1 March 2013

Swaziland: Court Blow for Labour Federation

The Industrial Court in Swaziland has backed the government and declared the kingdom's only labour federation illegal.

The court said that the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) was improperly registered.

The row over the legality of TUCOSWA has been continuing since shortly after it was formed in March 2012, following the amalgamation of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) and the Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL).

TUCOSWA became embroiled in controversy after it declared it would not support the national election due to take place in Swaziland this year, at a date yet to be announced by King Mswati III. It also took a leading role in street protests for democracy that took place in April 2012.

TUCOSWA was deregistered in April 2012.

Majahenkaba Dlamini, the Swazi Attorney General, revealed at the time of deregistration that the Commissioner of Labour had incorrectly registered TUCOSWA. He said although there was provision in the Industrial Relations Act 2000 to register individual trade unions no mechanism existed to register federations such as TUCOSWA. He instructed TUCOSWA to be deregistered.

This ruling came as a surprise because TUCOSWA was born out of the amalgamation of the Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) and the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), both were federations and were registered and recognised by the Swazi Government.

The UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) called for Swaziland to be suspended from the Commonwealth after the Swazi Government deregistered TUCOSWA.

This week (26 February 2013), the Industrial Court ruled in favour of the government and confirmed TUCOSWA had been improperly registered.

After the ruling, TUCOSWA Secretary General, Vincent Ncongwane, told local media the ruling meant workers had no federation to represent them.

'Government's actions show that in its eagerness to frustrate the operations of TUCOSWA, it has rendered the whole national industrial relations arena to shut down.'

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