Swazi authorities panic as protests loom
New trade union federation de-registered
With civil servants set to embark on mass protest action and with the now annual threat of demonstrations on the 12th April – the anniversary of the infamous abrogation of the country’s independence constitution and banning of political parties in 1973 – the Swazi government has gone into the panic mode.
Reacting to the growing support for planned protest actions, which were preceded by successful picketing in all the country’s major towns and cities last week led by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), the government de-registered the union – only a month after it was registered as the only trade union federation representing workers’ interests in the country.
According to the Times of Swaziland, the de-registration came after the Attorney General wrote a letter on April 5 to both TUCOSWA and the Labour Commissioner informing them that Section 27 of the Industrial Relations Act of 2000 as Amended, “…did not provide for the regulation or merger of two or more federations or trade unions, as it would seem was the case with TUCOSWA”. Additionally, the Attorney General argued that the same section of the Act “…required lodgement with the Commissioner of Labour certain facts of information in the prescribed form, which seems to have not been done”, hence comprising an irregularity in the registration process, which has duly been cancelled.
The government also issued a statement announcing that it still recognizes the now defunct Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) and the Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) – even though the leadership of these trade union bodies were effectively dissolved when TUCOSWA was launched in March.
The actions of the Swazi government are obviously linked to the upcoming protest actions slated to begin tomorrow and end on Thursday – and to the fact that TUCOSWA publicly declared its intention to intensify the workers’ struggle to topple the Tinkhundla system of government, something that was bound to provoke a harsh reaction from the authorities.
Meanwhile, TUCOSWA has declared that it does not recognise its de-registration and that the planned protests will proceed – and the influential Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) has indicated that all teachers will be in the streets tomorrow and on Thursday.
The scene is set for another showdown between the increasingly repressive Swazi State and the increasingly assertive demands of Swazi workers – and other citizens – for a more democratic and open society.