MBABANE - Swaziland trade union leader Jabulani Nxumalo was granted bail of R500 on Wednesday in a court hearing that union colleagues immediately suggested might be an attempt by the government to discredit pro-democracy activists.
Nxumalo, assistant secretary-general of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, was granted bail by South African magistrate Jacobus Annandale when he appeared in the Mbabane Magistrate's Court.
The conditions of bail are that he surrender his passport and other travel documents to the police and report to Mbabane police station every Friday.
He was instructed to obtain two sureties and to refrain from interfering with witnesses on a list he is to be provided with.
The witnesses are mainly employees of the Royal Swaziland Insurance Corporation, where Nxumalo worked before being dismissed for his union activities.
Nxumalo is accused of stealing a school certificate issued to another pupil by the name of Nxumalo and of using it to fraudulently gain employment at the insurance company.
The certificate allegedly incorporated a general certificate of education issued by the University of Cambridge in England.
SFTU president Richard Nxumalo, general secretary Jan Sithole and a crowd of union members attended the bail application hearing.
Sithole told a Sapa correspondent afterwards he believed the charges against Nxumalo were a ploy by the government to discredit and destroy union leaders by fabricating charges of alleged criminal offences.
This was not unexpected, Sithole said, and the SFTU was prepared to counter such plans.
The case could adversely affect attempts to peacefully resolve a dispute between the government and the SFTU on a transformation to democracy.
Sithole added, however, that this would depend on the government's stance when negotiations with the tripartite committee resumed.
The SFTU would request a meeting with the government by Friday because of the urgency to avert a resumption of a national strike that brought the kingdom to a standstill two weeks ago.
A second national strike is set to start on February 19.
If the government was serious about a settlement, it would agree to a meeting, Sithole said.
The SFTU would seek an assurance at this meeting that the government would not abuse the negotiations period to wage a "dirty-tricks" campaign against union leaders.