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Unions struggle for democracy in Swaziland

11 September, 2012Despite violent repression by the Swaziland government, unions together with student bodies and civil society pushed on with calls for multiparty democratic elections during the Global Week of Action on Swaziland, 3 to 7 September.

Tension grew throughout the week and organizers cancelled the main protest action planned for Friday, not wanting to put protestors in harms way as security forces made it clear that they were prepared to repress the action.

However, some actions did go ahead in Swaziland but participants were subjected to police brutality with beatings and arrests. Other actions were demobilized by police turning back buses and those that managed to assemble were subjected to intimidation including some arrests.

“There is no way we will abandon this,” said Frank Mcina, General Secretary of Swaziland Amalgamated Trade Union, expressing a commitment to the struggle for democracy and human rights shared by most unionists in Swaziland.

“We will continue with pressure until the regime recognizes that people have the right to speak and we regain our rights, including the fundamental labour right of freedom of association,” added Mcina.

After almost 40 years in a state of emergency, Swaziland, one of the world’s last absolute monarchies, is experiencing a deepening economic crisis that has pushed most Swazi people into absolute poverty.

Meanwhile, the Royal family continues to live a lavish lifestyle and king Mswati III is accused by the Swaziland Democracy Campaign of looting the economy. Mswati has maintained control through an oppressive regime, where political parties are banned and activists are regularly arrested, imprisoned and tortured. 

The recently formed Trade Union Confederation of Swaziland (Tucoswa), uniting organized labour in the country, has come under attack with the government seeking to deregister the union.

IndustriALL Global Union wrote to the Prime Minister of Swaziland calling for constitutional reform and multiparty democracy in Swaziland in support of the Global Week of Action on Swaziland.

“We have prioritized giving support to their efforts within Swaziland and at a regional and international level, and I can assure you that we will not cease our efforts until such time as human and trade union rights are upheld in your country.,” wrote Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL.

See here a more detailed report on the week of action in Swaziland.