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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

SWAZILAND HUMAN RIGHTS CRISIS



video



Swaziland has become a human rights crisis

Footage obtained by the Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa shows Swaziland’s people, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch are suffering from starvation, displacement, intimidation and violence.



Monday, 30 July 2012

POLICE ON STREETS AS STRIKE GOES ON


A heavy presence of armed police was reported on the streets of Manzini in Swaziland today (30 July 2012) as teachers defied a government ultimatum to end their two-month long strike or be sacked.

Democracy activists from the Centre for Human Rights, Swaziland, reported they visited six schools in Manzini and found children playing outside classrooms and some loitering in the streets of the city.

‘The city of Manzini is marred with the presence of armed police officers and other law enforcement state agents,’ the Centre said in a statement.

The government of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, gave striking teachers until today to return to work. It said they would be fired if they did not. Already teachers have had their pay stopped for striking, but the Swaziland National Teachers Association has challenged this in the High Court.

Teachers have been on strike for two months in an attempt to get a 4.5 percent pay increase.

The Centre for Human Rights said, ‘The governments’ position came at a time when local media reports that the government will hire 130 more police officers and spend about E 8.2 million. Teachers at a meeting held on Friday 27 July 2012 resolved to stay away from work until the government gives them the 4.5 % wage increase.’

It added that in recent week, ‘Sporadic protests have seen protesters being heavily assaulted by members of the police force and some being pelted with rubber bullets and tear-gassed. The government of Swaziland continues to condone violent acts by security personnel despite calls from both local and internationally for the government to ensure the protection and enjoyment of all civil and political rights.’

STRIKE CONTINUES DESPITE INTIMIDATION


Swazi teachers continue strike despite regime intimidation

Stiffkitten blog July 29, 2012



“The struggle for the public servants is still on. We had a SNAT [Swaziland National Union of Teachers] mass meeting on Friday and the teachers resolved to press on for yet another week,” Swaziland National Union of Teachers Secretary General, Muzi Mhlanga, told Africa Contact yesterday.

The public employees have been on strike for five weeks now, demanding a pay rise of 4.5 per cent, well below the rate of inflation in Swaziland and a mere fraction of the 30 per cent pay rise that Swaziland’s parliamentarians have given themselves.

On top of this, Swaziland’s royal family has an annual allowance of 20 million Euros and its absolute monarch, King Mswati III, has increased spending on his security forces and continues to spend lavishly on everything from private jets, sending his wives on a recreational trip to Las Vegas, and unnecessary prestige projects.

Swaziland is subsequently on the brink of economic ruin with growth rates plummeting, also due to the overall economic mismanagement of King Mswati’s government, which he in effect controls. Over two thirds of the population lives in absolute poverty, half the population receive some sort of food aid and the country has the highest HIV and Tuberculosis rates in the world.

Until now the strikers have been met by regime threats of salary reductions or being sacked, riot police and armed forces intimidation and beatings, tear gas and rubber bullets. Probably because the regime also understands that the strike is about more than a simple pay rise.

“In my opinion the teachers have broken all the barriers and have given all pro-democrats a challenge in that we should never give up but be determined so that we achieve our goal of democratisation of our country,” student activist Sibusiso Nhlabatsi tells Africa Contact.

“The teachers have refused to bow down to the threat of the brutal regime. I believe that with the enthusiasm and courage the teachers have shown we can push [Swaziland’s feudal] tinkhundla [system] to the chasm and replace it with a new system. They say a revolution will not be televised: the Teachers in Swaziland have started it. We believe that democracy in Swaziland is certain.”

HEALTH SECTOR GRINDING TO HALT



Swaziland's health sector grinding to a halt
Ongoing public servant strike in southern African country takes its toll on health care industry.
AlJazeera TV 28 July 2012

Striking medical staff and depleting medical supplies are severely affecting Swaziland's health sector.
Poorly resourced, the health care system has been further impacted by a reduced number of medical staff at work and a shortage of drugs.

Civil servants including teachers and medical staff have been striking for over a month demanding a pay raise of 4.5 per cent, but authorities are refusing to increase their salaries.

Al Jazeera's, Haru Mutasa secretly captured footage from inside Mbabane general hospital, where she found that medical staff had not arrived and the hospital's dispensary was running out of drugs.

Many people are even turning to traditional medicine rather than the more costly western medicine from the local pharmacy.

The government, one of Africa's last absolute monarchs, says that they cannot afford the pay rise. Instead, they have given the striking public workers a Monday deadline to get return to work, or be fired.

However, the strikers say they will not return to work until their demands are met.

They blame the country's problems on the state-funded extravagance of King Mswati, rated by Forbes magazine as among the world's richest royals, and his refusal to implement democratic reforms.

More than 60 per cent of the country's 1.1 million people live on less than $2 a day.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

CALL FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST KING


Swaziland democracy activists are calling for international sanctions and a travel ban to be imposed on King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, his Royal family, and his government ministers.

The Swaziland Diaspora Platform says the king is ‘a dictator’ who treats his kingdom ‘as his personal piggy bank’.

The call comes in the week that it was reported that three of the king’s 13 wives will travel to Las Vegas with an entourage of about 65 people on a multimillion-rand spending spree and vacation. 
Reports say the trip will cost the Swazi taxpayers at least R36 million (US$4.6 million). Seven in ten of the king’s subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day. Political parties are banned in the kingdom and all forms of prodemocracy protest are quashed by state forces.

The SDP, in a statement, said, ‘The King and government's lavish spending continues whilst hundreds of thousands of Swazis are forced to continue to struggle to make ends meet and depend on aid in a country that should be able to sustain its people were it managed by an accountable and transparent government delivering on a people's mandate.’

It added, ‘Public Service trade unions such as teachers have been engaged in strike action in Swaziland for almost five weeks now over demands for a small salary increase of 4.5 percent, which would be their first increase in three years.

‘Government, under the authoritarian command of King Mswati III has been brutal in response, setting the police and army on workers, preventing them from exercising their rights to strike, freedom to assemble and freedom of expression amongst others.

‘It is beyond deplorable that King Mswati III in the midst of this crisis finds in appropriate to use millions to take a huge entourage of his household on a luxury holiday and shopping trip to one of the most expensive holiday resorts in the world - Las Vegas via a five-day trip to Namibia.’ 

The SDP went on, ‘This trip will cost millions in cash that could be used to address the plight of civil servants. Once again the poor and struggling workers are left to bear the brunt of an economy that is in crisis and a government that claims to be cash-strapped, yet continues with purchases of luxury cars for government officials to the tune of US$20 million and funding luxury trips for the monarch, and increasing the police salary budget by US$2.5million, which will have no benefit for the impoverished majority and financially distressed workers of Swaziland.

‘As King Mswati III travels to the United States of America using millions of dollars that could address basic services due to the people of Swaziland, the Swaziland Diaspora Platform urges governments like the USA to seriously consider travel bans and sanctions on this authoritarian government.

‘Whilst the US government issued sanctions on countries like Syria and Iran because those regimes are censoring Internet activity on social media such as Facebook and Twitter by human rights activists; Swazis have long been censored.

‘Internet penetration even with cellphone technology is very low, at less than 10 percent, yet media is controlled by the monarch and his government. All radio and television broadcasting stations are owned by the state and most newspaper media is constantly under pressure, therefore the use of media to disseminate information that critique government or encourage citizenship is not possible. 

‘The banning of political parties, freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of the media in Swaziland is just as bad as the authoritarian regimes censoring Internet activism, it is therefore within reason to request that King Mswati III, his children, family, parliamentarians and senior government officials be penalized and sanctioned.’

See also

SWAZI QUEENS OFF ON SHOPPING SPREE

Friday, 27 July 2012

LAVISH-SPENDING KING TALKS ON POVERTY

In the week that it was revealed that three of his 13 wives are to take a multimillion-rand shopping trip and vacation to Las Vegas, King Mswati III of Swaziland has publicly said leaders have a duty to liberate people from poverty.

It was reported across the world (but not in Swaziland where media are censored) that the Swazi Queens would be part of a group of 66 people travelling to the United States where they will stay in 10 luxury villas at a cost estimated to be about R1,2 million. They will reportedly fly by private jet at a possible cost of R36 million (US$4.6 million). 

Although seven in ten of his subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day, King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, spends lavishly. He has 13 palaces, one for each of his wives, and fleets of BMS and Mercedes Benz cars. In April this year he received a private jet as a birthday gift. The Swazi Government that he handpicks said the plane was donated by an overseas’ well-wisher, but refused to name who it was, leading to speculation that it was bought from public funds.

This week in Windheok at a state banquet hosted by Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, King Mswati said there was different struggle today to liberate people. ‘It is the struggle to liberate our people from poverty, disease and economic stagnation. I truly believe that if we combine our efforts to sweep this struggle away from our doorsteps, we will succeed in emancipating our people socially and economically.’

In Swaziland political parties are banned and any form of public dissent is squashed by the King’s state forces. However, in his speech the king praised the freedom fighters that had emancipated Namibia. ‘We congratulate and salute those brave men and women who fought for the liberation of this great nation. We all know that lives were lost but they were fighting for a just cause,’ the Swazi Observer, a newspaper that the king in effect owns, reported him saying

See also

SWAZI QUEENS OFF ON SHOPPING SPREE

SWAZI STRIKE – ALJAZEERA REPORT



Swaziland government workers demand more pay
Thousands of teachers and other public servants on strike, demanding a raise of 4.5 per cent.
Government employees in Swaziland are demanding better pay, but few people showed up as a protest was called outside parliament on Thursday. Heavy security deployments scared many people off, in the country where political parties are banned and little public dissent is tolerated. Public servants have been striking for more than a month demanding a raise of 4.5 per cent, but authorities are refusing to increase their salaries. On Wednesday nearly 3,000 teachers took to the streets in two towns of Siketi and Umhlanga, according to Sibongile Mazibuko, the president of Swaziland National Association of Teachers. Police have used rubber bullets, water cannon and batons to break up marches during the strike. Thousands of teachers are now on what they call a "go slow" - showing up to work but without teaching. They have been given Monday as a deadline to get back to work, or they will be all be fired. But Mazibuko said they would not resume teaching until their demands are met. "Teachers will not teach even under the barrel of the gun. We are not deterred," he said. Economy stagnant In February the International Monetary Fund urged the government to cut back on public spending and reduce the size of the civil service as the economy stagnated, with growth at just 0.3 per cent. The government chose to freeze salaries. Workers blame the country's problems on the state-funded extravagance of King Mswati, rated by Forbes magazine as among the world's richest royals, and his refusal to implement democratic reforms.


More than 60 per cent of the country's 1.1 million people live on less than $2 a day.


The government said on Wednesday Swaziland may reverse a controversial pay rise that legislators awarded themselves.

The so-called Circular 1 was passed in 2010 to give members of parliament a 30 per cent salary hike. The law also included the first-ever lucrative end-term packages for cabinet members.

"Parliament has taken it up. Cabinet has discussed it," government spokesman Percy Simelane told the AFP news agency. "I believe if they discover that 'yes, it must go,' it should."

The 95 parliamentarians in Africa's last absolute monarchy earn more than 20,000 emalangeni ($2,400) a month.

The legislators' big paychecks "could be contributing towards the hefty salary bill that we have," Simelane said. "If it is not [withdrawn] amid the outcry ... discontent will be very rife."

Thursday, 26 July 2012

GOVT DENIES QUEENS’ SHOPPING SPREE


The Swaziland Government has denied that some of King Mswati’s 13 wives are to go on a multi-million rand shopping trip and holiday to Las Vegas.

News has circulated the world saying that three of his wives will be in a party of 66 people to make the trip. They reportedly will stay in 10 separate villas – each costing R20 000 (US$2,400) per night.

The Queens on the trip have been named by the Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa as LaNgangaza née Carol Dlamini, LaMagongo née Nontsetselo Magongo and LaNkambule née Phindile Nkambule. They will be accompanied by some of their children and domestic staff.

Percy Simelane, the Swazi Government’s official spokesperson, denied to the Daily Sun newspaper in South Africa that the trip was to take place. He is reported saying, ‘The king has no such trip.’

Simelane, who speaks for a government handpicked by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, might be playing with words, since the King is not thought to be accompanying his wives on the trip. He is presently on an official trip to Namibia and it has been reported in the international media that he will visit the Olympic Games in London, which start tomorrow (27 July 2012).

The Daily Sun reported the total cost of accommodation alone on the Las Vegas trip would be in the region of R1,2 million. It added that the party were to travel by private jet which might cost R36 million. 

It said that Swazi queens traditionally buy clothing and gadgets for themselves, children and aides on these overseas sprees. They are said to happen about twice a year with the king’s wives taking turns to go. 

The Mail and Guardian reported that funding for the multimillion-rand trip was being supplemented by money from the national fund Tibiyo. A ‘large sum of cash’ is understood to have been withdrawn recently.

Lucky Lukhele of the Swaziland Solidarity Network operating out of Mzansi told the Daily Sun the planned trip was an insult, given that his people were living on donor food.

‘People living with HIV have to eat cow dung so that they can take their medication,’ he said.

See also

SWAZI QUEENS OFF ON SHOPPING SPREE

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

SWAZI QUEENS OFF ON SHOPPING SPREE


Democracy advocates in Swaziland are reporting that several of King Mswati III’s 13 wives are going on a multi-million rand shopping trip and vacation to the gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas in the United States.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) says three of the wives will be accompanied by an entourage of 55 people. They are expected to stay in 10 villas at the cost of R20,000 (US$2,400) per villa per night.

SSN reports that a private jet will be used to transport the Royals. They are expected to arrive in Las Vegas on 4 August 2012.

Previously, SSN reported that the queens would also be visiting Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

SSN said in a statement, ‘The total cost of this trip is unknown. However, similar trips in the past have cost the [Swazi] taxpayer at least R200 million as they will be travelling by a privately hired jet.’

The trip is not unusual. Every year a party of the king’s wives go on a luxury shopping spree.

In 2010, a group of the king’s wives went on what was described at the time as ‘another multi-million dollar international shopping spree’ to Brussels in Belgium and London, UK.
About 80 other people went on the trip to tend to the needs of the queens.

In August 2009, five of King Mswati’s wives went on a shopping trip through Europe and the Middle East that cost an estimated US$6 million.

At the time media in Swaziland were warned not to report on the trip because it would harm the king’s reputation. Media houses were told they would face sanctions, including possible closure, if word got out. But newspapers and websites across the world followed the story.

The Times of London, for example, reported how the queens went on a shopping spree while the subjects of King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarchy, went hungry.

The Australian newspaper said the king ignored the Swazi poor and the newspaper reminded readers that Swaziland relied on international aid from the European Union and the United States.

The previous year in August 2008 when a group of the king’s wives went on a similar shopping spree ordinary Swazi women were so outraged that they took to the streets of Swaziland in protest.

King Mswati, rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Seven in ten people in Swaziland live in abject poverty earning less than two US dollars a day.