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Friday, 24 February 2017


The Administration at the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) is under attack on two fronts: from the students and non-academic staff.

On Monday (20 February 2017) UNISWA closed indefinitely after students boycotted classes in protest over late payment of scholarships and inadequate facilities. 

The following day non-academic staff picketed the Kwaluseni Campus administration block in a row over ‘stop orders’ from salaries. Money has been stopped from pay cheques but it has not been forwarded to the relevant beneficiaries. Staff said this had been going on for at least two years.

A spokesperson for the workers was reported by the Swazi Observer saying, ‘This is a problem that the members of staff have had to endure for two years and each time we raised the issue with management, they promised to work on it.’

The Times of Swaziland reported that 100 members of the National Workers Union of Swaziland Higher Institutions (NAWUSHI) took part in the picket. It quoted the workers’ spokesperson saying, ‘Currently, the institution deducts the money from us, but it does not remit it to the service providers and we consider this as an illegal and fraudulent act, which should be corrected immediately.’

The spokesperson added management had refused to meet to discuss the issue.

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Thursday, 23 February 2017


Swaziland’s main opposition political party PUDEMO has refuted media reports that it is ready to contest the national elections in 2018.

PUDEMO (the People’s United Democratic Movement) is the best-known opposition group in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as an absolute monarch. Political parties are not allowed to contest elections and PUDEMO, along with other groups that advocate for democracy in the kingdom, are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom reported on Monday (20 February 2017) that PUDEMO and its youth wing SWAYOCO, ‘have been instructed by their donors to look into changing their strategy for bringing democracy into the country’.

The Times added, ‘After years of denouncing the country’s elections and branding them “not free or fair”, the proscribed entities are considering taking part in the 2018 national elections where Members of Parliament representing the 55 constituencies in the country are chosen by the people.’

PUDEMO responded in a stinging statement and rejected, ‘with the contempt they deserve’ the media reports. It said it had no donors or funders who were forcing it to participate in the elections.

It added, ‘PUDEMO is not afraid of elections, and remains committed to taking part in Swaziland National Elections, that will be conducted under conditions that guarantee a democratic, free, fair, meaningful and transparent process, not the current royal sham.’

The Swazi people have no say in who their leaders are. They are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, the other 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swaziland Senate are elected by the people; the King appoints 20 members and the other 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly.

The King choses the Prime Minister and cabinet members. Only a man with the surname Dlamini can, by tradition, be appointed as Prime Minister. The King is a Dlamini.  

He also choses senior civil servants and top judges. 

PUDEMO added, ‘The current Tinkhundla elections has no effect in the political life of the country, as power remains concentrated in royal hands, and all meaningful decisions are made through royal command. PUDEMO has no intention, now or in the future to associate its glorious name and record of struggle with such a royal grand scam to defraud our people of their right to democratically and freely elect a government of their own.’

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Wednesday, 22 February 2017


Swaziland’s Minister of Labour and Social Security has made a veiled threat to scrap university scholarships in the kingdom if students continue to protest against late payments.

Minister of Labour and Social Security Winnie Magagula made her comments after management at the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) closed the institution after students boycotted classes.

There have been continuing problems at UNISWA – and other tertiary colleges in Swaziland – about late payments of scholarships and allowances. There are also complaints that facilities in universities and colleges are inadequate.

UNISWA closed on Monday (20 February 2017). UNISWA Registrar Dr Salebona Simelane told local media the University Senate had resolved to close down immediately as a precautionary measure following vandalism to property the previous week. 

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday he said, ‘they needed to protect university property and the students themselves from each other’. 

Simelane said the university would be closed until further notice.

Last week, police fired warning gunshots as students protested about late payment of their allowances.

The Observer reported Minister Magagula saying the government might have to reconsider issuing scholarships, ‘as they were causing too many problems’. 

Following the closure of UNISWA, Magagula said the incident was an unfortunate one as they had met the SRC where they explained the procedures followed when government pays a client. 

The Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported her saying, ‘We met with these children and we showed them that we had indeed paid their allowances as these things take time. There are processes that take place.’

The Observer added, ‘Magagula said the students were clearly refusing to cooperate with government and the university hence if there are no scholarships maybe there’ll be no closure for these institutions.’

UNISWA is not the only tertiary education institution complaining against late payments. The Southern African Nazarene University (SANU) in Manzini, Swaziland, has also been closed following student protests against poor facilities and insufficient allowances. 

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Two police officers in Swaziland have appeared in court charged with demanding money from suspects in return for their freedom.

They appeared at the Manzini Magistrates Court on 14 February 2017 charged with, among other crimes, extorting money from civilians by threatening to arrest them and have their names published in newspapers.

The Times of Swaziland reported, ‘The “suspects” were warned that this would embarrass them and no matter what the outcome of the cases would be, they would already have been publicly shamed.’

The accused police officers are alleged to have taken more than E100,000 (US$7,630) from people who feared arrest. The case continues.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017


Despite a campaign at the European Parliament to force Swaziland to improve its human rights record, the European Union (EU) has continued to spend tens of millions of euros of taxpayers’ money in the kingdom ruled by the autocratic King Mswati III.

Figures just released show the EU disbursed E365 million last year (26 million euro; US$22 million.

Bertram Stewart, Swazi Ministry of Economic Planning and Development Principal Secretary, said, ‘I wish to express our sincere gratitude to the EU for the financial and moral support they provided to the country,’

He was speaking at the annual Swazi Government and EU project planning meeting to review the progress of EU-funded projects.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported, ‘EU Ambassador Nicola Bellomo said they were really proud of the achievements and were looking at increasing and improving their level of cooperation in partnership with all the relevant stakeholders.’

There has been growing concerns in Europe about Swaziland’s record on human rights, where any political dissent can be outlawed by the Suppression of Terrorism Act. In recent years, journalists have been jailed for criticising the kingdom’s judges. 

In October 2016, more than four in ten Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) did not support Swaziland’s inclusion in a trade partnership deal.

Ambassador Bellomo said at the time, many MEPs wanted Swaziland excluded because of human rights violations.

In a vote, 417 MEPs endorsed Swaziland’s inclusion in the Southern African Development Community (SADC)-EU Economic Partnership Agreement.  However, 216 MEPs voted against and a further 118 abstained from voting.

Bellomo told the Sunday Observer on 9 October 2016 that those who wanted the kingdom to be excluded cited human rights violations. He gave the jailing of the Nation magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko on sedition charges as examples.

The Observer reported the EU ambassador said this should be ‘a wake-up call’ to Swaziland.  

The new trade agreement opened SADC goods to the European markets duty free.

In May 2015, the European Parliament voted for the release of all political prisoners in Swaziland and called for the kingdom to be monitored for its human rights record.

A statement issued by the European Parliament said, ‘Parliament considers the imprisonment of political activists and the banning of trade unions to be in clear contravention of commitments made by Swaziland under the Cotonou Agreement to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and also under the sustainable development chapter of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement, for which Parliament’s support will depend on respect for the commitments made.’

The resolution was passed by 579 votes to six, with 58 abstentions. 

In January 2015, the United States withdrew Swaziland’s trading benefits under the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) after the kingdom refused to accept democratic change.

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Monday, 20 February 2017


A command made by Swaziland’s autocratic King Mswati III that schools must not charge parents top-up fees is about to be overturned following years of confusion.

And, Swazi Government ministers and the media in the kingdom are rewriting history to erase the King’s part in the chaos.

In February 2014, in a speech opening Parliament King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, made the directive to abolish top-up fees even though the government he hand-picked did not have a plan to implement it. 

In Swaziland, the King’s word is a proclamation. Once he speaks nobody is allowed to question him. 

In his 2014 speech the King said, ‘We must encourage the development of local facilities and the improvement of the quality of our education to match the standards of foreign countries. It is not enough, however, to just educate our children to become job seekers.’

Top-up fees allowed principals to charge parents more than the basic school fee. This allowed schools to be able to fund many basic activities. Principals complained that the money paid by government was too meagre to run the schools and a majority of them opted for top-up fees to make up for the shortage. 

Within months reports were circulating in the kingdom that most schools had been forced to suspend activities including participation in sports and music competitions. It was estimated these extra-mural activities had halved when compared to recent years.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported in 2015 that some principals had resorted to selling sweets on behalf of their schools to raise additional funds.

It reported, ‘Swaziland Principals Association (SWAPA) President Mduduzi Bhembe confirmed the sad situation and lamented the fact that the growth of the country’s education system was taking a nosedive.’

In February 2016, school principals who defied the ban were warned they could go to jail. The Swazi Education and Training Minister Phineas Magagula said this after the Kingdom’s High Court confirmed the King’s edict that no school should charge parents top-up fees. 

The Swazi Observer reported at the time that Magagula said by charging top-up fees the principals were, ‘failing to comply with His Majesty King Mswati III’s order that such should not be paid and that no child should be deprived of education’.

Now, media in Swaziland are reporting that the Swazi Cabinet has decided to put forward a law to allow to-up fees to be charged.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported on Friday (17 February 2017), ‘Stakeholders are searching for answers to the question of how to charge top-up fees yet they (top-up fees) are legal in terms of Section 12 of the Free Primary Education Act of 2010.’

It added, ‘Phineas Magagula, the Minister of Education and Training, had submitted a proposal to cabinet to reintroduce the additional fees which schools charged over and above government grants.’

The King’s role in the top-up fee saga is being ignored. On 29 December 2016, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on press freedom in Swaziland as a ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’, reported Magagula had submitted a proposal to cabinet to reintroduce the top-up fees.

It reported, ‘Education Minister Dr. Phineas Magagula yesterday said the decision to enforce a no top-up fee policy was not taken by an individual line minister, in this particular case being himself, but was a collective cabinet decision.

‘Any changes with regard to the implementation of the policy, Dr. Magagula said, would as such have to be taken by cabinet.’

Friday, 17 February 2017


For the second time in a week police in Swaziland fired warning gunshots at civilians during a street protest.

Kombi drivers and conductors brought traffic to a standstill at Mvutshini on Tuesday (14 February 2017) by blocking the highway and stopping public transport. They were protesting about an alleged corrupt traffic police office.

The Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (15 February 2017) three gun shots were fired in the air by the police ‘after the conductors attacked a bus fully loaded with passengers on its way to Mbabane, from Manzini’. 

It quoted one conductor saying, ‘We had to run for our lives, as we didn’t expect shots to be fired. We thought we were calm and are lucky to have not been shot,’

This was the second time in a week that police fired shots during civilian protests. On Sunday police fired warning gunshots as students protested about late payment of their allowances.

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