It looks like the Swaziland Minister of Labour and Social Security has been exposed in the court of public opinion.
Magobetane Mamba went to appear before a committee of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, to defend Swaziland’s ‘reputation’ when it came to labour rights.
The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, reported that Mamba was ‘taken aback’ when representatives of Swaziland trade unions said ‘human rights were undermined in Swaziland, to the extent of refusing workers a right to protest’.
Mamba has a very short memory. You only have to think about how police fired teargas and rubber bullets at textile workers who were engaged in a perfectly lawful strike in March 2008 to see that Mamba is simply not telling the truth. (Click here for reports on the textile dispute).
Mamba told the Observer, ‘We made the committee on industrial matters aware that Swaziland allows industrial protest action to take place, but only if workers abide by the law.
‘We told the committee that labour organisation chiefs had never been arrested for labour related issues, but had been taken in for questioning for political statements they had made.
Mamba said most of the allegations by the labour organisations lacked evidence and were exaggerated.
But the ILO wasn’t born yesterday. In its official report of the meeting it ‘noted with concern’ (diplomatic-speak for ‘thoroughly condemns’) the acts of violence ‘carried out by the security forces and the detention of workers for exercising their right to strike’.
The ILO went on to forcefully remind the Swaziland Government of the importance of ‘the full respect of basic civil liberties such as freedom of expression, of assembly and of the press’.
The ILO told the Swaziland Government it was its responsibility ‘to ensure respect for the principle according to which the trade union movement can only develop in a climate free from violence, threat or fear’.
The ILO went n to demand that the Swazi Government release any people in the kingdom who have been detained ‘for having exercised their civil liberties’.
To read more on the ILO response to the Swaziland Government click here.