Swazi unions demand freedom on independence day
Trade unions have been in the forefront of protests in Swaziland – Africa’s last feudal kingdom – on Independence Day, Tuesday 6 September. And around the world, trade unions took part in a global day of solidarity – including a protest organised by Action for Southern Africa outside the Swazi High Commission in London today, when a protest letter from TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber was handed in.
The protests taking place this week across Swaziland – including for the first time in rural areas – focus on the impact that King Mswati III’s dictatorial rule has on poverty, illness and people’s democratic rights. The most recent in a series of attacks on democratic freedoms was the detention on 24 August of a number of young student union leaders after a protest about the closure of the University of Swaziland. And Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the world.
The South African trade union movement COSATU has been observing developments in Swaziland this week, and protesting at the financial bailout of the Swazi regime by the South African Government.
Speaking from a protest outside the Swaziland Embassy in Brussels organised the by the ITUC and Belgian trade unions, ITUC Deputy General Secretary Wellington Chibebe said:
“We stand in support with Swazi workers in demanding constitutional reform, multi-party democracy and the full respect of trade union rights. The issue of democracy can never be wished away. It is not a question of whether there will be reform but a question of when. For workers’ rights, the time is now.”