(Statement Centre for Human Rights and Development, 1 November 2011)
The case involving the deregistration of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) will be heard on 15 November 2012, the Industrial Court pronounced this morning. In this case the Swaziland government is seeking an order declaring the registration of TUCOSWA unlawful.
The organization is represented by human rights lawyer Mr. Thulani Maseko who pleaded with the court to hear the matter urgently since it pertains to the fundamental rights of workers. Mr. Maseko argued that it is at the best interest of workers, employers and government that the matter be heard and finalized soon. He cited section 4 of the Industrial Relations Act 2000 (as amended) which lays out the purposes of the Act amongst which is the promotion of harmonious relations and freedom of association and expression in labour relations.
The Swaziland government challenges the registration of the organization on the basis that the Industrial Relations Act does not include organizations such as federations. This is despite the Act having several provisions with the word federation. For example, section 2 of the Act defines a federation as a body registered in terms of the Act which is comprised of employers and or a combination of employers’ associations, trade unions or staff associations.
Furthermore, section 2 defines the terms office and officer in the context of federations. When the court sits on the 15th, the TUCOSWA will be arguing that it was properly registered as the Act includes the registration of federations.
On another note it transpired during the hearing that the parliament Swaziland is in the process of amending the Industrial Relations Act to expressly include the registration of workers’ federations. This will however mean that if judgment is issued against TUCOSWA then the union will have to reapply to register under the new Act in which case the government has an option to allow or deny the registration.
TUCOSWA was able to successfully merge the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) and the Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) to bargain collectively for workers’ rights in Swaziland. The deregistration of TUCOSWA was necessitated by the vibrancy of the organization and the huge support it had both local and international.
The case comes at a time when many Swazis are calling for the unbanning of political parties and their participation in the upcoming 2013 national elections. The government has continued to silence dissenting voices and disregard the Constitution. Last month members of parliament passed a vote of no confidence on cabinet ministers which was later withdrawn due to defiance by the ministers.
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