Drama as illegal' TUCOSWA meets
MATSAPHA – Staff members of Esibayeni Lodge and members of the de-registered Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) had to act swiftly and remove a welcome note which gave directions to a meeting hosted by the congress.
They did this allegedly because the police wanted to know why TUCOSWA had been allowed to host a meeting.
The dramatic change of notices happened on Friday at Esibayeni Lodge where the federation hosted a three-day strategic planning workshop.
The Times SUNDAY gathered that before the meeting could start TUCOSWA’s notice had been pinned at the entrance of the lodge, giving directions of where TUCOSWA members were.
The notice had been written, ‘TUCOSWA conference 10’ with an arrow beneath the wording which showed where the meeting was.
According to a well-placed source, trouble began when some police officers who had also attended a separate meeting in one of the conference rooms at the lodge noted that TUCOSWA had hosted a meeting.
TUCOSWA members arrived at the lodge on Thursday afternoon.
"As soon as the police took note of TUCOSWA members, they queried why the federation was allowed to host a meeting. The officers argued that as far as they knew, TUCOSWA was not a legal entity hence their operations were illegal," said the source.
"It was after the police interrogation that the staff members informed TUCOSWA that their notice was being questioned by the police. It was then decided that the notice should be changed since it was inviting trouble," the source said.
When the Times SUNDAY team arrived on Friday, the notice had already been replaced by another, which read, ‘ILO meeting - conference 10.’
This notice had been pinned next to another notice written: IPC-Senior officers meeting at conference No.8. Only TUCOSWA members were found at the ILO meeting. A group of plain-clothed officers were also found waiting at the entrance to the lodge, for transport to ferry them to their respective places.
"We removed the notice after we were told to do so," said a staff members found at the reception.
The staff members were found together with Muzi Mhlanga.
Mhlanga is TUCOSWA’s Second Deputy Secretary.
He said the initial idea was to use SNAT’s name in the notice but that decision had to be shelved when it transpired that it would be improper.
"We then wrote ILO in the notice because of the nature of the meeting," he said.
At the time of Times visitation there were no representatives from ILO.
Mhlanga, however, explained that they were still expecting ILO members to arrive.
He said the experts would join the meeting in the afternoon.
He said this while showing the news team a message he claimed had been sent by Inviolata Chinyangarara, ILO’s Senior Specialist in Workers’ Activism.
Chinyangarara stated in the message that he had boarded a plane from Johannesburg, which was expected to arrive in the country by 2pm.
Mhlanga said the attendants of the meeting were members of TUCOSWA’S National Executive Committee (NEC) who were discussing an action plan for the implantation of the resolutions taken by TUCOSWA members during their congress. The congress was held in March.
"We have invited Bobby Marie, a South African unionist who is helping us with strategies. Again, we have also invited Inviolata Chinyangarara, ILO’s Senior Specialist in Workers’ Activism, to also assist us with the planning," he said.
He said the meeting was organised by TUCOSWA ahead of its trip to Geneva for ILO meeting.
TUCOSWA members would leave the country for Geneva on Sunday (today).
Asked if government had been informed about TUCOSWA’s strategic planning meeting, Mhlanga said: "There is no need for us to notify government about the meeting."
Meanwhile, Lutfo Dlamini, Minister of Labour and Social Security, on Friday said government had not been notified of TUCOSWA’s meeting.
"We are not aware of the meeting. Unless we are informed about it we cannot know about it," he said.
Meanwhile, Assistant Superintendent Steven Dlamini, police Deputy Public Relations Officer, disputed that police questioned TUCOSWA’s meeting.
"People should stop spreading political rumours using the name of the police. The police are not aware of any meeting held by TUCOSWA," he said on Friday.
Desmond Oswin, Esibayeni Lodge owner, said he was not involved in politics or internal structures of organisations.
"When someone makes a booking, we do not ask why or where. We only want to know `when,’" he said.
"Unless we get a directive instructing us not allow a certain party, we will not prevent our customers from using our facilities."
He did not want to reveal who had paid for the venue.
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