Trade unionists and democracy campaigners in Swaziland are angry at an apparent attempt by the Swaziland King and his government to create a ‘puppet’ organisation to represent workers at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) meeting, presently taking place in Geneva.
News is emerging from the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, that an organisation called the Swaziland Workers Economic Empowerment Union (SWEEU) has been formed by Royalist supporters to take the place of TUCOSWA (the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland), a trade union confederation deregistered by the government in April 2012.
Activists believe SWEEU has been created so it can attend the ILO in Geneva as Swaziland’s formal representative of workers in the kingdom. Swazi unionists and democracy activists say TUCOSWA is the only group that should be allowed representation in Geneva. Despite the deregistration they believe TUCOSWA is the legitimate representative of Swazi workers.
The Swaziland Diaspora Platform (SDP), a prodemocracy activist group, said SWEEU made a formal application to the ILO for recognition, but it was turned down.
In a statement, SDP said it was ‘in disbelief’ that the Swazi government had tried to ensure its ‘puppet’ trade union attended the ILO conference.
In the UK, Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), said, ‘This latest risible attempt to prevent the voices of ordinary Swazis from being heard will be rejected by everyone who believes in democracy and workers’ rights.’
The Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) called the SWEEU, a ‘mysterious organisation’ comprised of ‘completely unrepresentative stooges who have been in secret talks with the regime for some time’.
TUCOSWA was registered by the Swazi Government in March 2012 but deregistered within weeks after TUCOSWA announced it would be campaigning against holding the 2013 national elections, because all political parties and opposition groups are banned in Swaziland and cannot take part.