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Trade unionists attending a workshop as part of a CUPE/South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) project joined with others in Johannesburg on November 18 in a picket to support the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC).

The day before, those marching inside Swaziland to protest the Tinkhundla regime and the economic crisis it has created were attacked by police. The country’s reigning monarch, King Mswati III, has grown rich in a country where 25 per cent of the population has HIV/AIDS – the highest rate in the world, according to the Peoples United Democratic Movement of Swaziland (PUDEMO). He reportedly owns 40 per cent of Swazi mines and more than half of the sugar companies that produce syrup for Coca-Cola in Southern Africa.

Despite that wealth, revenues to the country have declined to the point where the regime has asked for loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and commercial banks, which have all refused. The IMF cited gross mismanagement and disproportionate spending, stating that the average person survives on eight rand per day while each of the 612 members of the royal family lives on about 33,000 rand per day.

The government’s response to the economic crisis has been to threaten the layoff of about 10,000 public sector workers – one-third of the country’s public service – leading to a significant loss of services and loss of income for about 40,000 people supported by those workers.

SAMWU members and other picketers presented a list of demands to the Swazi consul in South Africa, including an end to political repression, solutions to the economic crisis that do not take away jobs and services, and a movement toward democratic government.