Statement by ITUC-Africa on the current situation in Swaziland

At the end of its General Council held in Accra from April 11 to 12, 2011, at which it reaffirmed its commitment to the struggle for democracy in Africa, the African Regional Organization of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) has received disturbing information about the Swaziland Government’s clamp-down on trade unionists and other pro-democracy campaigners who are demanding the institution of genuine constitutional multi-party democracy in Swaziland. There are reports that serious human and civil liberties infractions against these activists and other civilians are being committed by the Swazi government and its security agencies.

ITUC-Africa condemns in strong terms the arrest on April 12, 2011 of Barnes Dlamini, President of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU); Vincent Ncongwane, Secretary General of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU); Muzi Mhlanga, Secretary General of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT); Sibongile Mazibuko, President of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT); Nomkhosi Dlamini Gumedze, Secretary of the SFTU Women’s Committee; Quinton Dlamini, President of the NAPSAWU and SFTU Central Executive Committee; Bheki Mamba, President of the Swaziland National Nurses Association, and Phumelele Zulu, executive member of the Swaziland Federation of Labour and Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) activist. Other activists who were arrested and beaten in connection with the pro-democracy actions include Mary Pais Da Silva, the Chairperson of the SDC-Swaziland chapter; Thabile Zwane, the Secretary General of Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO); Bheki Dlamini, from the Nurses union and SDC activist, Celumusa Tembe and a host of other activists.

The continuous disruption of the activities of pro-democracy organizations and the arrests of their leaders coupled with the use of illegal tactics such as mass clamp-down on movement and mobilization and the use of universally banned torture are all strategies to weaken, cripple and decapitate these organizations. These practices constitute serious abuses of the fundamental rights of persons and organizations to freely assemble, associate, hold opinions and carry out activities in furtherance of their interests.

ITUC-Africa demands that these arrests, intimidation and persecution should stop forthwith and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all those arrested. ITUC-Africa also demand that a halt be put to planned and future arrests aimed at undermining the legitimate and just struggles and demands of the Swazi people. We demand further as a matter of urgency that persons involved in the perpetration of these abuses should be investigated, prosecuted and sanctioned accordingly.

ITUC-Africa reaffirms its support for the peaceful, progressive, just and democratic demands of the SDC, the trade union movement- Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU); Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) together with the broad forces for democracy organised under the auspices of the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF). The demands include the call for genuine democratic transition; an end to the emergency decree enacted by the King since 1973, which introduced the wasteful Tinkhundla system that has locked the democratic space and criminalized political activities and popular dissent; unbanning of political parties and the opening of the political space for multiparty democracy; the appropriation of the Swazi common wealth to address the issues of citizens welfare and tackling poverty as against the misappropriation as well as extravagant and ostentatious life style of the King; the institution of the true practice of separation of power; protection and promotion of free speech and press; institution of genuine consultation and citizen participation in the governance process.

ITUC-Africa joins the Swazi Democracy Campaign in calling on King Mswati and the Government of Swaziland to commence without further delay the process towards instituting a just and genuine transition to democracy in Swaziland NOW!
ITUC-Africa appreciates the role of the Congress of South Africa Trade Union (COSATU) and similar international organisations in organizing and supporting the various marches in solidarity with the struggles of the Swazi people. We call on all ITUC-Africa affiliates, our allies and other progressive organisations to intensify their support and solidarity for the cause and struggles of the Swazi workers and people and to actively participate in organizing activities that will further the cause of the Swazi Democracy Campaign.