South African trade unionists will lead the ‘biggest march ever seen in Swaziland’ next week in support of the unbanning of political parties in the kingdom.
Coastu, (the Congress of South African Trade Unions) announced that the march will be part of the Global Day of Action (fast becoming a week of activities) for democracy in Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The protests are due to take place from Monday to Friday (starting 6 September 2010).
The union’s secretary in Mpumalanga, Fidel Mlombo, said, ‘Senior leaders of Cosatu will be in Swaziland next Tuesday to meet with a coalition of trade unions in that country, including all the political parties that have been banned. We’ve planned the biggest march seen in that country in the last 30 years.
‘We will be submitting a memorandum to the government of Swaziland demanding the unbanning of political parties, removal of all laws that inhibit political activities, and an end to the harassment and torture of political activists.’
He said the coalition in Swaziland was acting in accordance with the lingdom’s Labour Relations Act, which permits them to give notice of a planned march or strike.
‘But our members who are going are aware that they might be arrested and that we might not come back. If King Mswati III orders that we must be arrested, we'll get arrested,’ he said.
In South Africa, Cosatu plans to hold demonstrations outside various police stations to encourage the government to engage in talks with its Swaziland counterparts to unban political parties.
Meanwhile, the youth leagues of the ANC and SACP have also announced that they are planning to campaign for democracy in the kingdom.
At its national general council held in Johannesburg last weekend, the ANCYL took a resolution to support the campaign for social and political justice in the kingdom.
Spokesperson Floyd Shivambu told African Eye News Service that the league was busy drafting a ‘programme of action’ to support the Swaziland nation.
The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) said it would welcome any support in its campaign to bring democracy to Swaziland.
Spokesperson Lucky Lukhele said the monarchy was ill-equipped to combat the poverty, unemployment and high prevalence of HIV/Aids that troubled the kingdom's one million people.
‘International investors are reluctant to invest in Swaziland because there is no democracy. According to statistics, Swaziland is facing high levels of inequality between the rich and the poor because more than 70 percent of the population live on less than US$1 a day, and more than 300 000 people depend on food aid.
‘We will support any intervention from outside organisations that are willing to help us achieve democracy.’