A wonderful story via NYTIMES Outside a King’s Plush Halls, Streets Rise in Anger
KEY COMPONENTS: coalitions (nurses, teachers, government workers), direct action (picket lines), use of arts (singing and dancing)
MBABANE, Swaziland — Every day, King Mswati III and his retinue of 13 wives face tough choices: Should they drive the BMW or the Rolls-Royce? Which plush palace to sleep in? Jet off to Dubai for a shopping spree or to Las Vegas to play the tables?
Doris, a 35-year-old nurse who lives here in the capital of this tiny kingdom, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, faces a rather different set of choices: Do her four children need new school uniforms, or can the holes in them be repaired for another semester? How much chicken should she put in each night’s dinner, given that she can afford only one chicken a week on her take-home pay of about $300 a month? . . .
Last month, Doris and her fellow nurses joined the teachers and the government workers on the nation’s picket lines to demand a 4.5 percent salary increase. The government, fresh off a fiscal crisis brought on by plummeting revenues amid the global slowdown, has pleaded poverty and prescribed austerity. A new value-added tax of 14 percent has plumped the government treasury but pinched the paychecks of ordinary people even further. Government workers have had to make do without raises.
But the government has not exactly practiced what it preaches. In 2010, just before the full-blown fiscal crisis began, top government officials gave themselves big raises, retirement packages and living allowances. The prime minister is entitled to a one-time payout of almost $200,000 when he leaves office. In a country where two-thirds of the population lives on $2 a day, the government raised the salaries of members of Parliament to $2,400 a month. . . .
The government has responded to the protests by clamping down hard. When nurses at the capital’s main government hospital tried to mount a protest march, they were blocked from leaving the hospital’s parking lot by police officers in riot gear who threatened them with cudgels and tear gas. The nurses, dressed in red coats, danced and sang protest songs in the parking lot. . . .
. . . .The police responded by blocking off roads to the Parliament building. The parents gathered in a field nearby, singing.
. . . .the Rev. Zwanini Shabalala, who joined the parents. . . . As he spoke, his fellow parents sang and stamped their feet in unison. “Why are you scared?” they chanted at the politicians, who could neither see nor hear them. “Your time is coming.”