Massive Strikes As King's Life Of Luxury Enrages Swaziland's Poor
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.