Press Release

AFL-CIO Condemns Threats Made by Swazi Prime Minister to Union Leaders

WASHINGTON, DC (August 7, 2014) — Today, the AFL-CIO condemned remarks by Swaziland Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini, calling for the strangulation of union representatives participating in a White House summit on Africa.

“The AFL-CIO deplores the threat made by Swaziland’s Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini calling for the strangulation of union and human rights leaders who traveled to Washington, DC to participate in the civil society events of the Africa Leaders Summit,” said Cathy Feingold, Director of the AFL-CIO’s International Department. “The AFL-CIO joins the global labor movement in raising serious concerns over the Swazi government’s increased attacks on unionists and human rights activists and the continuing deterioration of worker and human rights in the country.”

Mr. Dlamini’s threat is particularly ominous given the 2010 death of trade unionist Sipho Jele, who was imprisoned for supporting a pro-democracy party and then found dead in his cell. While the Swazi Government claimed it was a suicide, pathologists found signs the man had been strangled.  

The two men threatened are Vincent Ncongonwe, the Secretary General of the democratically-formed Swazi trade union TUCOSWA, which the government refuses to recognize, and Sipho Gumedze from Lawyers for Human Rights. They came to the Africa Summit to draw attention to the ongoing plight of Swaziland's workers and communities, who struggle under profound repression. All political parties are banned and royal decrees give the police sweeping authority to detain and arrest individuals who speak out. In late July, the General Counsel of TUCOSWA, Thulani Maseko and magazine editor Bheki Makhubu were convicted of contempt of court for, respectively, writing and publishing a magazine article criticizing the notoriously corrupt Swazi judicial system.

The ongoing, systematic violation of fundamental worker rights led the United States to suspend Swaziland’s trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act this July.

“The AFL-CIO calls on the Swazi government to immediately end threats and attacks against unionists and human rights activists, release imprisoned leaders and take the needed steps to comply with international commitments,” said Feingold.

Contact: Anthony DeAngelo (202) 637-5018