Pressure grows for democracy in Swaziland
The TUC has been working in solidarity with our colleagues in Swaziland for some time, and we are playing our part – with organisations like Action for Southern Africa – in planning events in London as part of the Global Week of Action on Swaziland at the beginning of September. But one key issue that we’ve been pressing with our colleagues in Swaziland is for action by the Commonwealth. Now the respected and independent Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has issued a statement which makes the same point. The net is beginning to close on Africa’s last feudal dictatorship.
The CHRI statement, issued jointly with Civicus, a South Africa-based human rights and global justice NGO, draws attention particularly to the repression faced by trade unions in Swaziland, including the refusal this April to recognise the newly united Trades Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA). The statement concludes:
“We therefore urge action by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, a high level group that deals with serious or persistent breaches of the Commonwealth’s democratic and political values. Anything less indicates tacit approval for a regime that is increasingly moving further away from complying with the fundamental political principles of the Commonwealth.”
This does not, superficially, go as far as TUCOSWA and the CTUG in calling for Swaziland to be suspended from the Commonwealth – as most member states are when they abandon democracy, eg Fiji, and in the past Nigeria, Zimbabwe etc. But it’s the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group that takes the decision about whether to suspend a Commonwealth country, so the implication of the CHRI statement is fairly clear.
The TUC will be raising the issue of suspension from the Commonwealth as part of our involvement in the Global Week of Action called by banned political parties, trade unions and civil society in Swaziland, and backed by the ITUC. On Wednesday 5 September, there will be a public meeting in the House of Commons where we want to raise MPs’ awareness and register their concerns with the Government of Swaziland. We will also be seeking a meeting with the Commonwealth Secretary General who recently visited Swaziland, and writing formally to the South African Ambassador in London and the Southern African Development Community, both hugely influential in the region.