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DAYS OF RECKONING

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Are we about to experience another episode of unofficial holidays on December 13 and 14, 2022?

Yes, say workers in the public transport sector, but  government remains adamant that no such holidays will be allowed to happen. We’ve been here before, but now the stakes are much higher. The Cabinet’s ability to demonstrate to the world at large that it still has full control of the country will be put to the test once again. Should it fail, the ramifications will be hard to repair.

The public’s trust in the Cabinet is at risk of being eroded further. Business confidence is also on the edge of faltering should companies be forced to close during the proposed two-day transport blackout.      
It all boils down to what the Cabinet team will do differently this time to ensure commuters are able to travel to work and home, without harm.

Previous assurances have failed to materialise, and there is growing doubt about the government’s ability to control the transport sector, where the tail is wagging the dog, literally. The owners are passengers in their own businesses.
The transport owners met with government recently and proposed a solution, which included granting the incarcerated Member of Parliament (MPs) Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube bail. The government has insisted it will not interfere in the judicial process. At a press conference on Monday, the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Themba Masuku, attempted to bring clarity to what would prevail on the day(s), throwing an ambiguous phrase into the mix with ‘kusasa kuyitolo’.

Subjected

This phrase has been subjected to various interpretations, leaning more towards ‘what goes around comes around’. To those for whom it was intended, he seems to have warned of looming consequences for their actions. However, there was no ambiguity on government’s stance towards the proposed December 13 ‘shutdown’ called by public transport workers to demand, among other things, the release of the incarcerated MPs. He said; “Government’s position to this threat is clear; this threat will not be allowed to happen, period. We are determined. National business will continue, and all three arms of government will function.”

The DPM also disclosed that they were aware of the sponsors of this disruption and were tracking their movements and the money that he alleged would be distributed to those few who have been charged with the responsibility to cause chaos by purchasing drugs and alcohol for the perpetration of mischief. He described them as having only one objective in mind; ‘that is to destroy the lives and the livelihoods of emaSwati by depriving them of all the services that are needed in this country in various critical sectors’.

Despite the assurances by the DPM, questions still remain on the how? How do you get a private transport business owner to compel his employee to defy a workers group resolution and be on the road on the day, bearing in mind that the workers have openly defied their employers on the previous occasions? How will the safety of commuters be guaranteed? How will they get to work if the public transport fails to show up? These details are essential and there can be no ambiguity around them. Masuku has said security and all structures will be available to uphold the rule of law and allow transport to operate. Security was there last time, but there was no transport. He has described this threat as ‘evil’, sponsored for ulterior motives and driven by a union with no recognition agreement with anyone.

Suffer

“This evil threat is planned by irresponsible individuals and pressure groups who enjoy and take pleasure in seeing people suffer, while they benefit immensely from resources provided by their inconsiderate handlers,” were his exact words. Herein lays the biggest test. Do people see the pressure groups and sponsors the same way? Can the Cabinet team garner the support that will see the ordinary citizens heed the call to turn up for work, even if it means walking there? Will we see motorists take to the roads and head to work while stopping to pick up fellow workers along the way to ensure productivity on the day? Will some people rise above the fear of the unknown and demonstrate their stance on the ongoing political impasse?

A ‘victory’ for the leaders of the proposed two-day ‘shutdown’ would, on the other hand, elevate their status in the eyes of the masses, and they would be motivated to take this new found influence a step further. It, therefore, goes without saying that December 13 and 14, 2022, will serve as days of reckoning for both sides of the political divide.

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