MBABANE. According to a report from the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), the government of Eswatini through a letter written by the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development dated 27th October 2021 informed the Federation that gatherings were banned in all urban authority jurisdictions.
‘’On the same date the Police Commissioner wrote to the Federation and directed that the intended gathering slated for the 28th of October 2021 country wide be postponed sine dine in the interest of public order, safety and national security.
‘’The Government issued a directive banning the Local Municipal Councils (Local Government Authorities) from issuing gathering permits for gathering in all towns and cities. The banning was affected on all trade union gatherings. This banning never followed any legislative process, notwithstanding that it was in violation of the Public Order Act and the Constitution,’’ reads part of the report.
The report states that the government of Eswatini violates the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) conventions on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, 1948(No.87) and the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining,1949 (No.98), which the Kingdom of Eswatini ratified on the 26 April 1978.
The report further includes some incidences where workers rights were violated by the government of Eswatini. It notes one incidence where tear gas canisters were thrown in a bus carrying workers to Mbabane from Piggs Peak and many of them were injured as they were jumping out through windows of the bus and in the process, they were shot with rubber bullets and hit with police batons.
‘’Trade Union Congress of Swaziland was denied the right to gather for purposes of delivering petitions directed to the Prime Minister to protest the arbitrary victimization and intimidation of trade union leaders by security forces,’’ says the report.
The report also highlighted that in reaction to the refusal, the police and the army were dispatched to the cities and victimized anyone who was found in town wearing the Federation regalia including face masks.
‘’TUCOSWA calls upon the international community to intervene and direct the government of Eswatini to comply with its international obligations,’’ states the report.
During the 50 years Anniversary commemoration of the Organisation of Africa Trade Union Unity (OATUU) in Ghana, which was themed ‘Fidelity, Unite and Action for a Decent Life for African Worker’, the organisations condemned the continued violation of workers’ right in the Kingdom of Eswatini.
Through their President Francis Atiwoli who termed the acts by the government to harass and intimidate unionists as barbaric and of criminal nature.
According to the president, the continent of Africa has made great strides in terms of democracy and any move to reverse the gains through such flagrant acts ought to be strongly rejected. He also said some other officials in Eswatini, have been arrested for leading demonstrations.
“Africa has come from far, if we have any region or country that still victimises, harasses or intimidates workers, it must be condemned,” he stated.
He touched on the banning of public gatherings and the killing of more than 80 protesters in the last year by security, he noted, is “not what should happen in this era”.
Atiwoli highlighted that as an organisation they condemn the warrant of arrest issued by the government of Eswatini to the Swaziland Transport, Communications, and Allied Workers Union (SWATCAWU) Secretary General, Sticks Nkambule.
He said, “We also note that on the 11th of January 2023, the name of Sticks Nkambule was published by the police as a wanted person an alleged criminal conduct, in demand wages and conducive working conditions for workers.’’
‘’When we are demanding our rights. We are not thieves; we are not terrorist. We were elected to do our work,’’ he stated.
He also further highlighted on the several laws in place which severely restrict freedom of expression and association, including the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act of 1938, which continues to be invoked, the Public Order Act of 1963, and the Suppression of Terrorism Act, of 2008.
On other note, the OATUU meeting focused on advancing social justice, promoting descent work, and the valuing the role of trade unions amongst member states.