Less than a week after Swaziland was reported to be among the top ten worst nations in the world for workers’ rights, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has told Swaziland it must stop interfering in the activities of trade unions; ensure workers’ organizations are fully assured of their rights and ensure they have the autonomy and independence they need to represent workers.
The ILO also joined other respected international organizations in calling for the immediate release of jailed lawyer and writer Thulani Maseko, who is serving a two-year jail sentence, some of it in solitary confinement, after writing magazine articles critical of the Swazi judiciary.
The ILO has placed Swaziland in a ‘special paragraph’ in its report to highlight the deficiencies in the kingdom’s commitment to freedom of association.
Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King selects the government and top judges. People, including trade unionists, who speak in favour of democratic reform are arrested and jailed as ‘terrorists’ under the kingdom’s Suppression of Terrorism Act.
The ILO has been meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. In its final report it urged the Swaziland Government ‘without further delay’ to:
1 Release unconditionally Thulani Maseko and all other workers imprisoned for having exercised their right to free speech and expression;
2 Ensure all workers’ and employers’ organizations in the country are fully assured their freedom of association rights in relation to the registration issue, in particular register ATUSWA [Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland] without further delay;
3 Amend Section 32 of the Industrial Relations Act to eliminate the discretion of the Commissioner of Labour to register trade unions;
4 Ensure organizations are given the autonomy and independence they need and fulfil their mandate and represent their constituents. The Government should refrain from all acts of interference in the activities of trade unions;
5 Investigate arbitrary interference by police in lawful, peaceful and legitimate trade union activities and hold accountable those responsible;
6 Amend the 1963 Public Order Act following the work of the consultant, and the Suppression of Terrorism Act, in consultation with the social partners, to bring them into compliance with Convention 87 [Concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise];
7 Adopt the Code of Practice without any further delay and ensure its effective application in practice;
8 Address the outstanding issues in relation to the Public Services Bill and the Correctional Services Bill in consultation with the social partners;
9 Accept technical assistance in order to complete the legislative reform outlined above so that Swaziland is in full compliance with Convention No 87.
SWAZILAND IN TOP TEN WORST FOR WORKERS