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Eswatini: ITF condemns violent attacks on transport workers

17 Nov 2022

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has called on the Government of Eswatini to end violent attacks on transport workers.

Last week, on10 November, Eswatini’s armed forces opened fire on a group of transport workers protesting the arrest and detention of five colleagues, leaving several injured. According to reports, three people were hospitalised with gunshot wounds.

The ITF is increasingly worried about reports from our affiliate Swaziland Transport Communication and Allied Workers Union (SWATCAWU) about state violence against workers exercising their basic civil liberties, and the violence used by Eswatini authorities to stifle dissent.

Stephen Cotton, ITF General Secretary said, “The ITF condemns the actions by the Eswatini authorities and the denial of fundamental workers’ rights and civil liberties. Transport workers’ keep Eswatini moving, the brutal attacks by the armed forces opening fire on bus drivers are an attack on both workers and the economy.”

“Murders of transport workers have increased over the past year, in 2021 a bus driver was shot dead and another injured as drivers took part in a wage protest. The ITF will hold the Eswatini authorities accountable to its actions at all international levels including the International Labour Organisation (ILO),” said Cotton.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary said, “We condemn this latest case of violence against transport workers. We are deeply concerned that the government attacks continue to undermine its obligations to the ILO and disrupts people’s working lives. The authorities must return to working with the ILO and social partners to ensure that there is a climate of respect for civil liberties and freedom of association and that social partners can effectively contribute to addressing the cost of living crisis which is leading to crippling poverty with no social protection to support workers.”

“We implore the Eswatini government to stop the violence, respect the right to peaceful assembly and engage in meaningful dialogue with the people of Eswatini to build a democratic and resilient society,” said Burrow.

Eswatini is one of the ten worst countries in the world for workers according to the 2022 ITUC Global Rights Index.

The demands of the Eswatini trade union movement for peace, stability and a democratic government include:

  • An end to the ongoing intimidation, threats of arrests, raids, unprovoked brutal beatings of the members of the public by the police, soldiers and agents of the government.
  • The release of all protestors in detention.
  • An independent investigation under the supervision of the ILO into the killings and attacks on peaceful protesters, and those responsible be identified and brought to justice in fair trials.