No transport on Mondays and Fridays in Manzini as ... Buses strike!
MANZINI – The Swaziland Transport and Allied Workers Union (STAWU) will embark on an 11-day protest action in which the trade union hopes to shut down the country’s transport industry.
The trade union boasts a membership of more than 2 000. It announced yesterday that they will protest from May 29, to June 8, 2012 over, inter alia, the relocation of public transport from the main bus rank to the Satellite bus rank in Manzini.
During the 11-day strike, the union said, there will be no fuel deliveries into Swaziland, and other commodities that are imported into Swaziland.
Also, no public transport would be available for the duration of the strike action.
"The strike is aimed at bringing the country to a standstill and it definitely will. Filling stations may run out of fuel. There will be no public transport for 11 days in Swaziland," said Simanga Shongwe, who is STAWU’s Secretary General.
The trade union said the protest action will be joined by its seven affiliates, which are Cargo Carriers employees, Unitrans employees, Cresilda, Qasquip, Nagins Transport, HS Transport and Fuel Logic employees as well as bus conductors and drivers.
The protest action will be staged in both Mbabane and Manzini, and the trade union made it clear in their press statement that they will toyi toyi in the streets to force the government of Swaziland to meet the membership’s demands.
In their notice of a strike action, they said they want government to withdraw Value Added Tax (VAT). The trade union demands that the Manzini City Council reverses the relocation of public transport to the Satellite Bus Rank.
STAWU also mentioned that they want the Royal Swaziland Police service to stop making them pay heavy on-the-spot fines.
They also demand that the Road Transportation Board (RTB) issue out public transport permits within 24 hours.
"Our decision comes after we furnished the Manzini Municipal Council with our stand on the operationalisation of the Satellite Bus Rank on April 16, 2012 and on April 19, 2012. This then makes us to aver that even the proposed social dialogue will yield no results," STAWU said yesterday.
Two of STAWU executive members were detained by the police this week at the Satellite Bus Rank this week.
"Our approach shall be to toyi-toyi in all Manzini and Mbabane streets. This then shall safeguard our demands for our members," read the trade union’s statement in part.
The notice was addressed to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
The ministry is expected to respond within seven days, and if there is no response the trade union will conduct a ballot.
The Retailers Association said they hope the protest action can be avoided as it will have adverse effects on their businesses and economy.
Harry Nxumalo said: "Should the protest take place, it would affect our economy because it would mean there might be no fuel all over Swaziland. The country would definitely feel the impact of such a strike."
Vendors to join protest action
MANZINI – Vendors yesterday said they were only making E20 selling fruit and vegetables at the main bus rank ever since the east-bound vehicles were relocated to the Satellite Bus Rank.
A vendor told the meeting that her business had suffered after the decision by the Manzini City Council to make the buses rank in separate areas. The vendors said they will join the protest action.
Street politics won’t stop VAT - Percy
MANZINI – Government spokesperson, Percy Simelane, said VAT will not be stopped by street politics.
Simelane, called to respond to the demands of STAWU, said Value Added Tax was brought about and approved through Parliament, and changes to the Act will be brought about through the same structure.
"Contributions to how VAT would work were solicited from stakeholders, and Parliament approved the Act. Therefore, anyone with ideas contributed to how the Act would come into effect as a stakeholder. If there are to be changes to how the Act functions, only Parliament can make those changes – not street politics," said Simelane
I was threatened with arrest - Basil
MANZINI – The legal advisor of the Swaziland Transport Allied Workers Union, Basil Tfwala said he has been informed by the police that he is close to being arrested.
Tfwala was addressing members of the trade union at the SNAT centre in Manzini.
He was making reference to the anticipated police confrontation on the dates on which the trade union plans to protest.
"You have seen in the newspapers what the police have been doing to us. We have been detained for convening a meeting at the Satellite Bus Rank by the police. They have been on a show of force, and it could get worse on the days of the protest action.
"They (police) have told me that I am close to being sent to jail, and I take it to be a serious claim. Simanga Shongwe, the secretary general has had encounters at the hands of the police. He was fetched from Mbelebeleni, where his homestead is, by armed members of the police service just before we embarked on our last protest action in Manzini. They had orders that he was wanted by certain Labadzala to discuss the Manzini Satellite Bus Rank matter," said Tfwala.
The meeting was also attended by vendors.
No transport on Fridays
MANZINI – The Swaziland Transport and Allied Workers Union said there will be no transport in Manzini on Mondays and Fridays of every week in the build-up to the 11-day protest action.
The secretary general of STAWU, Simanga Shongwe, said beginning tomorrow commuters will have to find alternative transport because their membership at the Manzini Bus Rank will not be working.
"Starting this Friday (tomorrow), and in succeeding Mondays and Fridays, there will be no transport. The intention is to make the City Council and government to see the effect that will be brought by the coming protest action. We feel we are not being taken seriously, and our case is not being treated as a matter of urgency. We feel pity for the commuters, but the issues we are tackling are of national importance, they call for this sacrifice," said Shongwe.
The chief negotiator of the trade union, Petros Ndzabandzaba, said embarking on the two-day boycott every week is a crucial tactic.
"When all fails, it is important to be offensive and think of strategies to advance the cause. We will speak to transport operators in the other routes to join us, and we will speak to SNAT and the Swaziland Principals Association so that we could have other associations backing us. We want TUCOSWA on board," said Ndzabandzaba.
All operators will be forced to join protest
MANZINI – Bus conductors and drivers who will work on the protest action dates will be forced to join the action.
It was raised yesterday by bus conductors that division may be caused by kombis and buses that may continue to work on the dates of the protest action, which has been set to take place from May 29 to June 8.
At the moment only east-bound public transport has been affected by the relocation to the Satellite Bus Rank, and during this week’s protest, public transport at the main bus rank has not been disturbed.
"This is what may cause division and probably may lead to a less effective protest. When their drivers were arrested and fined amounts that ran into thousands of Emalangeni by the police we showed solidarity and we engaged in a protest action as a unit.
"This time we demand that they join us," said a speaker during a meeting at the SNAT Centre where the membership endorsed a decision by STAWU to strike.
The chief negotiator, Petros Ndzabandzaba said all transport operators must join the protest action.
"Those who operate from the main bus rank must not think they will never be moved to the satellite, because when I remember well the Nhlangano route public transport was included when we were first moved from the main bus rank. They have not been included this time, and this shows you that no one is safe," said Ndzabandzaba.
At the end of the meeting it was agreed that transport at the main bus rank will be asked to join the protest action.
Percy is really ignorant. He doesn't seem to understand the domino effect of this strike. No transport could mean no food in supermarkets, no people going to work, no economic production and that's a recipe for a revolution. Employers are getting sick and tired of being taxed when govt is doing anything to help them run their businesses profitably. Watch this space.
May 10, 2012, 12:32 PM, Mgungu Mkhabela (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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