Eswatini: ITUC denounces brutality and harassment of trade unionists by authorities

photo: Eswatini MICHELE SPATARI AFP

The ITUC is deeply concerned by the recent attacks on trade unionists and pro-democracy campaigners by government forces in Eswatini.

On the 11 January 2023, the name of Sticks Nkambule, the Secretary General of the Swaziland Transport, Communication and Allied Workers Union (SWATCAWU), was published by the police as a wanted person for alleged criminal conduct. This follows the union’s announcement of a “job stay away”, 13-14 December 2022, with a demand to improve working conditions and the release from prison of two members of the Eswatini Parliament, Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube.

On 29 December armed police raided the village of Sticks Nkambule and harassed his family.

The ITUC is also alarmed by:

  • The security forces’ disruption of a trade union workshop at the Global Village Guest hotel, 15 November 2022.
  • The shooting of Kayise Qwabe by security forces on 11 November 2022.
  • The withdrawal, without justification, in October 2022 of the salary of Mbongwa Dlamini, President of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers. Earlier in April, Mbongwa’s home was attacked by security forces with live bullets.

ITUC Deputy General Secretary Owen Tudor said: “These events are very troubling and part of a long campaign of anti-union, anti-democracy harassment by the Eswatini government.

“The government of Eswatini must stop the harassment and wanton arrests of trade unionists and citizens. It must respect its obligations as a member of the ILO.

“The ILO’s principles on freedom of association say that authorities must guarantee that trade union rights can be exercised in normal conditions with respect for basic human rights, in a climate free of violence, pressure, fear and threats of any kind.

“Allegations of criminal conduct should not be used to harass trade unionists.

“It is time to find a path away from repression to peace and shared prosperity through a process of social dialogue with trade unions to find solutions to the problems affecting the country.”