EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AFR 55/01/95
UA 174/95 Fear for safety 14 July 1995
SWAZILAND Jan Sithole, trade union leader
Jan Sithole, the secretary general of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions
(SFTU), has received anonymous telephoned death threats during July 1995.
The threats have occurred in the context of increasing tension between the
government and the unions.
There have been a number of disturbing incidents during the past year indicating
that Jan Sithole's life is under threat. In August 1994, during a strike by
sugar cane plantation workers, the police detained him for about 5 hours.
During January 1995 he received a number of telephoned death threats, in which
the caller said that his days were numbered if he continued to frustrate and
challenge the authorities. The following month three men in plain clothes
came to his home one night looking for him. He was not at home. After waiting
for about 30 minutes the men left in vehicle which carried the police emblem
on its doors. A witness noticed that one of the men had a gun concealed inside
his jacket. The phoneline to the house had also been cut.
At 1 am on 3 June 1995 the police came to his home and handed him a letter
from the Chief Immigration Officer ordering him to surrender his passport after
he returned from a trip abroad where he was to attend an International Labour
Office (ILO) conference. Following his return to Swaziland, he was summoned
to appear before the Citizenship Board to be questioned about his nationality.
The government claimed that he was a Mozambican and were threatening to deport
him. The hearing before the Citizenship Board was postponed until 20 July 1995.
Unionised workers in Swaziland announced on 9 July 1995 that they will embark
on a national "mass stayaway" on 17 July unless the government accedes to "27
demands" which the trade unions submitted to the government in 1993. They include
issues relating to unfair labour practices, work conditions and wider societal
concerns including the harassment of journalists. During the past year there
have been a number of strikes and stayaways called over the government's failure
to respond to the "27 demands", and more recently over a draft Labour Relations
Bill which will add new restrictions on freedom of association. Political
parties are still banned in Swaziland and the trade unions have increasingly
been forced into a position of articulating more widespread opposition to
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters either in English or in your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of Jan Sithole, secretary general of the
Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, who has received anonymous telephoned
death threats as a consequence of his trade union activities;
- expressing concern that these threats appear to be part of a pattern which
have included arbitrary detention by the police and surveillance by armed men
who may be acting with the acquiescence of the police;
- urging the authorities to order an impartial investigation into these abuses
and to bring the perpetrators to justice promptly;
- urging the government to ensure that the rights of non-violent freedom of
expression and association are fully respected.