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Wednesday, 24 May 2017


Firefighters in Swaziland are angry that they are being forced by their bosses to attend Christian church services.

A memo has been issued to stations across the kingdom advising that staff should attend Tuesday fellowship services.

The Observer on Saturday newspaper in Swaziland reported (20 May 2017) the memo from Chief Fire Officer Dumisani Khumalo read in part, ‘Officers-in-Charge are commanded to give support to these services by motivating officers under their command to attend these services. Such services headquarters consider them playing a major role such as counselling in various social problems encountered by officers. It also promotes unity among the workforce fraternity. However, headquarters is compelled to request for your support towards the success of these fellowship services.’

The newspaper reported that some firefighters felt they were being forced to follow the Christian religion and this was against their constitutional rights.

One firefighter was reported by the newspaper saying, ‘We cannot, therefore, have someone forcing down Christianity to us. It would have been better if the fellowship was conducted in such a way that all the religions are followed so that we also have the Muslims, the Bahais and those that believe in ancestors all accommodated,’ he said. 

Forcing people to follow Christianity is contentious in Swaziland where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. In January 2017 a directive was issued  by the Swazi Government which is handpicked by the King that Christianity was to be the only religion taught in schools.

The move was considered to 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. 

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.

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Tuesday, 23 May 2017


Parliamentarians in Swaziland have given the government seven days to sort out the drugs shortage crisis crippling public health facilities in the kingdom.

E236 million (US$18 million) is reportedly owed and drug companies have suspended delivery of medicines until bills are paid.

The House of Assembly debated the crisis on Thursday (18 May 2017) and agreed a motion compelling Minister for Health Sibongile Simelane to ensure the availability of drugs in hospitals within seven days.

The Swazi Observer reported members of parliament wanted to know what had happened to the E1 billion allocated to health in the national budget in February 2017. ‘They wanted to know if the money they passed was real money or it was just numbers,’ the newspaper reported.

The Times of Swaziland reported the House of Assembly, ‘called for the suspension of all other projects while this matter was being sorted, wondering what benefit would be achieved if the country had beautiful roads or buildings yet had a dying nation’. 

Principal Secretary (PS) at the Ministry of Health Dr Simon Zwane had previously told the Swazi parliament Public Accounts Committee (PAC), ‘We have not paid our suppliers.’

Medicines currently unavailable in the kingdom’s health facilities include drugs for sexual transmitted infections, epilepsy, hypertension and diabetes.

Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, came last in a study of the healthiest nations in the world in 2015.

It came bottom out of 145 countries in the World’s Healthiest Countries report published by Bloomberg. Data for the report was compiled from the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation.

The Bloomberg rankings gave each country with a population of 1 million or more a health score and a health-risk score.

Each country’s place was calculated by subtracting their risk score from their health score.
The health score is based on factors such as life expectancy from birth and causes of death, while health-risk is based on factors which could impede health such as the proportion of young people who smoke, the number of people with raised cholesterol and the number of immunisations.

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Monday, 22 May 2017


A United Nations group is investigating prison conditions in Swaziland amid reports of inhumane conditions.

They include food shortages, inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

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, but 13 years later it has failed to report. After such a long delay, the Human Rights Committee (HRC) has scheduled a review of the kingdom in the absence of report. This review will take place in July 2017.

In a wide-ranging document the HRC poses a number of questions to the Swazi Government which was not elected by the people but hand-picked by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The report says, ‘Please respond to reports of inhumane prison conditions, including in terms of food shortages and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

‘Please also comment on the allegations that the president of the (outlawed) political party People’s United Democratic Movement of Swaziland, Mario Masuku, was denied access to adequate and independent medical care for complications relating to diabetes throughout the 14 months he spent in pretrial detention at Zakhele Remand centre and Matsapha Central Prison.’  

The HRC is also asking for detailed information about the number of existing prisons in the kingdom, prison capacity and the number of inmates and whether there are separate facilities for adults and children. It also asks what plans Swaziland has to ratify the Convention against Torture and Other, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

In 2014 it was reported that more than 1,000 people were in jail in Swaziland because they were too poor to pay fines for offences such as traffic violations, theft by false pretences, malicious injury to property and fraud. 

The figures revealed that in Swaziland, where seven in ten people live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 per day, 1,053 of 3,615 inmates in Swazi jails were there because they did not have the money to pay a fine option. This was 29.1 percent of the entire prison population.

In February 2017, the Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland reported shortages of food and toilet paper in jails throughout the kingdom. This was due to the government’s financial crisis, it said.

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