Her Excellency Mrs Dumsile T Sukati
Kingdom of Swaziland High Commission
20 Buckingham Gate
London SW1E 6LB
Dear High Commissioner
On behalf of the TUC General Council, I write to you on the occasion of Swaziland's Independence Day on 6 September, which marks the 44th anniversary of your country's liberation from the British rule, to bring to your attention the worsening trade union rights situation in your country. Sadly, in a few months, it will also be the 40th anniversary of the state of emergency.
There has been a spate of violations of trade union and human rights in the past few weeks and I should like to emphasize that the Government of Swaziland which ratified Convention 98 and Convention 87 is obliged to observe the workers' rights enshrined in them. The ILO Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) has also pointed to serious breaches of ILO conventions relating to fundamental rights at work in recent years. The following incidents which demonstrate the excesses committed by the Swazi authorities in crass disregard for the respect for workers' rights, in our view, do not bode well for your Government's efforts to promote social dialogue and industrial peace.
On 11 July a peaceful protest by the National Public Service and Allied Workers' Union (NAPSAWU), the Swaziland Transport and Allied Workers' Union (STAWU) and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) was met with disproportionate force including the use of tear gas, batons, rubber bullets etc and the arrest of the NAPSAWU President, Quinton Dlamini. The unions had organised a strike in order to demand a mere 4.5% salary adjustment which is well below Swaziland's inflation rate.
On 30 July, STAWU's legal officer Bazel Tfwala was arrested by the police without charges. On the same day, STAWU General Secretary Simanga Shogwe was detained while he was protesting against Tfwala's' arrest and was driven 30km away from Manzini where he was thrown out of the vehicle. Earlier on, the union's organiser, Sticks Nkambule, had been temporarily detained following a transport strike on 16-17 July.
On 1 August, your government started firing hundreds of teachers across the country, including the SNAT's entire Executive Board. On 3 August, the Industrial Court of Swaziland ruled that the dismissals were unlawful and requested the government to withdraw them.
It has to be stressed that these events are taking place while Swaziland's national trade union centre, the ITUC-affiliated Trades Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), remains banned following its deregistration on the basis of spurious legal arguments. In this regard, a complaint has been filed with the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.
We urge your government to take into serious consideration the demands of our Swazi colleagues for constitutional reforms, multiparty democracy and the full respect of trade union rights. The TUC hopes that this year's Independence Day will finally herald true change for your people who throughout the years have endured the suppression of their democratic rights and freedoms with admirable resolve and dignity.
Briefing document (600 words) issued 3 Sep 2012
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/international/tuc-21362-f0.cfm
printed 21 May 2013 at 13:03 hrs by 188.8.131.52