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Monday, 15 January 2018


A controversial businessman with links to Swaziland’s autocratic King Mswati III was assassinated at a petrol station in the kingdom.

Victor Gamedze was shot twice in the head at the Galp filling station in Ezulwini on Sunday (14 January 2018).

Gamedze was the chairman of Swazi Mobile, a new telecoms company in Swaziland. It was surrounded by allegations of corruption and money laundering. King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was accused of being in collusion with Gamedze and the Zambian President Edgar Lungu in a deal to establish a mobile phone company in Zambia using Swazi Mobile as a cover.

Swaziland is a secretive state where media are censored and it is difficult to uncover the true nature of Swazi Mobile. It is known that the company was awarded a licence to provide mobile phone services that started in July 2017. It beat other companies for the contract although it had no experience in the mobile phone business. Unusually in Swaziland, the company was swiftly launched only five months after the licence was given.

Within three months of the launch Gamedze told media in Swaziland the company had a stock value of E1.2 billion (US$98 million).

In June 2017 a report appeared in the newspaper Swaziland Shopping stating that King Mswati and Gamedze had forced Swaziland’s government to side-line rival parastatal Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) from competing with Swazi Mobile. It said King Mswati and Gamedze had shares in Swazi Mobile.

The African News Agency reported the editor of Swaziland Shopping Zweli Martin Dlamini received a death threat. It reported Dlamini saying, ‘Shortly after publishing the story, I received a threatening call from Gamedze that lasted for 20 minutes where he vowed to “deal with me”. Later Communications Minister Dumsani Ndlangamandla summoned me to a meeting and told me that the King was not happy with the story and had ordered that the newspaper should be closed.’

Swaziland Shopping was closed by the Swazi authorities who claimed that it had not been properly registered even though the newspaper had been published since 2014 with no problem.

Dlamini fled to South Africa fearing for his life.

Meanwhile, media in Zambia have been reporting on meetings between King Mswati and President Lungu to set up a fourth mobile phone company in Zambia to be owned by the pair using proxies.

Gamedze was murdered in full view at a petrol station on Sunday at about 7pm. A witness told the Swazi Observer, ‘He started walking towards his car and then a man, wearing a white cap, followed him towards the car. When Gamedze was about to open his car door, the man withdrew his gun and placed it on the side of Gamedze’s head and shot twice. The man didn’t say a word. He just shot him. Gamedze went down while the man started walking towards a red VW Golf car which had been parked by the waiting room on the left side of the road heading to Mbabane.’

The Times of Swaziland reported two men were involved. ‘One of the gunmen, at close range, aimed the gun to Gamedze’s head and pulled the trigger. As soon as Gamedze hit the ground, the same gunman again aimed the gun at another side of his head and fired the second shot,’ it said.
The Observer said, ‘At the scene of the incident, senior Police officer Mxolisi Dlamini told journalists that the shooting looked like one that was planned well in advance.’

Police later said suspects linked to the shooting had been arrested while trying to cross into South Africa through the Lundzi Border post.

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Swaziland’s economy is in free fall and the infrastructure of the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch is crumbling. Government bills go unpaid and the health service is near collapse. There is no money to pay state pensions to those who reach the eligible age of 60 this year. Public servants have been on strike and look certain to do so again in the coming months. Members of the Swaziland Amy with the support of their commanders have systematically sexually assaulted women. The police routinely attack civilians and operate outside of the law. 

These are some of the stories reported in the latest edition of Swaziland: Striving for Freedom covering the final three months of 2017 and produced by the Swazi Media Commentary website. It is available to download free-of-charge from the Scribd website.

Swaziland came 50th out of 54 African countries for participation and human rights in a survey just published. It has got worse over the past five years. King Mswati meanwhile has been named as the third wealthiest monarch in Africa. He has also been accused of exploiting child labour on his farming land. A new report says more than 11,000 children in Swaziland are forced to stay away from school to tend cattle.

Swazi Media Commentary is published online, updated most weekdays. It is operated entirely by volunteers and receives no financial backing from any organisation. It is devoted to providing information and commentary in support of human rights in Swaziland.

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Sunday, 14 January 2018


Police in Swaziland say a murder suspect committed suicide by taking poison after they shot him in the ankle while chasing him.

It happened in Makhungutja after local residents claimed that police had not done enough to catch the alleged killer Bheki Dlamini.

The Swazi Observer reported on Thursday (11 January 2018) that Dlamini had been on the run since 30 December 2017 following an incident where he allegedly stabbed a woman to death at Malkerns.

The newspaper said that residents of Malkerns protested outside the local police post, demanding that the police take the matter seriously since the accused person was known to be in the area. The police raided the homestead in Makhungutja at 5am on Tuesday where the suspect was believed to be hiding.

The Observer reported the suspect saw the police vehicle approaching and fled.

It added, ‘The police fired warning shots trying to stop the suspect. It is alleged that the suspect didn’t stop.

‘Police are said to have then shot the accused in the ankle. however, it is said even after he was shot the accused ran back to the homestead where he was hiding and hid in one of the houses.

‘Seeing that he was cornered the accused is alleged to have taken weevil tablets and ended his life.
‘It is believed that the accused had been carrying the weevil tablets with him in his backpack.’

The newspaper said that the person who was living with the deceased said he never saw any weevil tablets.

Police Information and Communication Officer Khulani Mamba confirmed to the Observer that a suspect who was wanted for murder committed suicide by taking weevil tablets after he was shot in the ankle by police during a raid at the homestead where he was hiding.

Police in Swaziland have a long history of shooting suspects in unusual circumstances.

In August 2017 Siboniso Brian Mdluli, aged 22, who police wanted in connection with armed robbery was reportedly killed at point blank range in ‘cowboy style.’  His family demanded an inquiry saying Mdluli was assassinated by trigger happy police officers for no apparent reason.

In November 2015 police shot a man at close range after he overturned rubbish bins and then ran away from them. The Times of Swaziland, reported at the time that a 21-year-old man had been suspected of throwing rubbish in the road and pelting vehicles with stones. The newspaper said, ‘he was shot by police at close range after refusing to board their vehicle’.

A plain-clothed policeman shot an unarmed man in the back killing him while on a public bus in February 2014. The man had allegedly stolen some copper wire before boarding the bus, travelling from Siteki, in eastern Swaziland to Manzini. The Times Sunday newspaper reported at the time the driver of the bus Majahonke Zikalala said, ‘the man was attempting to force his way out of the bus, the police officer shot him in the back, near the spine… the man fell on the floor after which he was handcuffed while he bled’. He died of his injures at the scene.

In March 2013, Swaziland police shot a man dead in front of his 11-year-old child as he held his hands up in an attempt to surrender to them. Thokozani Mngometulu, aged 31, was killed as he got out of his car at his homestead in Dlakadla, in the Shiselweni region of Swaziland. Thokozani’s family, who also witnessed the killing, say he was shot in the pelvis at close range by a police officer.

In June 2012, a serial rapist suspect Bhekinkhosi Masina, popularly known as Scarface, was shot by police as they cornered him for arrest. Police say they only shot him in the thigh and he unexpectedly died of his injuries. The Times of Swaziland newspaper later revealed he had been shot six times, including in the head and back.

In July 2012, a mentally ill man, Mduduzi Mngometulu, aged 34,
was shot seven times by police and died of his injuries. He had four holes in his stomach, one in the leg and two bullet wounds on the left side of his chest.

These are not isolated incidents in Swaziland where police across the kingdom have a growing record of killing or maiming suspects before arrest. The cases have largely gone unreported outside of the kingdom itself.

In one example, police executed a suspect, Thabani Mafutha Dlamini, at Nkwalini in Hlatikulu in the presence of his colleagues and home boys
in what local media called ‘cowboy style’. The Swazi Observer newspaper reported the incident in December 2011 saying, ‘Police had previously warned the mother of the dead man to “budget for funeral expenses” as they intended to remove him. He was said to be on a police “wanted list”’. Dlamini was unarmed.

In a separate case in February 2011, a Swazi policeman shot Mbongeni Masuku, described in media as a Form IV pupil, in the head in what was later described as
‘an execution-style killing’. The killing happened outside a bar in Matsapha, an industrial town in Swaziland. Masuku’s uncle Sigayoyo Maphanga said Mbongeni had been dragged out of his car by police. He told the Swazi Observer, a policeman whom he named, ‘shot my nephew at the back of the left ear and he fell on the ground with blood oozing from his mouth and ears. We were all shocked and angered by such brutality from police officers.’ 

In May 2011, Mathende Matfonsi was shot dead by police while he was attending a field of dagga (marijuana) inside the remote forests of Lomahasha near the border with Mozambique. His family accused the police of ‘cold-blooded murder’. Matfonsi was shot dead at Ebhandeni, the same area where Nkosinathi Khathwane had previously been shot dead by soldiers at night.

In March 2010, police
shot a man as he was trying to surrender to them. This time the victim, Mncedisi Mamba, did not die. His mother Thoko Gamedze said Mamba had his hands up and was surrendering to police, but they shot him anyway.

It is not only crime suspects who get shot at. In June 2013, police
fired live bullets and teargas as children protested against alleged corruption at Mhubhe High School in Ngculwini Police were called after school pupils boycotted classes.

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Saturday, 13 January 2018


Media freedom advocates in Swaziland have criticised the kingdom’s top law officer for demanding a photojournalist give evidence for the police in a court case.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) described the move by the Director of Public Prosecutions as an attack on the journalism profession. 

Photojournalist Simon Shabangu of the Swazi Observer is being forced to give evidence on behalf of the police against two school teachers who are charged with a public disorder offence during a protest march in Mbabane in February 2016. Shabangu took photographs of the demonstration and the newspaper published some of them.

Mbabane Magistrates Court has issued subpoena compelling Shabangu to testify.

Vuyisile Hlatjwayo, Director of MISA – Swaziland, said forcing Shabangu to give evidence on pictures he took while in the line of duty would compromise the ethics of the journalism profession.

On Thursday (11 January 2018) the Swazi Observer reported him saying, ‘Not only that, members of the public would lose confidence in journalists if the state would be allowed to call them at any time to give evidence on activities undertaken while in the line of duty. 

‘This also has the potential of setting journalists against the public since people will no longer call the media to their events for the fear that they (journalists) would in turn testify against them in court. This is a very bad precedent we should all frown upon.’ he said. 

The case continues in February 2018.

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Wednesday, 10 January 2018


There are reports of disturbances in jails in Swaziland and inmates are accused of brutality against warders.

It is claimed that new inmates have formed gangs and warders from jails across the kingdom have been moved to two institutions at Sidwashini and Bhalekane to increase security.

One inmate at Bhalekane has asked a court to move him for his own safety.

There have been at least two incidents where inmates rioted because they were served with poor food. This was at Sidwashini and Bhalekane. At Sidwashini, media in Swaziland report, untrained warders were sent in to help restore peace. At Bhalekane one warder had to be taken to hospital after an alleged attack.

His Majesty’s Correctional Services (HMCS), Commissioner General Isaiah Mzuthini Ntshangase told the Sunday Observer (7 January 2018) the officer was trying to serve breakfast to the inmates when they kicked the tray down and assaulted him on the head with an enamel dish. 

The newspaper reported Ntshangase saying, ‘The officer was severely injured and had to be taken to hospital. All this is part of the unlawful activities that the gang members are currently engaging in. One wonders why this officer was assaulted because he had not even provoked the inmates; he was innocently serving them breakfast and they pounced on him.’

He said members of gangs at Bhalekane vandalised property including beds to make handmade weapons to attack warders.

The Swazi Observer said on Wednesday (10 January 2018) there were ‘widespread reports of brutality’. It said security had been ‘beefed up’ in facilities, ‘where such acts of violence are rife’. 

The newspaper said one inmate through his lawyers was asking the courts to transfer him to another correctional facility. It said, ‘The inmate claims he no longer feels safe at Bhalekane and the matter is pending in court.’

It said warders stationed in institutions around the kingdom such as Nhlangano and Big Bend had now transferred to increase security at Sidwashini and Bhalekane.

Meanwhile, five inmates who are believed to be part of the controversial gang known as the 26s have been charged with common assault after they allegedly assaulted another inmate at Zakhele remand centre. They allegedly beat him with fists and kicked him before stabbing him with a toothbrush.

They appeared at Manzini Magistrate’s Court where they said they had been denied the opportunity to get a lawyer. They were remanded back into custody.

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Tuesday, 9 January 2018


Swaziland’s schools are in crisis because of lack of funds and teachers, the kingdom’s Minister of Education and Training Phineas Magagula said.

About E33 million (US2.6 million) is needed to fund 169 extra teachers who are needed now that Christianity has become a compulsory subject for all public schools in Swaziland, the Swazi Observer reported on Thursday (4 January 2018).

There are not enough teachers in Swaziland to teach Christianity. The newspaper reported Magagula saying they had identified 169 present teachers who majored in religious studies and history who could teach the Christian Education Syllabus. He did not say if they had been consulted on a possible move. It was not reported who would replace the teachers in their present posts if they did transfer.

The new policy that only Christianity and no other religion could be taught in schools was announced in January 2017. Previously, the Religious Education syllabus included Christianity, Islam, Baha’i faith and Swazi ancestors. The decision reportedly came from the Swazi Cabinet, which is handpicked by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. There was no consultation with schools.

The move was controversial. Teaching only Christianity could be against the spirit, if not the letter, of the Swazi Constitution. When the 2005 Constitution was being drafted, it was decided not to insist that Swaziland was a Christian country. This was to encourage freedom of religion. 

In January 2017, Lawyers for Human Rights spokesperson Sabelo Masuku said although Swaziland was predominantly Christian, the Government had to consider the Swazi Constitution which made it clear there was freedom of religious choice. 

Nkosingiphile Myeni, Communications Officer of The Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO) in Swaziland, a network of NGOs, ecumenical bodies and other faith-based organisations, said at the time, ‘Firstly, government must not forget that in 2005, Swaziland entered a new era of constitutionalism. In Section 23 of the Constitution, liberties including human rights, freedom of conscience and religion are entrenched. The inclusion of all other religions must be in line with this constitutional provision to cater for all sectors of society.’

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) President Freedom Dlamini criticised the way the new syllabus was introduced. In a statement he said, ‘Our education system was immediately thrown back into the dark ages, not that we had ever got out.’

Dlamini added, ‘We don't want to create religious fundamentalists from our future generation, a predicament that some nations are finding themselves in today.’

Dlamini said in some schools, especially at secondary level, pupils had to drop one subject to comply with this order and contrary to the promise by the ministry that schools were going to have more teachers, most schools had no teachers posted.

The Observer reported Dlamini saying there were no signs that teachers would be appointed.

According to the CIA World factbook religion in Swaziland is broken down as Zionist (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship) 40 percent, Roman Catholic 20 percent, Muslim 10 percent, other (includes Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish) 30 percent.

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Monday, 8 January 2018


Three pregnant soldiers in Swaziland were locked up naked in a guardroom without water, food or access to the toilet in the latest example of bullying by the Army.

The ordeal which lasted 12 hours was a punishment for not taking part in physical exercises, the Swazi News reported on Saturday (6 January 2017).

The women described as ‘heavily pregnant’ said they were no longer fit to take up intense routine exercises meant for physical fitness. The News said it happened on 26 December 2017 at the Matsapha Army Barracks.

The News said female officers would not arrest the women and take them to the guardhouse so male officers were called.

One of the pregnant women told the newspaper, ‘We were shocked to see male soldiers storming our dormitories where they dragged us and carried us to the guardroom. It was very humiliating and it was the first of its kind.’

She said the women decided to be naked to deter their male colleagues from dragging them to the guardhouse.

The News reported, ‘While in the guardhouse they remained naked for over four hours until some of their friends decided to send them clothes which they wore for the remaining eight hours while they were still locked in.’

This was the latest example of bullying within the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force as the Army is officially known.

In January 2017, four potential army recruits were tortured for about 90 minutes when they tried to cheat on a run. The punishment included having to pose like a urinating dog for 20 minutes appears to have been officially sanctioned. It contravened the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

It happened at Mafutseni during a recruitment exercise. Fifteen men had to complete a 3.2km run, but four of them were spotted getting into a car that was to take them close to the finishing line.

The Times of Swaziland, reported at the time that they were caught and punished for about an hour and a half. They were ordered to do push-ups, which were followed by sit-ups. They were also ordered to lie on their backs and face the sun. They were also instructed to ‘sit on an invisible chair’ while holding their ears with their hands. They were ordered to pose like a urinating male dog for about 20 minutes.

The Army has also tortured and humiliated civilians in Swaziland. In September 2015, the Swazi Parliament heard that soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows. 

Member of Parliament Titus Thwala said that the women were among the local residents who were regularly beaten by soldiers at informal crossing points between Swaziland and South Africa.

In 2011, a man was reportedly beaten with guns and tortured for three hours by soldiers who accused him of showing them disrespect. He was ordered to do press ups, frog jumps and told to run across a very busy road and was beaten with guns every time he tried to resist.

His crime was that he tried to talk to a man whose vehicle was being searched by soldiers at Maphiveni. The man, December Sikhondze, told the Swazi Observer at the time, ‘I only asked for a lift but they told me I was being disrespectful and that I should have waited for them to finish. They took my cell phone and ordered me to do press ups.’

In July 2011, three armed soldiers left a man for dead after he tried to help a woman they were beating up. And in a separate incident, a woman was beaten by two soldiers after she tried to stop them talking to her sister.

He said that he did more than 50 press ups and he was beaten with guns every time he asked to rest.

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Sunday, 7 January 2018


Swazi King’s henchmen threaten to kill editor
Kenworthy News Media, 6 January 2018

Swazi editor Zweli Martin Dlamini has fled to neighbouring South Africa after he received death threats. He had written a story about absolute monarch King Mswati III’s shady dealings in the telecommunications industry, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Last June, editor of independent business newspaper Swaziland Shopping Zweli Martin Dlamini wrote and published a story about new telecommunications company Swazi Mobile, owned by King Mswati III and run by local businessman Victor Gamedze.

The punchline of the story was that the pair had forced Swaziland’s government to side-line rival government parastatal company SPTC from competing with Swazi Mobile – a new company that they and other high ranking officials, including the Prime Minister, owns shares in.

In 2012, SPTC had been ordered to switch of its fixed phones (landlines) and data components to make way for South African phone company MTC, which Mswati and the Prime Minister also had shares in.

Death threats
“Shortly after publishing the story, I received a threatening call from Gamedze that lasted for twenty minutes where he vowed to ‘deal with me’. Later Communications Minister Dumsani Ndlangamandla summoned me to a meeting and told me that the King was not happy with the story and had ordered that the newspaper should be closed,” Dlamini says.

After Swaziland Shopping was closed, Dlamini says he learnt that the police had a warrant for his arrest and that he would be poisoned in prison. A close ally of Victor Gamedze also told Dlamini that the businessman wanted him dead because he had revealed secrets about Swazi Mobile.

Dlamini says he subsequently fled to South Africa because he feared for his life.

And Swaziland’s police forces certainly do have a record of torturing – and occasionally murdering – those who challenge the King’s rule, as documented by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations.

No media freedom
The Swazi government have claimed that Swaziland Shopping was closed because it was not properly registered under the colonial-era Books and Newspapers Act of 1963, even though the newspaper has been published since 2014. The police also refuted that Dlamini was on the police “wanted list.”
Swaziland is however renowned for its government fabricating stories and its lack of media freedom, especially in regard to stories about King Mswati and his family and friends.

Swaziland is ranked 152th in Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 World Press Freedom Index. There is “no media freedom,” the NGO says. According to a 2014 report by African Media Barometer, journalists in Swaziland “face routine intimidation by the state.”

In 2007, King Mswati ordered the Times Sunday to print an apology and sack those responsible for a critical story about him, or he would close down the paper. In 2009, the editor of the Swazi Observer, owned by the king, nearly lost his job for writing about the King’s luxury cars.  And in 2014 the Times on Sunday editor was summoned by the King and told that stories relating to his property did not belong in the newspaper.

Victor Gamedze has also been known to threaten journalists who publish critical stories about his business dealings. In 2016, he allegedly assaulted a journalist from the Swazi Observer and ordered another fired because they wrote unfavourable stories about him and his football team.

International community must act
“In Swaziland, the media is being held hostage and been turned into spies for the state,” Zweli Martin Dlamini says. “For the calls for democracy to intensify, the media must be liberated so that the international community can know what is happening in Swaziland.”

Secretary General of the Media Workers Union of Swaziland, Sicelo Vilane, insists that the charges against Dlamini are fabricated and should be dropped, and that the international community must act against the lack of freedom of speech in Swaziland.

“No-one is allowed to report freely and Swaziland is one of the major violators of media workers’ rights, freedom of speech and -expression. Why are they not questioning the action of Mswati’s government?,” Vilane says.

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