general strikes in swaziland

map of swaziland

1997, february 1 - 26 - unionists strike again for democratic rights
the 83,000-strong swaziland federation of trade unions (sftu) ended an incredible 26 day general strike after the government released four imprisoned union leaders. it was part of an ongoing, union-led struggle for basic democratic rights in swaziland. the strike began with a 48 hour general strike to force the government to introduce basic democratic rights in swaziland. the government's reply was to arrest four union leaders on the eve of the strike, provoking the sftu to extend the general strike indefinitely.

although the strike was eventually called off, workers have promised monthly two-day strikes to force change. the union leaders are currently suing for wrongful arrest. an important development in the strike was international support: cosatu, south africa's coalition of unions, organised rallies and border blockades, whilst the international confederation of free trade unions called for protests from its members in 137 countries. the swazi government, ruled by absolute monarchy, continues to try to ban the activities of the sftu and 17 other union organizations.

more coverage is also available from the africa policy information center.

1996, january 22 - ? - general strike met with government repression

police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in the two main cities of swaziland on tuesday, the second day of a nationwide strike called to demand democratic reforms. labor leaders said at least six demonstrators were injured in the clashes at the capital of mbabane and the industrial center of manzini. police said demonstrators shot and critically wounded two officers. soldiers and police patrolled the two cities, while supporters waited outside a mbabane courthouse for news of three strike organizers who were arrested monday under an anti-strike law passed earlier that day.

shops, factories and utilities remained shut down tuesday, said vusi ginindza, news editor of the independent times of swaziland newspaper. labor unions are calling on king mswati iii's government to legalize political parties banned since 1972. swaziland, sandwiched between south africa and mozambique, has enjoyed relative peace and stability under its non-party political system. mswati rules by virtual decree, with the government rubber-stamping his decisions. political leaders are chosen through a complex system of public meetings. while most swaziland citizens respect the monarchy, a vocal pro-democracy movement comprising labor unions and university students has pushed for changes in line with western principles spreading through other parts of africa.

"the strike will continue until the government agrees to the unions' demands, which include creation of a constitutional assembly to begin the shift to a multiparty system," jan sithole of the swaziland federation of trade unions said before his arrest. sithole, the union federation's secretary general; richard nxumalo, the federation's president; and jabulani nxumalo, the assistant secretary-general, were detained under the new industrial relations law, which includes stiff jail sentences and fines for organizing and inciting illegal strikes. "the three were charged with public violence and could be held without a trial," said their lawyer, paul shilubane.

from the world history archives, published by hartford web publishing.

due to the short attention span of most news media, additional information about this strike has been difficult to find. if you have information about when and how this event concluded, please e-mail me.

1994, january - general strike to demand union and political rights

the swaziland federation of trade unions (sftu) launched a 2-day general strike in support of 27 demands for more union rights, affirmative action, and basic political rights. this was followed by a strike wave that rocked shop floors across the country. most were successful. however, the government failed to take negotiations over the 27 demands seriously.

the world : africa : swaziland