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Banned Swaziland Trade Union Vows Demonstration

Activists demonstrate in the streets of Swaziland capital, Mbabane (file photo)
Activists demonstrate in the streets of Swaziland capital, Mbabane (file photo)

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  • Clottey interview with Vincent Dlamini national organizer of the banned Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA)

Peter Clottey

A leading member of the banned Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) said its nationwide demonstration will proceed Thursday, despite a court-ordered ban.

TUCOSWA national organizer Vincent Dlamini said the group aims to present a petition to Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini demanding democratic reforms and an immediate end to the group’s ban.

“We intend to present a petition to the prime minister’s office, if we would be allowed to get there. But if they disperse us violently, then of course we will disperse. But our intention is to go and make our demands known to the head of government,” said Dlamini.

“[This is] to call for broader democracy in Swaziland as well as to denounce the ban by government of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland, which is the only labor federation in this country.”

Attorney General Majahenkaba Dlamini said the government has obtained a court order banning the demonstrations. The administration contends that the organizers have failed to meet what it called the legal “industrial relations” requirement for the planned nationwide protests.

Some Swazis are expressing concern the protests could lead to violent clashes between state security forces and the pro-democracy and labor union activists.

Dlamini pledged TUCOSWA demonstrators will not instigate any violence.

“Our intention is a peaceful protest march. But we can see on the streets that the security forces are fully packed… all three branches, which is the police, the prisons, and the soldiers are there,” said Dlamini.

“We do not wish to see our people getting injured. It is the government that is violent, and we want the whole world to be aware of that, that Swaziland government is very violent against peaceful protests. Because we are protesting peacefully…but we cannot guarantee that [violence] won’t happen.”

Asked why TUCOSWA would choose to hold the protest in defiance of the government ban instead of seeking a dialogue, Dlamini said senior administration officials have refused repeated attempts to engage in talks.

“There is no one to talk to. We have been available to discuss issues even the discussing of the ban concerning the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland...but the government is refusing. They are telling us that [the ban] is an order and that we must comply,” said Dlamini.

“On the issue of democracy, they are telling us that that will never happen while they are still alive.”

Last month, several trade union organizations merged to form TUCOSWA. Within weeks, the government placed a ban on it, declaring it was a politically active organization. Political parties are banned in the tiny Southern African kingdom.

Critics say the Swazi administration has stifled political opposition by pressuring human rights organizations, trade unions, and civil society groups and banning all political parties.

Analysts say King Mswati III’s level of power is so significant - despite the 2006 reintroduction of a constitution - that the country can be considered an absolute monarchy.

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