Times of Swaziland
16 May 2011
Police detain 10 unionists
SITEKI – Ten unionists were on Saturday detained by police after they were found holding a meeting which the police declared illegal.
The unionists were meeting in the Swaziland National Association of Teachers’ offices.
The meeting which was due to start at 9 am eventually took off at 10 am only to be disrupted by the police shortly thereafter.
The union officials were taken to the Lubombo Police Regional Headquarters, where they were kept for an hour before being released.
The unionists were from SNAT, the Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) and the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU). According to people who were present at the scene, the 15 police officers on this particular operation arrived aboard four vehicles. Six of the officers are then said to have entered the offices and found the meeting in progress.
Barnes Dlamini, President of the SFTU was also present.
The police disrupted the meeting a few minutes after Dlamini’s arrival.
"There were 15 of them and they were armed," said Sifiso Mabuza, who is part of SNAT executive committee at branch level.
According to Musa Sifundza, the Secretary of SNAT at branch level, the officers wanted to know who the chairman of the meeting was.
Dlamini was fingered as the chairperson. Dlamini is then said to have been questioned on the purpose of the meeting. The police also wanted the names of all those present.
"We were then taken to the police headquarters where we were detained for about one hour before they released us," said Mabuza.
Mabuza said while at the police station, they were kept in the conference room.
He said they were not interviewed but Dlamini had been interviewed earlier. He said after an hour they were released but elected not to continue with the meeting as they could not guarantee the safety of their members.
Dlamini could not be reached for comment yesterday as his mobile phone rang unanswered.
...meeting was illegal – police
SITEKI – The Royal Swaziland Police has said the meeting which was interrupted by the police on Saturday was illegal.
Inspector Steven Dlamini, the police assistant Public Relations Officer, said the unions did not report to police that they would be holding such a meeting.
He said police also learnt that some of the ‘members’ who attended the meeting were not real union members.
"The police received a call that there was an illegal meeting going on and surely enough, we found that some of the attendees were in fact not members of the said organisations," said Dlamini.
When asked why they were detained, Dlamini said the union members were not detained but were briefly interviewed and released.
"That was just 30 minutes. You wouldn’t call that an interrogation," said the assistant PRO.
‘Unions do not need police permission to hold meetings’
SITEKI – SNAT Secretary General, Muzi Mhlanga said labour unions do not need police permission to hold meetings.
Mhlanga was speaking after hearing that members of SNAT, SFTU, and SFL were detained by police after they were found holding a meeting at the Siteki SNAT offices.
According to police assistant Public Relations Officer, Inspector Steven Dlamini, the members did not seek permission to hold such a meeting, adding that some of the people present in the meeting were not union members. Mhlanga, however, said the meeting also incorporated other people who are being targeted to be unionised such as hawkers or street vendors and emphasized it was not a political meeting.
"If they want us to ask for permission then they are contradicting themselves as we follow the Industrial Relations Act. By saying we need permission, they are sending us back to the Public Order Act of 1963," said Mhlanga.
He condemned the action of showing up with guns referring to it as ‘intimidation’.
We will report this - NAPSAWU chief
SITEKI - Vincent Dlamini, the Secretary General for the National Public Service Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU), said the issue of unionists being detained would be reported to the international community.
"I will be attending an international labour conference and this is one of the issues we will report," said Dlamini. He accused the police of intimidation and said it is such action that shows that there is no freedom of association in the country. "These intimidation tactics are similar to those being employed in Zimbabwe," said Dlamini.