5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Swaziland

The ITUC affiliate in Swaziland is the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).

In practice

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Prime minister threatens trade unionists15-08-2014

In August 2014, the Prime Minister of Swaziland, Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini, publicly threatened Sipho Gumedze from the Lawyers for Human Rights and TUCOSWA General Secretary Vincent Ncongwane because of their participation in the US Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington DC. Prime Minister Dlamini made the following statement during a speech in Parliament: “They leave your constituencies and do not even inform you where they are going and once they come back and you find out that they are from your constituency you must strangle them.”

Suppression of Terrorism Act used to stop trade union activities01-05-2014

Police use the Suppression of Terrorism Act to legitimise interference in trade union activities. For example, the Act was used in May 2014 to arrest and charge activists who spoke at TUCOSWA’s May Day celebration, including student leaders Maxwell Dlamini and Mario Masuku. Both activists remain in jail and have been refused bail. Amendments were submitted for the consideration of Parliament in February 2014 but have not yet been considered. The Suppression of Terrorism Act defines terrorism extremely broadly as an act that “involves prejudice to national security or public safety…and is intended, or by its nature and context, may reasonably be regarded as being intended to intimidate the public or a section of the public; or compel the Government…to do, or refrain from doing, any act.” The terms “national security” and “public safety” are not themselves defined, leaving them open to wide and potentially subjective interpretation. Not only are these concepts capable of broad, subjective interpretation but, in addition, the element of intention is not required. Moreover, the act affords the Minister absolute discretion over the classification of organisations as “terrorist” without making this decision subject to judicial review.

Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu imprisoned25-07-2014

Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and the Nation Magazine editor Bheki Makhubu were arrested on 17 March 2014 and 18 March 2014 respectively for writing articles about the circumstances surrounding the arrest of government vehicle inspector Bhantshana Gwebu and the integrity, impartiality and independence of the Swaziland judiciary. The legality of the arrest, detention and charges was successfully challenged before the High Court, resulting in their release from custody for two days. However, they were rearrested and detained when the State appealed the ruling and are therefore again in custody. While Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu were charged with “contempt of court”, the judge convicted them to two years imprisonment instead of the ordinary 30-day sentence on 25 July 2014. Judge Mpendulo Simelane argued that “seriousness of their crimes, their moral blameworthiness and their lack of remorse or regret justify lengthy sentences of imprisonment”.

Police interfered in a peaceful protest 12-04-2014

Police interfered in a peaceful protest march organised by TUCOSWA and attended by broader civil society groups against the King’s Proclamation of 1973 and its impact on freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
and civil liberties. The King’s Proclamation was decreed on 12 April 1973 and vested the King Sobhuza II with absolute powers and at the same time criminalised political parties and similar bodies.
“I, Sobhuza II, king of Swaziland hereby declare that, in collaboration with my cabinet ministers and supported by the whole nation I have assumed supreme power in the kingdom of Swaziland and that all legislative, executive and judicial power is vested in myself and shall, for the meantime, be exercised in collaboration with a council constituted by my cabinet ministers. I further declare that, to ensure the continued maintenance of peace, order and good government, my armed forces in conjunction with the Swaziland royal police have been posted to all strategic places and have taken charge of all government and all public services […] Political parties and similar bodies that cultivate and bring about disturbances and ill-feelings within the nation are prohibited.”
TUCOSWA requested permission to hold a march but on 4 April 2014 the Manzini Municipal Council denied the federation permission by stating that “April 12 is one most contentious date on which peace and stability in the country is threatened.” The march was intended to proceed from Jubilee Park to St Theresa Hall in Manzini on 12 April 2014. Vincent V. Ncongwane, TUCOSWA General Secretary, and Sipho Kunene, TUCOSWA Deputy President, were arrested at a security roadblock mounted at Mhlaleni in Manzini on 12 April. They were detained at the Manzini police headquarters and were denied access to legal representation. Vincent Ncongwane was transferred to the Mafutseni police station 20 kilometers from Manzini. The police further arrested other groups of workers at all the various security checkpoints mounted on the roadblocks leading to Manzini, detained and later dropped them off in remote places with some having to travel long distances on foot at night to get to the nearest public road. Amongst them were the President of the National Public Services and Allied Workers Union, Quinton Dlamini, and the General Secretary of the Private and Public, Transport Workers Union, Bheki Dludlu.

Basil Thwala imprisoned11-04-2014

Basil Thwala, a paralegal officer at the Swaziland Transport and Allied Workers Union, was arrested on a picket line at the bus station in Manzini following a major bus transport demonstration organised by STAWU in July 2012. Basil was charged and convicted for offences under both the Road Traffic Act and the Public Order Act for being in the front of the bus station protest. He was arrested and taken to a police station where he was not given food or a sleeping blanket. In fact, he had to spend several nights sleeping on the cold floor. Although Basil was initially granted bail, it was later revoked on the basis that he had breached his bail conditions by travelling to a place outside the restriction stipulated in the bail terms. No witnesses appeared in court to verify this allegation. In fact, his bail revocation was pronounced by the High Court of Swaziland when he was not even present in the court. Basil eventually ended up being sentenced to two years imprisonment. He lodged an appeal two months after his conviction, but there was never any indication that it was under consideration. It took the courts less than a month to convict him, but his appeal, filed on a certificate of urgency, was never dealt with. Basil was finally released after serving his full sentence.

Violations in the transport sector31-01-2014

In December 2013, the Swaziland Transport and Allied Workers Union (STAWU) organised lawful and protected industrial action industrial action Any form of action taken by a group of workers, a union or an employer during an industrial dispute to gain concessions from the other party, e.g. a strike, go-slow or an overtime ban, or a lockout on the part of the employer. at the Matsapha International Airport in a pay dispute with the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority. Following that action, five STAWU union leaders, including General Secretary Simanga Shongwe, were served with notice of intended prosecution under the Road Traffic Act of 2007 for holding a union gathering in the airport car park. These charges still hang over them today. What is quite remarkable about these charges is that the Road Traffic Act applies to offences on public highways and the airport car park definitely does not fall into that category. In an apparent response to the airport strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, the Civil Aviation Authority made an application to the government’s Essential Services essential services Services the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population. Can include the hospital sector, electricity and water supply services, and air traffic control. Strikes can be restricted or even prohibited in essential services.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
Committee in January 2014 for a wide range of airport services to be classified as essential services essential services Services the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population. Can include the hospital sector, electricity and water supply services, and air traffic control. Strikes can be restricted or even prohibited in essential services.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
. This would bring these airport staff under special legislation restricting their right to take industrial action industrial action Any form of action taken by a group of workers, a union or an employer during an industrial dispute to gain concessions from the other party, e.g. a strike, go-slow or an overtime ban, or a lockout on the part of the employer. even further.

Police stops memorial service13-12-2013

In December 2013, police did not permit unions and other civil society organisations to hold a memorial service to mourn the death of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and to draw attention to the lack of democracy in Swaziland. About 30 police officers stood in front of the entrance of the Lutheran Church where the memorial service was planned to be held and did not allow entrance.

Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland not registered04-04-2014

Unions in the textile and apparel, mining, quarrying and related industries, and general manufacturing; metal workers; and unions in the engineering and retail, hospitality and catering sectors decided to merge in September 2013 to form the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA). Before launching its congress on 6 September 2013, the union filed its request for registration and its constitution with the Commissioner of Labour. The legal advisor of the Ministry met with the union leadership and asked for changes in the constitution. Even after complying with the requests, ATUSWA was not registered. On 2 January 2014, the union was told that it could only be registered if its constitution would be amended. The union duly responded and addressed those issues and clarified the basis upon which the application was founded. In a meeting on 4 April 2014 with the Commissioner of Labour, new issues were raised, including the name of the organisation. It was demanded that the word “amalgamated” be taken out, even though another union, the Swaziland Amalgamated Trade Union, had previously been registered without any concerns in this regard. This is one of the delaying tactics that have prevented the registration of ATUSWA for over nine months without any legitimate reason.

General Notice not implemented31-03-2014

The Government issued a General Notice in May 2013 stipulating that pending the amendment of the Industrial Relation Act (2000) that would allow for the registration of TUCOSWA, the social partners social partners Unions and employers or their representative organisations. would “work together in order to promote harmonious labour relations and ensure a conducive environment for investment and socio-economic development of the country through decent work and recognition recognition The designation by a government agency of a union as the bargaining agent for workers in a given bargaining unit, or acceptance by an employer that its employees can be collectively represented by a union. of fundamental principles and rights at work”. As a result, tripartite structures of the country were reinitiated. However, outside of the tripartite meetings, TUCOSWA’s activities and programs were continuously disrupted on the basis that the federation was not registered. Therefore, TUCOSWA requested the Government take a clear position on its status and its rights on 23 January 2014 during a Labour Advisory Board meeting. When the Government failed to respond by March 2014, TUCOSWA withdrew its participation from tripartite structures pending its registration.

Union registration19-03-2014

The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) is still de-registered. TUCOSWA has challenged the constitutionality of the government’s refusal to register the federation at the High Court of Swaziland on 11 February 2014. A hearing on the matter was scheduled for 19 March 2014, but unfortunately the government arrested the union’s lawyer two days before the hearing, forcing the union to seek a postponement of the hearing date.

Repression of trade union activities during the Global Week of Action06-09-2013

Vincent Ncongwane, General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland, was arrested and put under house arrest for attempting to stage an illegal protest on 5 September 2013. TUCOSWA fully complied with Swazi laws by announcing a protest march for the Global Week of Action on 15 August 2013 to both police and the Commissioner of Labour. The Commissioner of Labour claimed not to have received the notice and argued that TUCOSWA may not organise any protests because it is not a registered trade union federation.

Jay Naidoo, Alec Muchadehama, Paul Verryn who were invited as international experts to act as panellists during the Global Inquiry Panel Swaziland as well as Paliani Chinguwo from the Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) were questioned at the police station upon arrival in Manzini on 5 September 2013.

On 4 and 5 September police followed staff from the ITUC, COSATU, FES/DGB and Industriall around the clock. A few hours before the Global Inquiry Panel Swaziland was scheduled to begin, police and military entered the venue and blocked the meeting room. Senior police officers stated they had verbal instructions to prevent the inquiry but were not able to produce a court order.

No functioning collective bargaining institutions20-08-2013

No Wage Councils have been held for three years to negotiate wages in the commercial, retail and wholesale sectors. There is also an enforcement problem, as grievance mechanisms such as the Conciliation conciliation An attempt by a neutral third party, a conciliator, to aid the settling of an industrial dispute by improving communications, offering advice and interpreting issues to bring the disputing parties to a point where they can reconcile their differences. The conciliator does not take as active a role as a mediator or an arbitrator.

See arbitration, mediation
Mediation mediation A process halfway between conciliation and arbitration, in mediation a neutral third party assists the disputing parties in reaching a settlement to an industrial dispute by suggesting possible, non-binding solutions.

See arbitration, conciliation
and Arbitration arbitration A means of resolving disputes outside the courts through the involvement of a neutral third party, which can either be a single arbitrator or an arbitration board. In non-binding arbitration, the disputing parties are free to reject the third party’s recommendation, whilst in binding arbitration they are bound by its decision. Compulsory arbitration denotes the process where arbitration is not voluntarily entered into by the parties, but is prescribed by law or decided by the authorities.

See conciliation, mediation
Commission have been unable to enforce decisions given the backlog of cases before the Industrial Court.

The Industrial Relations industrial relations The individual and collective relations and dealings between workers and employers at the workplace, as well as the institutional interaction between unions, employers and also the government.

See social dialogue
Act (section 45) also promotes the establishment of Joint Negotiating Councils (JNC) to bargain over working conditions at the sectoral level. So far, only one JNC was established in the textile industry in 2005 between the Swaziland Textile Exporters Association (STEA) and the Swaziland Manufacturing and Allied Workers Union (SMAWU). But before an agreement could be reached, the STEA disbanded as a reaction to requests by the SMAWU to negotiate pay increases.

To mislead the international community, the...30-06-2012

To mislead the international community, the Swaziland Economic Empowerment Workers Union was recognised as the body that should represent Swazi workers at the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
. The manner in which the union was established and whether it has any membership remains unclear. Yet, it is evident that it is used to undermine legitimate unions.

Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini,...10-06-2013

Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini, when addressing heads of government parastatal companies, warned that management should only negotiate with unions that are “recognised by and working within the Swazi legal system”. This implies that the government encourages managers not to negotiate with TUCOSWA.

Police raided the head offices of TUCOSWA01-05-2013

Police raided the head offices of TUCOSWA at 8 am on 1 May 2013, arresting the President of TUCOSWA, Barnes Dlamini, and the 1st Deputy Secretary General, Mduduzi Gina. Their arrests followed that of Vincent Ncongwane, Secretary General of TUCOSWA, Muzi Mhlanga, 2nd Deputy Secretary General, and Jabulile Shiba, the Deputy Treasurer General, who were all placed under house arrest that morning. May Day celebrations organised by TUCOSWA at the Salesian Sports Ground in Manzini were forced to be called off, as police prohibited workers from shouting TUCOSWA slogans or from displaying TUCOSWA banners.

Police violently stopped a prayer meeting09-03-2013

On 9 March 2013, police violently stopped a prayer meeting on TUCOSWA’s anniversary. Police, carrying batons, took control of the Caritas Centre and stopped a commemoration prayer. The Swazi Government had, without a court order, decided that the prayers, organised by TUCOSWA were illegal because the workers’ group was not officially registered with the state.

Arrests of trade unionists12-04-2013

On 12 April 2013, Wander Mkhonza was again arrested in Lavumisa Border Gate on allegations that he was in possession of seditious pamphlets belonging to a political organisation.

Charges against trade unionists13-09-2012

On 13 September 2012, the government withdrew charges against six of the seven suspended teachers who participated in the indefinite strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. The teachers had been charged with vandalism during a picket organised by the Swaziland National Association of Teachers.

The Industrial Relations industrial relations The individual and collective relations and dealings between workers and employers at the workplace, as well as the institutional interaction between unions, employers and also the government.

See social dialogue
Act (Article 40) provides for the civil and criminal liability of trade union leaders for legitimate trade union activities.

De-registration of federation27-02-2013

The Commissioner of Labour and the Attorney General decided on the de-registration of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) after TUCOSWA announced its campaign for free and fair elections. The Industrial Court ruled on 27 February 2013 that the Industrial Act does not provide for the registration of federations and asked the government to determine a modus operandi for registration together with TUCOSWA. In addition, all affiliates of TUCOSWA have petitioned the government to recognise TUCOSWA as their legitimate representative. The government refuses to meet TUCOSWA and to recognise it as a legitimate federation.

Firm rejection of a police union30-04-2010

During a ceremony on 1 April to hand over office to his successor former Police Commission, Edgar Hillary, restated his firm opposition to trade unions in the police. He stated that “a union has no place in the police service or any disciplined force. Unions in such formations can only cause division, uncertainty and anarchy”. The ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
still leaves the question of trade unions in the police and armed forces to the discretion of Member States.

Continued repression of trade union activity31-12-2010

In an interview given to a London student’s newspaper in February 2010, B.V. Dlamini, deputy secretary general of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) described the trade union rights situation in the country as follows: “When workers go on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, the government sends the police to beat the hell out of them. There are even cases where police agents were shooting the workers just because they went on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, demanding better working conditions”. The government said that it was “not going to tolerate [strikes], because it will chase [away] investors”. Mr. Dlamini also explained that while Swaziland was often one of the first countries to ratify international conventions, including ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
Conventions, it was usually also the first to violate them.

Repression in the textile sector30-11-2009

The textile sector has become notorious for its anti-labour and anti-union practices, particularly foreign-owned companies, principally from Taiwan, who employ a mainly female workforce. Any protests about their poor working conditions are dealt with severely. In March 2008, police intervened against thousands of textile workers engaged in a legal strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
to demand higher wages. The workers, mainly women, were hit with tear gas canisters, beaten heavily with batons and shot at with what were suspect to be live rounds.

Unions still refused recognition31-12-2009

The authorities have continued to refuse recognition recognition The designation by a government agency of a union as the bargaining agent for workers in a given bargaining unit, or acceptance by an employer that its employees can be collectively represented by a union. to the Swaziland Police Association (SPA) and the Swaziland Correctional Service Union (SWACU). Additionally, union activity is not effectively protected against employers’ interference, although the law protects unions from governmental interference. It has been reported that employers’ interference with workers’ councils has contributed to the failure of some trade unions to negotiate collective agreements. Furthermore, there are reports that some employers dictate which decisions are taken in the workers’ councils.

Trade unions under fire30-12-2009

In the absence of any credible political opposition, trade unions in Swaziland have been in the forefront of efforts to promote democracy. As a result, they have been a target of constant harassment and repression. Union leaders have been arrested, protesters beaten and political parties banned. Speaking at the International Labour Conference in June, the General Secretary of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), Jan Sithole reported that he had been a victim of police harassment and arrests, and that he and his family have been receiving death threats. At the end of its proceedings, the Conference’s Committee on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations of the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
devoted a special paragraph to Swaziland in its report, a measure reserved for the worst cases of rights violations.

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