MBABANE: Life is literally a struggle for workers here in the Kingdom of eSwatini, they were pushed deeper into poverty through low salaries after King Mswati took over giant companies.
King Mswati who is now a major competitor to both domestic and foreign investors allegedly abused his absolute power and influenced Government to approve Gazettes that literally turns emaSwati into cheap labour within various industries, some of where he enjoys business interests.
An independent investigation by this Swaziland News uncovered that apart from the low wages paid by some companies as approved by the government through Gazettes, unions and individual workers were struggling to seek legal redress with the courts and sue companies because of the ever growing number of corporate entities linked to Mswati through Tibiyo TakaNgwane.
King Mswati is an absolute Monarch with Executive, Judicial and Legislative powers, he appoints Judges thus compromising their independence when dealing with cases to which royalty has a vested interest.
Reached for comments, Wander Mkhonza, the Secretary General of the Amalgamated Trade Union Congress of Swaziland(ATUSWA) confirmed that workers were struggling to survive in the country because of the low wages in the midst of the ever escalating costs of living.
He said as a result of the King’s increasing financial appetite and or desire to take over private companies, businesses in the country have been categorized into two:those where the King enjoyed shareholding and those that sustained the government.
“Actually, there are two categories of businesspeople in Swaziland now, any businessman outside these categories will struggle to survive. The first category are those whose companies are linked to the King while the others are protected by the King not because he has business interests but because they sustain his regime. Some of these businesses that sustain the government are those companies from Taiwan. In the midst of all this, workers are the most affected because the existence of these business syndicates make it difficult for workers to use their bargaining power to influence better wages. Before, it was easy for Swazis to blame one another but now the main problem that forces us, we workers into poverty has been identified and we must work towards solving it”, said the ATUSWA Secretary General.
On or around 14th June 2021, this publication reported how King Mswati’s Government through the then Acting Labour Minister, Pholile Shakantu approved basic minimum wage Gazettes that would allow employers within the various industries to exploit workers by paying low salaries as little as $79.00(E1,100.00).
Eswatini is a tiny Kingdom situated in Southern Africa with about 70% of the population living below the poverty line, King Mswati who doubles as a businessman has been colluding with private companies to manipulate the law and pay workers low salaries. As a result,some workers within the various industries are struggling to put food on the table due the high costs of living.
A questionnaire was sent to Government Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini, however, he had not responded at the time of compiling this report.
Speaking to this Swaziland News, Johannes Manikela, the Chairman of the Federation of Eswatini Business Community(FESBC) confirmed that competing with businesses linked to royalty was affecting their businesses.
“But now it is becoming difficult to identify the royal connected companies because the behind the scenes Directors and Shareholders don’t include their names in documents like the Form J, they front with others. Otherwise, it’s difficult to compete with a Head of State in business because we are also expected to pay tax, nasatawuphindze naye abuye ngalana akusalungi(meaning: we don’t expected him to then involve himself in business)”,he said.
It has been disclosed that the hospitality is another industry where the King has business interests.
Through Tibiyo TakaNgwane, Mswati owns hotels that include the Royal Villas and government has placed a mere one thousand two hundred and ninety two Emalangeni(E1,292.00) as a basic minimum wage, this means employers within this industry can pay more through collective bargaining or at their own will.
An independent investigation by this publication further uncovered that because of the direct or indirect involvement of the King in businesses, some workers who were unfairly dismissed by companies linked to royalty were struggling get justice.
Reached for comments, Sibusiso Nhlabatsi, a human rights lawyer confirmed that the courts would sometimes frustrate the legal process for cases where workers were challenging companies linked to the King.
“We have seen it even though they are trying so hard to hide but it’s true. It manifests in different ways, you find that the matter is systematically delayed on technicalities and the person will end-up not receiving justice. Sometimes you find that the matter is so obvious that the employee was unfairly dismissed but the court will find a way to determine that the dismissal was fair. So if a litigant takes a company with links to royalty to court, there are some difficulties and challenges and frustration manifests in different ways,” said the human rights lawyer.