No soldier, police officer should earn less than E20,000.00 under a democratic government.
BY ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI
Swaziland News, 09 October 2020
King Mswati must stop bullying members of the security forces by imposing questionable fines as a strategy to steal from their already empty pockets but instead government should be working towards improving the lives of these officers a majority of them who are financially struggling.
In 2010, while working for one of the defunct newspapers as an investigative journalist, two soldiers invited me into a secluded place in the Mdzimba Mountains, they wanted to be sure they were protected and never seen with me in public because we discussed highly sensitive issues about this country and it security.
The soldiers where almost in tears as they narrate how they earn nothing almost every month due to debts and the struggle of feeding extended families. As one of them narrate their difficulties, indeed, one could tell the frustration they were facing but can’t speak out because of the nature of their job, that is where investigative journalists comes in as the voice of the voiceless regardless of status in society.
It was during that discussion where I learned more about the important role of the army at the time when their welfare is slowly being neglected by this government. The notion in some quarters suggesting that soldiers are paid for doing nothing is misguided in that it lacks understanding with regards to the fundamental duties and objectives of security institutions. One of the fundamental objectives behind the establishment of a security institution is “deterrence” and this means, the mere existence of the army in any country provides assurance with regards to peace, stability and security. We can be vocal and demand democracy but how will this country survive without proper security institutions and in an environment where security officers are systematically neglected?
Some of these officers are on treatment and of course, various clinics were established within the barracks to take care of them, however, the low wages and debts are draining them both psychologically and emotionally.
It was during that meeting where the soldiers told me that their main worry was to go hungry with nothing to provide for their families yet they have guns in their hands, they said they were capable of using the guns to get what they want like staging armed robberies etc.
This was in the midst of media reports implicating members of the then Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force(USDF) in armed robberies and the soldiers clarified that these officers were forced by poverty and or hunger to commit the crimes.
One of the soldiers mentioned that even the King was not safe because the army remain divided and some officers are not happy at all. Now, here is a King who instead of improving the lives of the soldiers and or negotiating with money-lenders like Select Management Services to allow these officers to breathe by relaxing the terms of their debt agreement, opted to impose fines to royal guards as a systematic strategy to steal money from the pockets of security officers.
Few months ago, my sources in the army told me that a fight and power- struggle between two senior officers resulted to soldiers being exposed to COVID-19 because orders that undermined preventive measures were issued in complete disregard of the lives of the officers, these soldiers went on to interact with their families back home thus spreading the virus.
Perhaps, let me take this opportunity to recommend to the incoming democratic government to take care of soldiers, the police, correctional services and civil servants, no country will ever develop with unhappy workers who are expected to drive the social and economic agenda of that particular country.
We can blame the behavior of some members of the security forces during protests but until you sit down and listen to them as they tearfully show their salary advice, you will then understand that the main problem in this country is Mswati, these officers are frustrated as well. It must be understood that we are one Nation and we shouldn’t be divided by one man who enjoys millions of our taxes while developing the desire to steal from the pockets of his own security officers through imposing questionable fines.
As an editor who is wanted by the police for writing critical articles, I don’t know whether I will live to see the day of freedom but should democracy be achieved in my absentia, those who will be in government should treat all people equally and make sure they have a better life. I am writing with confidence knowing that these articles will remain online even for the future generation so they can be motivated and continue fighting for a better life for all.
One of our roles as the independent media, is to speak for the oppressed regardless of their status in society, this country is in serious trouble because the King is now ill-treating even the very same people who are providing security in this country.
What kind of a leader who wants to see his people suffering in poverty while he fly with private jets spending money around the world, with his children as young as 4years owning BMWs X6?
A security person is very important, you don’t just mess up with those people and expect your life as leader to be normal. The problem here is that the King is compromising the security of the whole country with his conduct and crime might escalate because the people who are expected to fight criminals are hungry while the thugs are loaded with cash.
As mentioned, we don’t expect any government that will take over from Mswati to discriminate members of the security forces, at least junior officers should be paid around E20,000.00. This is a standard salary just for survival considering the high costs of living in this country where the government steal from the people through various deductions and taxes living them with nothing at the end. It is for this reasons I am suggesting this salary because with our mineral resources and taxes, Government can afford this wage bill by reducing royal expenditure, we can’t feed one man while the people are hungry.
Indeed, if Government affords to pay Prince Lindani a collective salary of over E200,000.00 for the various positions he holds in this country, this means money is sufficient to benefit the people, this can be achieved through stopping the royal expenditure for the benefit of all the people.
This is a small country with resources, we just need to stop fighting one another and address the problem, in our case, the political monster is King Mswati.
One would make an example, in the police service, senior officers are comfortable with the current situation because they supplement their salaries by stealing and sharing the E100 000.00 monthly meant to pay informers.
So, there are few officers who are depriving people access to a better life by torturing journalists and human rights defenders because they are benefiting from corrupt activities within the organisation hence their lives are not affected by poverty. All officers should therefore, unite and keep a close eye on these officers because by suppressing the voices of those calling for a better life for all, in one way or the other, they suppressing the junior officers.
Members of the army