Search This Blog

For more coverage follow us also on Twitter and Facebook


Tuesday, 30 April 2013

‘WORST MONTH FOR HUMAN RIGHTS’


April 2013 has been one of the worst months in living memory for human rights in Swaziland.

The conviction of Bheki Makhubu and the Nation magazine for ‘scandalising the courts’ by publishing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary sent waves of anger across the world. Makhubu faces two years in jail and his magazine closure if he loses an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Other violations of rights in Swaziland this month attracted less attention.

On 12 April, democrats wanted to mark the 40th anniversary of King Sobhuza’s Royal Decree that in 1973 turned Swaziland from a democracy to a kingdom ruled by an autocratic monarch, by holding a public meeting to discuss the forthcoming national election in Swaziland. All political parties are banned from taking part and the meeting was to discuss why this was so.

Armed police and riot troops, acting without a court order, physically blocked the restaurant in Manzini where the meeting was to take place. The police said the meeting was a threat to state security.

A week later, on 19 April, the 45th birthday of King Mswati III, who presently rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, a youth group tried to hold a meeting at Msunduza Township in Mbabane to discuss the election. Again, police acting on their own initiative, forced the meeting to close. Organisers of the meeting have been charged with sedition.

Raids on the homes of democracy activists in Swaziland took place during the month. Wonder Mkhonza, the National Organizing Secretary of the banned political party the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) was allegedly found in possession of 5,000 pamphlets belonging to PUDEMO. He has been charged with sedition.

The Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), in a joint statement said police in Swaziland were now a ‘private militia’ with the sole purpose of serving the Royal regime.

During this month, but before the most recent events, the  Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia that Swaziland was becoming a ‘military state’. OSISA reported that the Swazi army, police and correctional services were being deployed to ‘clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country’s undemocratic elections’.

Separately, the US Embassy in Swaziland voiced its ‘deep concern’ about the way the police engaged in ‘acts of intimidation and fear’ against people seeking their political rights.

In its annual review of human rights in Swaziland, published this month, the US State Department recorded, ‘The three main human rights abuses were police use of excessive force, including use of torture, beatings, and unlawful killings; restrictions on freedoms of association, assembly, and speech; and discrimination and abuse of women and children.

‘Other human rights problems included arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and persons with albinism; harassment of labor leaders; child labor; mob violence; and restrictions on worker rights.

‘In general perpetrators acted with impunity, and the government took few or no steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses.’

Swazi Media Commentary has published Swaziland: Striving For Freedom, available free-of-charge at scribd dot com, the fourth volume of information, commentary and analysis on human rights taken from articles first published on the blogsite in April 2013. Each month throughout this year a digest of articles will be published bringing together in one place material that is rarely found elsewhere.

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.

Friday, 26 April 2013

KING SEES OPPOSITION AS ‘TREASON’


King Mswati III views all opposition to the elections in his kingdom later this year as ‘treason’, the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) said.

Activists have been arrested and charged with sedition for trying to hold an election rally earlier this month (April 2013).

The CPS said the charges showed King Mswati, ‘views opposition to his elections as treason’.

Those arrested include Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) Secretary General Maxwell Dlamini; SWAYOCO International Affairs Secretary Sonkhe Dube; Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) National Organiser and trade union leader Wonder Mkhonza, and members of Communist Party of Swaziland Central Committee Mfanawenkhosi Mtshali and Derrick Nkhambule.

CPS general secretary Kenneth Kunene said in a statement, ‘The regime is desperate to make its elections appear respectable, fair and free so as to appease the international community. But in reality they are the very opposite of freedom or fairness.’ 

No political parties are allowed to take part in the elections which are due to be held this year, at a date yet to be announced by the king.

Kunene added, ‘The Mswati dictatorship is also clamping down more widely on opposition at this time. Increasingly, we are seeing shows of force by the police and army, designed to intimidate anyone contemplating resisting the regime.’

A report on human rights over the past year in the kingdom released last week by the US State Department confirmed a raft of human rights abuses in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The report stated, ‘Citizens remained unable to change their government. The three main human rights abuses were police use of excessive force, including use of torture, beatings, and unlawful killings; restrictions on freedoms of association, assembly, and speech; and discrimination and abuse of women and children.’

The CPS has called on international organisations, including the Southern African Development Community, African Union, European Union and the United Nations to, ‘take a resolute stand on the crimes of the Mswati regime and to demand an end to the dictatorship’.

See also

NOW, ELECTION MEETINGS ARE ‘SEDITIOUS’


KING MISLEADS ON FIRST WORLD STATUS



King Mswati III has once again told his subjects that Swaziland is on the way to becoming ‘a First World Nation’.

And, true to form the media in the kingdom he rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, praised him for telling the ‘truth’.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper the king in effect owns, called it a ‘relentless march to First World status’. 

The media in Swaziland are biased when it comes to reporting the king. Even those parts of the media, such as the Times of Swaziland, that are not under the direct control of the ruling elite, take an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ attitude to King Mswati.

It doesn’t matter how ridiculous the statement, or how devoid of any reality it is: if King Mswati said it, it must be true.

In a speech to mark his birthday on 19 April, the king at least recognised that there were hurdles to jump before his kingdom could really be called ‘First World’. Chief among these was the level of poverty.

Nonetheless he told his audience, ‘I am confident it can be done. We have the national resolve to succeed.’

In the past, King Mswati said First World status would be achieved by 2022.

But, nowhere in the media in Swaziland or what passes for public debate in the kingdom has anyone actually defined what they mean by ‘First World’ status.

In fact, the term has begun to fall into misuse since the end of the Cold War, but when people do talk about First World nations they usually mean the multi-party democracies who align themselves (some more formally than others) to the economic and foreign policies of the United States. They would include Canada, northern and western Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Swaziland does not have the potential to become a First World country. It is not a democracy and if King Mswati has his way will never become one. Under the Royal Decree made by his father King Sobhuza II in 1973 all political parties are banned. The decree has never been rescinded and no parties will be allowed to take part in national elections due later this year.

Only this week activists in the youth group SWAYOCO were arrested and charged with sedition because they tried to hold a public rally to discuss having political parties at the next election. 

Swaziland’s foreign policy makes it ineligible to ‘join’ the First World. By aligning itself with Taiwan (and therefore against the United Nations) it places itself outside of the political mainstream.

King Mswati sometimes says he wants Swaziland to become prosperous like the developed countries. It could be that is what he means by ‘First World’.

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’.

The king has no answer to any of this, except to distract attention from the true dire situation in Swaziland and mislead his subjects about the prospects of achieving the promised land of First World status.


See also


SWAZI BUDGET NOT FOR THE POOR

PM GETS IT WRONG ON POVERTY

NOW, ELECTION MEETINGS ARE ‘SEDITIOUS’



A youth leader in Swaziland has been charged with sedition because he allegedly tried to organise a meeting to discuss the forthcoming elections in the kingdom. 

Maxwell Dlamini, the secretary general of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), is also a former student leader and presently studies at the University of Swaziland.

He is alleged to have been one of the organisers of a rally at the Msunduza Township on 19 April 2013 (the same day as birthday celebrations were taking place for King Mswati III elsewhere in the kingdom).

The rally was to discuss the national election that will take place in Swaziland this year at a date yet to be set by the king. Political parties are banned from taking part in the election and the rally was to bring attention to this.

SWAYOCO, which along with other political parties is banned in Swaziland, is also campaigning for people to boycott the election.

He appeared in court in Mbabane this week charged with breaking three sections of the Seditious and Subversive Activities Act of 1938.

According to local media, the charge sheet alleges that Dlamini wrongfully and unlawfully attempted to commit an act with seditious intention by participating in an unlawful demonstration held at Msunduza. 

He is also charged with ‘uttering words with a subversive intention’ and with being in possession of a banner inscribed with seditious words without a lawful excuse.

Dlamini was the third member of SWAYOCO to be charged with sedition this week following the rally. The other two are Mfanawenkhosi Mntshali and Derick Nkambule.

See also

POLICE BREAK UP ELECTION MEETING

Thursday, 25 April 2013

'KING’S BIRTHDAY PRIVATELY SPONSORED'

King Mswati III’s US$3.6 million birthday party was privately sponsored and did not cost the Swazi people anything, the government has claimed.

Estimates of the costs of the birthday party held on 19 April 2013 vary between E10 million and E33 million (US$3.6 million), but Percy Simelane, the official government spokesperson said this money did not come out of the kingdom’s budget for celebrations and national events.

He told Voice of America radio, ‘The king’s birthday was privately sponsored this year, as [was] the case was last year.’ 

He added, ‘The budget for this year’s celebrations and national events was [$1,027,551]. There is just no way that [$3 million] could come from [$1,027,551].’

He did not say who sponsored the event.

Last year King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was embroiled in controversy when it emerged that he had received a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 twin-engine private jet, costing an estimated US$46 million. Government said it was given to him by private sponsors, but refused to name them, leading to speculation that it was paid for out of public funds.

Simelane made his latest revelation in response to a pay claim from public sector works. They want improved living conditions, and say the extravagant celebrations held for the king’s 45th birthday were an indication that the economy had improved.

Days before the king’s birthday, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a banned political party in Swaziland, reported 32 BMW cars had been delivered to the King. 


See also

KING GETS 32 BMW CARS FOR HIS BIRTHDAY