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Swaziland Workers Protest Opulence, Demand Democratic Reform

Swaziland union workers would be embarking on a strike action today (Thursday) to raise awareness on what they described as gross show of opulence and corruption by the government. The protesters expressed indignation claiming the government has been condoning corruption and depleting the country's coffers extravagantly. This follows a recent European trip by the thirteen wives of King Mswati III on a shopping spree. The protesters say it was unacceptable for the monarch to show such opulence when majority of the people live in abject poverty. However the prime minister dismissed the accusations as without merit.

Vincent Dlamini is the main organizer of today's protest march. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Mbabane that King Mswati's display of opulence is detrimental to all workers.

"First of all, all the workers and other interested citizens who are concerned about the issues that we are raising will gather at the Coronation Park in Mbabane this morning at 9 O'clock, Swaziland time to get ready for demonstrating around the city of Mbabane, and then there would be of course marches to the cabinet offices, which are also located in Hospital Hill, here in Mbabane, Swaziland," Dlamini noted.

He said today's protest March begun yesterday after describing the demonstration in Swaziland's largest, city Manzini as successful.

"That is a continuation of the protest march against the opulence of the executive monarch in our country, which opulence is within the face of extreme poverty in Swaziland, but yet we have having extravagant expenditure, which we would be witnessing this coming Saturday. We would be having a grand birthday for the 40th as well as the 40 years on Independence of this country," he said.

Dlamini denied the purpose of the protests are fraught with political undertones.

"Our main objective is to ensure as workers that we are properly governed because we are citizens first before we are workers. And therefore, the manner in which the country is governed is of particular interest to us. Now, we are saying the system of government in Swaziland is not working for us as workers. It is this system that is of course encouraged corruption in the pubic service in our government. But we are saying let there be a good system, a democratic system of governance in which our will as citizens would be helped," Dlamini pointed out.

He said workers want the government to respond to their demands.

"What we want to achieve is that we want a situation where the government will respond positively to our demand. And secondly, we want to highlight the political crisis in our country so that the world knows that Swaziland is not a peaceful country, but a country in silence. And we want the international community to understand that there is a difference between silence and peace. We have been silent for too long and we have been living under a state of emergency that has existed since 1973," he said.

Dlamini said there was need for both the local authorities and the international community to know about the discontentment in Swaziland.

"So now we have to highlight the plight and we want to say to the international community that Swaziland has problems, which must be resolved. And then we also want the king himself to under stand that because most of the problems emanate from the concentration of power in his hand, he must relinquish that power," Dlamini noted.

He said although the prime minister received their petition, but doubts whether anything positive would come out of it.

"After our march in Manzini, which was a resounding success, the prime minister was trying to respond, but he did not give any tangibles. He was just waffling about in terms of the issues, telling us the same old stories that things are being looked into and that they will consider some of these things, but the demand for multi party democracy, he said there is nothing they can do about that," he said.

Meanwhile, demonstrators in Swaziland's largest city Manzini yesterday criticized what is expected to be a costly 40th birthday celebration for King Mswati III this weekend, which reportedly coincides with the 40th anniversary of independence from colonialists Britain. Opposition political groups seeking democratic reforms have become more active in the country, where the opposition has been effectively banned since 1973 by royal decree. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for Sept. 19.