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Suppression of democracy campaign activities in Swaziland

9 September, 2013Police prevented a Global Inquiry Panel headed up by former South African Minister and labour leader, Jay Naidoo from taking place after having detained Naidoo for questioning the day before.

There was a heavy police presence at the venue of the inquiry organised by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) as part of the global week of action for democracy and worker rights in Swaziland.  The panel was to take submissions from workers about conditions in Swaziland and present their findings to the world. Police prevented the inquiry from taking place saying the event was inappropriate as 6 September, Independence Day should be a day of celebration.

Naidoo and several others including  Central Methodist Church Bishop Paul Verryn and Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC)'s Paliani Chinguwo were also held were detained at a road block and taken in for questioning the day before and later released. 

Also on 5 September, the General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (Tucoswa), Vincent Ncongwane, was arrested and taken In for questioning. He was then placed under house arrest for attempting to stage an illegal protest. Tucoswa insists that protocol was followed and government has informed of the planned mass action which did not take place.

This blatant suppression of human rights has taken place days after King Mswati says he received a vision that his absolute monarchy should now officially be called a monarchial democracy. Critics suspect this is an attempt to confuse people on democratic rights with parliamentary elections in the absolute monarchy taking place later this month. 

It has been 45 years since independence from colonial rule in Swaziland and 40 years of a state of emergency which Mswati has used to deny Swazi people democratic rights. Swaziland is one of the poorest countries in the world.  Over 60 per cent of the population live in abject poverty and the unemployment rate is at 28.5 per cent. There is no press freedom or independent judiciary.  Political parties are banned. Democratic institutions and trade unions are under constant attack and the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland is still de-registered in order to prevent the unification of workers.