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August 01, 2012

Swaziland Teachers Vow to Continue Strike Over Wages

by James Butty

Teachers in Swaziland have indicated they will not return to their classrooms until the government meets their demand for a 4.5 percent salary increase as a cost of living adjustment.  

But, Education and Training Minister Wilson Ntshangase has reportedly threatened the teachers with dismissal if they do not return to the classroom.  

Sibongile Mazibuko, president of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers, said if the government claims to be losing $18 million per month to corruption and the cabinet increased its own salary by 30 percent, then the government can afford to pay its teachers.  

She said the teachers will not be intimidated by government threats.

“The teachers’ strike is still going on.  After government threatened to send 14,000 teachers home, teachers decided to change their strategy.  Now, they are engaged in sit-ins.  We intend to change this strategy.  We shall review it on Wednesday and see what other means we can engage in,” she said.

According to local reports, there appeared to be confusion among the teachers whether the strike had been called off following the government’s threat to dismiss them.

Mazibuko said the government has already suspended about 40 teachers. But she insisted such scared tactics will not work.
Butty Mazibuko

“You can send a horse to the river to drink, but it will not drink if it does not want to.  There are police officers everywhere pushing teachers to go teach in the classroom, but it is not working out for government.  Government has lost the grip,” Mazibuko said.

She said the government has the means and political will to meet the teachers’ demands.

“We are on strike for a 4.5 percent cost of living adjustment, which are arrears from 2010-2011 and government is saying that there is no money. But we are saying, ‘No, it is not so.’ The government has the money,” she said.

Mazibuko said the government should use some of the$18 million it said it loses each month to corruption to meet the teachers’ demands.

“The Minister for Finance said they lose $18 million per month for corruption and they increased their own salaries by 30 percent.  We are merely asking for 4.5 percent increase, which we believe is attainable. So, we are going to go on with the strike until we get our money,” Mazibuko said.

She said the Swaziland National Association of Teachers is willing to sit down with the government, but she said the government has not made any serious offer.

Mazibuko said a few students have been attending classes but, on the whole, many parents have decided to keep their children at home.