Swaziland

“As young people, we want liberation now, because the injustice to Swazis has long overstayed its time.”

After a coup and 22 years of authoritarian rule, The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh conceded power in elections on December 1. We can learn from The Gambia that we are stronger united than divided, says Swazi activist Bheki Dlamini.

Swaziland and The Gambia are two of Africa’s smallest nations, both less than 20.000 km2 and with populations below 2 million. Both got their independence from Britain in the 1960s, and both are more or less engulfed by, and to a large degree dependent on, a much larger and more powerful neighbour. 

Members of the Media Workers Union of Swaziland (MWUS) protested low wages, management intimidation and poor working conditions at the Swazi Observer. Negotiations between the paper, in effect owned and controlled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, and MWUS had started in April. But no real progress has been made since they became deadlocked in June.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), campaigning groups and labour-supporting members of the European parliament launched protests this month about the continued harassment and jailing of trade unionists and democracy campaigners in Swaziland. ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow has noted that, in Swaziland, “Violations against the fundamental rights of workers have become systemic”.

Thousands of Swazi people marched through Mbabane on September 5, burning images of Swaziland's absolute monarch King Mswati III. Protesters sung freedom songs and chanting slogans against his agenda of pay freezes and cuts to student allowances. Striking public-sector staff, who took part in the rally, called for increased taxes on the monarch and his wealthy cronies instead of welfare cuts. The rally kicked off the Swaziland United Democratic Front's Global Week of Action. Over the next six days, workers planned to stage a series of strikes.
The deputy president of Swaziland’s People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) Sikhumbuzo Phakathi was arrested on September 6 at the Phongola border post. The arrest came as Swazi police and soldiers were deporting a delegation of South African activists from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC). Pudemo president Mario Masuku was detained before the start of a protest march on September 7 to mark the global day for democracy in Swaziland. He was “escorted home” by police to prevent his participation.
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