Swazi police arrested all members of an international panel of experts who were due to meet today (6 September 2013) to debate the role of trade unions in Swaziland.
They raided the George Hotel in Manzini where they were staying at 2am after earlier trailing them from the airport near Matsapha.
The panelists were due to take evidence and then present their findings after the hearing. They were expected to highlight the role and responsibility of trade unions and civil society in fighting against the violation of fundamental rights in Swaziland.
The South African trade union federation COSATU reported that the panel was to consist of Alec Muchadehama (human rights lawyer and activist from Zimbabwe), Paul Verryn (ordained minister of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, anti-Apartheid activist and advocate for refugees in South Africa) and Nomthetho Simelane (former Lecturer in Political Science, University of Swaziland).
It was to be chaired by Jay Naidoo, founding General Secretary of COSATU and former Minister of Communications for South Africa.
COSATU reported, 'Representatives from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) were questioned and subsequently tailed from the airport to the George Hotel in Manzini, where the panel was to meet. By 2am the place was buzzing with activity with police all over the hotel; they even asked staff about the panellists, all of whom were then arrested.'
The arrests followed the detention earlier yesterday (5 September 2013) of Vincent Ncongwane, Secretary General of the Swaziland labour federation TUCOSWA. He was taken by police from his office and placed under house arrest to prevent him taking part in a pro-democracy march in Mbabane, the Swazi capital.
The march and the panel meeting were both parts of a Global Week of Action for Democracy in Swaziland that is presently taking place.