Swaziland: Urgent action needed: Trade unionists arrested; COSATU condemns arrests

Urgent action needed: Trade unionists arrested in Swaziland: Repression continues!

May 14, 2011 -- The Swaziland Democracy Campaign has just received urgent news that a group of leading trade unionists have been arrested by the security police in the Lubombo Region of Swaziland. The comrades were attending a meeting to discuss the establishment of a regional division of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) the new democratic trade union federation that was launched on May Day this year, and which brings together all the trade unions in Swaziland into a historic single organisation.

Those arrested include the following:

Gugu Malindzisa of the Labour Coordinating Committee and the UNITE project, a comrade Phumele formerly of the Swaziland Federation of Labour, Splasha Musa, Paul Mabila, George Mthethwa, Titus Nhleko, Bongani Siyaya, and a comrade Emanuel all from the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), Bongani Shongwe from the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU), and Gcinaphi Pateguana of the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU).

Let it be noted that the organisations that these comrades represent are perfectly legal and legitimate.  What they were hoping to discuss in Lobombo was completely legal and constitutes activity that is universally protected by the Conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), namely the right to Freedom of Association.

The world should be outraged at this flagrant attempt to stifle the trade union movement in Swaziland. The trade unions have been in the forefront of organising protest action in favour of democracy, and in campaigns to defend the living standards of their largely impoverished membership.

The ILO in particular must immediately protest this action by the Swazi regime as it is in the process of compiling a report on Swaziland for the International Labour Congress taking place in June this year in Geneva. It must condemn this attack on trade union rights and strengthen the sanctions and penalties that it is able to impose on the regime as a result.

We also call upon the governments of the Region and the Continent as a whole to protest this gross violation of civil and worker rights. In each of the countries of the continent, trade union rights are supposed to enshrined in African Union protocols. Turning a blind eye will expose the hypocrisy of all of those governments who claim that they are themselves democratic. For how long can the Swazi regime be allowed to behave in this way, and bring the human rights record of the continent into disrepute.

We also call upon trade unionists and progress forces throughout the world to send messages of support to TUCOSWA (copies to SDC) and pressurise their own governments to do likewise.

If the Government of Swaziland thinks that it can illegally detain , disrupt and punish the democratic and united trade union movement without a reaction in Swaziland and across the world it must think again. By arresting these comrades the Swazi government have once again exposed themselves for what they really are, a self serving corrupt elite that rules through repression.

  • Release these trade unionists and all those illegally detained by the regime!
  • Isolate the Swaziland government and support the democratic forces in Swaziland!
  • Pressurise governments to side with the democrats not the dictators!

For messages of support and further information contact

Mduduzi C. Gina (SUDF Secretary General) (+268 76119211 comfortmgina@yahoo.com)

Vincent Ncongwane (vincentncongwane@yahoo.co.uk)

Stephen Faulkner (082 817 5455, steve.faulkner@samwu.org.za)

Ntokozo Mbhele (072 370 0974 ntokozo@publicservices.co.za)

Philani Ndebele (076 942 3565 philani@asc.org.za)

COSATU condemns arrest of trade unionists in Swaziland

By Zanele Matebula, COSATU deputy international relations secretary

May 16, 2011 -- COSATU condemns the Swaziland government for its naked show of brutality and intensified repression against trade unionists. The arrest of more than nine comrades from the various unions making up the newly formed democratic federation, the Trade Unions Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), over the weekend confirmed the desperate state of the ruling tinkhundla regime and its fear of democracy.

Following an alert by the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) for immediate action, COSATU raised it with its international sister organisations, global federations and international centres for a coordinated international action. This is particularly important in the build up to the ILO Conference 100th session starting early June in Geneva, where the issue of Swaziland will be on the table again before the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) for review and action.

This is the time for more coordination and unity in action for the sake of the suffering workers and sister people of Swaziland. We welcome the new resolve by various international organisations to step up solidarity with the people of Swaziland at this crucial hour of need.

We also welcome the very important statement by the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) last week calling for more coordination, respectful engagement with Swazi organisations on matters of concern, avoiding narrow grandstanding and glory-seeking opportunism that seek to replace the legitimate organisations and peoples in whose name the struggle is being waged, as well as making self-serving claims that are not true about campaigns in this regard.

What should pre-occupy us is the liberation of the Swazi people through unity in action, proper coordination and comradely engagement around evolving perspectives and lessons from the ground and not self-mandated blogs that are not accountable to anyone.

We wish to indicate that we are proposing the following in taking forward the momentum:

  • An international day of action to demand release of the arrested unionists, coordinated by TUCOSWA and the SDC together with ITUC-Africa and SATUCC.
  • A coordinated approach to the coming ILC in Geneva to raise the tempo of the Swazi struggle beyond its current mode, particularly given the fact that twice Swaziland has appeared in the special paragraph, which is the highest ILO sanction. This may require referring the matter to further structures within the global multilateral system for action.
  • Convening of a Conference of all organisations and activists involved in the Swazi struggle and their genuine global solidarity partners to discuss the way forward and how to ensure coordination and discipline in relation to the work being done and not allow self-serving agendas to confuse the work of the struggling masses and their supporters all over the world. Such will also clarify what are the issues that the Swazi people themselves want raised and how, to ensure all accord with the definite messages of the democratic, accountable and mass based organisations inside Swaziland.
COSATU will be liaising closely with the Swazi trade union movement and our global allies around the call for a comprehensive boycott campaign, given that trade unions are best placed to lead such an offensive as they are at the point of production, which place upon their shoulders more responsibility for serious and consistent boycott and not once-off and isolated campaigns that are not making the desired impact.


Thanks for posting. Very important that all comrades in Australia and beyond are with us on this. Many thanks and solidarity greetings. Steve