Swaziland steps up police intimidation of workers

The ITUC has condemned the Swazi regime of King Mswati for its latest act of anti-union repression last week.

The trade union congress TUCOSWA planned to hold a mass meeting with its members on 26 February to discuss pressing issues such as the registration of trade unions, the country’s loss of trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, collective bargaining rights and the lack of multi-party democracy.

However, police used numerous tactics to intimidate workers and to prevent the meeting. The landlord of the Bosco Skills Centre Hall in Manzini, where the meeting was scheduled to take place, was falsely told that he was violating Swazi laws by renting the hall to TUCOSWA.

When the trade union meeting was relocated to the Swaziland National Teachers Association Centre, police mounted roadblocks around the country and placed uniformed and plain-clothes police in front of the centre. Despite the intimidating police presence and roadblocks, more than 100 workers made it to the SNAT centre, but police, led by Regional Commissioner Richard Mngometulu and Senior Operations Officer Josefa Bhembe, insisted that the meeting could not take place.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “This is a clear and serious violation of both Swazi and international law which both guarantee the right of workers to assemble and to discuss socio-economic issues impacting their lives. Violations against the fundamental rights of workers have become systemic in Swaziland. The government must conduct an immediate investigation without delay, hold the responsible police officers accountable and reform its archaic anti-union laws and practices.”