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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

‘LOYALTY OATH MUZZLES PUBLIC SERVANTS’

A proposed new ‘loyalty oath’ law in Swaziland could muzzle public servants from revealing corruption in the kingdom.

And, it would forbid public servants from associating with prodemocracy campaigners.

The law called the Swaziland Public Service Charter is being drafted by the Swaziland Government.

The draft law states in part, ‘A public official shall not, except with due authorisation, communicate to any person any information that s/he comes across in the performance of official duties. Whether on or off-duty and except in the performance of lawful duties, a public servant shall not associate with persons whose conduct is the subject of police or judicial investigation, or whose lifestyle is ostentatious to the point of indiscretion.’

If the law goes ahead, public servants will not be able to disclose to the media, non-government organisations or the public wrong-doing they encounter during the course of their duties.
The draft law makes no specific mention of corruption, but in Swaziland, much of the information people know about corrupt behaviour comes through the kingdom’s newspapers, often sourced by public servants.

In 2011 newspapers in Swaziland, often using information leaked by public servants, exposed corrupt land deals involving the Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini and a number of his cabinet colleagues and senior political figures in Swaziland.

It was only the direct intervention of King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, which stopped the land-scam corruption cases going to court.

The draft law also says a public servant, ‘shall not associate with persons whose conduct is the subject of police or judicial investigation’. This is being taken to include members of the prodemocracy movement in Swaziland, where political parties are not allowed to take part in the kingdom’s elections.

Under the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008, many groups campaigning for democracy in Swaziland have been banned as ‘terrorist groups’. This makes it illegal to be a member or a supporter of such groups. It is known that despite the penalties which include prison, a number of public servants are members or supporters of such groups, which include the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the most well-known opposition party.

The crackdown on public servants, if the law is enacted, will be widely felt across the kingdom where there are thought to be more than 30,000 public servants whose salary takes up about 40 percent of the total Swazi national budget.

The existence of the draft law was revealed by the Observer Sunday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati.

It reported, ‘The oath will be renewed after every five years or when a public servant is appointed to a new office – whichever comes earlier.

‘The allegiance will be pledged to the State and the People of the Kingdom of Swaziland.’

The newspaper added, ‘As part of the oath, the government employees will undertake to carry out their duties and functions as well as conduct themselves in the interests of the people of Swaziland “and not seek instructions in regard to the performance of my duties from any person or authority whose interests conflict with those of Swaziland”.’

The Observer added members of the government would not be subject to the new law.

‘Cabinet, which is the executive branch of government, shall have the responsibility of promoting and ensuring that provisions of the Charter are enforced,’ it reported.

In Swaziland, no members of the government are elected by the people, they are all appointed by King Mswati.

See also

PUBLIC SERVICE BILL BRINGS WOES


PM ORDERS MEDIA SILENCE ON LAND

Saturday, 28 December 2013

US TO PROBE SWAZI WORKERS’ RIGHTS

The United States is to investigate Swaziland’s commitment to workers’ rights and if it is found wanting it will withdraw favourable trading privileges from the kingdom.

The US State Department announced the move just before Christmas. In a media statement it said that Swaziland could lose its eligibility for trade benefits under the US African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

The US has been reviewing all African countries to see if they deserve to continue to be allowed to market in the US duty-free.

The State Department reported, ‘As part of the review, the United States took special note of its continuing concerns about workers’ rights issues in Swaziland and said it plans to conduct an AGOA-eligibility review of Swaziland in May 2014 to assess whether that nation has made measurable progress on the protection of internationally recognized worker rights.’

It added, ‘The US government annually determines whether each country eligible for AGOA benefits has met or made “continual progress” during the year in meeting AGOA’s eligibility criteria, which include establishment of a market-based economy, the rule of law, economic policies to reduce poverty, protection of internationally recognized worker rights, and efforts to combat corruption.’

Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has a history of attacking workers’ rights. It has banned the workers’ federation, the Trades Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), broken up its meeting and harassed and arrested its leaders. 

The Swazi government had initially registered TUCOSWA, but later deregistered it after TUCOSWA announced it would campaign for a boycott of the Swaziland national election in September 2013. Deregistration violated the rules of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that Swaziland has ratified.

In September 2013, Swazi state police arrested all members of an international panel of experts who were due to meet to debate the role of trade unions in Swaziland. The meeting due to take place in Manzini was to be chaired by Jay Naidoo, founding General Secretary of COSATU and former Minister of Communications for South Africa.

In December 2013, the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) supported workers in Swaziland and called for AGOA benefits to be withdrawn from the kingdom.

It said the Swazi Government, which is not elected, but handpicked by King Mswati, failed to observe the right of association, the right to organise and bargain collectively, and the right to acceptable conditions of service.

‘The Government of Swaziland restricts internationally recognised worker rights in both law and practice. The country has been operating under a state of emergency for the last 40 years,’ the AFL-CIO said.
US imports from Swaziland totalled E670 million (US$67 million in current foreign exchange) in 2012.

See also

UNBAN TUCOSWA, SAY ILO UNIONS
MASS POLICE ARRESTS TO HALT MEETING

Friday, 20 December 2013

SWAZIS’ ‘MOST IMPORTANT TRADITION’

A ceremony in which King Mswati III of Swaziland reportedly has sex with a bull, ‘is probably the most important tradition of the Swazi people’, according to a newspaper in effect owned by the King.

The Incwala or First Fruits Ceremony is ‘our unique identity’, the Swazi Observer said in an editorial comment.

Incwala is a controversial ceremony that takes place between November and January each year. Traditionalists say Incwala is a ‘national prayer’, but Christian groups have criticised it for being ‘un-Godly’ and ‘pagan’.

The ceremony is shrouded in secrecy and participants are barred from talking about what happens. The Observer reported ‘hordes’ of tourists attended the ceremony (50,000 are expected this year, according to one public relations handout), but in fact no one is allowed to witness one part of the ceremony, described by the King’s newspaper as ‘heritage which sets us apart from other tribes that we are branches of’.

The Observer said the rites of Incwala were ‘mystical’ and, ‘it becomes imperative that it cannot be documented by modern documentation apparatus like cameras and video recorders’.

It added, ‘Hence most of the information about such a ceremony can only be gleaned from those who have attended it through word of mouth, further mystifying the ceremony.’

Journalists who try to report the event are harassed and in 2011 a street vendor who sold pirated DVDs of Incwala was hauled in by the police and handed over to traditional authorities for a grilling. He was ordered to reclaim all the copies of the DVD he had sold.

Failure to do so might have seen him banished from his homeland, local media reported at the time.
In its editorial, the Observer also made an oblique reference to ‘the accuracy of the first person accounts’ that had emerged from the ceremony.

It said the accounts, ‘[C]annot be said to be spot on, as there are some elements that are out of bounds to the commoner, while the high priests are naturally sworn to secrecy such that even if they can tell about the rituals, there are those that they know they should not or cannot divulge’.

Although it did not say so, the Observer was probably referring to a first-hand account of the activities of Incwala that emerged in 2011. Then, a number of media outlets, including the Southern Africa Report and Africa is a Country, reported an eyewitness testimony of Incwala.

Africa is a Country said, ‘The ceremony is cloaked in secrecy and marks the king’s return to public life after a period of withdrawal and spiritual contemplation.

‘Among its highlights is a symbolic demonstration by the king of his power and dominance in a process involving his penetration of a black bull, beaten into semi-conscious immobility to ensure its compliant acceptance of the royal touch. The royal semen is then collected by a courtier and stored, for subsequent inclusion in food to be served at Sibaya – traditional councils – and other national forums.’

It also reported, ‘Swazi police has since jumped onto the “testimony” with “an appeal to the nation for assistance in identifying and arresting certain individuals who are printing and distributing pamphlets in business and other public areas” (that’s Scribd and Facebook).’

See also

ILLEGAL TO POSSESS INCWALA SONGS
SWAZI KING AND BESTIALITY RITUAL
NOW, EVEN HOLY SPIRIT IS SEDITIOUS

CALL TO SUPPORT GAY SCHOOL PUPILS

Is there the slightest glimmer of hope that attitudes to gays and lesbians in Swaziland might be changing?

Lindiwe Dlamini, the Director of Guidance and Counselling at the Swazi Ministry of Education and Training, has called on school teachers to give support to gays and lesbians in schools and the wider community.

Dlamini told a meeting, organised by the Swaziland National Teachers Association (SNAT) as part of the Gender Links’ 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence campaign, that gay and lesbian pupils and school staff were afraid to declare their status because they feared prejudice.

The meeting in Matsapha was attended by about 300 teachers from all over the kingdom.

Dlamini said teachers and school administrators must be supportive to gays and lesbians because they are afraid to declare their status as they feared that their colleagues or headmasters were lacking confidentiality.

‘So many children who are gays and lesbians fall into cracks because their teachers are ignoring them,’ the Times of Swaziland, a newspaper independent of King Mswati, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, reported her saying.

‘Teachers must have the culture of tolerance in their hearts,’ she said.

Homosexuality is illegal in Swaziland and gays and lesbians are often shunned by their communities. In August 2013, local media in Swaziland reported that two men suspected of being gay were banished by community police from Mvutshini.

Rather than tackle the issue of prejudice and discrimination against gays and lesbians in Swaziland, governments deny there are gays and lesbians in the kingdom. In November 2011, Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, said Swaziland would not give human rights to gay people, because they did not exist in the kingdom.    

Gamedze was responding to criticism of Swaziland by a United Nations working group on human rights that said the kingdom should enact equality laws for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex) people. Discrimination against this group of people in Swaziland is rife and extends to workplaces, the churches and on to the streets.

HOOP (House of Our Pride), a support group for LGBTI people, reported to the United Nation in 2011, ‘It is a common scene for LGBTI to be verbally insulted by by-passers in public places. [There is] defamatory name calling and people yelling out to see a LGBTI person’s reproductive part are some of the issues facing LGBTI in Swaziland.’

The Times of Swaziland, part of a group of newspapers with a long history of publishing homophobic articles, in an apparent change of attitude, welcomed Lindiwe Dlamini’s comments on gays and lesbians in schools.

In an editorial comment, the Times said Dlamini, ‘is simply saying that we should not judge others for the way they live their lives but should instead provide emotional support when their lives get complicated, as all our lives do at some point. The simple truth is that a portion of our society is sexually attracted to members of the same sex; these people establish relationships and suffer heartache and confusion over love just like anybody else.

‘The only difference is that they can’t talk about it without being judged or, sometimes, physically attacked. Our Constitution does not address the right to sexual orientation explicitly – but it does address the right of people to live the way they want to as long as they do not deprive other people of their rights. Gay lifestyles fall squarely into this category.’

See also
COMMUNITY POLICE BANISH GAY MEN
GAY PREJUDICE RIFE IN SWAZILAND
‘WE ARE NOT VICTIMS’ – SWAZI GAYS

Thursday, 19 December 2013

THE TRUTH OF MONARCHICAL DEMOCRACY

Newspapers in Swaziland are deliberately misleading their readers about King Mswati III’s vision of ‘Monarchical Democracy’.

In September 2013, King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, announced that he had ‘a vision’ during a thunderstorm in which he was told to change the name of the present political system in his kingdom from ‘tinkhundla’ to ‘Monarchical Democracy.’

He told media in Swaziland that this meant the king would take advice from his subjects before making decisions that affected the kingdom.

His description of  ‘Monarchical Democracy’ was vague, but in Swaziland, people, even journalists who purport to act on their behalf, are too scared of the King to ask him for clarification.

In fact, the ‘tinkhundla’ system of government puts all power in the hands of the monarchy. King Mswati chooses the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, members of the judiciary, and he appoints all senior political posts in his kingdom.

Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the Swazi people are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, with the King appointing the others. No members of the 30-strong Swaziland Senate are elected by the people.

When the King made his announcement about ‘Monarchical Democracy’, many people hoped this would mean a change from the present system to something approaching democracy.

But, the supine Press in Swaziland did not explain to their readers that this was not going to happen.

Instead, it took a proper journalist called Ed Cropley, from a proper news organisation called Reuters to get at the truth. Cropley interviewed the King and asked him outright what ‘Monarchical Democracy’ was all about and what was going to change.

The King replied, ‘No change really. It's just a name so people can understand.’

It was, Reuters reported, ‘merely a name change for foreign consumption’.

The news agency reported the King saying, ‘The world really doesn’t understand the Tinkhundla system, but everybody can understand monarchical democracy. It’s an English name. This monarchical democracy is a marriage between the traditional monarchy and the ballot box, all working together under the monarchy.’

So, the King confirmed in his own words that ‘tinkhundla’ and ‘Monarchical Democracy’ is one and the same thing.

Reuters’ report was published worldwide, as well as on social media circulating within Swaziland. Swazi newspaper editors read the report with everyone else.

But, even though the Reuters report was published in September 2013, the Swazi newspapers continue with the fiction that ‘Monarchical Democracy’ might be something new. Reports they have published include statements from the newly-elected MP Jan Sithole who thinks parliamentarians need to have a workshop to learn what ‘Monarchical Democracy’ is all about.

Even though Percy Simelane, the government’s press spokesperson, has confirmed on state-controlled radio, the King’s position, the newspapers continue to mislead their readers that there might be more to it.

No workshops on ‘Monarchical Democracy’ are necessary, because there is nothing new to learn.

However, editors in Swaziland might need to go on a workshop to learn that the prime responsibility of journalists is to tell their readers the truth.

See also

KING ADMITS NO CHANGE ON DEMOCRACY
NEW NAME FOR NON-DEMOCRACY
GOD TELLS KING MSWATI A HOME TRUTH

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

SEVEN IN TEN SWAZIS GO HUNGRY

Nearly seven in ten Swazi people say they have not had enough food to eat in the past year.

And, more than eight in ten say they did not have a cash income.

Also, more than half said they did not have clean water to use at home.

These indicators of the extent of poverty in Swaziland were revealed in research conducted by Afrobarometer.

The research organisation interviewed 1,200 people aged 18 or over across the whole of Swaziland on their living and economic conditions.

Afrobarometer asked about conditions over the past 12 months: 19 percent of people questioned said they did not have enough food to eat, ‘many times / always’ over the past year. Another 46 percent said they had gone without food, ‘just once or twice / several times’.

A total of 47 percent said they did not have a cash income, ‘many times / always’ over the past year. Another 38 percent said they had no cash income, ‘just once or twice / several times’.

Twenty-four percent said they did not have enough water for home use, ‘many times / always’ over the past year. Another 29 percent said they did not have enough water, ‘just once or twice / several times’.
Afrobarometer is an African-led network of survey researchers and analysts, working in up to 35 countries on the continent.

It states its goal is, ‘To give the public a voice in policy making processes by providing high-quality public opinion data to policy-makers, policy advocates and civil society organizations, academics, media, donors and investors, and ordinary Africans.’

The experiences of poverty uncovered by Afrobarometer confirm what is already known about hunger in Swaziland. Earlier this year the United Nations World Food programme reported that Swaziland lost US$92 million per year in the economy because people were too hungry to work properly.

In 2012, three separate reports from the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the Institute for Security Studies all concluded the Swazi government was largely to blame for the economic recession and subsequent increasing number of Swazis who had to skip meals.

The reports placed the blame at the financial mismanagement of the Swazi government.

The reports listed low growth levels, government wastefulness and corruption, and lack of democracy and accountability as some of the main reasons for the economic downturn that has led to an increasing number of starving Swazis.

In 2012 a report published by 24/7 Wall St in the United States, and based on data from the World Bank, identified Swaziland as the fifth poorest country in the entire world.

See also

ECONOMY FAILS, ONE IN TEN GO HUNGRY
GOVT SELLS MAIZE DONATED FOR HUNGRY

Sunday, 15 December 2013

BAN ON MANDELA PRAYERS ‘ILLEGAL’

Organisers of a Nelson Mandela memorial service to be held in a Swaziland church say police acted illegally when they broke it up.

About 30 armed police raided the Lutheran Church in Manzini, Swaziland’s main business city, and stopped people attending a prayer service to mark the life of Mandela.

The Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF), which organised the service on Friday (13 December 2013), along with Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders Forum, said in a statement. ‘The world must know that his majesty’s Government through the Royal Swaziland Police (RSP) has illegally, unreasonably as well as unjustifiably stopped Swazis from paying tribute to Mandela.’

Police officers armed with rifles and batons blocked people from entering the church. One local newspaper report said police targeted people attending the service who were known to have ‘progressive’ views.

Sidney Nyembe, of the Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders Forum, said the mourners were locked inside the church for allegedly defying an order preventing the public from holding the service. But, he said, police were unable to show documentation for the order.

He said, ‘We are alarmed at this wanton disregard for human rights and failure to honour the memory of Nelson Mandela. We condemn this in the most strongest of terms. It is an insult to what Nelson Mandela stood for and clearly shows that the Swazi regime cannot hide its disgust for anything resembling democracy.’

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned by the Swazi Constitution from taking part in elections and only 55 members of the kingdom’s 65-strong House of Assembly are selected by the king’s subjects. The king appoints the other members. No members of the Swaziland Senate are elected by the people. The king also chooses the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers and the chief judges.

The church service continued outside the church with police looking on.

Bishop AM Mnisi, was due to speak at the service. The text of his sermon, later released on social media, read in part, ‘It is painful to note that in many African countries today, there are still political prisoners. Christian souls that languish in jail for simple reason that they hold a different opinion. Security forces are deployed to block people and refuse them their rights of worship freely. Mandela fought for human rights as God’s given rights we ought to align ourselves with.’

See also

ANGER OVER MANDELA PRAYER BLOCKADE
MANDELA MEMORIAL FREEDOM PLEDGE
SWAZI POLICE BREAK UP MANDELA PRAYERS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2013/12/swazi-police-break-up-mandela-prayers.html

Friday, 13 December 2013

ANGER OVER MANDELA PRAYER BLOCKADE

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has joined a growing chorus of condemnation of Swaziland for blocking a peaceful memorial service in the kingdom for Nelson Mandela on Friday (13 December 2013).

Bongani Masuku, COSATU Secretary of International Affairs, said, ‘It is the most desperate act of shame imaginable.’

Swaziland police blocked the Lutheran Church in Manzini, Swaziland’s main business city, to stop a service to mourn the death of Mandela. It had been organised by the Swaziland United DemocraticFront (SUDF), an organisation that is campaigning for democracy in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Masuku said in a statement, ‘When the whole world recognises that whether you want freedom or not, it shall eventually come, we have a denialist of note in Mswati. He still entertains the illusion that he can stop the tide of freedom by closing out those who represents the best in human values.’

Earlier, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a political party, which like all others is banned in Swaziland, said, ‘Swaziland has proven yet again to be the skunk of the world by breaking up a peaceful memorial service to honour Mandela.’

It added, ‘The Swazi regime continues to show its intolerance for anything resembling democracy by forcing a halt of a Mandela memorial in Swaziland.’

Masuku of COSATU said, ‘In the same way that the apartheid regime failed to stop Madiba for more than 30 years of the long walk, they won't stop the people of Swaziland and the world in pushing forward with the cause. Mandela was labelled a terrorist in apartheid RSA [South Africa] and PUDEMO have been declared terrorists too, what a striking similarity, what a common future for all freedom fighters.’

See also

MANDELA MEMORIAL FREEDOM PLEDGE
SWAZI POLICE BREAK UP MANDELA PRAYERS

MANDELA MEMORIAL FREEDOM PLEDGE

Swaziland state forces have broken up a peaceful church service intended to mourn the death of Nelson Mandela after its organisers pledged to honour Madiba by fighting for democracy in the kingdom.

The Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) called the prayer meeting at Manzini, the kingdom’s main commercial city, for Friday afternoon (13 December 2013), but police prevented the memorial taking place.

Prior to the service, SUDF issued a statement, which read in part, ‘In honor of Madiba`s legacy we pledge to do our best in hastening up our struggle for democracy in Swaziland and help ensure another human victory against black to black domination for which Madiba fought fearlessly against his whole life.’

SUDF is one of a number of organisations campaigning for democracy in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, where all political parties are banned from taking part in elections.

Another prodemocracy organisation, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), in a statement said, ‘The Swazi regime continues to show its intolerance for anything resembling democracy by forcing a halt of a Mandela memorial in Swaziland.’

It said, ‘Swaziland has proven yet again to be the skunk of the world by breaking up a peaceful memorial service to honour Mandela.’

Most political meetings are banned in Swaziland. Police, often working without a court order or warrant, break up gatherings, including prayer meetings, claiming national security threats.

PUDEMO said, ‘Let the world condemn the wanton disrespect to the memory of Nelson Mandela by the Swazi regime in breaking up a peaceful memorial service.’

According to a statement made by Wandile Dludlu from the SUDF, there is a clear connection between Mandela’s fight for democracy and justice and that of the democratic movement in Swaziland. ‘We love you Mandela and pledge to honour you by hastening our victory for democracy in Swaziland.’

This was not the first time police have attacked meetings organised by SUDF. Last month (November 2013), police raided a studio at the Christian Media Centre in Manzini and closed down the screening of the internationally-acclaimed film The King and the People, which criticises King Mswati III and was organised by SUDF.

SWAZI POLICE BREAK UP MANDELA PRAYERS

Police in Swaziland have broken up a church service held to mourn the death of Nelson Mandela, according reports from the kingdom.


The service at the Lutheran Church in Manzini, was organised by the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF), an organisation that campaigns for democracy in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) reported that police used ‘brute force’ to break up the memorial service.

This is not the first time police and state security forces in Swaziland have broken up prayer meetings. In March and April 2013, they broke up prayer meetings, claiming they were political meetings called to discuss the forthcoming national election in the kingdom. Police said they were a threat to national security.

See also

SWAZILAND ‘BECOMING MILITARY STATE’

Monday, 9 December 2013

ROYAL DECREE SHOULD STAY: SWAZI A-G


Swaziland’s Attorney-General Majahenkhaba Dlamini has said there is no need to annul a 1973 Royal Decree that bans all political parties and puts all legislative, executive and judicial power in the hands of the King.

Dlamini was reacting to a newspaper report in Swaziland that traditionalists stopped the decree being repealed when Swaziland’s Constitution came into force in 2006. He said the Constitution in effect annulled the Royal Decree.

‘Why do they [prodemocracy campaigners] want us to revoke the decree through a gazette? What if we don’t want to do that?’ the newspaper reported him saying.  

According to the Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, ‘influential traditionalists’ feared Swaziland ‘could become a republic if this law was repealed’.

The newspaper said preparations to abandon the Royal Decree in 2005 were far advanced and a gazette had been drawn up.

The newspaper quoted one of the traditionalists, Brigadier General Fonono Dube, who was a member of Liqoqo, an advisory council to the King, saying, ‘There was no way we could have revoked a law that establishes the country. We couldn’t have allowed the authorities of the country to annul the decree because that would have turned the country into a republic. We don’t need a president in Swaziland. We need the King.’

The Times reported, ‘The argument by the traditionalists to keep the decree in the statutes was that it was the “heart” of the country and its repeal was tantamount to killing the whole country, – the whole government machinery, thus depriving authorities of powers to govern the kingdom.’

The Royal Decree came into force in 1973 after King Sobhuza objected to his subjects electing members of a political party that was not under his control. He tore up the kingdom’s constitution that had been in place since Swaziland gained independence from Britain in 1968.

In his decree, King Sobhuza announced, ‘I have assumed supreme power in the Kingdom of Swaziland and that all Legislative, Executive and Judicial power is vested in myself.’

He added, ‘The Constitution is indeed the cause of growing unrest, insecurity, dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in our country and an impediment to free and progressive development in all spheres of life.’

He also said, ‘All political parties and similar bodies that cultivate and bring about disturbances and ill-feelings within the Nations are hereby dissolved and prohibited.’

He said, ‘Any person who forms or attempts or conspires to form a political party or who organises or participates in any way in any meeting, procession or demonstration in contravention of this decree shall be guilty of an offence and liable, on conviction, to imprisonment not exceeding six months.’

The Royal Decree was never abolished and today King Sobhuza’s son, King Mswati III, rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties remain banned and the King choses all members of the government and the judiciary. He also chooses 10 members of the House of Assembly, allowing his subjects to select the other 55 members. No members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people.

National elections were held in September 2013, but the full results of the voting have never been revealed publicly.

In April 2013, on the 40th anniversary of the Royal Decree, armed police and state security forces in Swaziland broke up a series of events, including meetings, prayers and a rally, which had been called to debate the political situation in the kingdom.

Friday, 6 December 2013

SWAZIS WANT DEMOCRACY: SURVEY

Two thirds of Swazi people want the kingdom to become a democracy, research just published reveals.
And, they want to choose their own leaders ‘through honest and open elections’.

They also strongly disapprove of allowing King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, to decide on everything in Swaziland.

An opinion poll conducted by Afrobarometer asked 1,200 Swazis aged 18 or over from across the kingdom how democratic they thought Swaziland was. Only 12 percent said that at present Swaziland had ‘high levels’ of democracy. When asked where they would like the kingdom to be ‘in the future’, 67 percent said they wanted to see ‘high levels’ of democracy.

The findings contradict successive Swaziland Governments, which for years have claimed that ordinary Swazis were content with their political system. In September 2013, Swaziland held its national election: all political parties were banned from taking part and only 55 of the 65-member House of Assembly were elected by the people. The other 10 members were appointed by the King. No members of the 30-stong Swazi Senate are elected by the people.

King Mswati also appoints the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

Afrobarometer reported that 75 percent of people interviewed agreed with the statement, ‘We should choose our leaders through open and honest elections.’

Despite King Mswati’s stranglehold on political life in Swaziland, 46 percent of respondents agreed that, ‘Members of Parliament represent the people; therefore they should make laws for the country, even if the King does not agree.’

A total of 77 percent of respondents disapproved of abolishing elections and Parliament, ‘so that the King can decide on everything’.

Meanwhile, 70 percent of people said they disapproved of the statement that only one political party should be allowed to stand for election and hold office, but 58 percent also said they felt political parties ‘create division and confusion’ and it was ‘unnecessary to have many political parties in Swaziland’.

Afrobarometer is an African-led network of survey researchers and analysts, working in up to 35 countries on the continent.

It states its goal is, ‘To give the public a voice in policy making processes by providing high-quality public opinion data to policy-makers, policy advocates and civil society organizations, academics, media, donors and investors, and ordinary Africans.’

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

POLITICS AS USUAL IN SWAZILAND

It was business as usual for politics in Swaziland in November 2013. King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch appointed his government in this month, following the bogus national election that took place in September. More than half of the new Cabinet ministers in the Swaziland Government were not elected by the people. Out of 19 ministers King Mswati III personally appointed 11 to the House of Assembly or to the Senate.

At the national elections the people were only permitted to select 55 members of the 65-seat House of Assembly. The King chose the other 10. Political parties were banned from taking part in the election. The King also chose 20 of the 30-strong Senate House. The other 10 were elected by members of the House of Assembly. None were elected by the people.

Prior to appointing his cabinet, King Mswati demonstrated his complete control of politics in the kingdom. All the top parliamentary office holders in Swaziland were filled by people he appointed and none were elected by the people. They were the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the President and Deputy President of Senate.

So, it was business as usual for politics in Swaziland. Human rights violations continued unabated. Police, acting without a warrant or court order raided a showing of the newly-released film The King and the People. The film, which is being shown on screens all over the world, criticises the Swazi state for, among other things, the violence it uses against its own people when they demand their rights.

As if on cue, elsewhere, armed Swazi police invaded the University of Swaziland to attack students with whips and teargas in their dormitories. Students were campaigning for better conditions and against the holding of examinations. Armed police guarded examination venues for a week as the disputed examinations went ahead.

These are some of the highlights of life in Swaziland in November 2013 brought together in the latest volume of compilations from the Swazi Media Commentary blogsite. It is available free of charge at scribd dot com. Swazi Media Commentary has no physical base and is completely independent of any political faction and receives no income from any individual or organisation. People who contribute ideas or write for it do so as volunteers and receive no payment.

Swazi Media Commentary is published online – updated most days – bringing information, comment and analysis in support of democracy in the kingdom.

HIV WONDER DRUG ‘IS BOGUS’

Claims that a ‘wonder drug’ on sale in Swaziland can cure HIV are unfounded, an investigation has uncovered.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported last month (November 2013) that a herbal product called 3H, sold by HHH Nature Health, could cure HIV in three months.

The newspaper gave details of a doctor in Manzini who was prescribing the product, which the Times called a ‘wonder drug’. It published testimonials from people (but did not give their real names) that the product ‘really worked’.

The Times reported, ‘Promoters of this product have said it only takes three months for an HIV patient using this product to get well, with the virus no longer detectable from their body.’

The Times gave a website address where readers could buy the formula. A four-month supply of the herbal product costs 2,400 euros (E34,000 or US$3,200).

Now, investigators from the Africa Check, a fact-checking website, have shown that 3H, along with other so-called HIV ‘cures’, are not what they seem.

The Times reported that the makers of the herbal formula 3H said it was ‘developed and researched by a team of German scientists and doctors’.

Responding to the Times’ report, Africa Check said, ‘This might sound impressive at first glance but means nothing, as is often the case. Having a treatment tested is not the same as having proof that it works. How it is tested and by whom is key.’

None of this information about testing is supplied by HHH. Africa Check added, ‘Instead, the main “evidence” promoted by the sellers of these products is formed of unverifiable “testimonials” from people who report or claim to be progressing “very well” and praise the promoters.’

HIV scams are nothing new in Swaziland, which has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. King Mswati III himself was caught up in one. The King endorsed a goat serum scam that was being peddled by his son Prince Lindani.

The scam was to sell goat serum that was ‘totally reliable in the cure of Aids’. It involved injecting goats with HIV and creating antibodies which were then injected into people with AIDS. The scam was set to make its promoters US$100 million.

The prince even wrote a letter that was used by the fraudsters in their publicity saying his father the King backed the project.

The prince was not at the centre of the fraud: he was just a gullible dupe who got conned.

KING, THE FIRST WORLD AND DEMOCRACY

King Mswati III has told his subjects in Swaziland that his kingdom will reach ‘First World’ status within eight years, by 2022.

But, he has declined to say what he means by this.

The King has been talking about Swaziland becoming a ‘First World’ nation for some years, but since the national election in the kingdom in September 2013 and the king’s appointment of a new government, the topic has gained momentum in Swazi media.

The King may regret that he has not defined clearly what he means by ‘First World status’ as he has left room for his subjects to advocate for democratic changes within his kingdom. 

The concept of the ‘First World’ nation is a little outdated. During the time of the Cold War, following the Second World War, the ‘First World’ nations were generally considered to be those that supported the United States, against the Soviet Union and the ‘communist bloc’. In the past 20 years or so, since the ‘fall’ of the Soviet Union, the term ‘First World’ has begun to fall into disuse.

There are many modern-day definitions of ‘First World’, but they all insist that to be included in this category a nation must be a multi-party democracy and people must be able to elect and dismiss their government.

Swaziland is not like this. King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the king chooses the Prime Minister and government. There is no way for the people to either elect or dismiss the King’s government.

Some of King Mswati’s subjects have realised this and over the past few weeks the Times of Swaziland group of newspapers have been carrying readers’ letters and commentaries pointing out ‘First World’ status cannot be achieved without a movement towards democracy.

King Mswati has no intention of allowing this to happen and he continues to keep a firm grip on any public dissent in his kingdom

Another ‘definition’ of ‘First World’ speaks to prosperity and the health of the nation’s economy. But, Swaziland is nowhere close to becoming prosperous. In 2012 a report published by 24/7 Wall St in the United States, and based on data from the World Bank, identified Swaziland as the fifth poorest country in the entire world.

It said 69 percent of King Mswati’s one million subjects lived in poverty.

Its report stated, ‘[T]he country’s workforce is largely concentrated in subsistence agriculture, even though the country faces serious concerns about overgrazing and soil depletion. While these factors harm the nation’s economy, health concerns are likely one of the major factors preventing Swaziland’s population from escaping poverty. 

‘Few nations have a lower life expectancy at birth than Swaziland, where the average person is expected to live just 48.3 years. One of the reasons for the low life expectancy is the high prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS among those 15 to 49 — at 25.9% it is the highest in the world’.

King Mswati does little to address this situation. Instead, he tries to distract attention from the true dire situation in Swaziland and mislead his subjects about the prospects of achieving ‘First World’ status. However, there are some small indications in Swaziland that his subjects are not going to let him get away with it.

Monday, 2 December 2013

COCA-COLA ABANDONS SWAZI WORKERS

Coca-Cola has denied that it intends to take any lead in protecting the rights of workers in Swaziland from land-grabbing.

This follows global reports that the international drinks company had promised to stop all business dealings with subsidiaries that were involved in land grabs, where land is taken from poor people in developing countries without their consent.

Coca-Cola, under its Swazi subsidiary Conco, produces drinks concentrate using sugar. It makes up as much as 40 percent of the Swaziland’s gross domestic product (GDP), but it is said to be exempt from paying full taxes.

In Swaziland, King Mswati III, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, controls all publically-owned land, and his chiefs do his bidding in ejecting people from the land they live on and cultivate if they disobey him or them in any way.

Manqoba Khumalo, General Manager of Conco Limited (trading as Coca-Cola Swaziland), told the Sunday Observer, a newspaper in Swaziland in effect owned by King Mswati, that Coca-Cola was taking a leadership role across the world in protecting land rights of farmers and communities, but this did not apply to Swaziland.

Khumalo told the newspaper that Coca-Cola was targeting ‘top’ markets and Swaziland has not been taken into consideration. ‘Our plan to address the land rights issue starts with the assessment of our top markets and outlines concrete actions in support of sustainable agricultural practices around the world.’

Khumalo also denied that Coca-Cola influenced King Mswati and the way he ruled his kingdom.

Asked by the Observer, ‘Does royalty benefit in any way from Coca-Cola’s operations in Swaziland?’ he responded, ‘No’.

He added, ‘Coca-Cola has not provided any personal gifts to either the King or his family beyond customary gifts presented at local ceremonies.’

Coca-Cola’s role in Swaziland has been under scrutiny for many years. Swaziland has been indebted to Coca-Cola ever since it allowed the company to use it in its fight against workers’ interests in other countries. In 2009, Coca-Cola closed its concentrate supply plant in Nigeria, citing an ‘unfriendly manufacturing environment’ in that country.

Coca-Cola also has an impact on the international standing of Swaziland’s economy. The money generated by Coca-Cola is what largely accounts for the kingdom being classified as a ‘lower-middle income developing country’ (and therefore not eligible for certain types of international aid), even though seven in ten of Swaziland’s one-million population live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day.

Peter Kenworthy, of Africa Contact, writing in 2011, said, ‘The real point, though, is that Coca-Cola is probably in Swaziland because it is a dictatorship that oppresses its unions and population. This allows wages to be kept low and unemployment high.’

Kenworthy visited one of the sugar cane fields in Eastern Swaziland, which produces sugar for Coca-Cola.

He wrote, ‘The area that I visited, Vuvulane, is managed by the Vuvulane Irrigated Farms (VIF) but the sugar cane fields are under the auspices of the Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise and the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation who lease them to individual farmers, who in turn employ casual labourers.

‘In a small village in Vuvulane, most of the adults worked in the sugar fields as casual labourers for between 400 and 550 Rand (US$40-55) per month. “This is not enough to pay for medicine, proper food or school fees for our children,” one villager told me. “Sometimes we do not eat for days. We used to have our own vegetable gardens but these were confiscated by the sugar company. We sometimes fish in the nearby dam in the evening, when it is dark. If we are caught we will be arrested as the dam is owned by the sugar cane company,” another villager said.

‘Practically none of the children in the village, who were clad in dirty and ripped clothes and looked underfed, attended school and many of the villagers, receive food aid. In addition to this, the water supply is controlled by a privately owned company that readily closes the water supply form the village if they are not paid on time.’

In 2012, the prodemocracy group the Swaziland Democracy Campaign called on Coca-Cola to leave Swaziland immediately.

 
See also

SWAZILAND, SPONSORED BY COCA-COLA

SWAZI ELECTION RESULTS NOT RELEASED

More than two months after the national election in Swaziland took place the final results have not been published.

On several occasions the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), which ran the election, has promised to release the full results, but they have not been forthcoming.

The EBC announced the names of the winners at each of the 55 constituencies in the House of Assembly promptly after voting took place on 20 September 2013, but only gave the number of votes cast for 45 of them. No figures were given for the losing candidates and the total number of voters taking part in the election has never been revealed.

Elections in Swaziland are generally considered by observers outside the kingdom to be undemocratic. Political parties are banned from taking part and only 55 members in the 65-seat House of Assembly are elected by the people. None of the kingdom’s 30 senators are elected by the people.

The parliament has no real powers and King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

In the run up to the vote prodemocracy groups urged a boycott of the election and there has been speculation within the kingdom that this was effective.

It is important for King Mswati that there is seen to be a high voter turnout. Only weeks before the election, he announced that Swaziland’s tinkhundla system of democracy would in future be known as a ‘monarchical democracy’. He said this would be a partnership between himself and the people. 

The turnout at the election might be seen as a referendum on how much his subjects support him.

At the previous election in 2008 only 47.4 percent of the estimated 400,000 Swazi people eligible to vote did so. The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) in its report on that election attributed the low turnout to a campaign for a boycott of the election by progressives in Swaziland.

It reported on the 2008 election, ‘The best indication we have of whether the boycott was a success or not is the voter turnout rate.’


Following the 2013 election, the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported the turnout of people on election day was ‘about 400,000’. However, official figures from the EBC stated that only 411,084 Swazis living in Swaziland had registered to vote, which would have meant if the newspaper was correct the turnout would be 97.3 percent.

In the week following the election the Swaziland Democratic United Front suggested the turnout might be as low as 80,000. The Swaziland Communist Party put the figure at 100,000.

The Swazi EBC has given no explanation why the full results cannot be released.

Friday, 29 November 2013

POLICE RAID FILM CRITICAL OF KING

Swaziland police broke up a screening of a documentary critical of King Mswati III and detained the owner of the studio.

Swazi police, acting without a warrant or court order, broke up the screening of The King and the People at a studio at the Christian Media Centre in Manzini.

The screening had been organised by the Swaziland United Democratic Front, an organisation campaigning for democracy in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

About 50 people had gathered to watch the documentary when police arrived and closed down the screening. They detained the owner of the studio and questioned him for about three hours, according to reports from Swaziland.

The King and the People, made by Simon Bright, is a recently-released documentary that investigates the present situation in Swaziland. It has been shown across the world.

In a preview of the movie, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) said, ‘The film shines a light on a crisis forgotten or misunderstood by many and unravels the reality of the existence, in the 21st century, of a governing system that is based on royal supremacy, greed, power and zero tolerance to fundamental human rights.’

Percy Zvomuya, who reviewed the documentary for OSISA, said, ‘In the movie, there are gritty, frenetic close-up shots of activists on strikes and state thugs beating them up. The grit is placed side by side with the rather drowsy shots of talking heads: an academic, a teacher, an activist and a politician deconstructing the crisis.’

He added, ‘But connecting all of this is a sad story of a country (or half a country?) presided over by an elite that controls the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, business and the media. A scene in which the king is seen having 'consultations' with his subjects gives new meaning to the phrase “bootlicking”.’

The breaking up of the public gathering is not the first of its kind in Swaziland. In April 2013 armed police physically stopped people from entering a public meeting at a restaurant that was called to discuss the undemocratic nature of the impending national election. Police said it ‘presented a threat to national security’.

In March 2013, riot police with batons halted a prayer meeting in Manzini because it had been organised by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), an unregistered organisation in the kingdom.  

In February 2013 about 60 armed police broke up another prayer meeting, this time at the Our Lady of Assumption Catholic cathedral in Manzini.  Police said the prayer was a political meeting, organised to disrupt the election that was later held in September.

See also

POLICE SAY PRAYERS WERE POLITICAL
RIOT POLICE FORCE HALT TO PRAYER
POLICE BLOCK PUBLIC MEETING

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

DIVORCE ‘BAN’ FOR SWAZI MPs

Swazi parliamentarians have been instructed not to get divorced during the next five years as this would embarrass King Mswati III.

Gelane Zwane, the president of the Swazi Senate, also told them not to have sexual affairs with Parliament staff.

Zwane gave her instructions during a two-day workshop to orientate members of parliament and senators on their role. This follows the recent national election.

Zwane told the members of parliament and senators on Monday (25 November 2013) to forget about divorce now that they were in parliament as it was embarrassing not only to themselves but to the King as well, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati reported.

Zwane directed most of her comments to women parliamentarians, the newspaper reported.
The Observer reported, ‘Speaking during the orientation workshop of the parliamentarians yesterday, Zwane said if they had problems with their spouses, they should find alternative ways of avoiding embarrassing situations such as divorce. 

‘She said if anyone of them was already in the middle of a divorce process, they should just stall and wait until their term of office was over.’

She added it was bad to associate the King with people who are seen to be leaving their spouses once they get into leadership positions such as those in parliament.

She added, ‘Such things are embarrassing to come from parliamentarians. Do it for the King at least for the next five years, then sort your personal issues after the end of your term.’

King Mswati himself has at least 14 wives (the exact number is a state secret). One had a very public affair with a serving cabinet minister before being expelled from the Royal Household. Another two of his wives reportedly fled the King and are now in exile. 

Zwane also warned MPs not to have ‘intimate relationships’ with parliamentary staff.

The Observer reported her saying, ‘You are going to find very beautiful ladies in parliament offices. Don’t you dare get intimate with them, no matter how tempting.

‘We would have to discipline these people because once they get intimate with honourables, they feel important and it becomes very difficult to work with them. We would have to discipline them, or even fire them, and this could cause problems for parliament.’

See also

KING’S WIFE THROWN OUT OF PALACE
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2011/11/kings-wife-thrown-out-of-palace.html