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The following is a letter written by Paul Moist, CUPE national president, to Barnabas Dlamini, Prime Minister of the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland, demanding a return to constitutional and democratic order, as well as an end to violations and abuses of human and workers’ rights.

September 6, 2010

Dear Prime Minister,

On the occasion of Swaziland’s National Day, a day that should normally be one of celebration for all the people of Swaziland, I write to you on behalf of the Canadian Union of Public Employees to express our deep concern about the continuing suppression of democracy and freedom of expression in your country.

Swaziland is a signatory to the African Union’s Charter on Human and People’s Right, International Labour Organisation Conventions, Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Principles and Guidelines on Democratic Elections, as well as signatory to other bilateral and multilateral mechanisms for the promotion of democracy and human rights. However, what we currently witness in Swaziland is a culture of gross infringement, violations and abuses of the human and workers’ rights it has pledged to respect, protect and promote.

This letter is therefore sent with serious concerns about the prevailing democratic situation in Swaziland that has seen a constitutional reform process shutting out progressive voices and interests groups, and criminalizing dissent. We wish to point out that the 2003 constitutional reform process, undertaken under the state of emergency, has closed out trade unions and progressive civil society groups and has further consolidated powers in the Monarchy, thereby eliminating effective checks and balances for good governance.

We note that since 1973 Swaziland has been placed under a state of emergency, which has banned all political parties and ended the right of workers and citizens to assemble freely save with prior police authorization, which is seldom granted. Further, we note with serious concern the existence of legislation permitting 60 days detention without trial; legislation which has been serially abused by security agents to hound people holding contrary views into jail.

Today, all over the world, persons of good conscience and friends of Swaziland, including trade unions, Church organizations, women’s organizations, students’ and youth organizations, civil society organizations, political movements, rural communities and cultural organizations, are staging international protest actions as a mark of solidarity with the struggle of the people of Swaziland, and to make the following demands:

  • The abrogation of the over 37 year old Public State Emergency and the removal of all laws that prohibit political assembly
  • A quick return to multi-party democracy and a democratic popular participatory constitutional reform process through a convocation of a democratically elected National Constitutional Assembly
  • The true promotion and realization of a fairer distribution of national wealth through pro-poor and pro-people policies, programmes and public expenditures
  • Full respect for and implementation of ILO Conventions, to be done in full consultation and participation of trade union organizations
  • An independent and free media and judiciary, as well as the unconditional release of all political prisoners and return of all political exiles

These demands represent the irreducible minimum of the various demands pursued by the workers and people of Swaziland. We add that we will continue this campaign until change comes to Swaziland and its people.

Yours truly,

Paul Moist, CUPE National President