Barnabas Dlamini officially became Prime Minister of Swaziland yesterday (20 October 2008) amid fears that the kingdom would return to the lawless state it was in when he was last PM in 1996-2003.
Dlamini, who was illegally appointed by King Mswati III last Thursday, has a mandate from the king to get tough with ‘terrorists’ and those who support him.
If the reign of terror Dlamini unleashed last time he was Prime Minister is anything to go by, Swazis are in for a torrid time.
A report on human rights violations in Swaziland published in 2004 from the Human Rights organisation Amnesty International that ran to more than fifty thousand words detailed some of the abuses against Swazis committed under Dlamini’s last term in office.
Amnesty gave concrete evidence of human rights abuses under Dlamini, ‘On 13 August 2003 police and members of the specialised public order unit, the Operational Support Services Unit (OSSU), broke up a large public demonstration in Mbabane with what appears to have been excessive force, causing injuries to demonstrators and bystanders. Amnesty International sent a detailed, six-page letter to Prime Minister Sibusiso [Barnabas] Dlamini and to the Commissioner of Police Edgar Hillary expressing concern and seeking information on the steps which may have been taken to investigate alleged incidents of excessive force used to disperse demonstrators, indiscriminate beatings of bystanders and the targeting of some individuals for systematic beatings amounting to the infliction of torture.
‘The security forces at the time, according to their own evidence in the Industrial Court, were equipped variously with shields, batons/long batons, rubber bullets, stun grenades, CS shells, “tearsmoke”, R4 rifles, “riot guns” and shot guns.
‘It appears that little was done by the authorities to investigate the alleged incidents and ensure that appropriate measures were taken against commanders or subordinate officers found to be responsible for human rights violations.’
It is ironic that Dlamini is now talking about the need for law and order in Swaziland because when he was in office he constantly disregarded the law. This led eventually to the resignation of all six judges in the Swaziland Court of Appeal.
Amnesty reports that while Dlamini was violating the rule of law the judiciary in Swaziland were trying to uphold it, playing a ‘critical role in providing complainants with access to remedies and some measure of justice and protection.
‘Their capacity to play this role was gravely undermined by the stance and actions of the then government of Prime Minister Sibusiso [Barnabas] Dlamini, particularly in 2002 and 2003.
‘These events triggered mass protest demonstrations in Swaziland and have been investigated and commented on by regional and international intergovernmental and non-governmental bodies. The Commonwealth Secretariat through its Political Affairs Division has made a number of interventions in an effort to end the breakdown in the rule of law.
‘In the wake of Prime Minister Sibusiso [Barnabas] Dlamini’s refusal in November 2002 to act on two rulings by the Court of Appeal and the subsequent resignation of the Court of Appeal, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the independence of judges and lawyers, Dato’Param Cumaraswamy, issued a strongly-worded statement. He expressed his grave concern at the government’s refusal “to honour decisions of constitutionally constituted courts.”
‘Their action, he stated, was “a blatant breach of what is implied in principle 4 of the United Nations Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and article 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights”.
In brief, Amnesty reports, Dlamini had repeatedly ignored court rulings, interfered in court proceedings, intimidated judicial officers, manipulated terms and conditions of employment to undermine the independence of the judiciary, effectively replaced the Judicial Services Commission with an unaccountable and secretive body (officially known as the Special Committee on Justice but popularly called the Thursday Committee), and harassed the individuals whose rights had been upheld by the courts.
Among the violations Dlamini made included the repeated ignoring of court rulings, interference in court proceedings, intimidating judicial officers, manipulating terms and conditions of employment to undermine the independence of the judiciary, the effective replacement of the Judicial Services Commission with an unaccountable and secretive body (officially known as the Special Committee on Justice but popularly called the Thursday Committee), and the harassment of individuals whose rights had been upheld by the courts.
For full details of this and many, many more human rights violations perpetrated by Dlamini see the Amnesty International report here.