School principals in Swaziland threaten school closures as protest against government
July 20, 2011 Leave a comment
School principals in Swaziland, a small absolute monarchy in Southern Africa with one million inhabitants, threaten to close down the country’s schools indefinitely on Monday. The purpose of these closures is to protest the recent and unannounced cut-backs on Swaziland’s schools.
The principals are particularly angry at the Swazi government’s non-payment of the fees for Swaziland’s over 100.000 Aids-orphans and vulnerable children who subsequently cannot afford to attend school, and at the proposed salary cuts for school employees. Swaziland’s many thousand Aids-orphans are the result of a HIV-epidemic that has seen over 30% of its adult population infected.
Many in Swaziland believe that the government will not be willing or able to comply with the demands of the school principals. “I do not think that government will be able to pay the school fees by tomorrow [the 21. Of July] as demanded,” says Dumezweni Dlamini, Project Coordinator of the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice, a Swazi organization that promotes human rights awareness in Swaziland through civic education.
The protests are probably also meant as a thinly veiled protest against the absolutist reign of King Mswati III and the enormous poverty suffered by over three quarters of Swaziland’s population, as are most other protests in the country. All peaceful protests and demonstrations for democratic reform and socio-economic justice are routinely brutally suppressed.
According to Dumezweni Dlamini we should get used to such protests, however. He sees this and other similar protests as an attempt to unite the democratic movement in Swaziland in a concerted effort to bring about democratization and socio-economic justice. “The protests are the beginning of a move towards coordinated mass campaigns,” he says.
Swaziland is ruled by a small but extremely wealthy elite controlled by King Mswati III. According to Freedom House, the regime is undemocratic, corrupt and prone to financial mismanagement, and is subsequently leading the country towards imminent economic collapse. The cutbacks in school fees and other social costs are an attempt to avert this collapse although the King‘s expenses have not been reduced to match this.
The International Monetary Fond, the IMF, has refused to lend Swaziland any money, and King Mswati III has therefore approached South Africa for a loan. South Africa has allegedly demanded democratic reforms in return for giving a sizable loan to Swaziland that would allow the country an economical respite, but the King has so far refused to even consider such reforms.