In a Southern African Development Community (SADC) that is still trying to harmonise its operational systems and processes, possible death at the hands of striking employees is one of the occupational hazards for those who work for Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.
Beginning Monday last week, lecturers at the Limkokwing Swaziland campus have been on strike over what they deem as unfavourable conditions of service. Four years ago when staff at the Lesotho campus went on strike for the same reason, the school responded by dispatching a team from Botswana to fill in as scab labour. By one account, the striking Basotho lecturers turned on the Botswana scab labourers, forcing them to flee and take refuge in a nearby church. Fearing that school management might once more bring in scab labour from Botswana, the Swaziland Union of Non-Academic Staff for Higher Institutions (SUNASHI) has written to “Botswana comrades and colleagues” at the Gaborone-based Botswana campus to forestall such development. The SUNASHI letter says that if Botswana staff members go to Mbabane, they would undermine the purposes of the strike action.
“Your coming to Swaziland might therefore be used to defeat the legitimate display of worker power of the planned strike. Secondly, it might constitute an illegal entry into Swaziland to work when you have no legal status to work in this jurisdiction. Thirdly, it might contribute to chaos and violence that may take place upon the striking workers learning about your presence on the Swaziland campus. We therefore appeal upon your conscience to refuse such a request and if called upon by management, for you to communicate that Limkokwing University ought to use the money they will use to transport, feed and pay you, to settle the dispute they are engulfed in with the workers of Limkokwing Swaziland campus,” reads a letter from SUNASHI’s Secretary General, Fundizwi Sikhondze, to staff at Limkokwing Botswana.
Outside official communication channels, staff members at Limkokwing Botswana say that SUNASHI officials have warned them that if they go to Swaziland, they will be beaten up.
In a separate but related endeavour, SUNASHI has alerted the Swaziland Commissioner of Labour about plans to import scab labour from not just Botswana but Lesotho as well.
“If this were to happen as alleged, it would not only violate the Industrial Act in that the employer would be employing scab labour in the process risking an industrial action turning into chaos but it would also violate the Swaziland immigration laws. We are therefore calling upon your office to engage in serious on-the-ground inspection to ensure that such acts do not happen as they might lead to an uncontrollable situation on campus,” Sikhondze’s letter to the Commissioner of Labour reads.
Ironically, one Motswana who is already on the ground in Limkokwing Swaziland appears to be safe enough to even play hard ball with the media. In an article it did on the strike, Times of Swaziland says that it sent a set of questions to the Campus Manager who in turn referred it to the Communications and Marketing Officer, Thato Moruti.
“Moruti asked to be sent a questionnaire with this publication’s letterheads, promising to respond quickly but he did not.
The response had not been emailed by 8pm yesterday,” reads an online article that was published last Tuesday.