Increased attacks against workers in Swaziland

The International Trade Union Confederation has serious concerns over increased attacks and the deterioration of already existing fundamental rights deficits in Swaziland.

We have been informed that the Municipal Council of Manzini has prohibited a planned protest action on 12 April 2014. TUCOSWA is aiming to draw attention to the fact that the King’s Proclamation, which was adopted on 12 April 1973 and essentially introduced an absolute monarchy placing “all executive, judicial and legislative functions” in the King.

Even though, the Constitution of Swaziland was adopted in 2005, this decree was not repealed and continues to be used in order to crush critical voices in the country. The prohibition of a protest action regarding an issue that deeply affects trade unions is a flagrant violation of ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association which has been pointed out repeatedly by the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.

In addition, human rights lawyer and legal counsel to the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu, editor of the Nation magazine, have been subject to arrests again on 10 April 2014. Maseko and Makhubu had been arrested on 17 March 2014 for having exercised their right to freedom of expression through opinion pieces regarding the deficiencies in the Swazi judicial system in the Nation magazine but had been released on 6 April.

Paralegal officer of the Swaziland Transport Workers Union, Basil Thwala, continues to serve a two years prison sentence. He was charged and convicted under the Public Order Act (1963) and the Road Traffic Act (2007) for having participated in a strike action in July 2012.

TUCOSWA and the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Swaziland (ATUSWA) have still not been registered and are unable to exercise their rights under the Industrial Relations Act (2000) and ILO Convention 87on Freedom of Association.

Swaziland has been placed under a special paragraph of the ILO Report of the Committee on the Application of Standards consequently on three occasions, each time for serious violations of the right to freedom of association. A recent ILO High Level Mission to Swaziland found that “no concrete, tangible process has been made” with respect to the right to freedom of association for more than a decade. The Unites States decided to conduct an interim eligibility review for the African Growth and Opportunity Act as it is “deeply concerned about the Government of Swaziland’s lack of measurable progress on workers’ rights issues.”

While we call on the government to immediately change its course and put an end to attacks against rights, we will continue to monitor situation and are prepared to raise these abuses with relevant international organs.

For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on: +32 2 224 02 04 or +32 476 621 018

photo: ILRI