Solidarity with Swaziland’s people and unions
Today is the 40th anniversary of the declaration of a state of emergency in Swaziland, and it isn’t over yet. The last remaining feudal dictatorship in Africa continues to ban political parties, harrass trade unionists, and bans demonstrations, meetings and even religious ceremonies. Meanwhile the economy is falling apart, the country has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the world, and food aid destined for the country’s poor – in a country where one in three are malnourished but sugar is one of the main exports – has been sold off by the regime to pay for its repulsive rule.
So, today, we express our solidarity with the unified Trades Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), its leaders, unions and members, in their struggle for democracy, human rights and trade union freedoms. Over the coming year, we will be working with our sisters and brothers to demand the Commonwealth suspend Swaziland, insist that the regime allows free and fair elections by unbanning political parties, and keep up the pressure for ILO standards on freedom of association and collective bargaining to be observed.
There will be protests in neighbouring South Africa organised by Swazi refugees and the massive COSATU trade union federation, and inside the country, vigils, prayers and meetings will be organised. Sadly, many will be deterred by a heavy police presence, and some will be broken up. Traditionally, opponents of the regime will be picked up in the early hours, driven out into the countryside and left there, too far away to get back in time for the protests they have arranged.
The IMF has taken the extraordinary step of calling on the Swazi government to make cuts not in social programmes and welfare arrangements, like in most other countries, but in the security services, Ministerial salaries and the budget for the royal household. Because it is these elements of state expenditure that are still growing despite the collapse of the economy, and it is those elements which are of no practical value to the people of Swaziland.