Call off that strike!
In various fields, though primarily evident in the arenas of natural phenomenon and conflict management, the concept of dealing with potential disaster either from a preventative perspective or from one that seeks to minimise inevitable damage, is common.
Many countries have gone to a great deal of trouble to develop such early warning systems.
However, even where there is no formal system as such, in my view a sincere government would take heed of voices that seek to warn of possible danger to a country and its people.
This brings me to the issue I would like to discuss today.
Those in authority have ignored warnings and disaster has struck.
Swaziland finds itself mired in socio-economic and political crises.
Government has exposed itself as the primary cause as a result of the currently unworkable system of governance.
Not only this but government has exacerbated the damage by incompetence and delusions of being the only legitimate voices to speak on how Swaziland can improve.
Over too many years, Swazi citizens, experts and institutions as well as international experts and institutions have sounded the warning that, if there is no change in how we do things, the situation will deteriorate.
Guess what, decades later, we are mired in this deterioration.
It could have been prevented and the negative impact of those forces not of our own making could have been mitigated.
In my previous articles in recent times, I have cautioned the State that if there was no change in mindset in those who run this country, there would come a time when the country would not be able to meet national needs. It is now history that the blind loyalists of the system used all the ammunition in their vocabulary to demonise my name, calling me all sorts of insulting names because, to them, my suggestion for the need to change was putting the image of the country in bad light. They tried, using the pages of this very paper, to portray me as an old man who had lost his logic. They have ignored mine and other voices to the detriment of the country. It appears that government and other governing structures in Swaziland have run out of options to solve the country’s financial problems, which are getting more complex by the day.
As I write this article, teachers are out in the streets, fighting to have government come to the negotiation table with a demonstrable sense of urgency and commitment to solving the impasse.
It would appear that the teachers have dug their heels in with this Waya Waya mode.
Given these positions, in which each side says it will not budge, what are we left with as a nation? Chaos in schools while government threatens legal action?
I know government officials would tell me, as some are already doing, "Look here Musa, by this action; your comrades have defied a legitimate court order ordering them not to continue with intended strike. They call on government to uphold the rule of law, while they themselves want to defy it when they feel convenient to do so."
Granted, we do have a rule of law crisis in this country – with a government and its Judiciary behaving the way they do, how can we not? The Court Order teachers are alleged to have violated will be a subject for another week.
I digress slightly only to express sadness that such is the poison that has affected our political lives. We seem to feel that we cannot talk to one another simply because we may differ in opinion and this has now created a cancer that is destroying this nation at every level.
Let us go back to the main topic for today: Listen to those who "tell you so" as I have tried to do. What did I say? To those who might have forgotten, my past writings on the various futures which Swaziland could have chosen and then prospered, include the long-term vision 2022 development plan which was launched together with their Majesties, the Cabinet then in office, led by the Prime Minister launched, in 1997.
Among many other things, the vision addressed the core of our problems, defining the appropriate relationship between the traditional aspects of the governance of the country and ‘modern’ type democratic governance, with no conflict between the two systems.
The document of the National Development Strategy (NDS) pointed out that if there was to be no resolution between these two systems, the conflict between them would continue to confuse and create a climate in which foreign direct investment may find it necessary to shun Swaziland.
Then Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini and his Cabinet colleagues discarded the ‘futures’ part of the document and replaced it with what they called "ESRA"
Sounds nice, does it not?
ESRA (Economic and Social Reform Agenda) was deliberately not going to solve the country’s governance and in turn, development problems because it denied the truth that Swaziland, if it has to prosper, must start dismantling its archaic political system of Tinkhundla.
In Swaziland, once you have won the ear of Labadzala (the elders), what you say goes and it does not matter how truthful a contrary message might be, it gets demonised as the enemy of the Swazi traditional authority. Thus, warnings go unheeded, opening the space for problems to tighten their grip. Another attempt at raising alarm was initiated in 2004.
Seeing that ESRA was not delivering to the private sector, the Federation of Swaziland Employers and Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the ILO, contracted an accomplished futurist expert from Shell UK. His task was to study the abandoned NDS and, using the vision Swazis had created for themselves and future generations, assess, seven years after the launch of the amputated NDS, how close was Swaziland from achieving the original vision and what conditions were needed to support its success.
Like the NDS, the outcome of those futures studies pointed for the need to reform Government, making it autonomous from the traditional structures which hindered freedom to make business decisions without the interference by the institutions whose role not defined in any document. Unfortunately for the country, the leadership of the FSE&CC at the time could be said to have developed cold feet and avoided creating a forum of engagement among stakeholders and the general population about the scenarios predicted for the country.
That was one critical opportunity lost by Swaziland. In fact, one the reasons why this Government can run roughshod over all of us is simply that there is no intellectual debate about our condition - instead we swallow what this Government throws at us. Had the then leadership of the FSE&CC been courageous, it could have taken this discussion document around the country, challenging stereotypes while assisting people choose the best of the alternative futures presented.
The failure to act by that leadership has contributed to the state of affairs, wherein business leaders in the private sector are treated as if they were a department in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Yes, I am an old man, there’s no genius in anyone restating that fact as it is obvious. There is only foolishness in seeking to delegitimse my view because of my age.
I personally happen to have been involved in the creation of all these alternative futures – both the NDS and the FSE&CC scenarios.
As such, I am aware that as a country and its leadership at all levels of power, we have gone wrong. We have made sacrificing the truth our common currency. Sadly, this is where we are as we speak. It is the teachers for now.
Next week it may be the rest of the civil service. Who knows who will follow? I have always said that the teachers and other civilian public servants may go on strike and the strike may be ignored, but the day we fail to pay the women and men in security uniform, all hell will break loose and all of us will lose whatever we have been trying to amass.
As a citizen and a parent, I am beginning to be concerned by the absence of creativity on government side to find an amicable outcome with her employees. In the private sector, we would get ordered to present our audited accounts to prove inability to pay. Why doesn’t government do that, if truly it has no money to civil servants?
The problem is government has long legitimacy with its employees. When this administration called for belt tightening for everybody, those in Cabinet opened their belts even wider than before, through circular No.1.
Then of course those endless trips around the world, with huge delegations of people who do not even understand what the event they are attending is about. Why must the public believe government’s assertions in the face of such behaviour? All the scenarios I have seen for Swaziland say that if there is no political, social and economic reform, the collapse will continue.
The key then is simple: reform the political equation and a sound basis for the rest will have been created. The warning signs have been there. The systems are have been manifesting and the indication is that there may be worse to come. Albeit delayed by its own arrogance, it is not too late for government to swallow its pride and look for the multiple wisdom that exists beyond the enclosures of Hospital Hill.
They may not have heeded the warnings but just acknowledging that and changing tack now would be credit to them.
A final thought…while I appreciate the teachers’ resolve to carry on, I wish to caution that this is a national tragedy they cannot fight alone, especially at this point when other sectors of our society are planning to get involved.
It might help the teachers’ leadership to consider suspending the action while they allow their foot soldiers to recharge and more support to gain momentum.
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