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Swaziland Trade Unions Strike Against Monarchy

  • Delia Robertson

Workers in Swaziland have largely ignored a call by trade unions for a two day general strike. There was a heavy security force presence in the capital.

Less than 5,000 Swazis joined the demonstration called by the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions to protest against a proposed constitution they say further entrenches the power of King Mswati the Third. However, a similar number of police and military personnel were in the streets of Mbabane, manning roadblocks and searching buses and vehicles.

The constitution, being debated at present by parliament, continues to outlaw political parties; critics say it also give the King power over parliament and the courts.

The federation wants a multi-party democracy and a constitutional monarchy. They are also opposed to the current lifestyle of King Mswati, who they say is ignoring the needs of his people.

In the past year, the 36-year-old monarch who has ruled by decree since 1986, has spent $500,000 on a luxury sedan and around $17 million more on 11 new palaces - one for each of his wives.

Nearly 39 percent of Swaziland's adult population is HIV-positive or living with AIDS and life expectancy at birth is currently 37 years. Unemployment is around 40 percent and more than two-thirds of the population of 1.2 million live on less than $1 per day.