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IMPROVING WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN SWAZILAND
note from the editor WELCOME TO THE WINTER EDITION OF ACTSA NEWS In this issue of ACTSA News we reflect on the Marikana Mine tragedy which took place in August 2012 at the Lonmin platinum mine, and look at the context surrounding the events which have shaken the mining industry in South Africa. Peter Bailey of the National Union of Mineworkers South Africa will address the ACTSA Conference following the AGM on 3 November.
The articles in ACTSA News do not necessarily represent any agreed position of ACTSA itself.
The ‘Focus’ article looks at ‘Improving women’s rights in Swaziland,’ an exciting new project being run with the Foundation for Socio Economic Justice and Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly. The project, which is supported by the Big Lottery Fund, aims to have a significant impact on the lives of rural women, enabling them to claim their rights and reduce the discrimination they suffer at a local and national level.
Swaziland is in crisis but is often overlooked. It is a priority for ACTSA. Women there have few or very limited legal rights, they suffer domestic violence, poverty and in a country which has the highest rates of HIV and TB in the world women are at greatest risk and carry the greatest burden.
I hope you find the article on pages 6-9 informative.
Women demonstrating in Swaziland Cover photo credit: Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly (SRWA)
ACTSA’s Annual Fundraising Dinner takes place on 30 November this year. It is a highlight in the ACTSA calendar and guests will be able to enjoy delicious food and wine, entertainment and bid on a wonderful array of prizes at our auction. So support ACTSA, make sure you don’t miss out on what is sure to be a wonderful night, you can book your tickets online, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 020 3263 2001.
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I would also ask you to take a few seconds to complete the Swaziland action card on the back page. We want as many people as possible to fill out our postcard calling on the British government to prioritise the denial of democracy and rights in Swaziland. Last but not least, I would like to thank all those who took part in the ACTSA supporter survey, we were overwhelmed by the response and you can read more about our findings on page 14.
020 3263 2001 Joey Greene, Fundraising and Communications Officer
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Swaziland in constitutional stalemate Parliament, leaders of Swaziland’s business community, trade unions and other civil society organisations have called for the government to abide by a no-confidence vote and quit office. The cabinet, led by Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini, suffered a vote of no-confidence in the Swazi House of Assembly in early October and according to the Constitution the cabinet should have resigned within three days, or they would be sacked by King Mswati III. Dlamini made it clear that the cabinet would not go and the King has not sacked the ministers he appointed. The decision has seriously undermined parliament and the constitution, and counteracted claims that Swaziland is not an absolute monarchy. The no-confidence vote came after the government closed down some Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) services after complaints from MTN that the SPTC was undercutting their high prices. MTN, which both the King and the PM are large shareholders, currently has a monopoly over mobile phone services in the kingdom.
Angola elections Angola held its second national elections since the end of the war in 2002. The governing party the MPLA got nearly 75 per cent of votes. The turnout however had reduced to 63.7 per cent, down from 87 per cent in 2008. Full coverage of the Angolan election is in the Angola Monitor, published quarterly by ACTSA. You can get a copy, become a subscriber via the ACTSA website or email email@example.com
MARIKANA MINE MASSACRE
Intimidation increases in Zimbabwe as terror groups re-establish ahead of elections Zanu PF is alleged to be re-instating ‘terror groups’ ahead of elections expected to take place early next year. There are 6 main groups, among which is Alshabab in Kwekwe, which the MDC has accused the Minister of Defence, of being behind. An increased military presence has also been seen in rural areas of the country, prompting fears that the political violence and intimation seen during the 2008 elections will return.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma becomes the first female leader of the African Union Commission South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma becomes the first female leader of the African Union Commission. On 15 October Dlamini-Zuma took over from Jean Ping as head of the pan-African bloc’s executive committee at the inauguration ceremony in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. AU chairman and President of Benin Thomas Yayi Boni wished Dlamini-Zuma “great success.”
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IMAGE: MARIKANA WORKERS ON STRIKE / CREDIT: AZAD ESSA/ AL JAZEERA
On 16 August a group of miners from the Marikana Mine in North West Province, South Africa who had been on strike for a week were protesting. 34 were shot and killed by the South African police. In the week preceding this 10 people had been killed at incidents around the mine including two policemen and two security guards from the mine. The strike was called off on 20 September when strikers accepted a 22 per cent pay increase and a one off payment. President Zuma has set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by a judge to complete its work in four months and report by the end of January 2013. The killings of 16 August shocked South Africa and the world. It is almost certainly South Africa’s greatest post apartheid crisis. The terrible events have highlighted: • The situation in the mining industry in South Africa and the demands for decent pay and safe working conditions. • The socio economic conditions that many miners and their families, especially those who have migrated live in. 28 of the 44 killed were from the Eastern Cape, approximately 900 km (600 miles) away.
• The inadequate response and actions from mine owners to supporting socio economic transformation in the mining industry and generally with corporate social responsibility schemes described in one study as window dressing with no real impact or benefit to communities near the mines. • Labour relations in the mining industry, the tension between trade unions and the ability of unions to both represent and lead their members. • The actions and response of the police to demonstrations. • The perception that corruption is tolerated. • There is a growing sense of powerlessness and alienation from mainstream political processes in South Africa. Democratic South Africa is a great achievement. The terrible events around the Marikana mine show South Africa as well as having achievements has many challenges and reducing poverty and inequality is urgent and key. Ending apartheid and achieving democracy was never easy. To reduce poverty, inequality and achieve greater dignity will require as much vision, determination, commitment and leadership as the struggle for political and civil rights.
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THIS FAILURE BY GOVERNMENT TO CHANGE UNJUST LAWS MEANS THAT WOMEN IN SWAZILAND ARE NOT PROTECTED BY THE LAW AND FACE THE MOST HORRENDOUS LEVEL OF DISCRIMINATION THROUGHOUT THEIR LIVES
IMPROVING WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN SWAZILAND ACTSA has just launched a major new project in to improve women’s rights in Swaziland. Over the next four years we will be working with the Foundation for Socio Economic Justice and Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly to empower women to improve their rights on a local and national level and push for the reform of unfair laws that discriminate against them. Here we explain why the project is needed, how it will work and what it will achieve.
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IMAGE / SRWA MEMBERS PREPARE THE WOMEN’S DAY MEAL FOR THEIR SISTERS / CREDIT: SRWA
Mark Beacon- ACTSA Campaigns Manager
A quick glance at Swazi legislation might suggest that women’s rights in Swaziland aren’t really that bad. The government have happily signed a number of international conventions and accepted international funding and support meant to reform discriminatory laws. Sadly this is all a façade, designed to show the world the government’s ‘commitment’ to gender equality. In reality repeated promises to women’s groups that reform is on the way have amounted to nothing, and the Swazi government sticks with the well utilised stock phrase that the long awaited reforms are ‘in the pipeline’. This failure by government to change unjust laws means that women in Swaziland are not protected by the law and face the most horrendous level of discrimination throughout their lives, which is permitted by the law, just because they are women. Swaziland operates under a dual legal system. Its constitution recognises both formal written laws and uncodified traditional law, administered by local chiefs and ‘National Courts’. Whilst some limited rights are included in the constitution, for those living in rural areas it is the traditional law that governs their daily lives.
Under Swazi traditional law a woman is considered the property of her father until she is married. On her wedding day she becomes the ‘first daughter’ of her husband. She will be expected to work the land, raise a family and take care of her extended family. If she is in an abusive relationship, she will have little choice but to remain with her husband as if she leaves she will have nowhere to live and no money. When he beats her she will be told it is a sign of affection. There are no laws to protect her against domestic violence and the traditional ‘National Courts’ are likely to refer her back to her family where she will be told to keep ‘family secrets’. If her husband decides to abandon her and have another relationship or family elsewhere, she will be expected to remain with her in laws and support them. She will still be the property of her husband. If he returns and is ill she will have to care for him and if he dies she will have to pay for his funeral. She won’t acquire his property because she is a woman, and is likely to be thrown out of her home as is the case for 50 per cent of widows. Following her husbands death she will be expected to enter a period of mourning, lasting sometimes over two years, when she will dress in black and cannot be seen in many public places.
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Swaziland is classified as a lower middle income country, but two thirds of the population live below the poverty line. It has the highest HIV/AIDS and TB rates in the world and one of the lowest life expectancies. It is hardly surprising that the HIV rate for women is higher when so few have the right to negotiate safe sex. As women are treated as minors under the law, most are denied the opportunity to speak out against their plight and challenge those in authority. Those who do speak out are often accused of being members of banned political parties, so can expect to receive a fine or be condemned as rebellious and disrespectful by the community. In rural areas women have very few opportunities to meet together and discuss the many challenges that they face.
45 peer educators will be trained to run workshops and conduct door to door visits for thousands of women across Swaziland. They will learn about their rights under Swazi and international laws, how to run local campaigns, public speaking and lobbying decision makers. They will be supported to share their skills and learning with others through existing women’s groups including income generating schemes and HIV/ AIDS support groups, and push for change on a local level. Training will also be given with the Swaziland Manufacturing and Allied Workers Union for women working in the textile industry, notorious for its appalling pay and conditions and denial of women’s rights.
Over the last year ACTSA has been working with the Foundation for Socio Economic Justice (FSEJ) and its partner, the Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly (SRWA), to develop a four year project which we hope will play a significant role in improving women’s rights in Swaziland. In August we received the welcomed news that the project would be supported by the Big Lottery Fund. FSEJ is an umbrella organisation which supports partner organisations to run civic education programmes to encourage democratic participation and raise awareness on human and constitutional rights amongst the rural populations of Swaziland. It supports a range of groups working on social, political and economic issues including the Swaziland National Union of Students, Economic Justice Forum, Street Vendors Association and National Ex-Mine Workers Association. The Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly was established in 2009 to provide a network and voice for women living in rural areas, to educate women on their rights and to campaign for those rights on a local and national level. In its short existence SRWA has already established itself in many communities. This project will help SRWA develop into an even stronger voice for women’s rights throughout rural Swaziland.
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IMAGE : WOMEN’S DAY RALLY IN SWAZILAND / CREDIT: SRWA
Violence against women is so common, many say it has been normalised. In a comprehensive survey conducted in 2006-07 a third of women and girls reported an incident of sexual violence before they were 18 and 18 per cent of women had contemplated suicide, primarily as a result of domestic violence. The government’s own Millennium Development Goals update in 2010 admitted that gender based violence is a major problem and highlighted that the marginalisation of women, girls, orphans and vulnerable children, made them more susceptible to HIV/AIDS, incest, abuse and rape.
The project will allow SRWA to run a series of local and national events where rural women can get together to discuss the challenges they face and how to overcome them. These events, which will promote a strong and united rural women’s movement, will also be used as part of a mass consultation of women, resulting in a charter of women’s rights. The charter will be circulated throughout the country and used as a tool to encourage a national conversation on women’s rights and build support for rural women’s demands. The project will provide women with the training and resources to lobby MPs to support their demands, reform laws that treat women as second class citizens and introduce new legislation that protects their rights. SRWA will work with other women’s and civil society organisations, encouraging them to support their calls and push for change.
Representation of women in parliament is even worse than Britain, only 20 per cent of MPs are women. Likewise in other decision making bodies and much of civil society, women’s representation is extremely poor. Leadership training will be provided for women who want to stand for election in local, regional and national organisations and committees and address the lack of representation of women in these structures. The project will tackle discrimination against women in the media by monitoring the portrayal of women and working with journalists to improve this and highlight the challenges women face. Over the course of four years ‘Improving women’s rights in Swaziland’ will make a fundamental difference to the lives of rural women by challenging the way they are treated by government and society and reducing the discrimination they face on a daily basis. It will empower women to participate in local and national decision making and encourage them to work collectively as part of a strong and united women’s movement which to challenge unjust laws and see them replaced with legislation that defends their rights. We will keep you updated on how this major new project develops and how it is helping Swazi women improve their rights. Separate and additional to the project ACTSA is seeking to increase awareness of the situation in Swaziland and is pushing for increased action from UK government, Commonwealth and EU in support of human rights in Swaziland. There is an action slip at the end of this issue of ACTSA news.
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campaigns Swaziland The Swaziland Democracy Campaign’s Global Week of Action took place on 3-7 September, with groups in Swaziland and all over the world highlighting the denial of democracy and rights. On the eve of the 44th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence dozens of Swazis, trade unionists, ACTSA supporters and politicians gathered in a packed committee room in Parliament to discuss the country’s worsening political and economic crisis. ‘Swaziland: A Kingdom in Crisis’, heard from Alana Dave from the International Transport Workers’ Federation, Thobile Gwebu, from the Swaziland Vigil, Polly Jones from UNISON, Rushanara Ali, Shadow Minister for International Development and Tony Dykes, ACTSA’s Director. You will find a full report of the meeting on the ACTSA website. As part of the week of action ACTSA and the TUC called on the Commonwealth to suspend Swaziland until it complies with international human rights standards. The call is in support of the demands of the Trades Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) and others and follows the visit of the Commonwealth SecretaryGeneral, Kamalesh Sharma to the country in August. Many are extremely concerned that his visit inaccurately portrayed Swaziland as making positive reforms, which overlooked the worsening denial of democracy and rights and ignored the plight of the Swazi people. ACTSA is calling on the British government to refer Swaziland to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, the body that has the power to suspend Swaziland from the Commonwealth. We are also calling on the government to prioritise the denial of human rights and support calls for free and fair elections. We will be presenting hundreds of postcards with our calls to the Foreign Office at the end of January. Please complete the postcard on the back of ACTSA news and return it today. If you want further copies of the card please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The African National Congress at 100 – the road to freedom This new schools pack has been developed by ACTSA and the National Union of Teachers to mark the centenary of the African National Congress (ANC), Africa’s oldest liberation movement, and is designed to introduce young people (aged 11-14) to the history of South Africa through some of the leading figures in the struggle against apartheid. It is available now to download on the ACTSA website.
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Justice for South African miners ACTSA will be joined by Peter Bailey, the National Union of Mineworkers South Africa Health and Safety Chairperson at our Annual Conference on 3 November Saturday, 3 November, 2012, 2-4.30pm The Human Rights Action Centre, Amnesty International UK, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA Peter will speak about the crisis in the mining industry, including the tragedy at Marikana and the ongoing campaign for compensation, healthcare and support for the thousands of South African ex gold miners who are suffering from silicosis. He will also speak about the wider social and economic challenges, including poverty, inequality and unemployment facing South Africa and the struggle to build a new society and overcome the devastating legacy of apartheid. You can register for the conference at email@example.com The Justice for South African Gold Miners photo exhibition ‘Real Mining, Real People’, featuring striking images of ex gold miners with silicosis continues to be shown at conferences and events up and down the country. If your organisation would like to host it, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. A briefing for the campaign will soon be available on the ACTSA website.
Zimbabwe elections In the run up to Zimbabwe’s election, widely expected to take place in the first half of 2013, we will be producing ACTSA’s Zimbabwe update on a monthly basis. You can subscribe to receive the Zimbabwe Update, or any of ACTSA’s other email publications including the quarterly Angola Monitor or monthly E-update on the ACTSA website. It is planned that Zimbabwe will hold a referendum on a new constitution prior to the election. The EU significantly modified its position on its Zimbabwe targeted and restricted measures, referred to by some as sanctions in August. Many people were taken off the travel ban and EU has begun a dialogue to restore bilateral (government to government) aid from 2014. This was seen as a way of supporting the Southern African Development Community (SADC) stance on Zimbabwe. SADC have a proposed there be a road map to elections and they meet SADC standards for democratic elections. The EU and its member states are currently the largest aid providers to Zimbabwe, This is provided through the UN and NGOs.
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SUPPORTING ACTSA ACTSA could not exist without the support of our members and supporters. Whether it’s by joining, donating or taking part in a campaign action your involvement ensures that our work makes the greatest possible difference to those we are trying to help in southern Africa.
ACTSA is currently trying to build on our existing list of wonderful volunteers. If you have some spare time or know of anyone who might be interested in volunteering for ACTSA please get in touch at email@example.com We have a number of exciting opportunities for volunteers; such as helping in the office with our campaigns, working on fundraising projects or representing ACTSA at external events such as conferences and festivals.
We particularly need volunteers outside of London, as the less money we spend on travel costs, the more we have available to spend on our vital campaigning work. If you think you might be able to help, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll let you know if there are events coming up in your area.
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IMAGE / ACTSA FUNDRAISING DINNER
VIRGIN LONDON MARATHON
BUY YOUR TICKETS FOR THE FUNDRAISING DINNER
ACTSA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications for the Virgin London Marathon 2013.
ACTSA’s Fundraising Dinner will take place on 30 November 2012, at South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London.
Public places for the Marathon have now all been allocated, but ACTSA has a number of guaranteed places available. If you or someone you know would like to run on behalf of ACTSA please contact us at email@example.com
We are delighted that once again the South African High Commission has generously agreed to host ACTSA, for what is sure to be a wonderful evening.
This year Ben Monks, Brian Dornan, Ian Kleinsimon, Lungi Morrison and Paul Hussey completed the world famous 26.2 mile course to raise funds for ACTSA. If you fancy following in their footsteps please get in touch.
Guests will enjoy live music, delicious food and wine all whilst helping to raise crucial funds for ACTSA’s work on justice, rights and development in southern Africa. There will also be a fabulous array of prizes on offer in our auction. Tickets cost just £50 per person and £500 for a table of 10 people. For more information and to book your place at this exciting event please visit our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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The survey also found that most respondents had joined ACTSA in order to keep informed and to show solidarity with the people of southern Africa. Overall the feedback we had was extremely positive. We have taken all comments and suggestions on board and are being considered by our National Executive Committee so they can be used to shape ACTSA’s future plans and work.
RECEIVE YOUR ACTSA NEWS BY EMAIL If you haven’t already done so there is still time to sign up to receive your copy of ACTSA News by email. By receiving it by email you are helping us to reduce our impact on the environment and also our costs, enabling us to spend as much of our income as possible on our campaign activity. However, if you prefer to receive your copy on paper or don’t have access to a computer it is fine to continue to receive your ACTSA News in the post. Sign up to receiving your next copy electronically by emailing us at email@example.com or call us on 020 3263 2001.
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Dear Foreign Secretary, Swaziland is a kingdom in crisis. Democracy and the right to freedom of assembly, association and speech are denied. I support the calls of Swazi civil society, including trade unions for Swaziland to be suspended from the Commonwealth until it complies with the international human rights standards it has signed up.
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I urge the British government to: • Refer Swaziland to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group for its failure to adhere to the Harare Declaration,
• Include Swaziland as a priority country in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s 2012 Human Rights Report, and
• Support the calls of civil society for democratic, multiparty elections.
Yours sincerely, Name Address
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I enclose a cheque, payable to ACTSA,
Some of our key findings included: a staggering 91 per cent of members who responded said they frequently read ACTSA News, but fewer read our online and email publications. We found that 26 per cent of people stated that they took part in campaign actions. The majority of respondents thought that ACTSA’s campaigns on Zimbabwe and Swaziland should be our highest priorities, and many called for more regional events for those living outside of London.
Please return this form to: ACTSA, Freepost RRLK-YXAZ-BHZB, London, SW1V 1AD
The survey was sent to ACTSA supporters and affiliates in order to get some feedback about ACTSA’s work, its priorities and what we can do better. ACTSA sincerely values the opinions of our supporters and the survey gave us an opportunity to ask ‘why people supported ACTSA?’ and ‘where ACTSA’s campaign priorities should be?’
Please give £20 or as much as you can to enable us to provide the action, support and solidarity the people of Swaziland need now.
A big thank you to those of you who completed ACTSA’s recent supporter survey.
Yet the situation in Swaziland gets little international attention. The people of Swaziland have requested our support in their fight against poverty and for rights and dignity.
Swaziland is a kingdom in crisis and urgently needs our help. Two thirds of the population live in desperate poverty, whilst the King and his friends live in lavish luxury. Democracy is denied, political parties banned and human rights are violated.
Support Rights and Democracy for Swaziland, Now!
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PHOTO CREDIT: SRWA