12 April 2023
Cleopas Sipho Dlamini
Dear Prime Minister,
REPRESSION OF TRADE UNIONISTS AND THE MURDER OF TRADE UNION AND HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER, THULANI MASEKO IN ESWATINI BY THE STATE
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC); the main Labour centre which has over fifty-six Industrial unions in Nigeria as its affiliates condemns in the strongest terms the brutal and gruesome killing of trade union and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko on 21 January 2023 in your country. We are horrified by the continued intimidation, assault, harassment and arrests of trade union officials; the extra-judicial killings of more than 80 workers and protesters since June 2021 and the banning of public gatherings. These violent onslaughts have continued unabated despite outrage by patriotic citizens and groups in your country.
The atrocious deployment of the instrument of terror available to the state to terrorise and hound trade union leaders have also come to our notice. The regrettable inclusion of the name of Comrade Sticks Nkambule; the Secretary General of the Swaziland Transport, Communication and Allied Workers Union (SWATCAWU) in the 11th January Publication of the Police as a wanted person over spurious allegation of criminal conduct. This follows the union’s announcement of an Industrial action proposed for the 13th and 14th days of December, 2022 to demand for improved wages and working conditions of the workers.
The violent disruption of legitimate trade union activities has become alarming and totally unacceptable. Recently, we received the heart wrenching report of;
- the vicious attack and dispersal of a trade union workshop at the Global Village Guest hotel on the 18th day of November 2022.
- the shooting by State Security agents resulting in life threatening injuries on the 11th day of November 2022 of Kayise Qwabe a former national executive member of the Swaziland Communication Workers Union (SCWU)
- the torture and inflicting of injuries by agents of the state security apparatchik on Denzel Maziya; a student of John Wesley High School on the 17th day of November 2022.
The NLC is seriously worried that the State under your leadership has deliberately decided to subject comrade Mbongwa Dlamini, President of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) in October 2022 to untold deprivations by the stoppage of his hard earned Salary while the constant threats have forced him into hiding/exile for fear of his life. Recall that earlier in April 2022, Mbongwa’s home was attacked by security forces with live bullets.
We frown seriously at your government’s threats to stop the collection and remittance of trade union subscriptions for SNAT members especially the cessation of the check-off system for SNAT’s new members. These are continued attacks on the rights of workers to freely associate, organise and collectively bargain which run counter to African Charter on Human rights and the various conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
We decry the continued suppression of democratic rights and various freedoms of the citizenry and workers under your government viz:
- the perfidious banning of Public gatherings and protests in October 2021
- the odious flagrant defying of a Court order lifting the ban in February 2022
- The security forces deployed around the country continue to use brutal force against citizens who are conducting their business.
- The use of instruments of fear to hold citizens hostage and cow them into silence.
We were also informed that your government in October 2021 in furtherance of its reign of terror brutalised Public Sector workers on their way to hand over a petition demanding a living wage; scores were injured while many others sustained life threatening injuries as a result of tear gas canisters and rubber bullets fired into the buses conveying them.
Prime Minister Sir, , the above incidents are clear indications of a disturbing inclination to rights abuses and violations; a lack of respect for the rule of law, civil liberties and human rights in your country which is contrary to your obligations under ILO Convention 87. We are deeply concerned that the climate of fear and violence is aimed at preventing trade unionists and human rights defenders from exercising their responsibilities of defending and protecting the rights of workers and citizens of Eswatini. This in our view is a complete negation of the spirit of the agreement between your government and the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland’s (TUCOSWA) which demands that parties submit such disputes for mediation through the ILO under Case No.3425 pending before the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.
It is important that you understand that the pursuit of democracy includes its demand for activation in our workplaces. The demand by workers therefore for democratisation of all facets of life is in keeping with the tenets of democracy universally and cannot be criminalised by the State as it remains a legitimate pursuit. The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) reminds all of us that “…considered that a system of democracy is fundamental for the free exercise of trade union rights.”and that ‘a genuinely free and independent trade union movement can only develop where fundamental human rights are respected”.
Consequently, the Millions of Nigerian workers represented by over 56 Industrial Unions under our umbrella demand an immediate end to the on-going intimidation, extrajudicial killings, threats, arrests, raids, and unprovoked attacks and brutal physical assaults on workers and others engaged in the exercise of civil liberties and the release of those arrested and in detention. It is important that the government immediately withdraws its attack dogs from the streets of Eswatini to remove the pall of fear that has enveloped your nation to allow the reign of freedom and the liberation of the civic space.
We demand that your government urgently takes step to bring the culprits of these treacherous attacks to book and at the same time we state that if discernible action is not taken by your government to halt the decimation of workers and peoples’ rights in your country, we shall be forced to work with others to seek the creation of an independent Panel to investigate these current atrocities in your country by the international community.
Finally, while we urge your government to immediately speed up the ILO-initiated mediation process and engage in meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders to address the pressing issues of abuse and violations of democratic and workers rights that face your nation, we demand an end to impunity and arbitrariness in the engagement of social partners in your country and an immediate return to the due processes and obedience to the rules of engagement and mutual respect in Eswatini’s Industrial relations sphere.
Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja Esq., mni
cc: United Nations Human Rights Council: InfoDesk@ohchr.org cc United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association:
cc: The African Union Commission: firstname.lastname@example.org
cc: African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR): email@example.com cc: SADC secretariat: firstname.lastname@example.org
cc: Commonwealth Secretariat: email@example.com cc: EU-EEAS delegation in Eswatini: firstname.lastname@example.org
cc: Phila Wiseman Buthelezi, Minister for Labour and Social Security: email@example.com cc: Minister of Industry and Commerce: firstname.lastname@example.org
cc: Mabulala Maseko, Minister of Public Service: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org cc: TUCOSWA: email@example.com