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GOVT: MBONGWA INCITED TEACHERS’ GO-SLOW ACTION

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MBABANE - Government says Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) President Mbongwa Dlamini incited teachers to engage in a go-slow.

It alleged that the SNAT president did this so that he could be reinstated to work.  These averments were made by the Executive Secretary of the Teaching Service Commission (TSC), Nhlanhla Dlamini. This is in the matter where Mbongwa is inter alia seeking an order to set aside his letter of dismissal, dated August 28, 2023, and to be reinstated as a teacher. He was dismissed from work after he was found guilty of absenting himself for 109 days, without reporting to his immediate supervisor. Respondents in the matter are the chairperson of the Teaching Service Commission (TSC), TSC, Ministry of Education and Training and the minister of Education and Training.

In his application, Mbongwa wants the court to review and set aside the decision of the chairperson of the TSC of proceeding with the hearing against him in his absence. The matter was due to be heard at the Industrial Court yesterday. Government, through Assistant Attorney General (AG) Mbuso Simelane, raised points of law, which included that Mbongwa was approaching the court with dirty hands. Simelane urged the court not to entertain his application.

Axe

“The matter cannot be heard while there is an axe in a form of a go-slow strike hanging over the court’s head, whose purpose is to have Mbongwa reinstated, while he also approached the Industrial Court for a similar remedy of reinstatement,” he argued. He told the court that on September 15, 2023, the applicant (Mbongwa) allegedly incited teachers to engage in a go-slow, so that he could be reinstated to work. These are allegations whose veracity is yet to be tested in court. The assistant AG was referring to the extraordinary urgent general council meeting held at the SNAT Centre last Friday, where teachers reportedly vowed to make operations abnormal in schools and also sensitise pupils about Mbongwa’s dismissal. It was reported that the destabilisation of operations in schools would be done legally through effecting go-slows in schools.  It was also during that meeting that they resolved to hold vigils at government officials’ homes, where they would be delivering petitions containing their grievances until they got responses.

In his submission, the assistant attorney general told the court that Mbongwa had already served the application to them on September 14, 2023, but never advised the SNAT membership about the court application. “He is again seeking the same order that his union is pushing for,” contended the assistant attorney general. Simelane said Mbongwa should choose the forum he wanted the matter to be argued in. It was his contention that, Mbongwa was putting pressure, that in the case his matter was not upheld, then the membership of SNAT would destroy the children’s future. He argued that the environment was not conductive for the matter to be heard under the circumstances. “I submit that the external exams are starting on September 18, 2023 (yesterday) when the matter is set for arguments.  Today (yesterday) widely circulating newspapers (Times of Eswatini and Observer) are carrying stories by SNAT, National Public Service and Allied Workers Union and Swaziland National Association of Government Accounting Personnel that the learners are on their own on the external exams,” submitted Simelane.  

He brought it to the attention of the court that the people who issued the statements reported for work religiously yet Mbongwa had not been reporting for work.   He submitted that the members of the aforementioned unions once carried the applicant to work, but before they reached their workplaces, the applicant had left school only to resurface at the Industrial Court to demand his salary. He submitted that the Swaziland Association of Schools Administrators (SASA) had also shown a concern in the manner the SNAT members were dealing with the matter by putting the welfare of the learners in jeopardy. He said strangely, the other union was supporting the go-slow, which would cause intellectual anarchy. “We can only remind those in support of the go-slow and means to influence the outcome of the court matter that they were at work when the applicant missed 109 days of work,” he argued. Meanwhile, in his answering affidavit, the executive secretary of the TSC related to the court that on August 28, 2023, Mbongwa went to the offices of the regional education officer in Manzini instead of attending school.  

Salary

Nhlanhla (executive secretary of the TSC) told the court that it was a complete lie that Mbongwa had gone there to fetch his salary slip, because same was fetched by head teachers from the REO not teachers. He pointed out that all members of the civil service did not fetch salary advices, but it was the head of departments who were mandated to do so. “I submit that the applicant was successful in court, he ought to give the courts a chance to deal with his matter instead of blackmailing the courts by pushing for a go-slow in order to obtain a favourable decision,” submitted the TSC executive secretary.  

He said, Mbongwa should be rebuking his membership and the public sector unions from destroying the learners’ academic future. He argued that to declare that pupils would be on their own during exams was very unfair.  On the issue of urgency of the matter, Nhlanhla said the certificate of urgency was irregular because it was premised on financial loss to be occasioned by the applicant, yet that could not be a ground of urgency in court. He contended that Mbongwa failed to state why he had to wait 17 calendar days to bring his application and thereafter demand that the respondents should be given six hours to respond. According to Nhlanhla, the SNAT president paid a lip service why his matter had to overtake all matters that awaited determination of all those who believed had been hard done in the conduct of their disciplinary hearings.

“May I state that the applicant, walked out of his disciplinary hearing when given a chance to mitigate. It is far worse that on the date of the disciplinary hearing he sought not to appear yet the date had been set by consent. There are no exceptional circumstances that exist why the matter should be enrolled,” he argued.  The matter will return to court on September 28, 2023 for argument.  The matter is before Judge Manene Thwala. The SNAT president is represented by senior Lawyer Lucky Howe.

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