30 September, 2021For over three decades, the government of the Kingdom of Eswatini has violated human and trade union rights. However, there are increasing calls against this impunity, and for democratic reforms to be implemented.
There have been national pro-democracy demonstrations in the country and a Global Day of Action organized by global unions in support of the trade unions of Eswatini took place on 6 August.
During the demonstrations, over 72 people were killed through excessive use of force by the police and the army against pro-democracy protesters and hundreds were injured while some are still missing. Some activists have gone into hiding and others fled into exile.
It is against this background that the IndustriALL 3rd Congress, 14-15 September, adopted a resolution for the democratization of Eswatini that includes the respect for the right to life, freedoms of association, assembly, and expression.
“We call for national dialogue for reforms that will allow for the democratic election of the Prime Minister and to review the country’s constitution to allow for the transfer of executive powers from the king to a democratically elected leadership”
reads one of the demands the resolutions.
Atle Høie, IndustriALL general secretary, has written a letter to the Eswatini Prime Minister, Cleopas Dlamini, urging him to act on ending
“gross human rights violations and the use of excessive and lethal force against protesters.” Another letter to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) requests for “a thorough investigation into the death of civilians and the fate of the missing and recommend that the Human Rights Council consider this matter urgently.”
According to a petition to the United Nations office in Mbabane delivered by unions and civil society organizations, the UN must intervene for “an all-inclusive dialogue, unbanning of political parties, transitional council, democratic constitution, and multiparty democracy.” The UN must also “force the king to dialogue with the people rather than killing them.” Further, petitioners want King Mswati III to be tried at the International Criminal Court for “the ruthless killing of unarmed civilians.”
IndustriALL affiliates in Eswatini, the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA) and Swaziland Electricity Supply, Maintenance and Allied Workers Union (SESMAWU) took part in the march to present the petition.
“As Eswatini workers we appreciate the support that we are receiving globally for our demands for democratic reforms. International workers solidarity in the fight to remove the undemocratic regime that is causing abject poverty in our country is important to the struggle. We appreciate the support from our sister affiliates in IndustriALL. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,”
says Wander Mkhonza, general secretary of ATUSWA.
The petitioners say over 65 per cent of the country’s population is living in poverty on less than US$1.25 per day. “Poverty has been worsened by the dispossession of the people’s livelihoods by the king who evicts people from their lands, properties and businesses. The country is experiencing untold poverty because of the misappropriation of national resources to finance the lavish lifestyles of the royalty.”
Eswatini is Africa’s last absolute monarchy and King Mswati lives an extravagant lifestyle of expensive cars and private jets for his family of 15 wives. He banned the photographing of his cars after a public outcry. The king’s net worth is over $200 million, and he controls Tibiyo Taka Ngwane an investment company worth over $140 million supposedly in trust for the people of Eswatini.