Swazi crackdown on the right to organise: Free Maxwell Dlamini

Maxwell Dlamini, Secretary General of the Swaziland Youth Congress was detained last week and has been charged with sedition (actions that are deemed to tend toward insurrection against the government).

Maxwell’s arrest follows a number of events over recent years in which student unionists in Swaziland have been unable to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of arrest or harassment by the Swazi government.

When Maxwell was initially arrested, strangely enough, it was the week of my first NUS election back in 2011 and the day after my election, I was travelling out there to see old friends and complete my dissertation. I ended up at his trial and was shocked at the number of times they point-blank refused to charge him. He was detained without trial for months and eventually released on condition of the most expensive bail in Swazi history.

 

Swaziland in particular holds a special place in my heart – I spent a year there back in the third year of my degree to carry out research for my dissertation and my parents married out there too.

 

Spending a year in a place like Swaziland was the biggest honour and it is still a place I miss. I believe it has a bright future ahead, but with the continued crackdowns, I fear for its future. The UK government has to do more – imagine a society where political organisations are banned? And a state of emergency in place for over 40 years? And when the Swazi nation gave asylum to so many fleeing apartheid.

 

The re-arrest of Maxwell, the outgoing president of the Swazi NUS for organising “an elections meeting” should rightly make us angry.

 

Help LCID show solidarity today with Maxwell and the people of Swaziland, because until they have the right to organise freely – I fear for the future of this tiny but inspiring nation.

 

Help the campaign here http://www.nus.org.uk/freemaxwell

 

Written by Danielle Grufferty, Student Officer at LCID

Labour government refused to sell guns to repressive regime

The Wikileaks cables reveal that the UK Government refused a US$60M export licence for assault rifles, heavy machine guns, armoured personnel carriers and helicopters to be exported to Swaziland in 2008.

The Swaziland government is dues to spend 10% of its budget on police and the army and has, in recent years has used force to viciously subdue internal dissent. ACTSA says, “King Mswati III rules a population of just over one million people by authoritarian means; political and civic activists are threatened and imprisoned. There is less political freedom than in Zimbabwe.”

Official UK Government documents show that there was enough worry that the arms would be used by the government of Swaziland against its own people. For that reason, the last Labour Government refused the licence; an action that was exactly right.

“We are pleased that the British Government blocked this shipment of arms to Swaziland. We hope they did not get the arms from anywhere else.  The Swazi government has an appalling record of crushing dissent. For a country enduring a major financial crisis, where 70 per cent of the population live in absolute poverty, it can not be right for a government to prioritise repression over tackling poverty and supporting democracy.”

Tony Dykes, Director of ACTSA

The principle that values come before profit is an important one and one that we at LCID will be working hard to ensure the current Conservative-led Government respects.

You can find out more about this story on the ACTSA website.

Right to unionise under threat in Swaziland – act now!

ACTSA, UNISON, PCS and Prospect are joining forces to speak out against a new law to be introduced in Swaziland. The Public Services Bill will make it illegal for public officers to take part in political formations or groups. The definition of those groups has, however, been left vague.

Add your name to the petition to stop the Bill

The UK places restrictions on senior civil servants, in order to maintain the impartiality of high-level public officers. The Public Services Bill in Swaziland is not so equitably targeted. Due to the loose definition of political formations, this will preclude public servants unionising.

This is wrong: speak out to stop it

ACTSA has said:

Harassment, arrests and threats of unemployment or demotion are regular
occurrences for trade unionists and pro-democracy activists in Swaziland. The Public
Services Bill is an anti democratic measure and a further attempt by the Government
of Swaziland to prevent freedom of association and expression. ACTSA supports the
call of trade union movement in Swaziland and internationally that the Bill should be
dropped.

Contact the Swaziland High Commission to call for the Swazi Government to drop the Bill