BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Somali Swahili French Great Lakes Hausa Portugeuse
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: Africa  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 15:22 GMT
Swazis shun general strike
Jan Sithole, trade union leader
Trade union leaders want constitutional reform
Most shops and business in Swaziland remained open on Thursday despite a general strike called by the trade unions.

Just a few hundred people took part in demonstrations in the capital, Mbabane, staged in protest at government interference in the judicial system.

If we don't show up for work today and tomorrow, we can't collect our Christmas pay

Samuel Mkhonta, worker
Earlier on Thursday, a small bomb exploded at a police compound on the outskirts of Mbabane.

Police said the attack may be linked to the strike and they suspected an underground opposition grouping, Mario Masuku's People's United Democratic Movement (Pudemo).

But Mr Masuku has denied any involvement.

Protesters were also demanding the cancellation of the purchase of a $45m luxury plane for King Mswati III at a time of severe food shortages because of the drought.

'Bad timing'

Workers said the strike should have been called after the holiday season.

"Union leadership must be faulted for bad timing," worker Samuel Mkhonta told Reuters news agency.

Girls in the traditional Incwala dance
The strike coincides with the traditional Incwala dance

"If we don't show up for work today and tomorrow, we can't collect our Christmas pay."

Swazis are also currently celebrating the traditional Incwala dance.

Civil servants were told they would not be paid if they participated in the strike, and most reported to work. A union leader said that the very low turnout could be explained by the fact that it had been agreed with the authorities that essential staff such as nurses and fire fighters would not take part in the strike.

"This is part of a process. There will be another two-day stay-away next month, and every month until government agrees to reform," said Jan Sithole, secretary general of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions.

Aids money

The BBC's Thulani Mthethwa in Mbabane says that some workers may have been afraid to take part in the strike because paramilitary police are known to have assaulted striking workers in the past.

He says that more than 1,000 people took part in a demonstration in Manzini, Swaziland's industrial city, but that only 300 turned up in the capital.

"Away with King Mswati's government" and "No jets, divert the money to HIV/Aids" read signs held by the strikers.

King Mswati (photo: Chris Hughes)
The king is under pressure to modernise

An estimated 25% of adults in Swaziland are infected with HIV.

The pandemic has compounded a food crisis which threatens 270,000 people out of a population of one million.

The government tried to stop the strike through the courts, but failed.

The government recently said it would ignore a court ruling that the king's decrees were unconstitutional.

This followed a bitter row between the authorities and the judiciary in a court case brought by the mother of an 18-year-old girl allegedly abducted to become the king's 10th wife.

Bomb

Police say a petrol bomb was used overnight in the attack on the New Camp police compound east of Mbabane.

They say they suspect the Pudemo youth wing, after they found pamphlets with political messages demanding the king renounce his jet and restore the rule of law.

No arrests have been made.

Mr Masuku was acquitted on treason charges in August this year.

The 51-year-old politician, who suffers from diabetes, had spent a year in a high security prison.

Swaziland is Africa's last absolute monarchy.

Political parties and political demonstrations are outlawed.

See also:

04 Dec 02 | Africa
01 Nov 02 | Africa
04 Feb 02 | Africa
06 Nov 00 | Africa
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes