Search This Blog

Loading...

For more coverage follow us also on Twitter and Facebook


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

PUBLIC ORDER REVIEW CURBS FREEDOM



FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS CONTINUE TO BE CURTAILED IN SWAZILAND

Centre for Human Rights and Development - Swaziland statement 31 October 2012

The full realization of fundamental rights and freedoms continue to be a myth in Swaziland as the Swaziland government is in the process of adopting a code of practice for protesters. According to the Times Sunday, this code is allegedly being drafted in conjunction with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and trade unions. With the code, the government seeks to regulate protected protest and industrial actions. Once promulgated, it will be adopted as an amendment to the Public Order Act of 1963 which ILO and the international community have called for review.

The Public Order Act regulates the holding of public meetings in Swaziland and requires police permission for the holding of certain categories of meetings and authorizes the police to control or prevent public meetings. The order authorizes among others the gathering or assembly of members of lawfully registered trade unions solely for purposes of that trade union’s lawful activities. Also the Act permits a gathering convened and held exclusively for social, cultural, charitable, recreational, religious, professional and commercial or industrial purposes. It is important to note that the Act does not include meetings or public activities for political purposes and as a result of this deficiency many political activists and members of political parties have been arrested in the past for engaging in such meetings. This Act has also been used by the government to restrict labour movements from holding public gatherings and protest marches for collective bargaining.

The government has intensified restrictions on freedom of association and assembly in the past few years despite the constitution which guarantee same. According to section 24 of the Constitution, a person has a right to freedom of expression and opinion and such shall not be hindered without the free consent of such person. Furthermore, the Constitution guarantees the rights to freedom of assembly and association in section 25. Under the proposed code workers would be required to obtain permission of the route they will use for their protest from the municipality and further notify the police of the starting time and the estimated number of participants. Notably is the discretion that is vested on the police to determine if a protest action will be a danger to public peace and deny permission for holding such event. According to the code, the police have a general duty to uphold the law and may intervene if there is reasonable apprehension of breach of peace and particularly if there is anticipated violence.

In Swaziland, the police have been very brutal on protesters resulting to deaths and severe injuries. Workers have been beaten and arrested by the police for wearing and carrying promotional material for the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) which was deregistered by the Swaziland government early this year. The Swazi government has used the police and other security agents to intimidate and punish protesters who challenge the current regime. During Swaziland’s human rights status review in March this year, the international community recommended that the Public Order Act and other repressive laws be reviewed to allow the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms. This proposed code is therefore nothing but a reaffirmation of the Public Order Act since it does not include activities by political parties and bestow a wide discretion on the police. If the code is eventually adopted by stakeholders we anticipate the continued refusal by the police and local authorities to grant permission for protest marches and the strategic deployment of mass security agents who at times even outnumber protesters.


+268 2504 0913

ALERTS@DignityFirst is a periodic update on global issues touching on human rights, good governance and democratisation, issued by the Centre for Human Rights and Development operating out of Swaziland (www.dignityfirst.org). Recipients are urged to circulate information and share with colleagues in their networks.
** Putting Human Dignity First!**

UK CALLS FOR PARTIES TO BE UN-BANNED



The UK Government has called for political parties to be un-banned in Swaziland and for them to be allowed to contest national elections next year.

UK Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds told the House of Commons   yesterday (30 October 2012), the ‘UK continues to urge the Government there [Swaziland] to ensure that all political parties are able to operate freely and participate in the elections scheduled for September 2013. We believe that the people of Swaziland want political parties and we call on the Government there to respect their wishes.’

Simmonds was responding to concerns raised by MP James Duddridge that the UK was not doing enough to encourage King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, ‘to be a little more sympathetic and tolerant of the existence of political parties’.

Simmonds added, ‘I can also confirm that our high commissioner will be visiting Swaziland in November to participate in discussions and will use the opportunity to underline the UK’s concerns about the current political and economic environment and press for reform.’

Duddridge, at one time worked at Barclays Bank in Swaziland with Mario Masuku, the President of the People’s United Democratic Party (PUDEMO), an organisation banned by King Mswati.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

FALSE CLAIM OVER SWAZI KING’S SACRIFICE



The claim by Swaziland Finance Minister Mazozi Sithole that King Mswati III has asked him to freeze the Royal budget so he can help his subjects during the present economic crisis has rightly been met with suspicion by observers of the kingdom.

The Times ofSwaziland reported that Sithole told CNN that the King wanted to do his bit to help his kingdom that is facing economic meltdown. 

Sithole was reported by CNN saying, ‘I brief him [the king], he has concerns and he will, as he did this year, say whatever you work don’t even increase my budget because I understand the fiscal situation.’

What CNN and the Times did not report was that in the Swazi national budget introduced in February 2012 King Mswati and his royal family continued to receive E210 million a year from the Swazi taxpayer for their own use. This was the same amount they got in the financial year 2011/12, but was an increase of 23 percent over 2010/11 and a whopping 63 percent compared with what the king took from his subjects in 2009/10.

But Sithole failed to point out that in the 2012 budget as well as R210 million for the king, a further R250 million was provided for various royal projects, including the refurbishment of state houses, the maintenance of roads to palaces and royal security training.

The king's office, which manages the royal trust fund and business arm Tibiyo -- which is not taxed and does not use its profits for ordinary Swazis – was given R5 million, up from the R70,000 it was given the previous year. 

Observers note that the king, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has had many chances in the past to cut back on his spending and reduce the amount of money he takes from his subjects, but so far has in fact increased his budget, rather than reduced it. In 2011 as Swaziland hurtled towards financial meltdown Sithole in his budget demanded 10 percent budget cuts (later increased further) from government departments, but in the same budget the amount of money given to the king increased by 23 percent.

All this is happening while seven in ten of Swaziland’s tiny 1 million population live in abject poverty earning less than US$2 a day; three in ten are so hungry they are medically diagnosed as malnourished and the kingdom has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world.

Despite the poverty of the kingdom, King Mswati continues to live a lavish lifestyle. He has 13 palaces, fleets of top-of-the-range Mercedes and BMW cars and at least one Rolls Royce.

Earlier this year he acquired a private jet, estimated to cost US$17 million. He refused to say who had paid for it, leading to speculation that the money came from public funds.

The king continues to travel abroad in style. In May this year he went to London to visit Queen Elizabeth II for lunch on a trip estimated to cost US$794,500. 

The previous year he was in London with a party of 50 people for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middlelton, staying at a US$1,000 per night hotel on a trip that was also estimated to cost US$700 000 for the hire of a private jet to take the king and his party from Swaziland to the UK. 

Earlier this year Queen LaMotsa, the second of the king’s wives, stayed at a Johannesburg hotel on a personal trip at a cost of US$60,000 a month. 

In July 2012, some of the king’s 13 wives went on a shopping trip to Las Vegas, where 66 people reportedly stayed in 10 separate villas – each costing US$2,400 per night. The party were reported by South African newspapers to have travelled by private jet which might have cost US$4.1 million.

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. 

In 2009, Forbes magazine estimated that King Mswati himself had a personal fortune worth US$200 million. Forbes also said King Mswati is the beneficiary of two funds created by his father Sobhuza II in trust for the Swazi nation. During his reign, he has absolute discretion over use of the income. The trust has been estimated to be worth US$10 billion. 

King Mswati also holds ‘in trust for the Swazi nation’ the profits of Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, an investment fund with extensive shares in a number of businesses, industries, property developments and tourism facilities in Swaziland. This money is supposed to be used for the benefit of the people but the vast majority is actually used for the king’s own personal use.

All of the above are things that King Mswati has actually done.  All the trips and spending are verifiable, they are not the figments of the collective imaginations of anti-Swazi forces.

So, we have no reason to believe Sithole when he says the king is about to make sacrifices for his people. Indeed, we will find out more soon enough where the king’s feelings really are – the next national budget in Swaziland is due in three months’ time in February 2013.

See also

NO SACRIFICE FROM KING MSWATI

IMF CALLS FOR SACRIFICE FROM KING

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

PAPER DISTORTS STORY TO PROTECT KING



The Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, distorted a story about UK Prime Minister David Cameron and freedom and democracy in the kingdom, to deflect criticism away from King Mswati III.

The newspaper carried a report this week (21 October 2012) saying that Cameron had responded to a petition from the Swazi Vigil, a prodemocracy group in the UK. 

According to the Times Sunday, the petition read in part, ‘Exiled Swazis and supporters urge you to put pressure on (the Swazi government) to allow political freedom, freedom of the press, rule of law, respect for women and affordable AIDS drugs in Swaziland.’

The newspaper inserted the words ‘the Swazi government’ into the petition to make it seem that it was Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini and his cabinet that was being criticised.

In fact, the petition sent to Cameron in May 2012 actually read, ‘Petition to the British Government: Exiled Swazis and supporters urge you to put pressure on absolute monarch King Mswati III to allow political freedom, freedom of the press, rule of law, respect for women and affordable AIDs drugs in Swaziland.’ 

The Swazi Vigil made it very clear that it was criticising ‘absolute monarch King Mswati III’.

The Times Sunday and other media in Swaziland, where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, constantly mislead their readers and audiences about how King Mswati is viewed outside his kingdom. In May 2012 there was widespread criticism against King Mswati’s invitation to join a lunch in London to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

There were street demonstrations in London against the king and prodemocracy campaigners drew attention to the lack of freedoms in Swaziland and the lavish lifestyle the king enjoys, while seven in ten of his subjects languish in absolute poverty, earning less than US$2 a day.

Inkhosikati LaMbikiza one of the king’s 13 wives who accompanied him to the lunch wore shoes costing £995 (US$1,559), the equivalent of more than three years’ income for 70 percent of Swazi people. The total cost of the King’s trip was estimated to be at least US$794,500. 

The Times, the companion paper to the Times Sunday, reported at the time that Inkhosikati LaMbikiza had ‘rave reviews’ from the Daily Mail newspaper in London for her dress sense, but omitted to say the same newspaper also reported, ‘Guests from controversial regimes include Swaziland’s King Mswati III, who has been accused of living an obscenely lavish lifestyle while many of his people starve.’ 

There was similar criticism a year earlier in April 2011 when King Mswati went to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The Times newspaper in South Africa reported at the time, ‘The controversial absolute monarch, whose country is ranked among the poorest in the world, spent much of this week playing hide-and-seek with prodemocracy demonstrators tailing him across London.’ The king was forced to change his hotel to avoid pickets.

The Swazi media failed to report any of this, but did say that King Mswati had been welcomed by business people in the UK.

Cameron told the Swazi Vigil he would pass on their petition to the relevant UK Government department.

See also
PICKETS PROTEST AT KING’S VISIT

LONDON PROTEST TO GREET SWAZI KING

UK SPEAKS OUT ON SWAZI RIGHTS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2011/09/uk-speaks-out-on-swazi-rights.html

Monday, 22 October 2012

KING IN ‘ALMOST ABSOLUTE CONTROL’

The on-going political crisis in Swaziland shows ‘the king continues to enjoy almost absolute control over the country,’ Freedom House has said.

The House of Assembly passed a vote of no-confidence in the government and according to the Swazi Constitution King Mswati III should have sacked the government, but he did not. Instead, pressure was put on members of the House and after 12 days of uncertainty they reversed the decision in a controversial vote.

Freedom House in a statement said the actions of the king, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch,  and the government he appointed, ‘demonstrate a lack of consideration for the rule of law and the authority and independence of Swaziland’s governing institutions, including the House of Assembly, as written in the Constitution’.

It added, ‘This repeal, and the blatant disregard by the king for country’s constitution, epitomizes the increasing deterioration for the rule of law and respect for democratic governance in the country.’

Freedom House said civil society throughout Swaziland has condemned the vote, accusing King Mswati III of ignoring his constitutional responsibilities and unlawfully supporting his political ally, the prime minister.

See also

POLITICAL CRISIS: FACTS REMAIN HIDDEN
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2012/10/political-crisis-facts-remain-hidden.html 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

POLITICAL CRISIS: FACTS REMAIN HIDDEN



The political crisis in Swaziland continues into a third week after a vote of no-confidence in the Swazi Government was passed and then reversed 12 days later.

According to the constitution, the government should have resigned or been sacked by King Mswati III after the first vote – but neither of these things happened. Instead, the government forced a revote which it won. There is no legal reason why the revote was allowed and for the constitution to be ignored.

Swaziland is not a democracy and King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. It seems that he refused to accept the vote and this set in place a chain of events that led to it being overturned.

Freedom of speech is severely curtailed in Swaziland and people are fearful of talking publicly about what has really been happening in Swaziland in the recent past. They are particularly fearful of being seen to criticise King Mswati – no matter how mildly they do it.

This fear makes it difficult to get people to talk ‘on the record’ about what has caused the present political crisis and who is to blame for it. But this is what Swazi Media Commentary has managed to piece together so far.

On 3 October 2012, by a vote of 42 in favour and six against, the House of Assembly passed a no-confidence motion in the government – this was more than the three-fifths majority (39 votes) of the House membership needed to trigger the constitution. 

According to sections 68 and 134 of the Swaziland Constitution, the government had three days in which to resign. If it did not, the King was obliged by the constitution to sack the Prime Minister and the cabinet.

At midnight on the day of the no-confidence vote PM Barnabas Dlamini held a press conference to announce that he did not recognise the vote and he would not resign. Three days then went by but King Mswati III did not sack the government.

By protocol, when the House of Assembly makes a decision, it has to be personally conveyed to the king by the Speaker of the House. In this case King Mswati refused to meet with Speaker Prince Gaduza. This meant that officially the king did not know about the vote of no-confidence and therefore he felt he did not have to act.

This gave time for the king’s advisors from the Liqoqo (Swaziland National Council) to meet to decide what they should advise the king about the no-confidence vote.

They were not prepared to allow the vote to stand so they looked for excuses to ignore it. The king’s advisers are all traditionalists and are in charge of interpreting Swazi Law and Custom. The laws and customs are administered by chiefs who rule over their subjects in the name of the king. The laws and customs operate outside of the constitution. It is not in the interests of the traditionalists to have their actions subjected to constitutional law.

King Mswati always decides which motions from the Swaziland Parliament he wishes to support and those he does not. He did not wish to support the no-confidence vote. He has also on numerous times in the past sent instructions to Parliament on actions he wishes them to take. They always without discussion or hesitation do as he tells them. The Parliament made up of the House of Assembly and the Senate, therefore, cannot be seen as an institution independent of the monarchy.

King Mswati had personally appointed Dlamini as Prime Minister in 2008 in contravention of the Constitution which states that the PM must be a member of the House of Assembly. Dlamini was not. He came into parliament specifically at the king’s instruction to be PM. The government was also chosen by the king. Therefore, to criticise the performance of the PM and cabinet can also be seen as criticism of the king’s choices.

When it became clear that King Mswati would not support the vote of no-confidence, Dlamini felt confident enough to insist that a new vote be taken by the House to over-turn it. This vote was held and passed on 15 October 2012.  

But, the PM did not have the confidence that he would win by a respectable margin. Only 32 members of the 65-stong House voted and nocount was taken. Instead, the Speaker simply relied on a shout of Aye or Nay from the members present. We will never know how many voted for the reversal of the no-confidence vote. But, with only 32 members of the 65-strong House present the vote could not have been three-fifths (39) of the total membership of the House. 

According to standing orders there have to be at least 30 members of the House present for a vote to be taken. During the rerun of the vote some members left the chamber taking the number below 30. The Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku left the chamber to search for missing members and found some of them relaxing in the canteen watching the proceedings on a monitor. The MPs say the DPM bullied and threatened them to return to the chamber. He denies this and says he simply ‘lobbied’ them back into the chamber. They did, however, return. 

After the vote, accusations have been published in Swazi local newspapers that some members were either threatened or bribed to support reversing the no-confidence vote. Reports say some were promised high office or cash to help them get re-elected in next year’s national election. 

Immediately the revote was taken, civil society organisations, pro-democracy activists and lawyers in Swaziland protested that it was unconstitutional and that the government had no right to force a re-vote: only a court could do so. The Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini in a newspaper interview agreed that the constitution did indeed say the court was the place to go to get clarity on the constitution, but that government had decided not to do so. 

The Law Society of Swaziland has said it will challenge the revote in court. 

See also
CONSTITUTION EXISTS MERELY ON PAPER