Thursday, March 31, 2011


Swaziland construction workers suffer from lack of health and safety support from their bosses, delays in payment of salaries, low wages below the government gazette rates, and they continue to work in difficult conditions with no freedom, according to Building and Wood Worker’s International (BWI), the global construction union.

The following article published today (31 March 2011) on the BWI website, reports on a trip made by a BWI ‘mission team’ to Swaziland.


Swaziland: ‘We are still using socks instead of gloves’

In a country where human and trade union rights have been wanting, health and safety conditions at workplaces remain worrying in construction sector. The Secretary General of the construction union brother Mtshali Selby sums it all in the following words, “We are still using socks instead of gloves”. In a sector where accidents rates are reportedly higher, is no surprise that lack of trade unions rights has created a gap for employers not to provide personal protective equipments.

“Most of the construction workers are not aware of the OHS [Occupational Health and Safety] Act and the role of OHS safety representatives”, reiterated Sis Zodwa Lukhele, the Education Coordinator of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU). Noting that BWI has been supporting the Swaziland Forestry Union (SAPAWU) discussions emerged on how the trained representatives from SAPAWU can work with the construction union especially in aspects of occupational health and safety.

Among challenges recorded were delays in payment of salaries, lack of labor inspectorate, low wages below the government gazette rates and those unionists continue to work in difficult conditions with no freedom.

The mission team also visited Peak Timber limited, a wood industry, where the team discussed challenges of HIV/AIDs at workplace and learnt importance of workplace campaigns and wellness program on aspects of Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT). The mission also listened to challenges facing the forest and wood sector including retrenchments, outsourcing as well as repositioning of the industry in a competitive sector. It was noted from the discussion with management at Peak Timber that in future forest and wood workers need to be retrained. Future areas for union work include lobbying for retraining and new skills for the workers who are likely to serve new products lines that are emerging in the sector. Role of forest certification in workplace safety audit was also mentioned.

The mission team that visited Swaziland on 9 and 10th March included Yngve Daoson and Dennis Henningsson from LOTCO and Africa and Middle East BWI Education Officer Paul Opanga. The mission team made courtesy visit of Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) and held discussion with Secretary General Mduduzi Comfort Gina of SFTU on the trade union situation in Swaziland.


The youth of Swaziland are ready to take to the streets in an uprising to ‘topple’ the royalist regime of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

But, a veteran Swazi human rights campaigner fears that if they do take to the streets they will provoke another Soweto and be massacred.

The following is from the Mail and Guardian newspaper, South Africa, today (31 March 2011)


31 March 2011

Mail and Guardian

Swazi youth plan North Africa-style uprising

The youth of Swaziland are planning a North African-style uprising in the country on April 12, a former Swaziland National Union of Students (Snus) president said on Thursday [31 March 2011].

Pias Vilakati told journalists in Johannesburg that the youth were not looking for any reforms from the current government.

"Everything has been said and done. We want total change of the system of government in Swaziland. We [are] looking for a total democracy. We will not move from the streets until the dictatorship is removed," he said.

"We are being inspired by the uprisings in Northern Africa."

The uprising would be led by Snus and the youth.

Vilakati, who currently lives in South Africa, had to leave Swaziland in May [2010] after being accused of terrorism.

In February 2010, he was arrested for leading a protest on scholarship issues.

Vilakati claimed he was tortured while in police custody.

"They put a plastic bag over my head and tortured me," he said.

After that, he said he was warned that he would be killed if he ever led a protest march against the government again.

Vilikati said he led another march at the funeral of Sipho Jele, a member of the People's United Democratic Movement, which is banned in Swaziland.

"I knew after that I had to leave the country. I had to hide and escape, some comrades hid me in the hearse and got me out of Swaziland.

"If I go back they will kill me," he said.

Facebook group
A facebook group called the "April 12 Swazi Uprising" had been started to help mobilise people.

"Facebook is where we can come together and speak freely about the problems," Vilikati said.

According to its description on Facebook, the group: "is the voice of the people on the streets who are sick and tired of the misrule by the Swazi regime and the snail pace and lack of action by Swaziland's so-called progressive".

It pledges to, in the next few months create the biggest mass movement that the country has ever seen.

"2011 will also mark the year when we will topple the royalist regime," the page said.

Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) coordinator Musa Hlophe said the uprising could turn out similar to South Africa's 1976 Soweto Uprising.

"If our kids take to the street they will be massacred," he said.

"We just hope that it doesn't happen."

Hlope said April 12 had historical significance for the Swazi people.

It was the day King Sobhuza II, who headed the Swazi nation from 1921, announced that the repeal of the Constitution and that he had assumed supreme executive, legislative, and judicial powers.

Hlope said government leaders needed to tell King Mswati III to allow the youth to march.

He said Mswati's army was already planning for the uprising and had recruited 500 new members.

Vilikati said student unions in South Africa would march in solidarity with those in Swaziland on April 12.

Swazi civil society and trade union leaders on Thursday said the crisis in Swaziland was being ignored by the rest of the world.

SCCCO founder Mandla Hlatshwayo said people were not getting assistance from the state and living in the most "frightening conditions".

"There is massive corruption within government ... Swaziland is in the middle of a huge financial crisis," he said.

Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini had cut workers salaries, eliminated old age pensions and funds were being channeled to the royal household.

Hlatshwayo said 70% of Swazis were living on less than $1 a day and the national health system was failing.

The country had the world's highest per capita HIV infection rate and an average life expectancy was 30.

On March 18, thousands of public-sector workers and supporters marched through Swaziland's capital, Mbabane, to demand that the prime minister and his Cabinet step down.

- Sapa


The Norwegian MP at the centre of a row over his support for Swaziland has poured petrol on the flames with his latest statement.

Arne Haugen, who has just ended a three-day visit to the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is reported in local media saying, ‘My three day trip in the country has given me a very strong impression of the Swazi people. The trip has been full of laughter, which is a result of the friendliness of the people. I am going to be a good ambassador for Swaziland in the Norwegian Parliament.’

Africa Contact, a Danish NGO, has already protested about previously published statements from Haugen, in which he appeared to support the despotic regime of King Mswati.

It is urging that letters of protest be sent to the Norwegian High Commission in South Africa.

Peter Kenworthy, of Africa Contact, writing in his stiffkitten blog today (31 March 2011), says, ‘This praise of Swaziland, an absolute monarchy where political parties have been illegal since a State of Emergency was introduced in 1973, and where police and security forces clamp down heavily on any peaceful manifestations of protest against the lack of democratic reform, is rather surprising from an official Norwegian delegate.

‘Especially as Norway usually advocates human rights, and because Norway’s Ambassador to South Africa, Tor Christian Hildan last August compared Swaziland to apartheid-South Africa and spoke of the “growing problems and lack of human rights and freedom of speech in Swaziland.’

See also



The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), the premiere media freedom organisation in Swaziland, has criticised the Swazi Government’s attempts to censor free speech on the Internet, in particular in Facebook groups.

MISA says, ‘Such threats only serve to instil further fear among citizens who are already constrained and unable to express themselves freely through the traditional media, which is heavily censored by the government. The social media have become the only platform where Swazis can freely express themselves without fearing retribution from the government.’

Below is a statement issued by MISA.


Swaziland: Government Threatens Online Activists With Prosecution

The government of Swaziland has and continues to threaten with prosecution people who are expressing themselves using popular social media networks such as Facebook.

The government has accused the Facebookers of being too critical of the government and ruling elites in Swaziland.

On 25 March 2011, Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini assured Senators in Parliament that his government would track down, arrest and prosecute one Gangadza Masilela, whose Facebook postings have been critical of the status quo in Swaziland and the leadership in the country. Masilela, who is believed to be using a pseudonym, has a large following on his Facebook page.

Parliament recently urged the government to do something about Masilela as his Facebook postings were deemed too critical of the country’s leadership. In response, the PM said the government would track down, arrest and prosecute Masilela.

Other Facebookers have used the network to mobilize and call for a political uprising on 12 April.

Having seen the uprisings in the Arab world where these social networks have been used to mobilize people to rise up and demand political changes from their governments, the jittery Swazi government is taking no chances and is trying to track down those calling for the Swazi uprising.

Some of the Facebookers have dared the government to arrest or prosecute them. So far no one has been arrested in connection with comments in the social media.

MISA-Swaziland condemns any threats to citizens for expressing themselves as this violates people’s right to free expression as guaranteed and protected under Section 24 of the national constitution.

Such threats only serve to instil further fear among citizens who are already constrained and unable to express themselves freely through the traditional media, which is heavily censored by the government. The social media have become the only platform where Swazis can freely express themselves without fearing retribution from the government.

MISA appeals for tolerance and respect for citizens’ right to free expression. No one should be arrested or prosecuted for exercising his/her right to freedom of speech.

See also