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MBABANE – “It’s all systems go for today’s public sector associations (PSAs) march.”

This was an assertion by PSA representatives, which they issued despite a statement issued by the National Commissioner (NATCOM) of Police, William Dlamini, through the Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati, prohibiting the petition delivery march to the Ministry of Public Service today.

In the statement, NATCOM stated that the nation was advised that the planned protest march had been prohibited by the national commissioner in terms of Section 9(2),(3)(b) and (6) of the Public Order Act, 12 of 2017, in the interest of national security, public order and safety. The statement further reads; “The notice of the prohibition has already been communicated to the convenors for their information and compliance, together with constituencies and other allies. To this end, there is no march expected to be staged tomorrow by the PSAs and the police will be all out to ensure that the prohibition order is enforced.”

When contacted, Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union Secretary General (SG) Mayibongwe Masangane said it was quite shocking that they were being deprived of their rights as workers to deliver a petition and this was a clear indication that government was not willing to work jointly with them as PSAs. “Briefly, all we can say is that government is clearly not willing to hear anything from anyone and we are very disappointed. This is particularly concerning because we had used all the necessary channels in our quest to get permission to deliver the petition to the ministry,” said Masangane.

The secretary general further said this was an indication that we no longer lived in a country but in the trenches because a country had protocols which if followed, the appropriate responses were expected. This, he said, was because they as PSAs had followed due procedure in attaining the permit. “The national commissioner can do what he thinks is appropriate, however, we were granted permission to deliver the petition by the Mbabane City Council in its capacity as council. Therefore, the powers vested in the council should not be ignored, which means it is still all systems go for the march tomorrow (today),” said the SWADNU secretary general.

Secretary General of the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) Thulani Hlatshwayo, when reached for comment concerning NATCOM’s statement prohibiting the proposed petition delivery, stated that the section quoted by the police chief should come in once there is chaos and violence caused by protesters and this section could not be used on a march that had not yet taken place. “I think uyadlala waNkhosi. He also should apply in court before prohibiting a march and point out why the march should be prohibited and what those planning to march had done for the petition delivery to be halted,” said Hlatshwayo.

According to Hlatshwayo, they were prepared and ready for today’s march to deliver the petition to the ministry and had been duly given permission by the municipal council. The Swaziland National Association of Teachers Secretary General, Sikelela Dlamini, was also reached for comment and stated that he was not aware of this prohibition notice by NATCOM and as far as he knew, the march was still on for today.

The PSAs had previously confirmed that they had received a permit and compliance certificate from the Municipal Council of Mbabane for today’s march. This follows a consultative meeting with the council and the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) on Monday wherein logistics concerning today’s petition delivery to the Ministry of Public Service were discussed.

“A compliance certificate was shared with us this morning (yesterday) after confirmation from the municipality on Monday,” said the SNAT secretary general.
At the time, Hlatshwayo said they were prepared and ready for today’s march to deliver a petition to the ministry and had been duly given permission by the city council.

When reached for comment, the Municipal Council of Mbabane Information and Public Relations Officer Lucky Tsabedze’s phone was not available on the network by the time of compiling this report. However, the permit was referenced in a written correspondence dated October 18, 2021, whereby it was stated that the application dated October 11, 2021 to deliver a petition to the Ministry of Public Service had reference.

It was further stated that the march would be conducted from the Coronation Park to Gwamile Street turning to Msakato Street, to Zwide Street, to Mahlokohla Street, turning into Makhosikhosi Road, to Sozisa Road and to Umlilo Road (between Ministry of Agriculture and Fire and Emergency Services) to deliver a petition to the Ministry of Public Service.

Furthermore, the return route of the procession would have been from the Ministry of Public Service, along the same routes to the Coronation Park. It should be noted, however, that the authenticity of the correspondence, which this publication has in its possession, could not be confirmed. This march was announced during a press conference at the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Centre Conference Room last week to the effect that civil servants would be delivering a petition to the Ministry of Public Service today.

The PSAs are NAPSAWU, SWADNU, Swaziland National Association of Government Accounting Personnel (SNAGAP) and SNAT. Worth noting is that the Political Parties Assembly (PPA) had previously stated that they would also join the march and further proceed to the High Court in protest for the release of incarcerated Members of Parliament (MPs) Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza of Hosea and Mthandeni Dube of Ngwempisi.

SWADNU President Welcome Mdluli said a thorny issue that affected them as civil servants was the failure to convene on the joint negotiation forum (JNF).
The JNF is where government and civil servants, through representation by the PSAs, engage and negotiate on issues that revolve around their welfare. Mdluli said PSAs had tried to convene the JNF but in vain. This, he said, affected their welfare as they could not afford basic necessities. “We agreed with government that the salary review should be engaged in every five years and this was made the order of the court; but a year is almost complete without it being implemented,” Mdluli said.

He said the negotiations should have been completed in March 2021; such that in April, it was implemented. In light of this, he said it was necessary that next week Wednesday, all civil servants should head to Mbabane to demand the JNF and the salary review. Mdluli implored civil servants to recall that what was awarded in 2015 was not what they had agreed upon; such that some of the items were to be addressed at a later stage.

Making an example, he said nurses were deprived of the occupation specification dispensation (OSD) in that it was acknowledged that their line of work was different from other civil servants and they were to return to the JNF to address this issue. However, this he said, did not happen.

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