Swaziland trade union mission visits to three African countries

Keywords : Eswatini Democracy Human and trade union rights Eswatini

The ITUC-Africa with the coordination of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions organised a 3-country mission visit to Kenya, Senegal and Nigeria as part of the efforts to continue to effectively intervene in the human and workers’ rights situation in Swaziland. This was also aimed atcontributing to the attainment of a genuine and progressive democratic Swaziland where rule of law, civil liberties, good governance and freedom will strive and contribute to the wellbeing of workers and citizens in the Kingdom.

Themission visit comprised a three-person Swaziland trade union delegation and the coordinator of the Human and Trade Union Right Program at the ITUC-Africa secretariat. This was undertaken from 16 -25 July, 2011.

Support for the mission visits was provided by fund from the ITUC Solidarity Fund.

The delegation was led by the General Secretary of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Union (SFTU), his Deputy and the Secretary of the SFTU Women Committee. It is worth noting that as at the time of the mission visit, a merger process among the SFTU, Swaziland Labour Federation and Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) was being consolidated. The unions have come to the strong conclusions and understanding that building a united workers organisation is one strong way of better responding to the various challenges facing the workers and peoples of Swaziland.

Also good to note is that the firm merger process is a culmination of the collaborative efforts of the three organisations as seen in joint May Day Celebrations, press statements, and various demonstrations organised within the Kingdom.Indeed, we are noticing the gradual increase in awareness and participation of the public in Swazi trade union organised activities. ITUC-Africa encourages and lauds this initiative and development. We will continue to support and monitor developmentsfrom the merger and inform affiliates appropriately.

Similarly, ITUC-Africa wishes to inform your organisation that at the 100th Session of the International Labour Conference, which was held from 1- 17 June, 2011 in Geneva, the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) after its exercise, endorsed the reports of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Convention and Recommendations (CEACR), and issued its own reports, which was adopted by the Conference. In the CAS report, the Committee upheld submissions that Swaziland continues to violate workers and human rights. Particularly, Swaziland was reported to continue to seriously violate Convention 87, which led to the retention of the Kingdom on the Committee’s Special Paragraph’ list. Swaziland thus has been listed on the ‘Special Paragraph’ for the third time.

It was on the strengthof this momentum from the ILC that the mission visits to these countries were undertaken to contribute to the pressure for the Swazi government to commit to genuine democratic and wealth redistribution reforms. Swaziland is one of ITUC-Africa’s ‘countries-at-risk’ as a result of deficits in democratic and human and trade union rights credentials. Others are Zimbabwe and Madagascar.
Specifically, the aims of the mission visits amongst others include the following:

1. To deepen awareness of the human and trade union rights situations in Swaziland among workers, civil society groups and the people of the countries visited.
2. To strive to increase media coverage and reporting of the situations in Swaziland given that the international media and those on the continent have covered and reported rather little on the non democratic and rights violations situations in the Kingdom
3. To galvanise African support for the efforts and struggles of the Swazi workers and people for genuine democratic reform and effective respect for human and workers’ rights
4. To establish the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) in these countries, as part of the planned ITUC-Africa establishment of twenty two SDC African chapters to coordinate the support and solidarity of African people towards the effective democratisation of Swaziland.
5. Also, the mission sought to enrich the knowledge and experiences of the delegationon strategies and efforts of organisations, groups and institutions in the countries visited in regards to how they deal with their own local challenges.

The mission was successfully conducted. Highlights of the mission include meetings with trade unions, civil society organisations and government officials in the three countries visited. The delegation was privileged to have audience and interactions with the Prime Minister of Kenya, Rt. Honourable Raila Odinga and members of the Kenyan parliament. Also in Nigeria, the delegation met with the Deputy Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives and the Minister of Labour of the country. All the groups that met expressed concerns about the developments in Swaziland, which they all noted have been grossly under-reported and under-estimated. They expressed strong support for the Swazi people’s cause to achieve true and genuine participatory democracy.

Climax of the mission visits in all three countries included the launch of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign and pledge by the groups to take the campaign seriously like they did during the struggle against apartheid South Africa. Press conferences were held at the end of every visit in the three countries. Particular attention was made to the media as partners in the SDC struggle.

Given that the context to which the mission visits was undertaken was one where Swaziland remains the last and only absolute monarchy in the world against the background where the Arab Spring revolutions are still at different phases in different countries, provided opportunities for the people in these 3 countries to recommit to citizens power and solidarity for societies such as Swaziland.

This brief therefore serves as information and also to remind you that,though gains have been made, the Swaziland struggle is still not won. Further, this brief is also to inform you that September 4-7 will be International Solidarity Day of Action for Swaziland. The event, which will coincide with Swaziland Independence celebration (September 6th) will be used to continue to pressure King Mswati’s Government to commit to genuine democratic and economic reforms. Affiliates are urged to contribute support and solidarity actions towards this event. Other developments and information will be communicated appropriately.

Kwasi Adu-Amankwah
General Secretary

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