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South African unions and civil society march for democracy in Eswatini

19 August, 2021IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), joined civil society organizations in a march to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Pretoria to demand democratic reforms in Eswatini.

The march to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Pretoria on 13 August was followed by the handing over of a memorandum, demanding that the United National Human Rights Council (UNHRC) convenes an urgent meeting to respond to continuing human rights violations including the right to life, and the rule of law. Further, the UNHRC must emphasize on Eswatini’s responsibility to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms as specified in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
According to a memorandum by the United Eswatini Diaspora to which NUMSA and other civil society organizations signed, the UNHRC must investigate and act upon stopping:

“The human rights violations by the government  and the absolute monarchy which have assumed a number of forms  including the killing of 72 civilians, severe injuries to more than 200 people, harassment, arbitrary detention, persecution of pro-democracy Members of Parliament, censorship of the media, state intimidation and threats, the promulgation and use of laws that violate fundamental rights to freedom of expression and association, and unlawful state efforts to undermine bar or crack down on peaceful protests.”


The memorandum states that over 600 people, including children, have been arrested. Speakers during the march said the whereabouts of several hundreds of people remains unknown.

“For a longtime the people of Eswatini have been fighting for freedom against the repression. As trade unions we support the struggle to end their suffering and call upon the UN and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to intervene,”

says Jerry Morulane, the NUMSA regional secretary for Hlanganani which includes Pretoria.
Recently, IndustriALL affiliates in Eswatini, The Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA) and Swaziland Electricity Supply Maintenance and Allied Workers Union (SESMAWU), took part in a workers’ march to parliament in Lobamba to demand democratic reforms and a constitutional monarchy. The march was organized by the Swaziland Congress of Trade Unions and coincided with the global day of action by IndustriALL and the ITUC.

“IndustriALL continues to call on the government of Eswatini to facilitate social and political dialogue that will lead to democratic reforms. The country must respect human rights and adhere to the UN Charter and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that it has signed,”

says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa.

Eswatini is Africa’s last absolute monarchy and political parties were banned in 1973. The country has been ruled by King Mswati III since 1986 and he appoints the prime minister and other key officials. Mswati, whose net worth is over $50 million according to reports, is infamous for an opulent lifestyle that includes buying a fleet of Rolls-Royces for his family of 15 wives and 23 children while most of the population lives in poverty and faces high unemployment especially amongst the youth. The country also faces a high prevalence of HIV and AIDS.