King of Swaziland Mswati III (Front) and one of his 13 wives disembark from a plane after arriving at Katunayake International airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 13, 2012. (Reuters)
King of Swaziland Mswati III (Front) and one of his 13 wives disembark from a plane after arriving at Katunayake International airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 13, 2012. (Reuters)

The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) plans Monday to appeal a court decision seeking to force the government to recognize the workers group.

Nduduzi Gina, first deputy secretary general of TUCOSWA, says there is need for the Industrial Court of Appeal to uphold the country’s constitution, which allows for the registration of workers federation groups.  Swaziland’s Industrial Court has ruled TUCOSWA cannot be registered as a workers federation.

“We would be filing our appeal against the ruling of non-recognition by the state.  We are saying we don’t agree with the ruling of the industrial court, so we are taking it to the industrial Court of Appeal,” said Gina.

King Mswati III’s government has refused to recognize the workers group, stating the Industrial Relations Act does not allow for the registration of federations, but only trade union organizations.

But leaders of the workers group disagree, saying the administration is trampling on workers’ rights as enshrined in Swaziland's constitution.

Supporters of the administration contend TUCOSWA is a political party disguised as a workers federation to destabilize the country through agitation and strikes to pressure the government in the group’s demand for democratic reforms.  Gina disagrees.

“A political agenda, we don’t know what they are talking about when they say [we have] a political agenda,” continued Gina, “We are of the view that the ruling of the industrial court should be respected if it is in our favor.”

The constitution bars political parties from participating during elections, although it allows the freedom of assembly.

“The government is claiming that Swaziland is a democratic country.  Democracy must be seen in practice and democracy must be seen by the opening of the freedom of association,” continued Gina, “if people in their individual capacities being leaders of the federation are aligned to various political parties, as a federation we don’t have a problem with that, because [the leader] ... can be aligned to any church of his choice or any football club of his choice.”  

Gina declined to comment on the prospects of TUCOSWA’s appeal to the Industrial Appeals court.

 “I may wish not to get into the question of the prospect because that would appear as though I am jumping the gun,” continued Gina, “the first ruling was to the effect that the government must call for legislative reforms that would enable a federation to be registered.”

Some observers say it’s unlikely the administration would recognize the workers group, even if the court rules in TUCOSWA’s favor.

“We are of the view that the government must recognize us ... so if then the court of appeal would find that, yes the current position of the law allows for the federations then that would be it [and] then that would reinstate the registration of TUCOSWA,” concluded Gina.

Critics say the Swaziland 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.

Clottey interview with Nduduzi Gina,TUCOSWA official