.
According to the International Trade Union Confederation, some 100 union members were killed in 2010. A bleak picture that shows no sign of improvement.
Worldcrunch NEWS BITES
PARIS - On May 26, on his way to work in Morales, Guatemala, Idar Joel Hernandez Godoy, the finance secretary of the Izabal Banana Workers Union, was shot dead. In early April, Oscar Humberto Gonzalez Vazquez, one of his colleagues was also found dead, shot 35 times.
In its 2011 report on the "violation of union rights," the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) painted a bleak picture of the situation in 143 countries: nearly 100 union members killed in 2010 (49 in Colombia alone,) dozens of attempted murders and thousands of arrests -- and of course the countless masses laid-off from their jobs because of their affiliation with labor unions.
In April, authorities in Swaziland launched a brutal crackdown on demonstrations, sparking international outrage. "Unions are allowed, but as soon as we get together, the police use violence against us," said Sibanesenkhosi Dlamini, President of the Federation of Swaziland Unions.
Behind the most obvious violent acts, the anti-union atmosphere has never been stronger, according to the ITUC. "The social net is under pressure and the trend is to downgrade labor laws," says Nadine Thevenet who's in charge of union freedoms at the ITUC. Social movements multiply and unions become the enemy.
In Central America, Asia and Africa, it turns to murder. In Cambodia, Bangladesh and Turkey, arrests and lay-offs. In Eastern Europe, authorities try to limit the influence of independent unions, taking control of unions or favoring more pliant ones. Maia Kobakhidze, leader of the Georgian professors and scientists union was challenged by a dissident faction, favored by the Ministry of Education. "They asked me to resign, offering me another, well-paid job, in the ministry," she says. Ever since she refused, the union has seen its funding choked off.
With this picture, unions in western countries seem to be idyllic. But for the ITUC, the anti-union atmosphere is global. "In a company, signing up in a union is seen first and foremost as declaration of war against the boss," says French CGT Union leader Bernard Thibault. The physical violence of the 20th century has morphed into harassment, time constraints or workplace humiliation.
Read full article in French by Remi Barroux