Friday, November 6, 2009


Many people, including children, are forced to work without pay in Swaziland for members of the ruling elites.

And the Swazi law allows this to happen.

In effect a form of serfdom exists in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Swazis are forced to work without pay on projects determined by local chiefs (who are appointed by the king). These include agricultural work, soil erosion and construction and maintenance.

Swazis, seven in ten who live in abject poverty and earn less than one US dollar a day, are forced to work under the Swazi Administration Order, No. 6 of 1998, which makes it a duty of Swazis to obey orders and participate in compulsory works; participation is enforceable with severe penalties for those who refuse.

This is allowed even though the Swaziland Constitution that was enacted in 2006 prohibits forced or compulsory labour.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in a report released this week says the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) has called the administration order a form of forced labour which reinforces the traditional powers of chiefs to demand uncompensated labour from citizens and apply punishment in case of refusal.

The ITUC says that although statistics are not collected there is a lot of evidence to show that people are trafficked for forced labour in Swaziland.

‘It is believed that trafficking in girls and women largely concerns cases of domestic servitude and prostitution and in men and boys, forced labour in commercial agriculture and market vending,’ the report says.

The problem of trafficking in Swaziland was highlighted by the United States in August 2009 when it threatened to withdraw up to 200 million dollars in aid unless Swaziland enacted a law to outlaw trafficking.

As I reported in June 2009, women and children in Swaziland are bought and sold for sex, domestic servitude and forced labour, Swazi boys are trafficked for forced labour in commercial agriculture and market vending. Some Swazi women are forced into prostitution in South Africa and Mozambique after voluntarily travelling to these countries in search of work

After the threat from the Americans, the Swazi Government has passed a law in an attempt to curb trafficking.

The ITUC also reported that Swaziland has the worst record on workers’ rights in the Southern African Customs Union region.

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