Thursday, November 5, 2009


Swaziland has the worst record on workers’ rights in southern Africa.

Things are so bad there is child labour and forced labour throughout the kingdom.

A report just published by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) says the law in Swaziland restricts workers’’ rights to organise and restricts trade union rights to collective bargaining. Freedom of association is also severely restricted.

‘In Swaziland, the law does not allow strikes, and the police use excessive violence to repress any strikes that take place, arresting unionists and their leaders and using torture to obtain information,' the ITUC found.

The trade union leadership faces civil liability for damages or income losses caused during a strike and the police have made excessive use of violence to repress strikes, the report says.

The ITUC studied all countries in the Southern African Customs Union (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland) and found Swaziland stood out as the ‘worst offender’ by a long way.

The Afrol news agency from Norway says the ITUC found the exploitation of child labour in all the SACU members remains an unrecognised problem, largely due to social norms that tolerate and foster it. Except for South Africa, governments are insufficiently active in addressing the problem. Child labour is found chiefly in informal economic activities and in agriculture, while child prostitution and trafficking are also reported in the entire region.

The report says there has been some progress on the issue of forced labour in SACU countries, with the exception of Swaziland where the government has institutionalised forced labour on the ‘grounds of tradition’ in order to build infrastructure or undertake cultivation at no cost [for example, weeding the gardens of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch]. Current laws provide for the duty of Swazis to ‘obey orders and participate in compulsory works.’ Participation is enforceable with severe penalties for non-compliance.

While all of the SACU member states are found to violate core labour rights, the ITUC team was especially shocked by standards in Swaziland, whose government seemed to categorically violate all labour rights.

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