Only Swazi trade union deregistered

2012-04-05 15:00

Swaziland has closed down its only labour union, which had threatened to lead a protest against Africa’s last absolute monarch, King Mswati III, federation leader Mduduzi Gina said today.

“Yes, we have been deregistered. We have convened a meeting with the minister (of labour) on the matter,” said secretary-general of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (Tucoswa).

Tucoswa had threatened to bring the small mountain kingdom’s economy to a standstill during protests planned for next week.

The fledgling federation was formed last month when the nation’s two biggest labour movements joined forces.

The Swaziland Federation of Labour and the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions had deregistered in anticipation of the merger.

King Mswati III, who turns 44 on April 19, has faced growing criticism and unprecedented public protests since last year due to a financial crisis that has pushed the kingdom to the brink of bankruptcy while he is accused of lavish spending.

Pro-democracy activist Wandile Dludlu said authorities were trying to sabotage next week’s protests since the two labour organisations that merged no longer exist.

“This is a crackdown on the pro-democracy forces as a means to weaken the forces for change in light of the upcoming April 12 protests,” said Dludlu, who coordinates the umbrella Swaziland United Democratic Front organisation.

The protests would go ahead despite the setbacks, he said.

More than 3 000 students took to the streets at the end of last month when Mswati cancelled scholarships.

Pro-democracy groups commemorate April 12 since the late King Sobhuza II, Mswati’s father, banned political parties on that date in 1973.

Mswati is rated by Forbes magazine as among the world’s 15 richest monarchs, with a personal fortune of more than $100 million (about R777 million). He has 13 wives, each with her own palace.

About 60% of his subjects live on less than two US dollars a day in one of the world’s poorest nations, which is bordered on three sides by the continent’s economic powerhouse South Africa.

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