26 June 2001

SWAZILAND: Another anti-union decree internationally condemned

Following a report by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) condemning Swaziland for its anti-union measures, international solidarity with the Swazi union (SFTU), has begun to build momentum in the region. The South African trade union federation, COSATU, recently condemned the approval of a new decree by the regime, expressing its "utter dismay and anger".

In its report, published on the occasion of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, the ICFTU put Swaziland's disgraceful trade union rights record in the spotlight by pointing to severe anti-union laws and actions. The ICFTU report also concentrates on the serious events (interference in trade union activities, intimidation, the state authorities refusal to engage in consultations, etc) that have occurred in recent months.

"Swaziland is clearly ignoring the call by the international community to improve its atrocious labour rights record. The International Labour Conference condemned the regime, calling for substantial, effective democratic changes in the country. The ICFTU welcomes COSATU's recent condemnation of Swaziland and believes that others will soon follow its lead", said Bill Jordan, General Secretary of the ICFTU.

The new order by the regime is said to be aimed at reinforcing the 1973 Decree on Meetings and Demonstrations. The latter already restricts the right of organisations to hold meetings and demonstrations.

A few days ago, at a meeting of the ICFTU Human and Trade Union Rights Committee, Jan Sithole, General Secretary of the SFTU denounced the recent decree which proclaims the following as "non-bailable offices":

  • Any statement that could amount to ridicule of or insult against King Mswati;
  • Any conduct that the authorities may deem to be against the monarch.

These two "offences" imply that the king is always right and is not subject to criticism. In addition, the royal decree has abolished The Nation magazine and The Guardian newspaper.

"The King in Swaziland has failed to rise above the political system and serve as a father of the nation, so as to unite the Swazi nation. The closure of the two national papers for freely expressing their views is the worst form of repression and a manifestation of military-style dictatorship under the skin of the monarchy", COSATU said in a statement. (ICFTU OnLine)

Full Report: http://www.icftu.org/displaydocument.asp?DocType=Report&Index=991212943&Lang

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