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TUCOSWA should be emulated : Swaziland workers and the trade union organisations are making history by electing to form and build one unifying national labour centre

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20/03/2012 

TUCOSWA had given the African trade union movement an example worthy of emulation. Kwasi Adu-Amankwah, GS ITUC-Africa

The formation of TUCOSWA will foster change politically by denouncing the Tinkhundla policy and demanding multiparty democracy.

TUCOSWA stands for Trade Union Congress of Swaziland.

This is the view of Barnes Dlamini, former president of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU).

Dlamini is President-in-waiting of the new congress.

He was the only nominee for the post of President.

Addressing attendants at the first TUCOSWA Congress at Esibayeni Lodge yesterday, Dlamini said the organisation shall challenge any policy, cultural or otherwise, that would seek to marginalise women in all spheres.

The Swaziland National Association for Teachers (SNAT), Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) and Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) have converted to form one organisation, TUCOSWA.

"The formation of this Congress represents an enormous victory for the working class of our country. In a few weeks, we shall be putting our heads together, not only to make sure we reach Mbabane, Manzini or Lozitha but to strategically engage and concretise on our action plan as a unit. What needs to be clear to all and sundry is that indeed, a giant has risen and will confront all that stands in its way," Dlamini said.

"We are ready to shape up the economic policy. We have the capacity, the strength and the zeal if we are to confront it as a unit. Our problem as workers in Swaziland is now beyond shop-floor politics. It is a spill-over effect of a useless and dying system of the central government. We cannot look the other way anymore under the pretext of respect the Swazi way, we shall confront it as a unit and I assure you victory is certain after that."

To loud applause, Dlamini said TUCOSWA was seized with the task of engaging workers in the general democratic struggle, both as an independent organisation and also as an essential component of the democratic forces of Swaziland.

He said TUCOSWA would remain a gender-based and sensitive organisation.

"We shall forever seek to protect and further the interests of all workers. We shall endeavour to encourage mergers within the affiliates of the federation, for in unity we are guaranteed strength, in unity we are guaranteed victory. We believe and subscribe fully to the ILO Convention 87 and 98, on the freedom of association and assembly, but we shall forever be on the lookout to safeguard and protect our unity from tendencies that seek to plant disunity among the workers," he said.

He said they did not come together for the fun of it but ‘rather for the power to change policy.’

He continued: "We shall continue in our drive to foster change politically by denouncing the Tinkhundla policy and demanding multiparty democracy. We are ready to shape up the economic policy for we have the capacity, the strength and the zeal if we are to confront it as a unit."

Dlamini ended his speech by announcing that the organisation would not tolerate misconduct.

"We won’t tolerate unbecoming tendencies. We shall continue with the help of our international allies to capacitate willing comrades in all spheres. This federation will need willing and committed cadres in their plight to deliver on their mandate. We have achieved our goal as the workforce to unite, regardless of whatever difference we might have had in the past, but it doesn’t end there. Organising, education and class consciousness should inform the core foundation of our federation," he said.

Dlamini then extended his appreciation to the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and British unions for facilitating the process to unite the organisation.

"Please allow me to thank ACTSA for facilitating a meeting between us and unite the union. Allow me again to thank COSATU for their passion for the Swazi story. Thank you so much we know you have serious problems of your own and thus very busy, but within that limited schedule you always find time for us. We are greatly humbled by your gesture," he said.

No politics, just human rights

Austin Muneke, Executive Secretary of the Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) said the duty of the newly formed TUCOSWA is to ensure social justice prevails.

TUCOSWA stands for Trade Union Congress of Swaziland.

Muneke said this during the TUCOSWA’s founding congress held at Esibayeni Lodge.

He was among guests who had attended the congress. About 300 delegates were present.

In his speech, he said the launch of the new federation was indeed a major achievement in the history of the trade union movement in the country.

He said what was most fundamental was the restoration of a democratic dispensation that allowed civil liberties and political pluralism as well as to guarantee the rights and security of the citizens. "Again, we reiterate that the Kingdom of Swaziland is bound by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Treaty which commits member states to uphold the principle of human rights, democracy and rule of law," he said.

"We want to observe zero harassment and interference in business of trade unions by state apparatus."

He said they wanted to see Swaziland doing the right thing and bringing progress to the people, including workers.

"The government of Swaziland has to strive to be removed from the special paragraph it was placed during the 100th International Labour Organisation International Labour Conference held in June 2011 for persistently violating ILO convention 87 on Freedom of Association and the Right to Organise," he said.

"To secure social justice, trade unions shall remain apolitical as they demand equality, solidarity, human rights and dignity of every human being regardless of race, sex, creed or political affiliation." Muneke said the issue of human and trade union rights and the attendant challenges were real and deserved serious reflection and a strategic approach.

"A disturbing trend in the SADC region is that human rights violations are on the increase, slowly overshadowing the gains made by the winds of democratic change sweeping across the region," he said. "This trend is not acceptable in a region that claims to be premised on the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The recent arbitrary suspension of the SADC Tribunal by SADC Heads of State is a dangerous precedent and a direct assault on the people of SADC and their only hope to the social justice. The trade union movement in the region has a duty to defend citizens’ rights, he said.

Muneke trusted that after the deliberations on the reports, plans and programmes for the coming years, TUCOSWA would recognise the prevailing challenges confronting trade unions and the world of work and come up with workable and practical resolutions to inform the strategic approach to address the challenges.

"I encourage you to debate these issues with honest, sincerity and tolerance as these are the most important matters in any congress," he said.

In any organisation, the issue of leadership is of great importance. It is the inspiration the members get from their leadership that makes a successful organisation.

However, the most important thing is to ensure that the new organisation provides for full representation of all, adequate internal democracy and mechanisms for ensuring that the leadership is always on course and accountable to the membership."

He had no doubt that the membership had confidence in TUCOSWA and that those who shall be trusted to steer TUCOSWA would provide the courage and wisdom to inspire the general membership to greater heights of mobilising, organising and representation of the common good of Swaziland.

‘TUCOSWA should be emulated’ Working families and the poor are forced through diverse austerity regimes to pay for the cost of the economic crisis that recently engulfed world economies.

Such was achieved though forcing African governments to implement austerity measures which were detrimental to the rights of workers and their families.

Kwasi Adu-Amankwah, Secretary-General of the International Trades Union Congress (ITUC) in Africa said these governments were forced by the International Financial Institutions, particularly the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to adopt tight fiscal policies, a euphemism for cuts in social services spending.

He said the global finance capital corporations demanded that the status quo, of less regulation, be maintained.

To achieve this goal, he said, big businesses have recruited national governments and politicians to block progressive governance reforms that are proposed.

"It is regrettable to see governments serving the interests of the markets and private businesses against serving the interests of their people and constituents," he said.

He said the merger of unions in Swaziland was remarkable in that TUCOSWA had given the African trade union movement an example worthy of emulation.

"This fit is inspiring and exemplary. It is a development that underscores the urgency and the need to close ranks in order to ensure a more effective defense, protection and promotion of workers’ interests at the national, continental and international levels." He said his organisation was proud of the new union’s achievement. "This is because like we have known, we can defeat proliferation, strengthen and increase workers power and make more effective push in addressing the concerns of distribution if we sincerely pursue the desire of building unified and strong trade union organisations," he said.

He then lauded the leadership of the union who facilitated the merger. "Egos and personal interest of trade union leaders with myopic views of situations have continued to dog and undermine merger intentions.

"My appreciation goes to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and its affiliates who have shown practical and true demonstration of their commitment to the slogan ‘One Country, One Federation.’ Today TUCOSWA is one and the only federation in Swaziland!"

"Today, Swaziland workers and the trade union organisations are making history by electing to form and build one unifying national labour centre. You were convinced about the need and urgency to merge your former organisations into one strong and formidable organisation that will work to pursue the realisation of the hopes and aspirations of working families."

source: http://www.times.co.sz/News/73425.html --- MATSAPHA

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