TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Swaziland's ICT Minister: 'US using AGOA to bully country'

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 Published: | Noxolo Nkabinde

Source: Swaziland Observer

Swaziland's Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Dumisani Ndlangamandla has made the strongest possible statement yet regarding the much-publicised issue of AGOA, saying the United States of America (USA) must not use AGOA to "bully" Swaziland. 

In his own words, Ndlandlamandla said: “America must not use their powers to suppress the country just because we do not have money.” He was speaking during his tour of the MTN headquarters, christened Mahlalekhukhwini House, in Ezulwini yesterday.

The minister, who was addressing at least 50 MTN staffers and members of the media, said Swaziland had long obtained its independence yet there were countries that abused their power to make demands, which he likened to colonialism. “We are headed for near colonialism if we are not there already because when a country uses its power to make demands just because we have no money that is near colonialism. 

We, as a country, got our independence. Our brother (Barack) Obama (US President) hear us, hear us Africans on AGOA, please,” he said.

Development

The minister also said the US government should not aim to see the country going backwards in terms of development but assist it move forward. 

He said the loss of AGOA would mean taking steps backwards and the loss of jobs would have a huge negative impact on the country’s economy.

The minister’s statement comes at a time when the country is still awaiting with baited breath a decision on AGOA from the USA. Government has been running helter-skelter in an attempt to retain the country’s AGOA status after the USA through Ambassador to the country Makila James said Swaziland had to ‘fully’ comply with five conditions or lose its eligibility to participate. 

Minister of Labour and Social Security Winnie Magagula left for Geneva, Switzerland on Saturday ahead of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference next month. 

Sources

Well placed sources also revealed to our sister publication the Sunday Observer that His Majesty King Mswati III had thrown the ball back in the court of the Americans on the stance regarding the eligibility of AGOA, and defended the failure to meet the May 15 deadline that had been set by the Americans. 

He said government had worked tirelessly to meet the five benchmarks but it was clear that the conditions that were set were an obstacle and needed more time, and further expertise from the country’s partners, such as the Americans. 

Eligibility

Meanwhile, the eligibility status is still not known and while numerous international publications have reported that Swaziland has lost the rights to participate in AGOA, the US Ambassador has denied such claims.  

Last Friday, the Embassy made a statement through social network Twitter that read as follows: “The interagency review of Swaziland’s progress on the five benchmarks identified as the criteria for continued African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) eligibility ended on May 15. 

Benchmarks 

The five benchmarks were given to the government of the Kingdom of Swaziland (GKOS) by the United States government to avoid any ambiguity as to what we consider progress on internationally accepted worker rights issues. 

Based on what was accomplished on the benchmarks by the GKOS by May 15, the process of determining Swaziland’s eligibility is underway.” 

The conditions that Swaziland had to meet:

 

 Full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act.

 Full passage of amendments to the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA).

 Full passage of amendments to the Public Order Act.

 Full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act relating to civil and criminal liability to union leaders during protest actions; and 

 Establishing a code of conduct for the police during public protests.

 

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