Swaziland: democracy day preceded by arrests and disruption
Tuesday 7 September is the date of a global day of action in solidarity with trade unionists and democracy activists in Swaziland. Monday, which started in the UK with a letter in the Guardian from Brendan Barber and ACTSA’s Tony Dykes, saw the arrests of up to 40 activists meeting in Swaziland – Swazi trade union leaders, South African trade unionists visiting to show solidarity, and other parts of civil society. The TUC protested immediately, as did the International Trade Union Confederation, and our sisters and brothers were released shortly afterwards, with the South Africans deported. As they were ushered across the border, another Swazi democracy activist, PUDEMO Deputy President Sikhumbuzo Phakathi, was arrested. This is the reality of Swazi “democracy” – the right to freedom of association and freedom of expression is regularly flouted and peaceful demonstrations disrupted in advance or broken up – sometimes violently, as we have reported previously. But as usual, such actions by the Swazi government simply attract even worse publicity than the demonstrators hoped for, and redouble the commitment of Swazi activists and their supporters abroad. Even after all the previous publicity, no one can now doubt the case we will be making outside the Swazi High Commission on Tuesday lunchtime in London, or in the letter that UK union leaders will be handing over to the Swazi High Commissioner who has cowardly refused to meet us face to face.