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Thursday, 31 July 2008

TELLING HOW A SWAZI KING IS MADE

I got an email today from http://www.swazirevolution.blogspot.com/ responding to my post ‘How a Swazi King is Made’ and directing me to the blogsite where there is a lengthy ‘explanation’ on the real guidelines for succession.

To find out more go visit http://www.swazirevolution.blogspot.com/

SWAZILAND ECONOMY ON THE SKIDS

A decision by the Swazi Government to increase the salaries of civil servants could not have come at a worse time.

Just as the Swazi media were reporting that government was to spend an extra E300 million (more than 4 million US dollars) on civil servants pay comes a survey from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that states, ‘When the rest of sub-Saharan Africa was growing over the last decade, the economy of the Kingdom of Swaziland stagnated.’

The report published in IMF Survey Magazine on Monday (28 July 2008) states, ‘The slow growth may have worsened already difficult conditions in the tiny, landlocked country where in 2001, the latest year for which there are data, about two-thirds of its 1 million residents lived in poverty and 20 percent of the population claimed two-thirds of the income.’

The report identifies a number of issues that need to be addressed, including reforms in the banking and finance sector.

Chief among the problems facing Swaziland is the size of the kingdom’s civil service. The IMF report calls on Swaziland to ‘scale back government’ and reduce wage bills. This will in time allow ‘government to fight HIV AIDS’ and promote investment.

None of this is new. For many years the IMF has been calling on the Swazi government to modify its economy, by allowing wealth to be more evenly distributed within the kingdom, to reform land policy so the people (and not the Swazi king) can own and control the land and to cut back the unnecessarily large civil service.

As I have written before the government ignores this advice and continues to mislead Swazis into believing the economy is improving when it is not.

Earlier this month (July 2008) the state-controlled radio SBIS reported Prime Minister Themba Dlamini saying that the Swazi economy was in good health and that the PM was looking forward to an IMF report that would confirm this health.

I don’t know which IMF report he had in mind, but it certainly isn’t this one.

To see the full IMF report click here.

See also
FALSEHOODS ON THE SWAZI ECONOMY


Wednesday, 30 July 2008

THE ROLE OF SWAZILAND JOURNALISTS

It seems my departure from the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) has set people thinking about what will happen to journalism education in the kingdom after I’ve gone.


Sikelela M. Dlamini, who contributes articles to Swaziland’s independent comment magazine, the Nation, is a frequent critic of the university.


He wrote the following article which appeared in the Swaziland Solidarity Network Forum yesterday (29 July 2008).


I think it is an interesting contribution to the debate not only about journalism in Swaziland, but also about what role a university (any university) should play in the kingdom.


On the parts of Dlamini’s article that address me, I can confirm that I quit UNISWA because it is impossible to get anything done. This is not particular to JMC; for example, there have been attempts to launch a diploma course in Portuguese that has been around for about 10 years.


The JMC degree as proposed is not ‘revolutionary’, but it is modern. The programme was devised after extensive consultation with media houses. The programme contains a lot of practical work and some academic courses (including one on ‘human rights’). (If you are interested in the details of the JMC programme email me at swazimedia@yahoo.com and I’ll send you a copy of the proposal document.)


The most unusual aspect of the JMC programme is its teaching and assessment methods. The methods proposed are common in universities across the world but are seen as challenging at UNISWA where it is all too common for ‘lessons’ to consist of someone standing in front of a group of students dictating notes. Assessment at present is mostly based on memory tests and three hour exams.


I believe there is room for a rational discussion about the role of UNISWA that deals in empirical fact. We should try to avoid subjective opinion and (such as Dlamini’s comments on the UNISWA registrar) personal attacks. I have collected data that suggests that UNISWA has issues regarding academic quality and might have trouble justifying its title ‘university’. We already know that UNISWA qualifications are not widely recognised outside of Swaziland (not even in South Africa, where the present JMC Diploma is worthless). In the UK, for example, no UNISWA undergraduate degree is recognised. Instead, the degree that took four years for a student to complete is seen as the ‘equivalent’ of one year’s undergraduate study at a UK university.


On the specific case of the Chair of Council’s car: this is not a matter for the University Council. The Commission of Inquiry on UNISWA that reported in 2006 said that UNISWA had no right to pay for such a car since the chair of council is not an employee of the university.


I welcome further debate on UNISWA. I am myself attempting to write a paper for an academic journal on UNISWA that addresses the role of a university (any university) in Swaziland. This subject is particularly relevant at present with the news that at least two private ‘universities’ could set up in the kingdom in the next few years.


Uniswa cannot have a proper journalism course!


In the January 2008 issue of the Nation magazine I wrote that the University of Swaziland (Uniswa) was a mere extension of the country’s undemocratic Tinkhundla system of governance. I questioned the qualifications of the incumbent VC and Registrar; the purchase of a Mercedes for the long-time royal chairman of Council; and the veracity of Uniswa’s claim to academic freedom given royal interference and the institution’s reliance on state subventions. In April, a fuming Registrar retorted that the VC satisfied all the qualification requirements for the position; that Uniswa’s Registrar did not need a PhD; and that the purchase of the Council chairman’s Mercedes was an exclusive Council decision and expenditure. The overall impression was that Uniswa is autonomous enough to carry out its mandate to teach, research, and disseminate information and knowledge to its stakeholders.


A four-year journalism degree course that should be commencing this August has stalled allegedly because the Deans Committee, a Senate sub-committee that sanctions academic programmes, among its functions, has yet to sort out infrastructural, administrative, and other such hurdles before the programme takes off, hopefully in the 2009/2010 academic year. The degree programme aims to replace a three-year diploma and enhance Uniswa’s Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) department’s ability to produce journalists that will take their rightful place in charting the socio-economic and political course of a Swaziland at a crossroads. A prominent proponent of the paradigm shift has been Professor Richard Rooney who recently did not renew his contract, citing bureaucratic red tape as the major hindrance toward implementation of the revolutionary journalism programme. I argue that Uniswa is sorting out much more than just classroom space, equipment, personnel, etc., with regard to implementing the degree programme. It is simply not in the interest of Uniswa and its principal (the state) to expedite a proper course in journalism in the mould envisioned by the likes of Prof. Rooney; at least not just yet. Below are the reasons.


A proper journalism course would give rise to ‘sniffer-dog’ journalists who would not be satisfied with a superficial explanation that a person who does not qualify for the position of VC in February miraculously does so in April. It would produce investigative journalists who probe what Uniswa implies by arguing that the purchase of a Mercedes for its chairman of Council was an exclusive Council affair. It would produce hardnosed journalists who stop at nothing to find out exactly what makes it OK for Uniswa to have a non-PhD Registrar much against the overwhelming trend elsewhere. The Registrar’s is an important office whose overarching function includes academic staff development. The JMC degree course would flood Swaziland with journalists who would want to know how a non-PhD holder is well equipped to encourage his juniors to pursue such a qualification. They would want to know if the incumbent’s under-qualification isn’t partly to blame for the ever-rising rate of unsuccessful PhD degree pursuits by Uniswa staff. They would want to know if the Registrar doesn’t sniff with egotistic satisfaction at every protracted or failed PhD attempt because “what were they trying to prove anyway?” He simply hasn’t a clue what the rigours of PhD study entail to be able to provide the necessary psychological, etc., support that such an exacting academic undertaking demands. Proper journalists would want to know if Mr Registrar is cool with addressing his subordinates as “Dr So-and-so”. In other words, they would want to know if petty personal insecurities and jealousies don’t creep in to interfere with professional judgment. Common sense dictates that it is illogical for the boss to be less educated than the junior; unless the boss owns the company of course.


Yes, proper journalists would want to know if Uniswa can live totally off government subventions and still exercise its independent research mandate, including being critical of the monarchy and government where the need arises as per its presumed guiding principle of academic freedom (Uniswa isn’t just financially dependant on government, but King Mswati III, who is executive head of state and government, is Uniswa Chancellor. His half-brother, Prince Phinda, has been chairman of Council for at least a decade now). They would want to know if obvious royal, and by extension, government influence, does not in fact fly in the face of the very principle of academic freedom that on paper Uniswa professes to uphold and live by. A proper journalism course would produce journalists who wonder if journalism, as it is currently constituted and practised, is not implicated in the slow progress toward a truly democratic dispensation in Swaziland. For instance, local journalists have done a sterling job of exposing corrupt practices in government in recent years, but only to negate their admirable efforts by not insisting on punitive action for fear of stepping on the wrong toes and risking unemployment. These, in my considered opinion, constitute some of the real but never-to-be-acknowledged reasons for Uniswa’s efforts to frustrate the mooted degree programme; at least until such time that radical foreign influences such as Prof. Rooney are out and the right personnel are hired to run a more politically agreeable degree programme. Let us not forget that Uniswa has since the early 1980s engaged in a cold war with its own Social Sciences faculty for doing a good job of producing politically aware and critical students who have been in the vanguard of perennial student unrest at the country’s sole highest institution of learning.


Sikelela M. Dlamini

(PhD candidate, University of Cape Town)

SEX FOR JOBS IN SWAZILAND TEXTILES

Managers in Swaziland’s notorious textile industry are forcing women to have sex with them in return for jobs.


Others are forced to pay bribes of up to E100 (about 13 US dollars) to be considered for a job.


A personnel manager from one company was caught in the act, according to the Times of Swaziland.


The newspaper reported on Monday (28 July 2008), ‘At times the managers demand sexual favours in return for work.


‘This, according to desperate job seekers found outside one company and further confirmed by independent investigations by this publication, is the order of the day.’


The Times gave a distressing insight into the plight of poor women in Swaziland.


‘A number of desperate people have fallen victim to the manager who, it is alleged, demands E50 for himself and another E50, which he claims is for another officer who would ensure registration into the company payroll.


‘Faced with tough economic conditions, people would rather risk facing the full measure of the law by bribing their way into employment.’


The Times reported that with women forming the majority of job seekers, ‘reports of sexual abuse are rife though they could not be verified during independent investigations by this publication’.


Times journalists posed as job seekers to investigate a firm that the newspaper declined to name pending investigations by the Swazi labour department.


The Times reported, ‘A long queue was already formed outside the company as early as 7am by mostly young women. Desperation was written all over the faces of some while others appeared to have been exhausted probably due to lack of a good night’s sleep. Some were already showing signs of sleepiness as they rested their heads on their laps as they patiently waited.


‘The few males on sight were basking in the morning sun. The young men expressed their frustration at being unemployed.


‘“These guys expect us to pay them upfront before we get employed. Who on earth can lend me E50 knowing that I am unemployed?” said one of the men, speaking of how they are forced to raise the bribe money to make it to the employment list.’


The Times report continued, ‘The women pitied themselves for being female because one of the personnel managers tasked at one point to recruit them invited some to his house.


‘“I know one girl who last week came fuming to the manager demanding instant employment before all hell broke loose,” she alleged, adding that after the said confrontation other women demanded employment too as they claimed to have done certain favours for this official.’


This is not the first expose of conditions at textile factories in Swaziland.


In March 2008, the Swazi Observer newspaper reported that workers were so badly paid that many of them existed ‘close to starvation.’


In June 2008, Swazi MPs called for an end to the ‘slave wages’ being paid by textile firms.


Earlier this year (2008), police brutally attacked workers who were legally striking for higher wages.


I have written extensively about the textile industry. To see more posts click here.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

PUDEMO AND LIFE IN SWAZILAND

I know that Swazi journalists surf the Internet to find stories that they can download and use in their newspapers. I know also that there is a lot of information they choose to ignore. Subjects vary, but one that is avoided like the proverbial plague is criticism of the monarchy and the status quo generally. For that reason I am sure that you won’t be reading the following article in the Swazi media anytime soon.

The Botswana newspaper Mmegi (The Reporter) interviewed Siphasha Dlamini, the Secretary General of Swaziland’s People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a political party banned in the kingdom.

Mmegi put the article on the Internet yesterday (28 July 2008).


Here is an extract from the interview. To access the full interview, click here


MMEGI: Swaziland is an absolute monarchy. What does this mean for a political party such as yours?

DLAMINI: We are a banned organisation because, according to the constitution, political parties are illegal.

M: How do you run an illegal organisation successfully? Where do you get funding? How do you measure the level of your following?

D: We just depend on our own personal earnings to sustain the movement. We have a major problem because people feel threatened to come out and support even if they follow us. The monarchy is very powerful and for anyone to take membership in our party they would have to forgo a lot in their personal and professional life. However, we know that we have a substantial following because the position we hold is what the majority of Swazis support.

M: We know that the situation in Swaziland is perhaps similar to that obtaining in Zimbabwe. Why is it so difficult to get the world’s attention on the Swaziland situation even though it has been unfolding for a long time?

D: Zimbabwe is a mess just like Swaziland. But I believe Swaziland is worse because it does not even have any pretence to adhering to some democratic system. In Zimbabwe there was a time when some sort of democratic system was used whereas in Swaziland none of that ever happened and the repression is at the same level if not worse.

The reason why the Swaziland issue has not captured the attention of the world, the Western world in particular, is because the monarchy serves the interests of the former colonisers. The monarchy is not a threat to Western interests. Remember that even the Zimbabwean issue never captured global attention until Mugabe became a threat to the corporate and imperialist interests.

But also you have SADC,[Southern Africa Development Community] which has shown the same lukewarm attitude toward the state of democracy in Swaziland. I mean Swaziland is a signatory to so many SADC protocols on elections and democratic governance. They do not even uphold any of those principles and yet you won't hear any complaint from SADC.

M: How far are you from reaching your goals especially that of a democratic Swaziland?

D: There is progress minimal as it is especially regarding our major goal [the establishment of a multi-party democracy system in Swaziland]. But you know, we do not just measure our progress with real changes to the system we are contend to have more and more people showing a dedication to our vision. We are working on a long-term change. Ultimately the challenge would be on the Swazi people to say enough is enough and change the system.

M: However even where the country is relatively peaceful and economically stable, a majority of people still wallow in poverty. Look at Botswana, or South Africa, countries that are consistently praised for rapid economic growth, a majority of the people still live in poverty. What is the cause of this discrepancy between the praise by the international community and the hopeless situations of poverty?

D: The policies are designed for the interests of only a few together with their international supporters. That is the problem. So you find the disjuncture between what the international community says about the country and what the majority of the people feel because the people do not enjoy the benefits of the success.

M: As a woman, and a leader in such a big organization how do you view the position of women in Swazi society?

D: Swaziland is a patriarchal society. Women are also relatively reserved as a result. We do have women in leadership positions and others who are specifically dedicated to addressing women issues. Our movement has taken the position of giving the people's issues more attention because we think everyone is oppressed; so we are fighting for everyone's liberation.

See also
PUDEMO ALL THE FACTS ARE HERE


FULBRIGHT’S SWAZI UNI EXPERIENCE

I wrote briefly yesterday (28 July 2008) about the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) misleading people into thinking it had secured the services of a Fulbright Scholar for its journalism and mass communication department.

The university had applied to have a distinguished scholar but nobody wanted to come.

But it is not all doom and gloom on this front. The chemistry department at the university has recently said farewell to a Fulbright professor who visited for 10 months.

Jim Yoder has now returned to his base at Hesston College in the United States of America where he has taught for 35 years.

Yoder has been telling his college newspaper about his experiences in Swaziland. He is mostly upbeat, but he also talks about the class boycotts that frustrated the university during the dispute over semesterisation.

He also acknowledged how HIV AIDS is a disaster in the kingdom. He told the newspaper that ‘every student’ is ‘hoping to find a cure for HIV/AIDS, an overwhelming, ever present cloud over that country and the whole region of South Africa’.

You can read more about Yoder’s experiences in Swaziland by clicking here

See also
THE UNSWAZI BOY IS BACK IN TOWN


STAIN ON SWAZI KING’S BIRTHDAY BASH

News that King Mswati III has invited Zimbabwean despot Robert Mugabe to his birthday bash will leave an indelible stain on Swaziland.

Already some of the world’s media have used it as an excuse to remind people about the king’s lavish lifestyle and love of expensive cars and the fact that Swaziland is not a democracy.

It was the Swazi News on Saturday (26 July 2008) that first broke the news of Mugabe’s invitation.

The Swazi News reported, ‘Mugabe’s invitation to the 40/40 Double Celebrations definitely sets a sour tone for the party billed for September this year,’ but it did not explain why it was ‘sour’.

It could possibly be because the invitation highlights the kind of company Swaziland’s undemocratic leader keeps.

The 40/40 celebrations are due to take place in September to mark the 40th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence from Great Britain and also the king’s 40th birthday, both of which occur in 2008.

Mugabe became president of Zimbabwe after an election that most people consider to have been stolen (although I have to say not everyone admits this publicly). The Swazi News said, ‘The defiant Mugabe has been slapped with sanctions by the international community to go abroad to attend international functions. The 40/40 party could get him his groove back having been boycotted by the international community.’

Whether Mugabe gets ‘his groove back’ or not, the decision to invite him to the birthday party has gained international attention.

The international news agency AFP on Saturday (26 July 2008) quoted an unnamed official in Swaziland saying that ‘that a fleet of new German-made cars were on their way to Swaziland and would be unveiled during the double celebrations popularly known as 40/40.

‘“New cars for the King, the Queen Mother, his wives and other senior royal family members have already been ordered and they should be arriving mid-August,” the source said.’

Among other news organisation’s, South Africa’s Mail and Guardian carried the report, as did ZimOnline, billed as Zimbabwe’s ‘independent’ news agency.

King Mswati III is well known for his lavish lifestyle and his love of cars. He has been widely criticised in international circles in the past for spending huge sums of money on himself and his wives at a time when about 70 percent of people in Swaziland live in dire poverty, struggling to survive on an income of less than one US dollar a day.

It is not yet certain that Mugabe will accept the offer to attend the party. Mugabe doesn’t have much respect for the king, especially after the king criticised the way the Zimbabwean election was handled. Mugabe told King Mswati that as an autocratic monarch of a kingdom where political parties are banned he couldn’t teach Mugabe anything about democracy.

The Voice of America (VoA) reported yesterday (28 July 2008) that the invitation was ‘generating intense criticism in the Southern African sub region’. VoA said that some political analysts believe Mugabe’s invitation is an attempt by the Swazi king to make peace with the Zimbabwe leader after the offence he caused by criticising the Zimbabwean election.

The VoA also extensively quoted Mario Masuku, the leader of Swaziland’s banned political party, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO).

Masuku told VoA that ordinary Swazi were against the huge cost of the celebrations, which are estimated to cost anything up to E50 million (about 7 million US dollars).

‘We are not only frowning on the invitation of Robert Mugabe. The celebrations themselves are unwarranted, it is just a waste of money for the Swazi nation, but worse still we now believe they are all people of the same team for King Mswati to invite a dictator that has violated fundamental human rights of the people of Zimbabwe to be brought here.

‘“It is an insult or adding salt into wounds of the people of Swaziland. Already people of Swaziland who are poor and unemployed are unhappy about the celebration. But the invitation of Robert Mugabe is adding salt into the wounds, and as far as PUDEMO is concerned, we think it is completely unnecessary and an affront to the fundamental rights of the people,” Masuku said.

VoA reported, ‘Masuku described the estimated cost of the planned celebration as completely unjustified, which he said shows the kings profligacy of spending the people’s money without caring for the suffering masses.

‘Masuku said, “I believe that the money could have been used into improving of the stand of living of the people of Swaziland. Currently, there are people who are suffering from the drought, people who are unemployed the money could have gone into improvement of the health facilities, the money could have gone into the improvement of the education standards of Swaziland. We believe that the king if he wanted a birthday for himself, he could have done so from his own resources, but not from the people’s taxes.”

The 40/40 celebration shave come under intense attack from some newspapers within Swaziland. In May 2008, the Swazi News reported that huge sums of money were being spent on equipping Swaziland’s armed forces in preparation for the celebrations. The official line was that the bullets and guns were needed to protect visiting dignitaries. The army was also deployed across the kingdom, raising suspicions that they might be used against civilian populations if there was any public dissent during the celebrations.

Also in May 2008, the Times of Swaziland’s managing editor, Martin Dlamini wrote in his own newspaper that the celebrations should be called off because the kingdom couldn’t afford them.

I have already written myself that if the 40/40 celebrations go ahead King Mswati III will once again be reviled in the eyes of the international community for spending money irresponsibly. He will also be seen to be out of touch with the realities of life in his own kingdom. This will do him immense personal harm and it will also damage Swaziland because it will make international donors reluctant to do business with the kingdom (something the IMF has already identified as happening).

Inviting Mugabe to his birthday bash also reminds the international community that King Mswati III is an authoritarian ruler and he keeps very strange bedfellows. Can you image what international donors will say once a photograph of Mswati and Mugabe ‘getting their groove back’ (as the Swazi News likes to put it) circulates around the world?

See also
SWAZILAND 'PREPARES FOR WAR'

TELL SWAZI KING THE TRUTH


Monday, 28 July 2008

THE UNSWAZI BOY IS BACK IN TOWN

This blog has returned from its holiday early. There is so much going on in Swaziland at the moment my fingers are itching to get at the keyboard.

But don’t feel too sorry for me. I am outside of Swaziland at the moment where the Internet technology is so superior that I am able to publish this blog while sitting on the beach. (I know this will make friends in Swaziland sick with envy).

Another good reason for getting back to the job of monitoring the media is a report about me that appeared in the Weekend Observer on Saturday (26 July 2008). In a fashion that is typical of Swazi media, the newspaper didn’t bother to talk to me. As a result the report is full of inaccuracies, lies and half truths. But back to that later.

I’m guessing here, but maybe one reason the Weekend Observer didn’t interview me is that my reputation precedes me. I don’t see it as my role in life to get my name in the newspapers or my face on television. For that reason when I am approached by journalists for a comment I don’t try to give them a quote they can use. Instead when they ask me a question, I tell them what I think.

Anyone who regularly reads this blog will know what I think about what’s going on in Swaziland and you can work out for yourself why the media often choose not to report my comments.

There was a classic case of this earlier this month (July 2008). Days before I was due to present the results of my research into censorship and self-censorship in the Swazi media. I was telephoned by state-controlled Swazi TV. A journalist wanted me to appear live on the station’s breakfast show to discuss the report.

It was obvious to me that Swazi TV hadn’t actually read the report because if it had it would never have called me. My report was highly critical of King Mswati III and the way he dictated what the media could and could not write about him.


Can you imagine the scandal if I had appeared live on state-controlled television and said this?

Last year when the Times Sunday published a report from an overseas’ news agency that was critical of King Mswati III’s personal spending, the king summoned the Times’ publisher to one of his many palaces and threatened to close down the nominally-independent newspaper group unless an abject apology was forthcoming. The apology came and the newspaper group still publishes.

The fallout at Swazi TV if my comments had gone on air would have been enormous. Swazi TV is the mouthpiece of the Swazi Government and the monarchy. The very reason for its existence is to prop up the status quo in Swaziland and to broadcast propaganda on its behalf.

I have no doubts that people at Swazi TV would have lost their jobs if I had gone on air and I personally would have been a marked man by Swaziland’s not very efficient ‘secret police’.

So, I declined the offer to go live. I didn’t tell the journalist who was on the phone what my report revealed, but I did offer to do a recorded interview in advance of the programme. This way, I figured, I could say what I wanted to say and Swazi TV would have the choice not to use it.

It wouldn’t have used it of course. Thereby demonstrating how self-censorship worked in the state-controlled media.

In the event Swazi TV didn't take me up on the offer. I think this was due to the lack of facilities the station has. It is easier to have someone come into the studio for a live broadcast than to send a journalist out with a camera to do a report.

Now back to the Weekend Observer. Its report was about my leaving my job at the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) and what would happen to journalism teaching there now.

As I said the reporter didn’t bother to contact me, but did use a blogpost I wrote for some background information.

Even then the reporter made a grave error. The reporter said I was leaving UNISWA ‘because he [Rooney] felt he had achieved what he had set out to achieve by coming to Swaziland’. This is actually the exact opposite of the truth. I left UNISWA because I felt it was impossible to achieve anything worthwhile there.

The Weekend Observer report also contained other inaccuracies. It stated that I would be replaced as professor by a Fulbright Scholar. It didn’t explain what one of these was, but it led the readers to believe this was something ‘good’.

In fact there is no Fulbright Scholar. UNISWA applied to have someone come to work in journalism under the Fulbright scheme but no one wanted to. Instead, the US embassy in Swaziland offered to send someone under a different scheme. The person who is coming is an English language teacher (not a journalist) with very few appropriate qualifications and hardly any teaching experience.

Incidentally, the UNISWA spokesperson quoted in the report refers to this visitor as ‘he’ when in fact the visitor is a ‘she’ (the UNISWA spokesperson doesn’t seem to be on top of his brief here). I am sure the visitor will be a willing worker and I wish her well, but an unqualified volunteer is not a replacement for a professor and the volunteer is only at UNISWA for one year.

The fact that UNISWA thinks that an unqualified person is a suitable replacement for an experienced academic speaks volumes about the academic standards at the university.

The UNISWA spokesman also said the university is advertising internationally for a replacement professor. The vacancy has been known since October 2007 and no such advert has yet appeared. The reason for this is simple. UNISWA usually advertises with the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) but because UNISWA hasn’t been paying its bills, ACU has refused to take any more of its adverts until it coughs up the cash.

Anyway, that’s enough about me. Come back again soon for reports on why Princess Sikhanyiso thinks her ‘dad’ is loved by his people and why the Zimbabwean despot Robert Mugabe has been invited to King Mswati III’s birthday bash.


See also
CENSORSHIP – ADVERTS AND LIBEL

FAREWELL, BUT NOT FOR LONG


Sunday, 13 July 2008

SO FAREWELL, BUT NOT FOR LONG

As many of you in Swaziland know, I am leaving the kingdom for good this week.

(I fly out on Wednesday afternoon if you want to wave your tears sodden hankies at my plane).

I am not being forced out by the status quo, nor has my employer, the University of Swaziland (UNISWA), sacked me. I have decided not to renew my contract at the university because there is not much point my being there.

But I don’t want to write today about UNISWA (I am presently writing an academic paper on UNISWA and if it gets published I’ll let you know).

Since people found out I was leaving they have asked me what is going to happen to the blog.

My most common answer to this question is don’t worry about my blog, start one of your own.

I am however going to try to continue with Swazi Media Commentary, but because I will no longer be based in Swaziland it will be more difficult for me to get information to post.

Some people have offered to keep me informed of what’s going on in Swaziland and I appreciate that. If anyone has any news, information etc that they think will look good on the blog send it to me at Swazimedia@yahoo.com

Let’s try to keep the blog going as long as people find it useful.

So farewell for now. I’m going back to my home in the United Kingdom and then on holiday.

The blog will return on 11 August 2008.

PUDEMO ALL THE FACTS ARE HERE

I wrote yesterday (12 July 2008) that it was sometimes difficult to find good reliable information about Swaziland’s banned political party the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) on the internet.

Of course, it depends on where you are looking.

A reader sent in this information about the ‘definitive’ source of information on PUDEMO

For those wishing information on PUDEMO they should take a look at http://swazilandsolidaritynetworkcanada.wikispaces.com/PUDEMO

Here you will find the PUDEMO Constitution, Statements and various newspaper articles. All the PUDEMO documents have been authorized for internet publication by the National Executive Council of PUDEMO.

Additionally, the only book which seems to have included some pages on PUDEMO is Richard Levin's When the Sleeping Grass Awakens.

Publication date: 31 Jul 1997

Publisher: Wits University
PressISBN-10: 1868143015
EAN: 9781868143016

See also
PUDEMO SPEAKS FOR ITSELF

SWAZI MARCH BANNED – STATEMENT

Last weekend the banned political party PUDEMO attempted to march and rally in Swaziland.

As I wrote on Monday (7 July 2008) the Swazi police brutally broke up the rally. Some people were physically taken up to 40km away from the rally and dumped by police. Others, including a man on crutches were assaulted by police.

Now the Swaziland Solidarity Network has issued a media release supporting PUDEMO (The People's United Democratic Movement) and condemning the police.

Since I haven’t seen any reference to this release in the Swazi media, here it is.


PRESS STATEMENT
Date: 11 July 2008

PUDEMO RALLY BRUTALLY DISPERSED BY ROYAL POLICE IN MANZINI, SWAZILAND


On 5 July 2008 , The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) held a rally in Manzini, Swaziland, to commemorate the organization's founding day. The rally was banned and brutally dispersed by the intolerant king and his oppressive police.

This behaviour once again demonstrates King Mswati III disdain for democracy and the right of people to peacefully assemble. What kind of democracy is this? The kind that bans people from assembling, because we oppose the King? PUDEMO did not mushroom from the ground yesterday, for us to be treated like ‘naughty kids’

PUDEMO is a liberation movement committed to a truly free and democratic Swaziland. The King and his Tinkundla induna's are not committed to democracy and freedom, but want to maintain his tyranny through undemocratic means. No democracy can exist without the right of people to organize into political parties and contest free and fair elections.

Violence is no means to address political problems. However, it must be mentioned that for the oppressed people any means necessary to defend themselves is legitimate and we fully endorse it.

To insult freedom and democracy further, Mswati has the arrogance to try to play referee in the Zimbabwe crisis. While he bans political parties in Swaziland, bans and intimidates PUDEMO and the democratic forces, he wants to ensure there is free and fair multi-party democracy in Zimbabwe – what a hypocrite!

As the Swaziland Solidarity Network, we condemn Mswati’s double standards. We further condemn SADC attempts to use this Swazi tinpot dictator as a referee in this sensitive crisis that requires credible people. We call on SADC to fire Mswati as a member of the security troika, for he does not qualify to police anyone in SADC.


We want to extend our warm wishes to PUDEMO’s existence for 25 years, and wish our comrades, particularly Comrade Mario Masuku victory in the democratic struggle of Swaziland.

We endorse PUDEMO’s call to SADC, African Union, NEPAD and Commonwealth, to stand by their resolutions to determine whether the Swaziland elections are democratic before they are determined to be free and fair. We know it will not be, due to political parties being banned. We support PUDEMO’s boycott of the elections and all efforts to render it unworkable. The only way forward is a constituent Assembly that will lead to unbanning of political parties, free and fair elections and a constitutional monarchy.

Viva PUDEMO Viva!

Long Live the Swazi People's Democratic Struggle.

Issued by Swaziland Solidarity Network
For more information contact
Lucky Lukhele- [SSN- SPOKESPERSON]
Cell: 072 502 4141
Tell: 011 339 3621


See also
SWAZI COPS BEAT UP PUDEMO - UPDATE

Saturday, 12 July 2008

SWAZI WOMEN ‘EVIL’ UPDATE

I wrote earlier this week that the Times of Swaziland had reported on a group of chiefs who said that the Vote For A Woman campaign ahead of this year’s Swazi election was ‘evil’.

Yesterday (11 July 2008) the Times went one better and launched a stinging attack on the chiefs, saying they should be thrown out of office.

The Times says the chiefs are acting unconstitutionally and speculates that one reason why the Shiselweni region (where the chiefs come from) is so lacking in development is because of the backward chiefs.

It also calls for a full probe into the welfare of women in the region.

The attack comes in the regular Friday Just Thinking column. In recent weeks this column has been unsigned, but it is usually written by the Times’ managing editor, Martin Dlamini.

Although the Times does have a website, it doesn’t have an archive so its reports and other articles only stay online for a day. This Just Thinking column deserves a longer life than that so I am reproducing it in full below.

GET RID OF THESE CHIEFS … women good for nothing but cooking and making babies for them


When the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) gets done with the PM and Cabinet over the planned march against ritual murders, they need to head down south to shake up our back­ward chiefs.

Chiefs in the Shiselweni region are apparently against the Vote for Women campaign. They see evil in the exer­cise and have branded it 'unSwazi'.

These are authority figures who rep­resent the king in their various com­munities. They have the responsibil­ity to carry though pronouncements from the Ingwenyoma on traditional, cultural as well as political develop­ments.

One such development is the call by the king urging the nation to recog­nise women as eligible politicians and leaders.

Defy

This call has gone as far as hav­ing the constitution give a specific quota for the number of women re­quired in Parliament (30 percent), which is in line with international conventions that seek to recognise women as equal citizens.

Not for our chiefs down south though. They are prepared to defy the king on this one. Chief Dambuza Lukhele, a former Cabinet minister, who one would think knows better, has been quoted; ‘this campaign seems to make Swazis lose their identity and cul­ture. It has a foreign evil element which we can't accept."

He was supported by his col­leagues. Disgraceful!

What has happened to Chief Dambuza? The last time I checked he was serving in one of the advi­sory bodies to Their Majesties. He therefore is in a better position to ap­preciate the wishes of the king to rec­ognising the significant contribution women can make in our society. Why would he put his foot down against the king on this one?

He must have read the constitution and the Bill of Rights which make women equal citizens of this coun­try. This document was presented to the people at the cattle byre where all chiefs, including Dambuza, were present.

Are these chiefs more concerned about losing control of their wives more than what they could probably do for the region or the country?

To think we still have traditional leaders so divorced from reality is scary.

This warrants a full probe into the welfare of women in the Shiselweni region where men see evil in a woman in a leadership position. There must be frightening incidents of margina-lisation. It gives a frightening picture of a region with kitchen wives and baby making factories and no 'women'.

Violate

Then we wonder why the Shiselweni region is so far behind in develop­ment. It's a shame and unforgivable. These chiefs must be called to order yesterday and forced to withdraw their statements which violate the rights of women and deprives them of an opportunity to be nominated and voted for. Such statements strip the women of their dignity and worthiness.

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) should see to it that women in the Shiselwni region have a free and fair election exercise and not just serve as voters otherwise it makes the entire election exercise under these stone age statements a sham.

To all the women in the region I urge you to vote for women in their numbers. The men who are supposed to look after your interests have labelled you useless for development.

We need a new group of chiefs as these have demonstrated they are not only a threat to development, but to the king.

Pity they are not democratically elected, otherwise the women would be voting them out of office come election day. God help us.


See also
SWAZI WOMEN ELECTION CAMPAIGN ‘EVIL’

PUDEMO SPEAKS FOR ITSELF

A few weeks ago I received an email from a man in the United States of America who was researching into political parties in Swaziland.

I had to tell him the bad news that political parties are banned in Swaziland so there are none. Or at least none that are legally operating within the kingdom.

He had written to me because he had been searching on the Internet and hadn’t come across any useful information. He found my blog and thought I might be able to help. Incidentally, I get a number of requests from people searching for information about Swaziland (not just the media) and they find Swazi Media Commentary and ask me to put them in touch with people who can assist them.

This reminds me yet again that there is very little information on the Internet that originates from within Swaziland and it is about time more people went online (so get those blogs up and running).

The main ‘opposition’ organisation in Swaziland is almost certainly PUDEMO (The Peoples United Democratic Movement), but I have found myself that it is very difficult to get good reliable background information on PUDEMO.

Which is why a letter to the editor published in the Times of Swaziland yesterday (11 July 2008) is so useful.

Zakhele Mabuza of PUDEMO writes it and it is about how PUDEMO came in to being and it briefly outlines its purposes.

It is particularly good because it is PUDEMO explaining for itself what it is about and it doesn’t have to rely on the interpretation of a journalist to get the message across.

Here is the letter in full.

When PUDEMO was born… they have said that PUDEMO is anti-monarchy and anti-tradition

The month of July is a sig­nificant period for it marks the birth of the Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) founded in 1983-a few months after the death of King Sobhuza II.

This was followed by heightened repression in the country orchestrated by the Supreme Council of State, Liqoqo. There was infighting in the palace, xenophobia and collusion with apartheid South Africa that resulted in detention without trial and police brutality. It was against such a background that some patriotic Swazis, including university students and work­ers, resolved to form this or­ganisation with the broad aim of challenging the oppression and iron rule meted by the Liqoqo on the people of this country.

PUDEMO seeks to unite the people of this country in the struggle for constitutional multiparty democracy. The condi­tions of poor governance that existed in the inception of PUDEMO still exit in the present context Swaziland is still run as a private entity (farm).

Committed

Corruption has become part of our culture and the gov­ernment cannot do anything as they are part of the whole mix. Very little resources are committed on health, agricul­ture and education. Educa­tion has become very expen­sive, the country has gone hungry and the health sys­tem has virtually collapsed.

The provision of social services is very poor and at times is done as a favour to the governed. The elderly grant is so low and meaning­less. The challenges faced by the people under the Tinkhundla System of Gov­ernance are countless and are by deliberate human design.

The status quo and people threatened by PUDEMO’s call for constitutional multi-party democracy have spread a lot of misinformation about the organisation. They have said that PUDEMO is anti-monarchy and anti-tradition.

All that PUDEMO seeks is a just political system under con­stitutional multiparty democ­racy that will guarantee the people of this country democ­racy, accountability, transpar­ency and social security. We so much want to see Swaziland become a giant of democracy in the global stage.

PUDEMO is not anti tradi­tion, but does not take kindly to the trend that sees culture being used as a political tool to oppress and indoctrinate the people of this country.

PUDEMO has always called for the drafting of a national constitution that will guaran­tee proper mechanisms for governance and a bill of rights with the involvement of all stakeholders. A very viable, transparent and all inclusive process was put forward by PUDEMO to the government of the day as early as 1992. However, being anti political pluralism the government de­liberately refused to adopt the proposed strategy.

Entrenchment

Instead they short circuited this process and went the vusela, CRC and CDC route that ensured the end product would guarantee the entrench­ment of the status quo in the form of the present document that is called a national consti­tution.

We reject this document for it does not truly represent the as­pirations for a future Swaziland that is governed democratically and transparently.

The election structure under the existing status quo is de­liberately designed to produce a legislature and an executive that does not have powers to independently and honestly discharge their duties.

These officers are then re­warded for agreeing to play politics, be errand boys and girls.

PUDEMO wants an election process that will provide people with real power and be able to formulate policies and implement them. This is the constitutional multi-party democracy we are calling for.

We believe the Tinkhu­ndla System of Govern­ance and its election proc­ess is meant to promote in­dividualism as opposed to collectivism (a clear divide and rule strategy). What can an individual without a political constituency do in Parliament and in the ex­ecutive to promote good governance?

Individuals will be for­ever grateful to the mas­ters of the political system for allowing them time to continue receiving ben­efits and privileges which are very scarce for the or­dinary Swazi in the streets, slums and rural areas.

Zakhele Mabuza
Information and Publicity-
PUDEMO


See also
SWAZI COPS BEAT UP PUDEMO - UPDATE

HOW SWAZI KING IS MADE UPDATE

My post on Thursday (10 July 2008) about how the Swazi king was ‘chosen’ to lead the kingdom raised some eyebrows.

In particular my reference to people in Swaziland who consider that King Mswati III was ‘chosen’ by God hit some nerves.

The idea that he is chosen is encouraged from some pulpits in Swaziland. This gives the churches (especially it seems to me the spurious churches that meet in school classrooms or in pokey corners of the kingdom) a direct link to the King. This benefits the church more than it does the King.

Also, some chiefs in Swaziland who are themselves appointed by the King like to encourage the notion of ‘godliness’ because it allows people to believe that the chiefs themselves are close to God.

One reader of this blog had an interesting take on my original post. What the writer has to say about the succession might not be true. But then again, it might.

‘Before I get to the “making of a king” stuff, this “god” business has to be labelled bizarre. It is an archaic idea which should go the way of the dodo bird!

‘From history we know many aristocratic men have claimed the “sun” status (Louis XIV of France) or believed they were “gods” (Emperors of Japan). Even the mad psychopaths, such as Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini and German Nazi Adolph Hitler, believed they were some type of central “axis” around which Europe and the entire world should revolve. ’Hitler was not only considered “Mein Fuhrer” but also “Mein Gott” (my leader, my god) by his most loyal and ruthless SS - the schultzstaffel, his elite defense corp. So these ideas are not new no matter what surname you attach to the idea.

‘For many of us foreigners who lived in Swaziland we often heard the royal Dlamini successor must be the only child of his mother – that’s the primary consideration to becoming a king. But I’m certain many in Swaziland know the rumors about Makosetive's mother being raped so that he would not be her only child.

‘Supposedly the half-brother lives in Taiwan with a certain Mrs Mbhamali who once owned the Arcade Jewellers in Mbabane. She was a sister to the late Prime Minister Bhekimpi, hence the outcry when she was reported to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the 1990s. To this date, both have been esteemed guests of the now defeated Taiwanese Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

‘I guess it would be a bit too risky for the Nation or any others in Swaziland to print this but I doubt that I’m the only one who's heard it. Perhaps friends in Taiwan may even shed light on this half-brother to a “god.”’

See also
HOW A SWAZI KING IS MADE

Friday, 11 July 2008

SWAZI KING’S UGANDAN RELATIONS

Swaziland’s King Mswati III is back in his home kingdom after an extensive trip to Egypt for the African Union summit and to Uganda for a state-visit.

Readers of this blog who live in Swaziland will be well aware of these facts because the state-owned media have been giving the king’s journey extensive coverage.

Even the nominally independent newspaper, the Swazi Observer, has been devoting pages per day to the King. The Observer is generally known as ‘the King’s newspaper’ so this is no surprise. The Observer’s chief editor Musa Ndlangamandla travelled with ‘His Majesty’ (in the deferential way the newspaper likes to refer to the King).

As I said in my recently published research on censorship in Swazi newsrooms, it is the job of the chief editor (whoever holds the post, not just the present one) to report the King in a ‘good light’. And the reporting of this trip has been no exception.

I got the impression that there may not have been too much to write about this trip because Ndlangamandla had some difficulty filling the wide-open spaces of the Observer that had been left to him.

That can be the only reason why readers of the Observer (2 July 2008) had to put up with a report about problems the chief editor was having with his underwear (believe me you don’t want to know the details.)

Meanwhile, Swaziland’s only other ‘independent’ newspaper, the Times of Swaziland had to rely on the Internet for its stories.

As is common with newspapers in Swaziland, the Times ‘lifted’ reports that had already appeared on the Internet sites of newspapers outside of the kingdom.

The Times relied on New Vision, a Ugandan newspaper for its coverage.

Uganda is a country with a big human rights problem and the country’s newspapers are not very different from those in Swaziland when it comes to keeping on the right side of those in power.

So in the Times yesterday (10 July 2008) we were treated to New Vision’s report of King Mswati III praising a local ‘kingdom’ within Uganda. The King is reported to have praised the kingdom’s parliament and also praised kingdoms generally.

We should remember at this point that Swaziland is a kingdom (not a country or a state) and its people are subjects (not citizens). King Mswati is reported saying that kingdom’s ‘play an important role in poverty alleviation, job creation, access to health care and social services’.

I’ll leave it to you to decide how highly the Kingdom of Swaziland scores in each of these areas.

The King of Buganda in turn praised the Swazi King ‘for the peace and stability it has established in its kingdom for 200 years’.

The Times also lifted a story from New Vision about Swaziland committing to buy anti-AIDS ARV drugs from Swaziland.

I suppose if the Times cannot afford to send its own reporter to join the King on overseas’ visits (or indeed doesn’t want to) it needs to get its news from an alternative source: hence its reliance on New Vision.

What a pity then that it didn’t also share this report from New Vision.

When King Mswati of Swaziland jetted in on Monday, a state House official asked all female journalists to step aside because they had ‘breached a protocol of dress code’ and would not cover the function of the king’s arrival. They were wearing trousers. But after haggling, they were let in. When the journalists inquired from their Swazi colleagues whether female journalists are not allowed to wear trousers they were told they can wear anything as long as it is decent. The Ugandans concluded that they were being protected from royal attention. Mswati has 16 wives.

What can they mean the women had to be ‘protected from royal attention?’ and what has this to do with having 16 wives?....

Thursday, 10 July 2008

HOW A SWAZI KING IS MADE

A lot of people in Swaziland believe that God chose King Mswati III to be king.

And because of this divine intervention, 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.

Well that’s the theory. And it is very convenient for those close to the power of the king to allow this falsehood to gather ground in Swaziland. After all, some people might want to criticise a king, but who can dare criticise a God?

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

I was reminded of this by the Nation magazine this month (July 2008), which for the second issue running has included extensive coverage of the documentary Without The King. As regular readers to the Nation (and this blog) know the documentary investigated the differences between the lavish lifestyles of the Royal Family and those of ordinary people in Swaziland.

Without the King and the Nation reveal how the present king came to the throne – and the manoeuvrings are 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 reports, ‘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 12 ½ 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.’

See also
BRAVE SWAZI ‘NATION’ TAKES ON KING

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

CENSORSHIP – ADVERTS AND LIBEL

I wrote last week about the research I had undertaken on censorship in the Swazi media.

My conclusion that journalists felt that King Mswati III was the biggest cause of imposed and self-censorship in Swaziland didn’t come as much of a surprise to media watchers.

But, I want to make clear that although the monarchy is the main concern among media people in Swaziland it is not the only cause.

My report, commissioned by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter, also identified advertisers and the threat of libel action as significant worries.

Below is an extract from the report called The Existence of Censorship in Newsrooms. If you want a copy of the full report please email me at swazimedia@yahoo.com


Advertisers and financial interests of organisations

The threat of losing advertising is real, this is especially so as the economy of Swaziland is declining. The privately owned media is dependent on advertising to survive, and since a small number of organisations spend so much the media houses give serious consideration every time there is a complaint from an advertiser.

Some advertisers are so important to the newspapers that a special relationship exists between the advertiser and the advertising department. The advertising department knows that some advertisers will never say ‘no’ when approached to advertise. For example, if a newspaper is running a special themed advertising supplement, it might approach a regular advertiser to support it. If the advertiser has already spent the annual advertising budget, an advertisement would still be placed and the advertisement paid for at a later date, when funds are available to the advertiser.

A number of companies and organisations were specifically cited as organisations that regularly tried to censor the content of newspapers. They were Swazi Bank; the cellphone company, MTN (‘a definite no-go area’ and ‘you can’t write about blackouts in the service’); the Swaziland Electricity Company and Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications (SPTC).

All the foregoing are major companies or parastatals in Swaziland. But smaller companies are also given special treatment. One such company that was mentioned more than once by respondents was the Why Not (a recreation and entertainment venue). In the case of the Why Not, respondents said they did not even feel able to publish a poor review of an act that appeared at the venue, for fear of losing advertising.

Although media houses will keep stories about advertisers out of the media there is a limit to what they will not report. For example, one respondent said they would publish a story if a chief officer of an advertiser were accused of rape.

Newspapers do not fear the withdrawal of advertising by government, although, according to the African Media Barometer, published by MISA, this has happened in the past. It is felt that government has little choice but to use the newspapers in order to get information out to the general public (although state-controlled radio, SBIS is also available for this). One respondent said that in the past when the government did withdraw advertising it was done by one small part of government and the ban lasted about one week.

There was a minority view that advertisers did not cause problems for media houses because they understood that newspapers had a duty to publish. Advertisers were satisfied if the media house gave the advertiser a platform to give its side of the story.

Libel

Many respondents reported that hardly a day went by without somebody threatening to sue them in order to ‘scare them off’. A letter from a lawyer often accompanied these threats. There was a general feeling that some people who claimed that they had been libelled by the media were ‘trying it on’ to get the media house to agree on an apology and costs before the case got to court.

The great time delay in getting cases to court could intimidate media houses. One respondent said a case could take up to two years before it went to court. Another said that lawyers, acting like ‘ambulance chasers’, tried to keep a case going as long as they could. This guaranteed the lawyer an income, when lawyers had very few other opportunities to earn.

Media houses sometimes settled cases, even those where they believed they had not committed a libel, for fear of the huge costs involved. Libel insurance to protect media houses was becoming prohibitively expensive in a climate where claims for libel could be as high as E3 million.

This fear of the high cost if a case was lost has led to some stories being dropped or angles in stories being toned down.

Media houses often settled out of court to avoid the protracted hassle and possible costs of pursuing a case to court. One respondent said settling out of court was a dangerous move for media houses. ‘Once you settle, you open the floodgates for everybody else.’

Another respondent said, ‘Settling for fear of going to court has reduced the confidence of journalists and lowers the standards of journalism’. This led newspapers to only go for soft targets (people who could not sue) and to leave larger, more important, targets alone.

Sources

The media protect their own sources by not publishing harmful stories about them, but this protection is not total. Some respondents revealed that they would not publish the story in their own newspaper, but would pass it on to another newspaper in the same media house, for them to follow up.

Some respondents admitted to censoring stories about regular sources in order to ensure a future flow of stories from that source.

When a regular source wants to keep something out of the media, a certain amount of negotiation takes place. There were a number of examples given where a source – often an official spokesperson for an organisation – offered the media house a ‘juicier’ story in exchange for dropping a story that would reflect badly on the organisation that the journalist was working on.

Sources often get their way, and many respondents revealed that they were given ‘better’ stories in exchange.

Taboos and cultural traditions

Cultural traditions are said to be very important in Swaziland and there exists a duality in the legal system between constitutional law and cultural and traditional law.

Despite the apparent importance of culture, most respondents said that they did not allow traditional leaders to interfere with the media’s work.

Some respondents said that there are no real cultural traditions in Swaziland. ‘We don’t respect that cultural leaders are sincere,’ one respondent said.

Other comments included, ‘To Hell with culture – nobody has authority to challenge us.’ ‘Nobody’s practising culture in our country any more.’ ‘Women in the villages are only doing it for survival, they don’t really give a damn.’ ‘I’m here to break cultural taboos.’

The only area in which culture was respected by the media, concerned the King. There are a number of things that culture dictates cannot be reported about annual ceremonies concerning the King (e.g. the Reed Dance and Incwala) and the media (reluctantly, according to respondents) censored themselves. It was clear from respondents that there were many stories from the Reed Dance and Incwala that were known to the media, that they would like to publish, but did not, for fear of the consequences from the King.

See also
CENSORSHIP AND THE SWAZI MEDIA

GVT LIES OVER SWAZI MARCH

The Swazi Government has been caught out in a lie in the controversy over a banned march and rally against ritual murders in Swaziland.

Last week the Prime Minister told editors that the march had been banned because it would humiliate Swaziland abroad. He said people would think Swazis were murderers.

Now news comes that the organisers of the banned march and rally propose to hold a ‘prayer meeting’ for the victims of ritual murder.

Both the Times of Swaziland and the Swazi Observer carried statements from the Government yesterday (8 July 2008) saying that the government supported the prayer meeting. The statement says that had the organisers of the march made it clear last week that it was a prayer meeting and not a march and rally they wanted, permission would have been granted.

And that’s where the lie comes in. If the reason for banning the march was to avoid alerting the international community to the murders and thus ‘humiliating’ the kingdom, how is it that this prayer meeting won’t also draw attention?

The truth is that the Prime Minister and the Government were just looking for excuses to ban the march. They know that there will be uproar in the Swaziland if they dare to ban a prayer meeting, so they have backed down.

A statement on the original march from the Prime Minister’s office said, ‘In the present climate, a rally, in the view of the cabinet, had political connotations and it appeared that there would be an attempt to use the ritual murders as a political ploy.’

The statement doesn’t say what this ‘ploy’ was, but as I reported on Saturday there are strong rumours in Swaziland that the reason why members of the government want to ban discussion on the ritual murders is that some of them used ‘muti’ to get themselves elected.

See also
SWAZI MARCH BAN – P.M. SAYS PRAY

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

SWAZI WOMEN VOTE CAMPAIGN ‘EVIL’

Chiefs have branded a ‘Vote for a Woman’ election campaign in Swaziland ‘evil’.

The campaign designed to help meet the requirement of the Swaziland Constitution for at least 30 percent of parliamentarians to be women, was also called ‘unSwazi’.

The chiefs of the Shiselweni region refused to endorse the campaign in their areas.

This happened at a ‘sensitisation’ meeting held by the Swaziland Home Affairs Ministry.

The Times of Swaziland reported today (8 July), most of the chiefs ‘said they felt that the concept had a foreign element that is unSwazi and had no place in the Swazi way of life’.

Although the newspaper didn’t report this, the chiefs were in effect saying that the constitution was ‘unSwazi’. Ironically, the Times reported the chiefs saying the Vote for a Woman campaign was itself unconstitutional because the election campaign had not officially started yet and the campaign was electioneering.

But that was just an excuse. The real reason was that the chiefs have no concept of democracy and do not want anyone but themselves to have a voice.

The former Swaziland Government Minister of Agriculture Chief Dambuza Lukhele gave the game away when he told the meeting, ‘This campaign seems to make Swazis lose their identity and culture. It has an evil foreign element, which we can’t accept. We respect international conventions, but this is unacceptable.’

The Times reported that this statement was met with ‘applause of approval from other chiefs’.

The Times reported Chief Velakubi of Madulini saying,

‘We can’t allow this to go ahead in our chiefdoms. This country can be lost in our hands. What if we allow this to proceed and the youth and other formations also come and say they want a forum also to pursue their agendas.’

The Times reported that Senior Gender Analyst at the Ministry of Home Affairs Jane Mkhonta, who was to lecture on the campaign, tried to be diplomatic and asked the chiefs to allow the meeting to go ahead but to no avail.

This new move to stifle debate in Swaziland comes a week after the European Union (EU) Ambassador to Swaziland Peter Beck Christiansen announced that the EU would not ‘observe’ the forthcoming elections because the Prime Minister and Cabinet are not elected by parliament. He said, ‘It’s clear that the [Swazi] constitution has some shortcomings.’

Meanwhile, the Swazi Observer reported (8 July 2008) that the Elections and Boundaries Commission chairman Chief Gija Dlamini had said that he was told the EU was coming to observe the elections.

I suppose we’ll find out in due course who is correct here. All we need now is for King Mswati III to tell us when the vote will be.


See also
EU SNUBS SWAZILAND ELECTION

SWAZILAND DEMOCRACY ‘A LIE’

News this week that the European Union (EU) will not be coming to ‘observe’ the Swazi elections later this year because Swaziland is not a democracy has been largely ignored by the local media.

Although the decision not to come was announced by Peter Beck Christiansen, the EU Ambassador to Swaziland at a media briefing, only the Times of Swaziland reported the story.

Despite the deafening silence elsewhere, the Times’ companion newspaper, the Times Sunday has said that the EU’s decision ‘ampli­fies the concern that we [Swaziland] are living under a lie, that we have a unique and workable [democratic] system’.

In an editorial comment, the Times Sunday this week (6 July 2008) said,

‘What the EU’s decision seeks to tell us is the fact that we should wake up from our slumber, and deal with the fact that our “democratic” sys­tem does not have the tenets that are accept­able to the rest of the world. Indeed we have a unique system, but doesn’t the EU’s decision show us that soon we will not be acceptable, or will lose out on some privileges that only accrue to democratic states.’

As I reported on Wednesday, the EU’s concern with Swaziland was that political parties are banned and the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers are not elected by Parliament. Christiansen of the EU said it was clear the ‘Constitution has some shortcomings’.

The Times Sunday said that the EU’s position was not unexpected and people had been warning Swaziland for years that the kingdom must become a democratic state.

The Times Sunday says,

‘But the unfortu­nate part is that such warnings have all along been ignored by those in power, and in particu­lar, the people, a majority of whom are unable to understand why it is important to push for changes.

‘This underscores the fact that there have been serious challenges in educating the people, in particular the rural folk, about the im­portance of governance of the people by the people.

‘They have only been indoctrinated to accept that decisions are taken for them - and that’s Swazi. Anything above that is unSwazi.’

The Times Sunday refers to the letter from the Commonwealth Expert Team I posted last Sunday (29 June 2008).

This letter from a team which observed Swaziland’s last election in 2003 said in part, ‘we do not regard the credibility of these National Elections as an issue: no elec­tions can be credible when they are for a Par­liament which does not have power and when political parties are banned. We would like to believe that the current draft constitution can yet be changed to provide for a transfer of power from the King to the Parliament and Gov­ernment, and for freedom of association.’

The Times Sunday described this recommendation as ‘clear and precise, but the advice fell on deaf ears.

‘Or should we say it was sent to people who would not like to see any change of the status quo. As for the latter part (freedom of association) yes­terday’s events [the breaking up by police of a rally by banned political party PUDEMO] in Manzini show that we still have major challenges.’

The Times Sunday says that the Commonwealth Expert Team also advised that the election of senior ministers and the unbanning of political parties ‘must constitute the key features of the agenda for further reform in Swaziland and therefore represent the main issues to be tackled by the government’.

The Times Sunday editorial says, ‘Even though we now have a constitution in place, none of the recommendations were guaran­teed. Freedom of association was provided. But as EBC [Elections and Boundaries Commission] Chairman put it, it is for football teams and not political formations.
‘While the EU has resolved to leave us to proceed with a sham election, it is also unfortunate that the team charged with overseeing them was also irregularly selected. So, like the other bad ap­ples of Africa, should we also expect to have an illegitimate government in the coming two months?’

See also
EU SNUBS SWAZILAND ELECTION
IS SWAZILAND’S ELECTION CREDIBLE?

HUNGER STUNTING SWAZI CHILDREN

Four children out of ten in Swaziland are so malnourished that their growth has been permanently stunted.

The children are also damaged socially and mentally. Many have problems learning.

Many children are so hungry they collapse at school.

And the Swazi Government has no plans in place to solve the crisis.

There are now fears that once overseas’ food aid to Swaziland is reduced even more children will go hungry and suffer permanent damage.

The Save the Children Fund in Swaziland has issued dire warnings for the future health of children in the kingdom.

In the past year about 600,000 out of Swaziland’s total population of less than one million people have received donor food aid.

The Weekend Observer (5 July 2008) reported that many children, especially in the Lowveld area of the kingdom, that has suffered severe drought for many years, were seldom fed at home.

Only school feeding schemes are keeping them alive.

Save The Children Executive Director Dumisani Mnisi told the Weekend Observer that schoolteachers were concerned about the suffering of these children.

‘They complain that the children collapse because they have nothing to eat both at home and school,’ the Weekend Observer reported him saying.

He said Swaziland had not produced enough food to feed its population for the past five years.

Mnisi said that there were a growing number of families in Swaziland that were headed by children. Often, these households had no income coming in. This made children vulnerable to ‘being abused and exploited in exchange for food’.

Often, children left rural areas to go to towns and cities ‘and create another social challenge for the country,’ Mnisi said.

The Weekend Observer reported that Mnisi challenged the three-month stoppage of food distribution by the Disaster Management Agency. It is expected that people can grow their own food, but in the Lowveld ‘even backyard gardens are impossible’.

Mnisi criticised the Swazi Government for not having plans in place to deal with the food crisis even though the World Health Organisation said plans should be implemented within countries when the figure on stunted children reached 35 percent.

The Weekend Observer reported that recently the World Food Programme’s Country Director Abdoulaye Balde had noted that the food shortage in Swaziland could no longer be seen as a short-term crisis caused by drought. Instead, it was now a chronic problem that needed to be investigated. The problem was made worse by the chronic poverty in Swaziland where about 70 percent of the population earn less than one US Dollar a day.

People in Swaziland are so poor that many have no means to work their fields.

Mnisi said the government should encourage people to diversify the crops they grow and move away from a dependency on growing maize and instead try drought resistant crops.

Mnisi said, ‘Looking at the situation on the ground, one would realise that the situation is likely to get completely out of hand because of the growing number of children who struggle to find something to eat.’