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MBABANE – The exportation of ‘Swazi Gold’ as sugar is known has failed to sweeten the lives of impoverished sugar cane farmers as the industry is bigwigs who do nothing to improve the livelihoods of workers.

 This damning conclusion is enclosed within a new report from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) - report, written by journalist Manqoba Nxumalo and human rights lawyer Sipho Gumedze.
The new International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) report is called ‘Swazi gold’.

The report is about the sugar industry in Swaziland and it states that while some of these organisations makes huge profits from the business as they have a large stake within the industry; sugar-cane farmers and the majority of the population are bitterly impoverished.
“Sugar cane production has brought about more human suffering than development in Swaziland. Many people have been evicted and the general conditions in the sugar industry are atrocious,” read parts of the report.  Swaziland main export commodity is sugar, the so-called “Swazi gold”. With a population of only 1.3 million people, Swaziland is nevertheless the 4th largest sugar producer in Africa. Sugar production accounts for almost 60 percent of Swaziland’s agricultural output and 18 percent of Swaziland’s GDP. The biggest market for Swazi sugar is the European Union (although the duty-free and quota-guaranteed access to the EU market will end in 2017).

According to Manqoba Nxumalo, one would therefore expect that the wealth generated from sugar sales would lead to improving living standards for the Swazi population.
“But as our research was able to prove, it is only a feeding ranch for the elite in the country.”

The report further revealed that jobs created in this sector are more often than not characterised by poverty wages, excessive hours of work without overtime pay and inadequate protection from workplace accidents and hazards.
“Most of the workers are not unionised as a result of anti-union discrimination and intimidation and do not have access to grievance mechanisms when they face abuse,” parts of the report read.

In conclusion it was stated in the report that Swaziland’s trading partners such as the EU, South Africa and the United States should ensure that trade agreements that are entered with the country are coherent with international labour standards and make reference to the UN Guiding Principles.
 The EU should engage with the Government of Swaziland to ensure that the recommendations of the ILO supervisory mechanisms are implemented ahead of the ratification of the EU-SADC EPA.

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