29 May 2019

While performing their core functions, the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA) officials were threatened with violence and forcefully removed from the gate of Montigny at Bhunya on the 28th of May 2019. First to charge towards the ATUSWA officials was a group of uncompromising seiwu officials who would later be joined by the seiwu and feswatu Secretary General Phendulile Zikalala who was singing and dancing in an effort to encourage her impi.

After having received calls from a lot of workers requesting ATUSWA to come organize them, the officials of the union (ATUSWA) then prepared pamphlets and distributed on the 27th of May 2019. The following day being the 28th of May 2019, ATUSWA WhatsApp and telephone lines were abuzz with messages and calls from workers demanding that the union to bring them joining forms.  Unbeknown to ATUSWA officials, seiwu officials we lying in wait  for them and as soon as they (ATUSWA official) their car was surrounded by the seiwu officials who commanded and instructed  the security personnel to remove it from the company premises  while seiwu officials threatened ATUSWA officials with violence.

Realizing that it was impossible to interact with the workers, we decided then to go to another Montigny plant which is located along the Mhlambanyatsi road. As soon as we arrived there, seiwu officials and security personnel who have substantially increased to about 30 officers also arrived. The Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) and Montigny risk Manager also arrived to join the chorus that ATUSWA should vacate the company premises. This was despite the fact that we had parked our cars away from the company premises and that is where we were also standing, waiting for workers which cannot be considered premises of Montigny. By this time the Secretary General of seiwu was hysterical claiming that she would resign from her position if ATUSWA successfully organized the Montigny employees and we are going to make sure that her wishes of resigning are realized.

ATUSWA is not going to walk away and leave these workers unorganized because we now understand why workers are saying they are not represented. The lives of individual employees are not going to be improved for as long as they are represented by a sham union. It is even hard to separate between seiwu officials and Montigny management because they sing the same tune on everything and anything.

We call on the management and shareholders of Montigny to respect the right of individual employees; respect that workers have a right not to join and or join a union of their choice. Workers are not owned by anyone, be it an individual or a group of individuals or a scheme designed to benefit a few at the expense of the workers.

We request the REPS not to allow a situation where the Police Service is going to be used, not to protect and safeguard the law but to break it. The right to Freedom of Association is an indispensable right which must not only be protected but also enhanced by state organs. We further call on the police service to consider having specialized officers on labour related matters to prevent a situation whereby the REPS would be unwittingly used to suppress the right of workers.

The primal objective of a  genuine trade union organization is to protect the right to Freedom of Association and any organization purporting to be representing workers and yet refuse to accept that workers has a right to choose a union of their choice is a sham. Seiwu in not even an affiliate of our federation (TUCOSWA) and we do not consider their alleged members as organized workers. Actually, the workers themselves have indicated that they do not feel organized, since they never even joined seiwu in the first place.

We finally call on government to call Montigny and seiwu to order. The image of the country cannot afford to be further tainted by such gross worker rights violations.


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