Home | News | King's speech dispute

King's speech dispute

Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font

MBABANE – The speech made by His Majesty the King at the last SMART Partnership Dialogue is now a subject of serious discussion at the salary negotiations table.

Government and unions cannot come to an agreement regarding what His Majesty said exactly.

The 10 per cent pay cuts negotiations between the two entities have reached a stalemate and in the midst is confusion regarding the interpretation of the speech from the throne.

Unions claim the King said government should not unilaterally implement cuts on their salaries. They also say His Majesty ordered that their salaries should not be touched.

They have warned government to respect His Majesty’s call and stay away from their salaries.

On the other hand, the Government Negotiations Team (GNT) alleges that the king never made such a pronouncement.

Government wants to implement the salary cuts as per the proposal it submitted at the negotiations table.


The proposal was made before His Majesty addressed the issue of civil servants’ welfare against recommendations made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on salary cuts to save the ailing economy.

The National Public Servants and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) also said the King had spoken against retrenchments.

Government is the biggest employer in the country with over 35 000 people on its payroll. This comes as government struggles to raise monthly salaries for its workers.

Government spends about E350 million on salaries and over E500 million on other operations.

Last Thursday, negotiations between the two came to a head when the parties failed to agree on the interpretation of His Majesty’s speech.

There was drama when the GNT presented a recording purportedly containing the King’s speech.

Unions representing public servants refused to listen to the recording.

"We rejected the tape on the grounds that we did not want to be seen to be opposing the King. His Majesty made the pronouncement and it was clear to everyone so there was no need to twist it in interpretation," says Vincent Dlamini, Secretary General of NAPSAWU.

Dlamini said the union had a mandate entrusted by the workers to the effect that government should comply with the King’s pronouncement on the issue of workers’ welfare.

The secretary general said the union told the government negotiations team that if they believed the king did not make any pronouncement on the welfare of workers, they should go ahead and publicly denounce His Majesty’s statement.

"As Swazis we all know that the King’s word is final (ngumlomo longacali manga).

They should openly tell the nation that this no longer holds true," he said.

He said once government denounced the King’s speech, the union would then proceed with the negotiations over the salary cuts.

He said according to his observation, government wanted the assistance of the unions in defying the King.

"They brought the tape purportedly containing the King’s speech because they were trying to be smart with us. The GNT wanted a collective decision in defying the King and we refused to be part of that scheme," he said.

He said government should not involve workers in denouncing orders of the king.

"Our members will never say the head of state was wrong to issue such an instruction," he said.

The issue of the King’s speech is so contentious that on Monday, Magobetane Mamba, Minister of Public Service called the ‘warring factions’ to a meeting. The meeting was held at his offices.

The purpose of the meeting, according to Muzi Mhlanga, Secretary General of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) was to affirm government’s stance that the king did not say salaries for civil servants should be cut.

He is also said the negotiations were going at a slow rate.

"The minister said he was concerned that the issue of salary cuts was taking too long to be concluded. He was also worried about the slow pace of talks at the negotiations table," he said.

This meeting also ended abruptly when the minister was unequivocally told that he was out of order and was interfering.

"We told him that we were not negotiating with him," he said.

When the meeting that ‘never really’ took off came to a close the minister asked a member of the unions to pray. Instead of a prayer, the union rendered a resounding ‘Nkosi sikelel’i Africa,’ the national anthem of South Africa.

Explaining why the members of the union sang the anthem NAPSAWU’s Vincent Dlamini said the union sang the song to highlight their displeasure at what they termed interference by the minister.

"The minister was out of order to try and hijack the negotiations between unions and the GNT," he said.

"He did not have a mandate to call us in the first place. Government is represented by the GNT in the negotiations and the GNT alone carries government’s mandate. He tried to ‘pickpocket’ the exercise and burnt his fingers because we sang the song right in his offices to highlight our unhappiness," he said.

Madlopha’s lips are sealed

MBABANE – Evart Madlopha, Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Public Service, says issues discussed at the negotiations table are never discussed outside that forum.

Asked to respond specifically on the issue pertaining to his Majesty’s speech he maintained his stance.

He said according to the rules of engagement, issues at table were never discussed outside the forum.

"Protocol prevents me from discussing such an issue in the media or in any other forum," he said.

Magobetane Mamba, Minis-ter of Public Service also did not to comment on the issue. He referred all quest-ions to his PS, whom he said was part of the negotiations.

While government wants to cut their salaries, public servants are demanding a salary increment of 4.5 per cent across the board.

Vincent Dlamini, Secretary General of the National Public Servants and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) said the issue of a pay rise was no longer an issue at the negotiations table.

"We concluded this issue by agreeing to disagree at the table," he said.

Dlamini said the demand for a pay rise had been necessitated by the fact that commodities have increased.

The 4.5 per cent was based on the inflation rate for the year 2010/11.

Dlamini said the union was now preparing to take the issue of a salary increase to the Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission (CMAC) for conciliation.

He said if there was still no agreement there, workers would exercise their right to go on strike.

Post your comment comment

Please enter the code you see in the image:

Should govt counduct random raids to fight crime?