The newly-formed Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) has been deregistered by the government which is claiming it was incorrectly registered in the first place.
This means TUCOSWA, the only trade union federation in the kingdom, is not recognised by the state and cannot represent unions and workers on any issues.
Speculation is rife in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, that the deregulation came in retaliation after TUCOSWA resolved it would oppose the national elections due in 2013. TUCOSWA said the elections were fake because all political parties and opposition groups are banned in Swaziland and cannot take part.
Majahenkaba Dlamini, the Swazi Attorney General, revealed this week that the Commissioner of Labour had incorrectly registered TUCOSWA when it was formed last month (March 2012). He said although there was provision in the Industrial Relations Act 2000 to register individual trade unions no mechanism existed to register federations such as TUCOSWA. He instructed TUCOSWA to be deregistered.
This ruling comes as a surprise because TUCOSWA was born out of the amalgamation of the Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) and the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), both were federations and were registered with and recognised by the Swazi Government. If the present ruling concerning TUCOSWA is correct then neither the SFL nor SFTU should have been registered.
Also, business federations such as the Federation of Swaziland Employers and Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Swaziland Business Community are registered under the same Act.
TUCOSWA is due to take part in national protests on Thursday (12 April) as part of a wider campaign organised by pro-democracy groups in the kingdom.
Pro-democracy activist Wandile Dludlu told the AFP news agency, ‘This is a crackdown on the pro-democracy forces as a means to weaken the forces for change in light of the upcoming April 12 protests.’ Dludlu, who coordinates the umbrella Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) organisation, said protests would go ahead despite the setbacks.
The suspicion that the move to deregistered TUCOSWA was political follows a resolution by the federation to oppose next year’s elections, taken during its founding congress in March. The resolution stated, ‘The current system of governance in Swaziland is one that is undemocratic, repressive and dictatorial and that the federation, shall cause for a total boycott of the national elections in 2013 unless the elections are held under a multiparty system.’
The Swazi News newspaper reported that following this decision, the acting Commissioner of Labour Khabo Dlamini wrote to TUCOSWA complaining the resolution was ‘purely political’ and stating that TUCOSWA was not permitted to engage in politics.
‘The Commissioner of Labour wishes to express her shock and dismay at the sudden change of the objectives for which TUCOSWA was registered. We view this as a serious misrepresentation of facts, which were material and influenced the commissioner in granting registration of the federation,’ she wrote.
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