The South African Federation of Trade Unions sends a message of support and solidarity to the estimated 100 000 Swazi workers who have begun a campaign of mass action, led by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), and its affiliates.
SAFTU also condemns the violence unleashed on protesters by the police.
On Tuesday 18 September protesters flooded the streets of four towns, and in the march in Manzini alone at least ten were confirmed as having been injured by rubber bullet shots or blows from police batons.
Workers, mainly in the public service, are on strike in protest against the government’s refusal to award them a 6.5 percent cost of living adjustment. The strike paralysed business and led to schools being closed around eSwatini, as Swaziland is now called.
The unions defied an order by acting Prime Minister Vincent Mhlanga to abort the industrial action in order to give a chance to resume stalled negotiations, and TUCOSWA has already announced that the strike and marches will continue.
SAFTU applauds the courage shown by the workers in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, in which unions are not legally recognised and any opposition from workers or communities is brutally suppressed.
The strikes erupted just as King Mswati’s regime was in the middle of holding sham ‘tinkhundla elections’, to give a thin veneer of respectability to his dictatorship while keeping the people oppressed. The second round of these rigged elections are scheduled for Friday 21 September 2018.
Mswati is trying to force the people to participate in these charades. That is why he set his police on unarmed peaceful workers who are exposing these bogus ballots for what they are – a bid to pretend that he is democratically accountable, while retaining his absolute power.
In line with its founding principles of international workers’ solidarity, SAFTU pledges its full support for the Swazi workers struggle and urges South African unions to be ready to act in solidarity and respond to any appeal from their comrades in eSwatini for solidarity at the borders.