The long-awaited call for Sibaya has gone out to a grateful nation, which is struggling for leadership and direction. The people look to events like Sibaya and the decisions that come from it as guides for the next few years or months and with the divisions we see in society today, it is especially important for the nation to come to some consensus on where we are going, where we want to go and how we are going to get there.
The expectations going in to Sibaya are extremely high. However, Sibaya is not the forum it once was. The truth is that it is no longer a gathering of every adult fit to travel to Ludzidzini Royal Residence.
Although Acting Ludzidzini Governor TV Mtetwa has pointed out that "Employers are fully aware of what is expected of them when the King summons the nation to the Ludzidzini Royal Residence Cattle Byre," the fact is that Sibaya will be held on a Monday and it has not been declared a holiday.
Employers will therefore lose money from lost productivity if their workers attend Sibaya and so it is reasonable to assume that the employed minority in Swaziland – those who actually pay taxes as opposed to those who live off them – are not going to be well represented at this all-important meeting.
Considering that the majority of the unrest in Swaziland lately has been labour-related, this means that the people attending Sibaya are not necessarily going to be the people hitting the streets in protest – and it is these people who are most desperately asking for direction.
It thus remains to be seen whether or not this year’s Sibaya will be able to provide the answers to the questions that the nation is asking but if it is intended as a forum for every responsible adult in the country, it would have been better to declare Monday a special holiday.
What’s a ‘criminal’?
Someone who refuses to follow the law is not necessarily a ‘criminal’, but someone who refuses to follow the law and causes direct harm to others, or poses the threat of serious harm, is.
For example, few people would call crossing the street at an unauthorised point - jay-walking - ‘criminal’ in the real sense of the word.
If not following the law was always ‘criminal’ then we would be a nation of criminals (how many people can honestly say they’ve never broken a law even by accident in their whole lives?).
Certain activities such as smoking dagga, drinking unregulated homemade alcohol in public, marrying underage girls or hiring relatives are all sometimes considered ‘cultural’, although a strict interpretation of the law would label them ‘criminal’.
So what makes the teachers ‘criminals’ for protesting their rights, even if it is illegally, which is a point of some debate at the moment?
This is a crucial question, because if the teachers on the ‘Waya Waya’ strike are considered criminals they can be suspended or fired with ease, but if not then the Teaching Service Commission will have a hard time trying to bring these punishments to bear on them without violating the labour laws.
The definition of criminal behaviour is one that needs to be revisited in this country, or at least redefined.
In the USA for example, they differentiate between ‘misdemeanours’ and ‘felonies’, where misdemeanours are the not-so-serious incidents of breaking laws (such as jaywalking) and felonies which are the serious crimes.
The basic difference there is that you can’t go to prison for a misdemeanour but you always do for a felony.
Essentially, here we consider the ‘less serious’ crimes the ones which have a fine option attached; which is most of them. We are a very forgiving nation.
But it is time to define what exactly constitutes ‘criminal’ behaviour, what is better described as ‘wrongdoing’ and what may be repellent to us as individuals but is allowed for by the law and must therefore be tolerated.
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