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Thursday, 27 April 2017

UN PROBES SWAZILAND ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Swaziland signed a major international agreement on human rights in the kingdom 13 years ago, but since has not reported on progress.
 
Swaziland ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2004 and its initial report on progress was due by 2005. After such a long delay, the Human Rights Committee has scheduled the review of the kingdom in the absence of report. This review will take place in July 2017.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King choses the government, the top judges and major public servants.

Andrea Meraz, Programme Manager at Covenant on Civil and Political Rights-Centre, said, ‘Few countries are reviewed by the Human Rights Committee in absence of State report. Swaziland will be one of these. Hopefully this review will foster Swaziland’s engagement with the treaty bodies.’

Swaziland has been presented with a list of 24 issues, including the relationship between King Mswati III and the Swazi Constitution, the 1973 State of Emergency decree that took power for the monarch, and the banning of political parties from elections.

Questions are also asked about protection from all forms of discrimination ‘in the public and private sectors’ in areas such as ‘race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and to ensure the application of those measures in customary law.’

The document states, ‘Please comment on the information before the Committee that the State party [Swaziland] is a country of origin, transit and destination for men, women and children trafficked for sex and forced labour, that forced and child labour are prevalent in the country and that orphans are particularly affected.’

Swaziland is asked to explain Chapter 4 of the Constitution which provides for different treatment between men and women regarding the acquisition and transfer of Swazi citizenship. One questions states, ‘Please specify the measures taken to ensure that discrimination against women is prohibited under customary law, both in law and practice.’

It asks for information and statistics on deaths in police custody and by security forces and on the Game Act 1991, ‘which gives conservation police personnel (game rangers) immunity from prosecution for killing any person suspected of having poached’.

It wants to know ‘whether torture is specifically criminalised’ in Swaziland and what rights a person taken into police custody has, including the maximum period of detention before an individual is brought before a judge.

Ahead of the review, CCPR-Centre visited Swaziland from 4 to 8 April to facilitate a consultation with civil society organisations and to meet with key stakeholders, including the Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Justice, Executive Director of the National Human Rights Commission, the UN resident coordinator and the United States and European Union Ambassadors.

In a statement, CCPR-Centre said the Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Justice had agreed to provide answers to the 24 issues.

See also

SADC URGED TO ACT ON SWAZI RIGHTS
SWAZI HUMAN RIGHTS WORSEN: AMNESTY
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ON SWAZILAND
SWAZI HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD KILLS AGOA
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/05/swazi-human-rights-record-kills-agoa.html

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

COST OF FLYING SWAZI KING’S JET

As confusion reigns over the true cost on King Mswati III second private jet, confidential figures suggest his present plane may have cost Swaziland at least US$15 million to operate since he received it in 2012.

The modified McDonnel Douglas DC-9-87 jet, also known as an MD-87, cost US$9.5 million in 2012 and at least another US$4.1 million was spent on refurbishments before the King took delivery.

In 2012, the King’s company Inchatsavane signed an aircraft management operating agreement with Greek-based Gain Jet Aviation. As part of the deal the King was required to deposit US$500,000, described as ‘average two months operating costs’ to guarantee future payments. On this basis the operating costs of the aircraft would be US$250,000 per month or US$3 million per year. In the five years since the jet has been flying, the operating costs would have reached US$15 million.

The figure set by Gain Jet Aviation was only an estimate. Another estimate of costs of operating an MD-87 is available from Conklin and de Decker, Aviation Information. 

It has set the total fixed cost of the MD-87 at US$1,124,525 for a year. This works out at US$93,710 per month. 

Fixed costs are the costs that have to be paid even if the plane never flies. Among the fixed costs it lists are salaries for the pilot, the co-pilot and the flight attendant.

Conklin and de Decker set the variable costs at US$9,736.20 per hour. 

Variable costs include fuel, maintenance, landing charges at airports, staff expenses and catering.

The US$250,000 per month or US$9,736.20 per hour anticipated for operating costs might be underestimates for the true cost of flying King Mswati’s jet.

Gain Jet Aviation invoiced the Swaziland Ministry of Foreign Affairs US$312,500 for a flight in June 2012 from Tokyo (Japan), to Manzini (Swaziland). The flight was spread over two days and included fuel stops in Danang (Vietnam), Male (Maldives), and Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania). The total flying time for the journey was 20 hours 50 minutes.

The company billed for a total of US$312,500, which works out at about US$14,880 per hour.

In August 2014, Gain Jet Aviation invoiced for a trip that was going to take place the following month over 14 days from Swaziland – Tanzania – Maldives – Malaysia – India – Egypt – Nice (France) – Cameroon – Swaziland. The total estimated number of flying hours was 39 hours 35 minutes.

The invoice total was for US$593,750.00, which works out at about US$14,843 per hour.

It would be impossible to get figures for the true full cost of operating King Mswati’s private jet. The King rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and he picks the Prime Minister, the Government and the kingdom’s judges.

People who question his authority or advocate for multi-party democracy are jailed under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and / or the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act.  

The US$15 million estimated to have been spent on the King’s jet since 2012 is about E197 million in the kingdom’s local currency.  As a comparison, in the national budget announced in February 2017, E110 million was set aside for the impoverished kingdom’s entire Regional Development Fund.

King Mswati is set to take delivery of a 15-year-old Airbus A340 early in 2018. Media reports in Swaziland of its cost have varied from US$12.6 million to US$22.5 million. 

See also

CONFUSION OVER COST OF KING’S JET
SWAZI MPs CONFUSED OVER KING’S JET
REVEALED: DETAILS OF KING’S NEW JET
KING'S COMPANY AT CENTRE OF JET ROW
SWAZI KING ‘REFUSED TO PAY JET DEBT’
SWAZI KING’S JET HELD FOR UNPAID DEBTS
‘SWAZI KING TO BUY US$44m PRIVATE JET’
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2015/04/swazi-king-to-buy-44m-private-jet.html

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

CONFUSION OVER COST OF KING’S JET

Swaziland lawmakers have been told that the King’s jet will cost the impoverished kingdom US$12.6 million. In the national budget in February 2016, E96 million (about US$7.3 million) had been set aside for the jet. 

There is some confusion about the true cost of the plane. A report in the Swazi Observer newspaper on 15 March 2017 said Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation ‘was given E296 million, during the current financial year, to buy the state jet and E96 million was used to pay deposit for the airplane’. 

The jet is a 15-year-old Airbus A340 owned by China Airlines in Taiwan and after refurbishments it is expected to accommodate about 60 to 90 people. 

Politicians and the media in Swaziland consistently say the Airbus is being purchased as a ‘state jet’, but it has now been confirmed it will be for the sole use of King Mswati III who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze told a parliamentary workshop on Thursday (20 April 2017) government had committed itself to pay the equivalent of E166 million (US$12.65 million).

According to The Swazi Observer (21 April 2017), a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, Gamedze revealed the government had agreed to pay for the jet in two equal instalments and one had already been paid. The plane is expected to arrive in Swaziland early in 2018.

The King already has a smaller McDonnell Douglas DC-9-87 jet plane.

The Observer reported that Gamedze told the workshop the plane could only be used by heads of state, ‘not just anyone’. 

He said it was possible that the jet might be hired out to other users. The newspaper reported him saying, ‘It is true that we need money as a country. But we cannot give this plane to just anyone .We know that many people can afford to hire it, but the plane will only be given to someone who occupies a status that is similar to that of the King.’

King Mswati rules over a population of 1.3 million people. Seven in ten live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 a day. The King lives a lavish lifestyle with 13 palaces, a private jet, fleets of top-of-the range Mercedes and BMW cars and at least one Rolls-Royce.

In April 2016, Members of the Swaziland Parliament blocked the move to allocate money for the jet. Once news of the intended spending was made public outside of Swaziland the King came in for heavy criticism. Swaziland was in the grip of a drought crisis and in February the Swazi Government declared a national emergency and said the kingdom would need E248 million (US$16 million) before the end of April 2016.

Within days, the MPs overturned their earlier decision. Unconfirmed reports circulating on the Internet said that King Mswati had refused to sign-off Swaziland’s budget unless he got his jet.

See also

CONFIRMED: KING WILL GET PRIVATE JET
KING ‘STEALS FROM CHILDREN’ TO BUY JET
SWAZI MPs ABOUT-TURN ON KING’S JET
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2016/03/money-for-kings-jet-but-not-drought.html

Monday, 24 April 2017

SWAZI KING’S ‘GOD DELUSION’

King Mswati III, who rules as an absolute monarch over the destitute kingdom of Swaziland, appears to have a God delusion.

The King and his family say they have a direct-line to God. In 2013, King Mswati’s elder brother, Prince Masitsela Dlamini, told African Eye News Service that God had given the royal family authority to rule over other Swazi clans. ‘The Dlaminis are closer to God,’ said Dlamini.

In 2011, the King said God spoke to him through a TV remote control. It happened at the Lozitha Palace, near Mbabane. At the time the King told his subjects about his ‘miraculous experience’.

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reported in October 2011, ‘His Majesty saw a miracle yesterday when he was preparing a sermon [to preach to a group of evangelical Christians.] The King said a remote control lay at the centre of a coffee table but something mysteriously brought it down.

‘He said there was no person or wind that could have brought it down.  The King said he realised that God was with him.  It was Him who brought the remote control down.’


Reverend Jonas Dlamini, one of the king’s preachers, said, ‘The King preached to us. He was filled with the light of the Lord when he told us that God had given him a sign when he was getting ready to meet us.  He said a TV remote on his table dropped to the floor with no one touching it and that is how he knew God was communicating with him.’

In September 2013, the King himself told his subjects he had received a vision during a thunderstorm and was told that the political system in Swaziland that puts the King at the head and bans political parties should from then on be called ‘Monarchical Democracy.’

It helps the King and his supporters if people think King Mswati is chosen by God. It suggests the King has special abilities and wisdom. For that reason, his word must be obeyed. Those who speak against the King, speak also against God and who can dare criticise God?

Of course, King Mswati wasn’t chosen by God. A political group plotting within the ruling elite of Swaziland chose him. 


The Nation, a monthly magazine of comment in Swaziland, in July 2008 reported extensively about a documentary called Without The King that revealed how the present King came to the throne – and the manoeuvrings were positively Shakespearian.

Unlike in many societies that still have monarchs, in Swaziland the eldest son doesn’t simply become king once the reigning monarch dies. The king is chosen ‘by virtue of the rank and character of his mother in accordance with Swazi law and custom’. But the part of Swazi law and custom relating to the selection of a successor to a king is unknown to a majority of ordinary Swazi. It may include the mother to the heir.

The Nation reported, ‘In the documentary, King Mswati III shed some light on how he got to know that he would be the next King of Swaziland.

‘He said then he was about 12½ years of age and it was after the demise of his father, King Sobhuza II when the news were broke to him.

‘King Mswati III did not say anything about his mother who was then an ordinary wife to the late king. It was not until the then Supreme Council (Liqoqo) removed the then Queen Regent for the biological mother to the then Crown Prince that she was appointed to office.

‘The act drew reprisals for the Liqoqo members who ousted the then Queen Regent.

‘After the King was crowned, the Liqoqo members were charged with high treason arising from their decision to remove the Queen Regent Dzeliwe. Some were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment terms as high as 15 years.

‘The King subsequently pardoned them.’

One biography of King Mswati  says the story of how King Mswati, who was known as Prince Makhosetive as a child, became the monarch goes like this. 

‘King Sobhuza II had deftly managed to hold rivalling power factions within the royal ruling alliance in check, and so his death in August 1982, left a power vacuum.’

At this time Makhosetive was 15 years old and a schoolboy at Sherborne in England.

‘In keeping with tradition, Makhosetive’s appointment by his father was not publicly announced. Before his death the King had chosen one of his queens, the childless Princess Dzeliwe, to preside over the monarchy as regent until the prince turned 21 years of age. 

‘It was in keeping with tradition that she be childless, so that she would not involve herself in a factional struggle to advance the position of her own son. Factional quarrels broke out into the open, however, in the interregnum period, while the prince was [at school] in the United Kingdom. 

‘Continuing disputes led members of the Liqoqo, a supreme traditional advisory body, to force the Queen Regent to resign. In her stead the Liqoqo appointed Queen Ntombi, Prince Makhosetive’s mother, who initially refused to take up the position.

Further disputes between royal factions led to his coronation as King Mswati III, at the age of 18, in April 1986, three years earlier than expected.

At the time, the King was the youngest monarch in the world. 

‘Observers saw the early coronation as an attempt on the part of the Liqoqo to legitimate the usurpation of Dzeliwe and consolidate their gains in power. Prince Makhosetive, now King Mswati III, acted quickly however to disband the Liqoqo and call for parliamentary elections.

In May 1986 Mswati dismissed the Liqoqo, the traditional advisory council to regents, which had assumed greater powers than were customary. In July 1986 he dismissed and charged with treason Prime Minister Prince Bhekimpi and several government officials for their role in the ejection of Queen Regent Dzeliwe, though he eventually pardoned those who were convicted.

Another biography of King Mswati says, ‘King Mswati’s first two years of rule were characterized by a continuing struggle to gain control of the government and consolidate his rule.

‘Immediately following his coronation, Mswati disbanded the Liqoqo and revised his cabinet appointments. In October 1986 Prime Minister Bhekimpi Dlamini was dismissed and for the first time a nonroyal, Sotsha Dlamini, was chosen for the post.

‘Prince Bhekimpi and 11 other important Swazi figures were arrested in June 1987. [Prince] Mfanasibili, [Prince] Bhekimpi, and eight others were convicted of high treason. Eight of those convicted, however, were eventually pardoned.

In 2011, court papers relating to the treason trial that was held in secret come to light after 23 years. The papers that had been deliberately removed from Swaziland after the trial in 1987 were unearthed in Namibia. 

They have not been released to the public and might contain details about the plotting that surrounded King Mswati’s rise to power. The papers might also remind the King’s subjects that he is really only where he is today because of political intrigue.

See also

SWAZI KING’S PRIVATE LINE TO GOD
IS SWAZI KING SENT BY GOD?
FEARS OVER KING’S MENTAL HEALTH
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2011/10/fears-over-kings-mental-health.html

Friday, 21 April 2017

SWAZI CIRCUMCISION DRIVE FAILING

As the discredited campaign to circumcise men in Swaziland to prevent HIV infection continues to fail, two government ministries are now targeting schoolboys.

A Back to School 2017 campaign has been launched in by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education in partnership. It aims to help get 80 percent of Swazi males circumcised by 2022. Schoolboys will be ‘sensitised’ to the supposed-need to have their foreskins cut off to prevent HIV infection.

The target that 80 percent of Swazi males between ages 15 and 49 should be circumcised was made in 2010 when the Accelerated Saturation Initiative (ASI) was introduced into the kingdom with the aim of reaching the goal within a year.

The
programme, a partnership between the Swazi Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the US-based Futures Group, was then extended to March 2012 when initial efforts failed to achieve the targeted results and only about 20 percent - or 32,000 - people were circumcised through the programme. The figure for the number of males in the targeted age range is not easily available but there are estimated to be 384,171 males aged between 15 and 65 in Swaziland.

 US$15.5 million was spent on the programme, or US$484 per circumcised male.

In 2015, the deadline to reach the target was extended to 2018. Now, that deadline has been extended further to 2022. The Swazi Ministry of Health reported 96,487 males had been circumcised since 2009.

The male medical circumcision programme which has been introduced in a number of countries in Africa, but not in developed countries such as the United States or in Europe, is based on a claim that removing the foreskin helps to prevent the spread of HIV. However, evidence does not support this. 

A report called Levels and spread of HIV seroprevalence and associated factors: evidence from national household surveys published by USAID, for example, which studied 22 developing countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, found, ‘There appears no clear pattern of association between male circumcision and HIV prevalence - in 8 of 18 countries with data, HIV prevalence is lower among circumcised men, while in the remaining 10 countries it is higher.
 
In Swaziland, even before the ASI was started in 2010, the Government of Swaziland knew circumcision had no effect on the rate of HIV in the kingdom. The Swaziland Demographic and Health Survey (SDHS) of 2007 reported the infection rate for circumcised males was 22 percent while for those uncircumcised it was 20 percent, which suggested that circumcision did not prevent HIV spreading. 

The Swaziland Government has signed up for circumcision in a big way since 2010, even announcing that newly born babies, who have no say in the matter, were expected to be cut. 

People in Swaziland are being misled into believing that circumcision can help, when the international medical community continues to debate whether there is any evidence that it can. An internationally-based organisation called Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC) published a lengthy report in which it urged that ‘Both the public and the medical community must guard against being overwhelmed by the hyperbolic promotion of male circumcision.’

DOC reported that there is no clear evidence as to the effects of circumcision.

See also

HAS SWAZI KING BEEN CIRCUMCISED?
CIRCUMCISION AND HIV PREVENTION
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2010/11/circumcision-and-hiv-prevention.html

Thursday, 20 April 2017

‘PRAY FOR FIRST-WORLD STATUS’: KING

King Mswati III, the autocratic ruler of Swaziland, told his subjects that the impoverished kingdom would achieve ‘First World’ status by 2022 if they prayed hard enough.
 
He told congregants gathered at the Easter Sunday service at Somhlolo Stadium to have faith.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King and described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on press freedom in the kingdom as a ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’,  reported on Tuesday (18 April 2017), ‘He said the worshippers should start believing that Swaziland is already in the first world status and it will surely come to pass if they believe it. 

‘His Majesty King Mswati III said it was very imperative for the country to attain first world status so that the coming generations can enjoy it.’

The King has been talking about Swaziland becoming a ‘First World’ nation for some years, but has never made it clear what he means by it. 

The concept of the ‘First World’ nation is a little outdated. During the time of the Cold War, following the Second World War, the ‘First World’ nations were generally considered to be those that supported the United States, against the Soviet Union and the ‘communist bloc’. In the past 20 years or so, since the ‘fall’ of the Soviet Union, the term ‘First World’ has begun to fall into disuse.

There are many modern-day definitions of ‘First World’, but they all insist that to be included in this category a nation must be a multi-party democracy and people must be able to elect and dismiss their government.

Swaziland is not like this. King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King chooses the Prime Minister and government. There is no way for the people to either elect or dismiss the King’s government.

‘First World’ status cannot be achieved without a movement towards democracy. King Mswati has no intention of allowing this to happen and he continues to keep a firm grip on any public dissent in his kingdom. 

Another ‘definition’ of ‘First World’ speaks to prosperity and the health of the nation’s economy. But, Swaziland is nowhere close to becoming prosperous. 

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Swaziland issued a report in February 2014 that received no publicity in the kingdom, that said if Swaziland were to achieve ‘First World’ status it would have to be ‘among high human development countries like Norway, Australia, United States, Netherlands and Germany to name a few’.

UNDP went on to give these statistics comparing present-day Swaziland with Norway, the United States and Germany.

Life expectancy: Swaziland (48.9 years); Norway (81.3); United States (78.7); Germany (80.6).

Mean average years of schooling: Swaziland (7.1); Norway (12.6); United States (13.3); Germany (12.2).

Percentage of population with at least secondary school education: Swaziland (48); Norway (95.2); United States (94.5); Germany (96.6).

The UNDP in Swaziland did not comment on the likelihood of Swaziland reaching ‘First World’ status by 2022; it did not have to. Any independent observer can see from these statistics that Swaziland is not even close to reaching the King’s target.

The UNDP is not alone. In 2012, a report published by 24/7 Wall St in the United States, and based on data from the World Bank, identified Swaziland as the fifth poorest country in the entire world.

It said 69 percent of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects lived in poverty.

Its report stated, ‘[T]he country’s workforce is largely concentrated in subsistence agriculture, even though the country faces serious concerns about overgrazing and soil depletion. While these factors harm the nation’s economy, health concerns are likely one of the major factors preventing Swaziland’s population from escaping poverty.’

King Mswati does little to address this situation. His latest call to prayer is another distraction away from the true dire situation in Swaziland and misleads his subjects about the prospects of achieving ‘First World’ status. 

Richard Rooney

See also

SWAZILAND FIRST WORLD MYTH
KING, THE FIRST WORLD AND DEMOCRACY
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2013/12/king-first-world-and-democracy.html

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

SWAZI KING’S BUDGET INCREASES $14-mil

The Swaziland Royal Household is to increase by E200 million (US$14 million) in the coming year to take it to E1.3 billion, an independent monthly magazine in the kingdom has reported.

The Nation reported (April 2017), ‘While the entire budget for King Mswati and the royal household continues to grow in hundreds of millions of emalangeni every year, social grants for elderly and the physically challenged showed a very insignificant increase.’

King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Seven in ten of his 1.3 million subjects have incomes of less than US$2 per day.

The Nation reported the budget increase as ‘mouth-watering’. It said elderly grants (pensions) had a ‘paltry’ increase. The Finance Minister Martin Dlamini announced in his February budget the grant would rise from E240 to E400 per month.

The Nation reported, ‘Even health institutions have seen cuts to their budget allocations this year while the army’s allocation continues to rise unabated even though the country is at peace. Money for agriculture has also been cut, despite that the country has just come out a devastating drought and farmers need help to find their feet.’

King Mswati has been criticised outside Swaziland for his lavish spending. He has 13 palaces, fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars and at least one Rolls-Royce. He is to receive a second private jet aircraft later this year.

Swazi Members of Parliament at first rejected the entire national budget and called for it to be replaced with one that favoured ordinary people. Later they relented and the budget was passed.

See also

SWAZI MPs REJECT NATIONAL BUDGET
SWAZI PM OVERTURNS BUDGET VOTE
SWAZILAND: MASSIVE ‘SECURITY’ SPENDING
U.S. SAYS BUDGET LACKS TRANSPARENCY
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2017/03/us-says-budget-lacks-transparency.html