Swaziland national flag. Photo: WHL Travel
Join the fight against union repression in Swaziland
This week Members of the European Parliament have condemned Africa’s last feudal dictatorship in Swaziland for its repression of trade union and human rights. One of the authors of their resolution, former union official Judith Kirton-Darling, has written for Touchstone about the decision by MEPs to call on the European Commission to use its economic tools to back freedom and democracy in Swaziland, as the US administration is already doing. You can take action, too, by joining this LabourStart action.
Jude is right that the TUC has been helping Swaziland’s main union confederation, TUCOSWA (Unison and Unite have been particularly active, along with Action on Southern Africa and human rights organisations.) And we have been demanding that the Commonwealth – whose heads of government meet this autumn in Malta (called CHOGM) – take action against one of its least attractive members. But this isn’t just an issue for the Commonwealth and the UK. The global trade union movement and Swaziland’s neighbours in the South African trade union movement have made freedom for Swaziland a priority.
A global union delegation visited Swaziland from 14-16 May, including COSATU from South Africa and the AFLCIO, whose political allies in the Democrat administration of President Obama have suspended privileges for Swaziland mostly because of the restrictions on trade union rights. The delegation, which reported its conclusions to the European Parliament ahead of its vote, found that:
- TUCOSWA was finally registered 3 years after its establishment. Despite this, police continues to present in intimidatory numbers, even for internal trade union meetings as it was the case one day after the formal registration;
- ITUC is seriously disturbed by the fact that the Ministry of Labour and Social Security was not able to give a political assurance that trade union meetings would not be interfered with by police in the future, despite the registration of TUCOSWA;
- repressive legislation used by police against legitimate trade union activities has still not been addressed by Parliament;
- activists continue to be imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of speech and are facing harsh conditions depriving them of their most fundamental rights; and
- the government is tolerating the use of labour brokers without restrictions.
The TUC and our colleagues in the global trade union movement – led by our colleagues in TUCOSWA – will be using the ITUC report and the European Parliament to take the struggle for freedom to the ILO next month, and CHOGM in November. We won’t give up on our sisters and brothers in Swaziland.