Statement by CUPE 3903 Executive – We Stand in Solidarity with the Pro-Democracy Movement in Eswatini

Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is the only absolute monarchy in Africa. King Mswati III, who has ruled since 1986, controls all arms of the state: the executive, legislature, and judiciary. Recently, a peaceful protest movement has erupted in the country, calling for enhanced democracy, including the ability to form political parties, the ability to elect a Prime Minister rather than having one appointed by the King, and an end to police brutality. The movement also has economic and social demands, calling for jobs, infrastructure, and better access to health care and education.

But Mswati III is responding to this movement with extreme repression and state violence. An estimated 78 protesters have been killed, with 200 severe injuries and over 700 arrests. In addition, two pro-democracy Members of Parliament have been arrested, while another is now living in political exile. The two arrested MPs are being tried by a judge who is a member of the royal family.

The Eswatini economy is characterized by extreme inequality, with 63% of the population living on less than $1 US/day, while the royal family diverts public resources into their own coffers, directing the economy for their own benefit, and for that of well-connected businesses. Unemployment is at 22%, while youth unemployment is at a staggering 46%.

CUPE 3903 believes in the principles of democracy, internationalism, and economic equality. As such, we:

  1. Stand in solidarity with the protesters in Eswatini.
  2. Condemn the state violence meted against unarmed civilians.
  3. Call for the mobilization of humanitarian aid to support the citizens who continue to be impacted by the civil unrest.
  4. Urge Canada to open their borders to Swazi citizens seeking asylum.
  5. Call for a boycott against international corporations whose business interests are protected by the King’s authoritarian rule.