8 hours later, no verdict
MBABANE – Teachers shrouded by a possible committal to jail will have to wait until today to know their fate.
At a special hearing yesterday, the much anticipated case between the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) and government dragged from 10.26am to 6.29pm.
This means the court sat for eight hours, with only a few brief adjournments.
The matter was postponed to 2pm this afternoon, after a lengthy wait by over 200 teachers who witnessed the proceedings, on empty stomachs for the whole day, in anticipation of the final verdict.
Government approached the Industrial Court on the strength of a court order issued on June 20, 2012, which it claimed was defied by teachers when they engaged in an indefinite strike action, commencing on Friday.
Government wants at least 19 members of SNAT jailed for 30 days for defying the said court order.
The matter was before Industrial Court Judge Dumisani Mazibuko.
The teachers’ deny going against the court order.
They say the current action was a horse of a different colour and had no relevance to the one where the order applied. "The intended strike action for June 6 is a horse of a different colour altogether," explained Mandla Mkhwanazi, legal counsel for the teachers.
The matter was argued on preliminary points where legal counsel for the teachers’ union SNAT implored government to prove that a court order was defied, or rather that the law was not followed when the decision to embark on an indefinite strike action was taken.
In his arguments in court, Mkhwanazi submitted that government was misinformed in the belief that the law was not followed.
He gave a brief background of the events culminating to the current strike, beginning when a certificate of unresolved dispute was issued by CMAC up to a balloting process where 98 per cent of the teachers voted for the strike.
According to Mkhwanazi the vote was conducted by the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations on June 14. "What makes the strike different is that the latter ballot raised the concerns raised in the first application and accommodated the basis of the court order," argued Mkhwanazi.
There was however, disagreement between government legal counsel and the teachers’ on the manner in which the results of the said ballot were communicated.
Government was of the belief that the manner in which the results were communicated suggested that the voting was not intended for a strike but instead, for a protest action.
Government held the view that, because the results were also communicated to the Labour Advisory Council, then it automatically followed that the intention was to vote for a protest action as opposed to an indefinite strike.
Government was represented by Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini and Senior Crown Counsel Sifiso Khumalo.
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