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MANZINI – Part of the government machinery came to a grinding halt yesterday as offices and schools did not render services.

The government machinery stopped operations following an audio clip purporting to be a threat announcement by an anonymous ‘commander’. The audio advised security forces to withdraw their services in defending the Tinkhundla System of Government, while also making a litany of threats which cannot be repeated given their nature. In the audio, the members of the State security organs were given 14 days (which elapsed last Friday), to withdraw the said services. This audio clip came at a time when the nation was still anticipating partaking in a national dialogue, which political parties have been calling for, subsequent to the political unrest experienced in June /July 2021.

This was subsequent to the stalemate between government and the Public Sector Union (PSUs) of Swaziland, wherein the latter advised civil servants to stay put in their places of abode in fear of the threats which were supposedly issued by the ‘commander’ and the former insisting that the purported threats were a ‘hoax’. Yesterday, a majority of government services were not rendered as the offices were vacated by civil servants as early as 10am. Services like the issuance of travel documents, birth and death certificates; national identity documents and paying for government services at Revenue Offices, were not available. The closure of some government ministries and departments resulted in a number of people returning home without any assistance. Some offices and departments were operating in the morning, but were closed at about 10am as there was fear of the unknown.


The offices and departments had their doors locked and padlocks hanging from the burglar proof doors. Some people in Manzini were seen waiting in anticipation that the offices would be later opened for them to access services; however, this did not happen and they ended up leaving after lunch. On the other hand, learners in most schools were ordered to return home. This was said to be as a result of some parents not allowing their children to attend lessons yesterday. Some head teachers said they had to release the learners early in spite of the  on-going examinations. They claimed that they could not proceed with the examination while other pupils were not present. The head teachers, who spoke to this publication, expressed fear that the examinations could be thrown into disarray as they did not know what would happen during the course of the week.

They said the examinations were critical as the grades accorded to learners were the ones used to secure places in the next grades for those sitting for external examinations. Also, some of the head teachers acknowledged that there were teachers who had not reported for work and their suspicions were that the threats which had been circulated regarding their safety were the cause. They also highlighted that there was uncertainty on the availability of public transport, which might have deterred the teachers and learners from attending the lessons of the day.
Meanwhile, in most bus ranks across the country, public transport was operational and available. However, despite its availability, there were minimal commuters. Despite the threats which advised the public to stay at home, textile workers in Matsapha had reported for work yesterday morning. However, they did not work the whole day like in most instances as they were released early. This publication started monitoring the situation in Matsapha at 6am and at that time, public transport vehicles operating between Manzini/Matsapha Industrial Site were available, thus the workers managed to get to work on time.


At around 8am, this publication visited some of the textile factories located in the industrial hub of the country and found that they were operating normally and at 100 per cent workforce.
However, later on, it was gathered that some factories released their workers just after the lunch-hour. A source close to the matter said the factories decided to release the workers early for their safety. In fact, he said they took the unrest threats seriously, because of what happened in June/July 2021, where workers who were going to work were caught in the crossfire.
“They feared that the threats could materialise and the workers’ lives would be at risk when going back home in the late afternoon, thus they released them early,” the source said.

It was further reported that there was also uncertainty regarding the availability of public transport, thus some of the employers in the sector decided to release the workers early while public transport vehicles were still available. Some of the employers confirmed that they released the workers before knock- off time for their safety. They said they would be monitoring the situation and they had also asked the workers to update them so that they could plan ahead.

Meanwhile, the Eswatini Textile and Apparel Traders Association (ETATA) Chairperson, Tokky Hou, confirmed earlier on the day that workers managed to report for duty in the factories yesterday. However, she could not be reached for a comment later on as her mobile phone rang unanswered for the better part of yesterday afternoon. A WhatsApp message was sent to her, but she had not responded by the time of compiling this report.

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