The decision by Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister, to ban the proposed protests next Tuesday (12 April 2011) could have far-reaching consequences for the kingdom’s economy, according to the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO).
Already, Dlamini has been under fire from union leaders for making the ban without any legal justification.
In a statement, issued today (8 April 2011), SCCCO goes further and says that the PM’s threats jeopardise Swaziland’s fragile economy by attacking the basis of much foreign aid and the ability to trade. European Union funding and access to privileges under the United States’ African Growth and Opportunities Act all are dependent on respect for Human Rights in general and Workers’ Rights in particular.
Below is the full statement.
Coalition Warns PM on Economy and Human Rights.
The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations expresses its utmost concern at the statement of April 7 by the Swazi Prime Minister, Barnabas Dlamini purporting to ban legal protests by some of its members. The language used in the statement is so at odds with good governance, respect for human rights and common sense that it can only mark a return to the aggressive and bullying tactics that are the hallmark of this government. It poses profound risks for the economy as well as human rights.
The PM’s threats further put into jeopardy the country’s fragile economy by attacking the basis of much foreign aid and the ability to trade. European Union funding and access to privileges under the United States’ African Growth and Opportunities Act all are dependent on respect for Human Rights in general and Workers’ Rights in particular. Under the Prime Minister’s leadership, the country has been placed on the International Labour Organisation’s warning list for its Labour Rights record. Any further abuses of those rights could mean that AGOA privileges will be withdrawn. This then puts at risk the factories in Matsapha and other industries that will no longer be competitive and will close. Without them Swaziland’s export industry will further collapse and one of the pillars of the Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap will be gone. Therefore the IMF will not be able to sign the necessary letters of comfort and our access to international development loans will disappear. The PM and his advisors have been warned. It is not the protesters that are putting the economy at risk, it is him and his government.
The Coalition was among those who applauded the mature and measured response that was shown by the Royal Swaziland Police around the March 18 protests and we note that the international community was similarly impressed. We would remind the Prime Minister and the leaders of the security forces that all protesters, whether sanctioned by the government or not, still have rights under the constitution and international law and we expect the Security Forces to respect those rights and restrain themselves to using minimum, if any, force. It is the duty of the security forces to protect all the people of this country, not just the government.
Any breaches of protesters’ human rights will be prosecuted through the courts and we will expect the help of the Human Rights Commission. We are prepared to take individual officers, soldiers and policemen to court where they will have to answer to a judge for their actions. We would like to remind the members of the security forces that ‘I was just following orders’ is not an accepted defence.