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ACT NOW (and again in September!) Support Swazi teachers, nurses and transport unions

Issue date
Solidarity with unions in Swaziland

Protest action

August 2012

Public workers in Swaziland have been on strike since 21 June. They are demanding a pay rise of 4.5 per cent, well below the rate of inflation in Swaziland and a mere fraction of the 30 per cent pay rise that Swaziland's parliamentarians have awarded themselves. They are facing harassment and violence from the Swazi Government, the last feudal dictatorship in Africa.

Join the global union campaign - organised by EI, ITF and PSI - to condemn the governmental crackdown on Swazi public workers by sending a LabourStart message to Mswati III, King of Swaziland, urging him to meet the legitimate demands of public servants; and to ensure the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of dismissed public service workers and teachers.

And get ready to join a Global Week of Action in early September called by the Trades Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), including a day of global action on Thursday 6 September, Swaziland independence day.

Public sector dispute

The strikers have been met by dismissals, riot police and armed forces' intimidation and beatings, tear gas and rubber bullets. On 12 July, peacefully protesting public sector trade union members were fired upon by police - resulting in hospitalisation and injuries of at least 12 persons, some who were members of the Swaziland National Association of Civil Servants (SNACS) and the Swaziland Nurses Association (SNA).

As an example of what has been happening, on 30 July, a heavy presence of armed police was reported on the streets of Manzini as teachers defied a government ultimatum to end their two-month long strike or be sacked.

On 1 August, the government fired hundreds of teachers across the country, including the entire executive of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), and the union President, Sibongile Mazibuko, who was deputy principal of SOS Primary in Mbabane.

But on 3 August, the Industrial Court of Swaziland found that those dismissals were unlawful and requested the government to withdraw the letters of dismissal issued to the teachers. The Centre for Human Rights, Swaziland, reported that close to 200 teachers marched from the Industrial Court to the Ministry of Education singing and chanting struggle songs. They wanted to deliver a petition calling on the Swazi Government to stop further sackings and to hold talks with the teachers.

Transport workers' actions

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has also expressed strong concerns at the arrest and detention of Bazel Tfwala, legal officer of the Swaziland Transport and Allied Workers' Union (STAWU). Simanga Shongwe, General Secretary of STAWU was also detained whilst protesting Tfwala's arrest. The ITF is encouraging unions to send the following protest letter:

Dr. Sibusiso B Dlamini
Prime Minister
P O Box 365
Mbabane Hospital Hill H 100
Swaziland

Via fax: + 268 2404 4673
Via email mabuzasind@gov.sz

Dear Dr Dlamini

Arrests of the members of ITF-affiliated Swaziland Transport & Allied Workers' Union

As an affiliate of the International Transport Workers' Federation, and on behalf of the 690 unions and over four and a half million transport workers that comprise the ITF family, we are writing to you to express our deep concern over the recent aggressions and arrests towards the members of ITF-affiliated Swaziland Transport & Allied Workers' Union by your authorities.

On 30 July 2012, the union's legal officer, Bazel Tfwala was arrested by the police without charges upon his court appearance and remains in custody until 6 August when his verdict will be delivered. On the same day, Simanga Shongwe, General Secretary of SWATU was detained whilst protesting Tfwala's arrest and was driven 30km away from Manzini where he was thrown out of the vehicle by the police without protection or access back to the capital. Earlier, the union's organiser, Sticks Nkambule was detained temporarily after a transport strike on 16 - 17 July.

A recent ITF Conference held in Durban, South Africa on 24 - 25 July brought together more than 30 representatives of road transport workers unions from all part of Africa and unanimously adopted an emergency resolution which expressed its full support and solidarity towards the workers and trade unions in Swaziland to conduct their legitimate duties without any fear or oppressions by the state. The ITF shall be circulating this important decision to all the members of its federation, in Africa and globally. ITF sister organisations in the international trade union movement as well as the International Labour Organization (ILO) will be duly informed of this decision.

We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Bazel Tfwala. We strongly urge you to take positive and decisive action to find peaceful solutions to the current labour conflicts in Swaziland and towards the implementation of basic workers' rights, such as freedom of association, as well as the rights to assemble, to bargain collectively and to take strike actions as enshrined in the core Conventions of the ILO.

Yours sincerely

NAME OF UNION