Swaziland: Excessive Violence Against Peaceful Demonstrators; Trade Union Leader Arrested

The ITUC strongly condemned the way the Swaziland police handled the peaceful demonstrations organized by the National Public Service and Allied Workers’ Union (NAPSAWU), the Swaziland Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (STAWU) and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) on 11 July.

While about 500 union members were peacefully gathering in Coronation Park in Mbabane, the police started to disperse the crowd using batons, tear gas canisters and rubber bullets. Eight people were shot, five were seriously beaten up, and twelve workers had to be hospitalised. Furthermore, the President of NAPSAWU, Quinton Dlamini, was arrested right before he tried to join the striking SNAT teachers. All three unions are affiliated to the ITUC-affiliated Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA); their main demand was a 4.5% salary adjustment.

Although peaceful demonstrations are very often met with police violence in Swaziland, the authorities do appear to proceed in an ever more drastic way. “This way of dealing with demonstrators is completely unacceptable,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary. “This has clearly become common practice, and it’s not right. The government must let trade unionists express their legitimate demands without having to fear being beaten up or arrested,” she added.

The events on 11 July took place against the background of the banning of Swaziland’s national trade union centre TUCOSWA after its de-registration on the basis of fickle legal arguments, against which the ITUC has protested on numerous occasions and upon which a complaint was filed with the ILO’s Committee of Freedom of Association.

In a letter sent to the authorities, the ITUC urged Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini to take all necessary measures to stop the violence against peaceful demonstrators and to repeal the de-registration of TUCOSWA.