State broadcasting employees dismissed
On 23 March 2000, the board of directors of the Swaziland Television Broadcasting Corporation (STBC) abruptly fired the thirty-one employees who went on strike in October 1999. The board's decision to sack the employees superseded the findings of the one-man commission of inquiry, carried out by Rudolf Maziya, who concluded that the employees were not guilty of an illegal strike.
Maziya, a private company manager, was appointed by the STBC board of directors last year to investigate the individuals involved in the strike. Although it was originally agreed that Maziya's findings would be final and binding, the board, chaired by former Under Secretary to the Ministry of Public Service and Labour JBJS Dhlamini, ultimately decided to fire the employees.
MISA Swaziland (MISWA) has confirmed that since October, nine employees, regarded as responsible for the news blackout and seizure of the studios, have been suspended with pay while the remaining twenty-two strikers were allowed to return to their posts. Among those fired were Swaziland Media and Publishers Allied Workers Union (SMEPAWU) President Lwazi Hlophe and SMEPAWU Vice President Phasa Mayisele, both of whom are reportedly vocal on media issues.
MISWA has contacted Dhlamini and the acting chief executive officer (CEO) of the board, Celani Ndzimandze, but they refused to comment on the issue.
According to MISWA, the STBC station was guarded by police on the morning of Friday 24 March and the fired employees will not be allowed to enter without written permission from the management.
STBC intends to carry on with its broadcasting through the private production house Alti Pro Productions.
On 28 October, thirty-one STBC workers took control of the STBC television studios in an apparent illegal strike and at least two journalists were threatened and forced to leave their posts.
The strike was wage related, with workers demanding a 7% back-pay, which management had promised to them around April. Initially, management said they would receive this with their November salaries, but the SMEPAWU decided nevertheless to go ahead with the strike action. The strike was abandoned on the morning of 29 October when it had become clear that the action was illegal and that jobs were being threatened as a result. About 75% of workers at the STBC joined the strike action on 28 October.