The "autocratic" government of the Kingdom of Eswatini (Swaziland) has been slammed for its decision to fire a top teachers’ union leader, with the Communist Party of Swaziland saying the move is aimed at silencing those who are calling for democratic reforms.
The condemnation comes after the kingdom fired Mbongwa Dlamini, the president of the Swaziland National Teachers Union (SNAT), one of the labour movements that has been giving King Mswati III sleepless nights for decades.
According to the Times of Eswatini, Dlamini was accused by the Teaching Services Commission of absteentism, and he was slapped with 109 charges.
After a protracted disciplinary hearing that went on and off for years, Dlamini, who is a teacher in one of the schools in the country, was fired last week.
The general secretary of the communist party, Thokozane Kunene, says the decision to fire Dlamini dates back to 2018, when he ascended to the office of the presidency of the union.
He said Dlamini "has been in and out of Mswati’s kangaroo courts and tribunals defending himself from the regime’s concocted charges imposed through the Teaching Service Commission, an institution tightly controlled by the ruling regime."
He said on August 10, 2022, Dlamini was summoned by the police commissioner to answer why he had cautioned teachers on the dangers of going to work in the midst of the political unrest in Swaziland.
Soon after getting nominated for re-election as the union’s president in March 2022, the regime reinstated all the trumped-up charges that were unfairly levelled against him as far back as 2018.
He said the regime went on to arbitrarily withhold his salary for more than eight months and slap him with 109 trumped-up charges.
"The dismissal of the President of the Swaziland National Teachers Association (SNAT), Comrade Mbongwa Dlamini, which followed many years of intimidation and harassment by the Mswati autocracy, is but one of the gross acts of union bashing by the Mswati autocracy.
"By attacking union leaders, the regime’s primary objective is to break the resilience of the people in the quest for democracy," he said.
However, the spokesperson of the government of the kingdom, Alepheous Nxumalo, said the process was fair.
"The matter of Mr Mbongwa Dlamini is one of employer-employee responsibility, which is governed by the Industrial Act of 1980 as amended and other related labour laws.
"Therefore, government refutes and dismisses outright any insinuations of political indulgence or influence on the labour outcome between Dlamini and his employer, which is the Teaching Service Commission (TSC).
He added that Dlamini had his legal team on his side all the time, and if he felt the process was unfair or politically motivated, they could advise him accordingly.
"Mr Dlamini was duly represented by a legal team of his particular choice in this case, and government has no doubt whatsoever that he will access proper legal guidance and advice on a way forward on his dismissal should he feel that it was unfair and/or politically motivated," Nxumalo added.