Swaziland: International Solidarity Actions around Independence Day

Trade unions and other civil society groups around the world are organising solidarity actions starting on 6 September, Swaziland’s independence day, to highlight the ongoing repression of workers’ rights and the autocratic nature of the Southern African kingdom. King Mswati controls virtually everything in the country, press freedom is non-existent and meetings organised by civil society groups are often violently dispersed by the police. The country has existed under a “state of emergency” since 1973.

“The people of Swaziland have lived for far too long under the yoke of repression, and the country’s trade unions are frequently singled out by the heavy hand of the state apparatus. Sustained and determined international pressure on the regime is needed to support Swazi campaigners for democracy and respect for fundamental rights, including for ILO standards which the country has ratified but never implemented,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

Despite international condemnation of the regime, including long-standing ILO criticisms over freedom of association, there are as yet no signs that the King and the small powerful elite associated with him are prepared to relax their iron grip on power. A new “Suppression of Terrorism Act” has been used to suppress legitimate dissent, political parties opposed to King Mswati’s dictatorial policies have been banned and trade union leader Sipho Jele died in extremely suspicious circumstances after security forces violently broke up a peaceful May Day celebration this year. Jele was found hanging from the rafters in police custody on May 4, having been arrested for wearing a pro-democracy T-shirt. His funeral was violently interrupted by some 500 heavily-armed police, who arrested and detained several of the mourners present.

Trade unions in Southern Africa and many other parts of the world will be joining the call for the demands of democracy campaigners to be met, to bring about a genuine multi-party system, a proper separation of powers and full respect for ILO standards. Activities will be taking place on 6, 7 and 8 September, with the high-point being a planned march in Swaziland on the 7th.

International Day of Action leaflet

ITUC Survey

To see the ITUC Webpage on Swaziland, with interviews, reports and video