Inspired by the Arab Spring, protesters in Swaziland are calling for King Mswati III—Africa’s last absolute monarch—to allow multi-party democracy and rescind salary cuts to public employees. The king has not responded publicly, but his army and police have unleashed a heavy crackdown, including preemptive arrests of labor leaders, journalists, and student activists, as well as the use of tear gas and water cannons on the streets. On April 13, the third day of protests, labor and student leaders announced a pause in the campaign to rethink their strategy, but some warned against backing down. “You can choose, if you want to, to end the protests and in the process send a clear a message to your government that … the best way to deal with protests is clubs and tear gas,” the Swaziland Support Network (SSN) in a statement. “The alternative is fighting back.” (CSM, April 14)
The unions will call for targeted sanctions against Swaziland’s leader, Vincent Ncongwane, general secretary of the Swaziland Federation of Labour, told reporters today in Mbabane, the capital. “Even if it calls for the loss of our lives, we are prepared to ensure that Swaziland change for the better. We are not going to use any violent means to achieve our goal because that will be counterproductive.” (Bloomberg, April 14)
See our last post on the struggle in Swaziland.