Wednesday, April 12, 2006
SENDING A MESSAGE TO THE KING OF SWAZILAND
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has vowed to continue pressurising Swaziland to reform, despite the wounding of eight of its members by police at the Matsamo border post. Rubber bullets were apparently fired, and the police say they used minimum force as protesters blocked routes into and out of Swaziland.
Zwelinzima Vavi, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) secretary-general, condemned the police action which he termed barbaric and undemocratic.
The first article before is from News 24 (South Africa).
The second article below which comes directly from COSATU gives some background on the action.
Shots, arrests at Swazi border
Pretoria - Protesters were shot at with rubber bullets and arrested at South Africa's Matsamo border with Swaziland on Wednesday in demonstrations against the kingdom's leadership, said Mpumalanga police.
Initially, the marchers were peaceful, but then they started to blockade the roads, said superintendent Mtsholi Bhembe.
Police told them their march certificate entitled them only to picket and they cleared the road.
However, more marchers arrived soon after the police had left and the blockade started again.
Bhembe said: "It was at this point that we had to disperse the crowd with rubber bullets and arrest those who had resisted moving from the road."
Bhembe said there were no injuries in a scuffle between the police and marchers.
He said several people were arrested and charged with public violence and public disturbance.
20 arrests reported
The situation at the border post was now orderly, and business was continuing as usual, with the marchers picketing on the side of the road.
Congress of SA Trade Unions spokesperson Patrick Craven said it had received reports from Matsamo of 20 arrests, and that some marchers had to be taken to hospital after the clash with police.
Craven said five trade union leaders were arrested at the Lavumisa border post in Pongola, KwaZulu-Natal.
They were: Cosatu first deputy-president Joel Nkosi, National Union of Metal Workers of SA (Numsa) second deputy president Sedrick Gcina, National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) national treasurer Brabir Badal and its second deputy president Mzandile Makgayiba, and Cosatu KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Zet Luzibo.
Nkosana Sibuyi of home affairs said minor problems were experienced at the main border post at Oshoek and none at the Mahambo post.
"The officals at Oshoek said there was a bit of a disturbance by the chanting and singing protesters, but there were no disruptions in service there," said Sibuyi.
The protests and pickets commemorated King Sobhuza II's institution 33 years ago of the ongoing state of emergency in Swaziland, said Lucky Lukhele of Swaziland Solidarity Network.
This had allowed the curtailing of human right and political freedoms of the Swazi people, he charged.
The country is ruled by King Mswati III under a purported constitutional monarchy with the king as head of state, but the prime minister as head of the government.
Want political parties unbanned
The country's cabinet is appointed by the king on the recommendation of the prime minister. All political parties are banned.
The Swaziland Solidarity Network was demanding a democratically elected national constitutional forum and the unbanning of all political parties, said Lukhele.
It also wanted the unconditional release of all political prisoners, the return of exiles, and the removal of laws prohibiting free political action and the right to organise.
Swaziland border posts to be blockaded
The leadership and members of COSATU, the Swaziland Solidarity Network, the SACP, YCL, ANCYL and SASCO, will be holding demonstrations and blockades at the four border posts between South Africa and Swaziland on Wednesday 12 April in support for the oppressed people of Swaziland in their struggle for freedom, democracy and human rights.
The people of Swaziland are living under a state of emergency that bans political parties and outlaws all forms of political activity, including all the rights and freedoms of the people to organise, associate and speak on issues affecting the country and their lives. Only members of the royal family and their friends have rights in Swaziland; the rest of the people are objects of royal slavery and economic exploitation by the tinkhundla system
We support the demands of the people of Swaziland - the workers, women, youth and rural landless masses, and the political movements and churches. Through mass action and organised resistance, they have openly declared their untiring commitment to a society based on respect for human dignity, democracy and social justice.
For their commitment to these noble ideals, they have become victims of extreme police brutality and torture, state violence, and daily persecution by agents of royal rule. They have been arrested, forced into exile, thrown out of their land of birth, lost their jobs and means of livelihood, and denied opportunities in every way possible.
Therefore, the democracy-loving people of the world, South Africans in particular could not stand by and watch as fellow people suffer the brutality of the tinkhundla royal regime disguised as "Swazi culture and tradition", when in actual fact it is the interests of the ruling royal minority.
We are in solidarity with the struggling people of Swaziland in their quest for a truly democratic society based on the ideals of economic justice and social progress for all. It should be a society free from the stranglehold of royal monopoly, but must guarantee the full and effective participation of all people in the running of the country's daily affairs.
The people of Swaziland have made it very clear that only a constitution produced by a democratic and popular process, involving all the people of Swaziland and their organisations, can be acceptable and democratic.
The current constitution was made by the royal family and their friends. It was made under conditions of massive arrests and torture of political activists, particularly members of PUDEMO and SWAYOCO, workers, youth and women and rural landless people, like the people of Kamkhweli and Macetjeni.
The conditions under which the constitution was made could not guarantee free speech and the right to organise. The media and judiciary were and still are controlled by the king and are not independent, whilst the security forces are instruments of intimidation, harassment and terror against political activists who want democracy and change.
Therefore, we stand by the people's demand for a democratically elected National constitutional Forum to write a legitimate and democratic constitution for Swaziland. The current constitution has also been rejected by the international community of civilised humanity, and our duty is to intensify its rejection and the demand for a new and democratic one.
Our demands are not separate from the demands of the struggling people of Swaziland, which are:
A democratically elected National Constitutional Forum
Unbanning of political parties
Unconditional release of all political prisoners and the return of all exiles
Immediate removal of all laws that prohibit free political activities and ban the rights to associate, organise and speak freely.
Prem Fakun, from the Africa Desk of the ICFTU suggests that you write to the Commonwealth Secretary-General pressing him to review the organisation's position regarding democratisation in Swaziland. He visited Swaziland a short time ago to address the new Parliament when he heaped priases upon the King and the democratisation process!! Herewith the particulars:
Rt Hon. Don Mckinnon
Marlborough House, Pall Mall,
London SW1Y 5HX, UK
Phone: +44 (0)20 7747 6500
Fax: +44 (0)20 7930 0827