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MBABANE – Every war has casualties and Regional education officers (REOs) seem to be in the line of fire.

This is in the ongoing raging war between civil servants and government ,which resulted in the former engaging in an industrial action following an issuance of a certificate of unresolved dispute with the latter over the cost-of-living adjustment (CoLA).

Civil servants, who are represented by public sector associations (PSAs) in the joint negotiation forum (JNF), were seeking 7.85 per cent CoLA to cushion them against the inflation rate of the 2017/2018 financial year.
While seeking this percentage, government, which is represented by the government negotiation team (GNT), extended a zero per cent offer citing an economic slump and cash-flow-crisis.

Due to this, the civil servants took to the streets and abandoned their duty stations which resulted in government invoking the no-work, no-pay rule.
The three PSAs that engaged in the industrial action are: Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) and the Swaziland National Association of Government Accounting Personnel (SNAGAP).


In attaining the information of teachers who were absent during working hours, when SNAT was hosting a variety of activities and also partaking in the industrial action, the Ministry of Education and Training advised REOs to gather details of SNAT leaders in the different regions and furnish the ministry with such information.
The message that was sent to the REOs requested them to attain the name of branch leaders, their leaders and the members of the national executive council (NEC).

According to some of the REOs, who preferred to give the interviews under anonymity in fear of their supervisors, the message that instructed them to gather the information was sent through their mobile phones.

The REOs said they heeded the instruction from their bosses and started gathering the information on the SNAT leaders.
However, while doing so, the REOs claimed that information started circulating that they were seeking the information to use it when implementing the no-work, no-pay. This, they said, sent the whole exercise into disarray.

“When I made calls to gather information from some head teachers about the teachers who were leading SNAT, the head teachers quickly claimed to be in areas where they had poor network connections,” one REO claimed.

The education officer claimed that gathering the information was scarce as there was no cooperation at all from the relevant authorities. To salvage the situation, it is said one of the officers approached the SNAT Secretary General, Sikelela Dlamini.

When doing so, the officer is said to have been informed by the unionist that the ministry dealt with the association directly; not through REOs. The delay in gathering all the leaders of SNAT led to the REOs not having all the necessary information on the date it was needed.

The deadline for this exercise, according to the Education officers, was October 13, 2019 – which was last Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Training, Bertram Stewart, said: “Even if we know the matter; it is an administrative issue that we can’t be discussing with the Times.

We can’t be calling the Times each time we take a decision (sic).”
Stewart said this before he abruptly terminated the call.
Worth noting is that SNAT has over 15 branches countrywide.

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