The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) is banned and its leaders
were arrested and prevented from celebrating Workers' Day (May 1) this
For more on Swaziland's democracy movement, click HERE.
May 14, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- When the new South African High Commissioner to Swaziland, His Excellency Happy Mahlangu,
presented his credentials to King Mswati, the Swazi Observer on
May 3 reported him as saying:
I further wish to make use of this opportunity to express South
Africa's best wishes to Your Majesty and the people of Swaziland for
success during the forthcoming elections. I also want to assure you of
South Africa's support regarding the Swaziland elections.
To make matters worse, here is what "His Excellency" had to say in the May 13 Swazi Times:
It would be folly to force things on the people of Swaziland. It is
the people of Swaziland who should decide whether they want multiparty
democracy. I think South Africans believe that the best way of
representation is multiparties yet that is not the case. They have to understand the different types of democracies of the world, in particular in the African continent.
These comments prompt a number of questions that the High Commissioner,
and those who have stationed him in Swaziland, must answer:
1. Who gave the High Commissioner the authority to describe what is being planned by the Tinkhundla regime as "elections"?
In Swaziland political parties are banned. Only "approved" candidates
can put themselves forward for so-called "elections", and are subject
to strict clearance by the regime. Free and unhindered voter
registration and secret balloting are severely compromised because of
the "supervisory" role allocated to Tinkhundla agents in the community,
namely the chiefs who have sworn loyalty to the King and are rewarded
for doing so. Calling the self-interested Tinkhundla process an
election is frankly absurd, and an insult to those who campaign for
2. Who gave High Commissioner Mahlangu the authority to say that South
Africans are incorrect to believe that "multiparty democracy" is the
best form of representation?
How can the High Commissioner make this assertion when his own government is deeply committed to multiparty democracy? Has he
consulted the South African people? Would Comrades Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani,
Walter Sisulu have accepted anything other than free and fair elections in
3. Who gave the High Commissioner permission to make the incomprehensible statement that ''It would be folly to force things on the people of
Thousands of learned and experienced democracy advocates, activists from
trade unions, faith-based organisations, community groups, student
organisations and an impressive range of human and civil rights
organisations have been subjected to blatant acts of repression because
they have dared to state that democracy be established in Swaziland.
Who exactly is forcing a particular system of government onto the people
of Swaziland if not the bankrupt and globally discredited Tinkhundla regime of King Mswati?
The reality that is Swaziland today
The Swaziland that the South African High Commissioner is referring to must be different
from the one we know and where the majority of Swazis live.
At present, peaceful democracy activists are languishing in miserable
prison conditions without charge or credible evidence against them, while
awaiting the possible imposition of harsh sentences for sedition. Many
Swazis continue to suffer in exile, while those in Swaziland are
prevented from holding meetings, marches or any gatherings and are
instead beaten and humiliated for expressing their views about their
country. The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) is banned and its leaders
were arrested and prevented from celebrating Workers' Day (May 1) this
year. The only "crime" these democracy activists are guilty of is to
speak out that democratic norms be accepted in Swaziland.
Not only are the Swazi people subjected to appalling levels of poverty,
but they are also robbed of resources, both land and finances, that
should be placed at their service. The regime is considered to be one of
the most corrupt in the world. Why does the High Commissioner
contradict this reality, and lend the credibility of his office to
support a repressive regime?
Repression in Swaziland is well documented and makes up a major part of
the submissions that were made to the UN's International Labour
Conference and other international gatherings. These respected
institutions have in turn consistently criticised the Swazi regime for
trampling on the fundamental human and civil rights of the people of
Swaziland. Does the High Commissioner not read?
Lessons for the High Commissioner
Let us respectfully remind the High Commissioner that a democracy
requires a number of civil liberties to be in place and to be respected,
and not least among them being the right to form political parties, to
participate freely in elections, to be able as citizens to speak openly
about the actions of those who claim to represent their interests in government, without fear of arrest, detention or violence emanating from
Can we ask the High Commissioner to request a list of all
those currently being held in prison for political reasons and if there
is any evidence for their continuing incarceration? Can he also visit
the family of respected teacher Sipho Jele, who was arrested and died
while in detention for wearing a t-shirt of the banned People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO)?
Can we ask the High Commissioner to explain why he is lending support to
a regime which in the last 12 months alone has banned legitimate trade
union organisations, has purposefully and violently broken up prayer
meetings of the poor and dispossessed, has attempted to criminalise and
undermine those courageous individuals who have spoken out in favour of
genuine democratic elections and against the sham Tinkhundla excuse for
democracy that the King is attempting to force on the Swazi people?
Can High Commissioner Mahlangu change, or be changed?
High Commissioner Mahlangu is out of step with his own government, who
correctly denied a bailout to the regime pending moves towards
democracy. He is out of step with his own party, the African National Congress, which even last week
said that achieving democracy in Swaziland must be a priority when it
stated that "The democratisation of Swaziland must preoccupy the work
of the African National Congress and all progressive forces as we call
for the release of political prisoners, return of exiles and free
political activities in that country."
He is out of step with the
Commonwealth, the United Nations, the Southern African Development Community guidelines and protocols on
elections democracy and constitutionalism, and a global array of
respected human rights organisations that have painstakingly catalogued
the abuses of the current Swazi regime.
The questions that are posed above require answers from the High
Commissioner. He is supposed to be a representative of a democratic
country. He is duty bound to embody the values of the South African government, and especially what is written in the South African constitution. As a longstanding member of the ANC does he not still
support the demands of the Freedom Charter, and recent policy
pronouncements of the ANC? Does he understand that universal human rights know no national boundaries, and should be available to all
regardless of cultural or religious beliefs?
It appears to all of those who wish to see a genuine democratic
Swaziland that the High Commissioner has allowed himself to be seduced
by the king, and has compromised his independence, and perhaps fatally
so. His credibility is in ruins.
We have no problem with the honourable High Commissioner sharing his own
experiences in Swaziland but he must not undermine the role that the
repressive Swazi regime played in entrenching apartheid through its
cordial relations with apartheid South Africa. He must refer to the Truth and Reconcialition Commission
report on the murders by joint aparthied South African Defence Force and Swazi operatives against liberation movement soldiers, including, Paul Dikeledi, Cassius Make and several others.
Further, many Swazi activists made huge sacrifices and some died
fighting alongside ANC cadres during those difficult days, against both
apartheid agents and the Swazi regime.
We believe that the South African government must recall the High
Commissioner and provide him with a comprehensive briefing and then
assess his suitability for the post. His most recent statements do not
inspire the confidence of the peaceful democratic movement.
Failing this, perhaps His Excellency Mahlangu would like to meet those of us who are
working tirelessly in the pro-democracy movement, under immensely
repressive conditions, to ensure a better life for all Swazis. We would
be happy to share with the High Commissioner the world and life of true
democrats operating under a repressive system ruled by King Mswati III.
Endorsed by the following organisations
Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC), general secretary, Thamisanqa Hlatshwayo: +268 76057938
Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) SD Chapter, interim spokesperson, Nthando Khumalo: + 268 76411070
Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF), coordinator, Wandile Dludlu: +268 76111676
Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), general secretary, Vincent Ncongwane: +268 76037005
Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), spokesperson, Zakhele Mabuza: +268 76073453
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), second deputy president, Zingiswa Losi: +27 82 088 1242
Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), South Africa chapter, co-convener, Stephen Faulkner: + 27 82 817 5455
COSATU appalled at Mswati`s evident determination to destroy TUCOSWA
May 3, 2013 -- The
Congress of South African Trade Unions is deeply appalled by the
continued onslaught and harassment against the leadership and members of
the Swaziland trade union federation, TUCOSWA, and the intensified
state of terror and repression of fundamental rights to organise and
free expression in Swaziland.
As workers of the world celebrated the important day in the calendar
of the international trade union movement, workers day, the workers of
Swaziland faced a barrage of attacks and persecution by the Swazi
state-security forces. They were barred from freely holding their own
activities due to the house arrests of their leadership, raids of their
offices and persecution of their members on their way to the TUCOSWA
organised events in Manzini.
This follows an order from the country’s authorities, using both the
state-controlled judiciary and blatant orders from the royal house, in
the words of the security forces themselves. This happens against the
background of a very successful, though hectic month of April activities
focussing on Swaziland, which did not only expose that Swaziland is
indeed a police state, but also that the resolve and unity of the
progressive forces and leaders of the mass democratic movement have
reached new heights.
The eventful activities of April organised and led by the SUDF, SDC
and the rest of the progressive forces shook the regime and resulted in
leaders of the progressive movement joining each other in police cells
for one trumped-up charge or the other, the unleashing of brutal force
against political and trade union activists, as well as the targeting of
democratic organisations and their perpetual harassment in a bid to
instil fear throughout the country.
We wish to congratulate the workers of Swaziland for successfully
holding their May Day. We deliberately say “successful” because, despite
extreme state brutality, they still showed up in numbers in total
display of defiance and renewed determination. This is in the context of
a state ban on TUCOSWA, meaning it is a crime to wear TUCOSWA t-shirts,
to be in any way associated with it, let alone be its leader and make
speeches or even mention the word, TUCOSWA.
Indeed, it was successful because it proved to the world and the
country’s ruling authorities that there shall be no peace in Swaziland
so long as TUCOSWA is banned or workers rights are criminalised, so is
the case with the general right to freely organise, associate and
express themselves as a people and country. This marks a new leaf for a
country that has always traded under the false illusion of peace and
stability. We applaud their courage and bravery, marked by their
unwavering commitment to the struggle against repression, an
increasingly militarised state and for all basic human and social
COSATU calls for concerted efforts and vigour from all national and
International trade union centres and movements to really begin to give
more decisive attention to Swaziland and unite in action for change. The
evident attitude of the tinkhundla regime towards the trade union
movement and in particular the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland
(TUCOSWA) demands that we copy what was done to liberate South Africa,
not only by those in South Africa but by the rest of the
democracy-loving world. The international community must have a common
strategy to save and defend TUCOSWA, because TUCOSWA is the workers of
Swaziland and the workers of Swaziland are TUCOSWA. Desperate attempts
to create false platforms and sustain attacks against TUCOSWA by
opportunists sponsored by the tinkhundla regime, have failed and must
As the struggle intensify, we take this opportunity to applaud all
friends of the global campaign for democracy in Swaziland and their
tireless efforts to popularise and deepen the struggle by coordinating
united and sustained solidarity action. We call on all who are not yet
active to follow suite and join in solidarity. We join TUCOSWA in
calling on all the global patriots who supported the anti-apartheid
movement for a democratic South Africa to now demonstrate to the world
that the mission is not yet accomplished if the people of Swaziland,
workers in particular remain in tinkhundla prisons, by joining and
leading the world-wide campaign for democracy in Swaziland.
Finally, we call for the unconditional release of all political and
trade union prisoners; amongst them; Bheki Dlamini, SWAYOCO President,
Wonder Mkhonza, PUDEMO National Organiser and SPRAWU Secretary General,
Zonke Dlamini, PUDEMO activist, Amos Mbhedzi, South African cadre of the
ANC and SACP, as well as all those arrested during the recent SWAYOCO
Rally at Msunduza in Mbabane.
COSATU second deputy president