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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

POLICE BAN MARCH AGAINST VIOLENCE

Police refused to allow women in Swaziland to march in protest against gender-based violence.

They told the women they could not march because police and the local chief did not want any noise ahead of the election soon to be held in the kingdom.

The march at Siphofaneni was to protest at an incident in the area when a wife was paraded naked for three kilometres by her boyfriend after he accused her of being ‘promiscuous’.

The Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly responded by organizing a march in solidarity with the woman. They wanted to march for three kilometres in the area then go to a church and hold a prayer against gender based violence.

Reports from the scene today (29 May 2013) say police and the chief of the area yesterday refused permission to march or hold the prayer service.

However, SRWA decided to defy the ban and continue with the march.

Social media from Swaziland report one eyewitness saying, ‘Upon assembling and preparing for the march the police told us to go away and stop our “shit” because, “they don’t want noise here”’.

SWAZILAND TRADES WITH IRAN DICTATORS

Swaziland is eager to expand its ties with Iran, the Iranian news agency FNA reported this week.

What it did not report was that Iran is about to have an election. This is what Human Rights Watch says about the Iranian election. 
 
Serious electoral flaws and human rights abuses by the Iranian government undermine any meaningful prospect of free and fair elections on June 14, 2013. Dozens of political activists and journalists detained during the violent government crackdown that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election remain in prison, two former presidential candidates are under house arrest, and authorities are already clamping down on access to the internet, having arbitrarily disqualified most registered presidential and local election candidates.’

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said, ‘Fair elections require a level playing field in which candidates can freely run and voters can make informed decisions.’

‘How can Iran hold free elections when opposition leaders are behind bars and people can’t speak freely?’

Swaziland wants to do business with the Iranian regime. The news agency FNA reported, “‘We want strong ties between the two countries and while we are completely satisfied with the current relations with Iran, we are also after expanding these relations,’ the Swazi justice minister [Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze] said in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Morteza Bakhtiari in Tehran on Tuesday.’

Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is holding its own election later this year. Political parties are banned from taking part and members of parliament have been silenced from appearing on state controlled broadcast media in the kingdom. 

Swaziland’s economy is in free-fall and it is finding it almost impossible to attract foreign investment into the kingdom.

According to the FNA report the Swazi Justice Minister, ‘called on Iran to provide the ground for a visit by the Swazi businessmen to Iran, and said, “No doubt, more job opportunities will be created in our country after such visits.”’

Swaziland has a murky relationship with the dictators in Iran. In February 2011, the Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that Britain had blocked a $60m sale of helicopters, armoured cars and machine guns to Swaziland, fearing the weapons could end up in Iran. The report was based on cables between US diplomats that had been published by Wikileaks.

See also

SWAZI ‘SECRET ARMS DEAL FOR IRAN’
SWAZI KING SUPPORTS IRAN LEADER
SWAZILAND IN TALKS WITH IRAN

OBSERVERS WILL NOT FIND DEMOCRACY

Swaziland’s elections board is sending out invitations to international bodies to come and observer the kingdom’s election due later this year.

The kingdom has no option but to do this if it wants the international community to recognise the election as credible.

But, if the last election in 2008 is anything to go by, the kingdom will end up simply confirming what its autocratic ruler King Mswati III refuses to admit: Swaziland is not a democracy.

In 2008, the European Union did not even bother to attend the election, declaring in advance of the poll that there was no need to visit since the election clearly was not democratic.

Other organisations did attend, but when they wrote their reports on the poll, they too, declared the election flawed.

The observing bodies are in agreement that elections in Swaziland are not democratic because political parties are not allowed to take part, and the people are not electing a government.

Many observing bodies also state that the parliament that is elected in this way has no power. This is because King Mswati rules as an absolute monarch. He selects the person to be prime minister – the present PM Barnabas Dlamini was not even elected to parliament. The king and his prime minister then select cabinet ministers.

Swaziland has two chambers of parliament: the House of Assembly and the Senate. Of the 65 members of the House, 55 are elected by the people and another 10 are appointed by the king. None of the 30 members of the Senate are elected by the people: 20 are appointed by the king and the other 10 are selected by members of the House of Assembly.

Following the last election in 2008, the Commonwealth election monitoring team declared that the voting was flawed and urged Swaziland to rewrite its constitution, if the kingdom wanted to ‘ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal’. 

The Commonwealth group issued a report saying, ‘it is widely accepted internationally that democracy includes the right of individuals to associate with and support the political party of their choice…  Yet in practice this right currently does not exist [in Swaziland]’.

In February 2013, the main opposition group in Swaziland, the banned People’s United Democratic Party (PUDEMO), called for international election observers to boycott this year’s poll because political parties are outlawed.

Mario Masuku, President of PUDEMO, told Voice of America radio the election was a charade and a mockery of democracy and an affront to Swazis. He said the balloting did not allow Swazis to freely choose their representatives.

After the 2008 poll, the Pan African Parliament observermission reported a number of flaws in the political process in Swaziland, including the ban on political parties and a lack of representation of women in parliament.

As in 2008, a campaign to get people to boycott thisyear’s election is gaining momentum.

In 2008, of the 400,000 estimated eligible population registered for the elections, when it came time to vote fewer than half these people (47.4 per cent), actually did so.

The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) in its observer mission report on the election concluded that large numbers of Swazis heeded the boycott call and ‘thereby signalled their disenchantment with the current Constitutional dispensation’.

See also

EU TELLS KING: FREE PARTIES

Monday, 27 May 2013

NEWSPAPERS DO GOVERNMENT’S BIDDING


Newspapers in Swaziland deliberately suppressed criticism about a visit by the Equatorial Guinean president after being instructed to do so by a Swazi government minister.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Swaziland chapter, has publicly revealed for the first time the extent of the collusion between Swaziland’s newspapers and the government.

MISA, the foremost media freedom advocacy group in the region, reported on how the newspapers in Swaziland covered the visit to the kingdom by President Teodora Mbasago.

In its annual report on media freedom in Swaziland, published this month, MISA, said, ‘In January 2012, Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), Winnie Magagula held an impromptu meeting with all [print] editors , where she told them they must positively report the visit of Equatorial Guinean President, Teodora Obiang Nguema Mbasago.

‘The newspapers heeded her directive: all the media houses waxed lyrical about the expected socio-economic benefits to be reaped from a questionable oil deal.

‘The editors suppressed President Mbasago’s negative stories of graft and repression that were run by the international media. In fact, the Swazi Observer was forced to apologise for a cable news item published by SAPA (South African Press Association) that negatively exposed the President.’

There are only two newspaper groups in Swaziland that publish daily and weekly titles. The Swazi Observer group is in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The Times of Swaziland is an independently owned group.

All broadcast media in the kingdom are state controlled, with the exception of one TV channel that supports the king, and a radio station that does not carry news or current affairs.

In its annual report MISA called the Swazi Observer, ‘a pure propaganda machine for the royal family’. It said the Times of Swaziland publisher, ‘had allowed commercial interests to take precedence over editorial independence’.

The visit of the Equatorial Guinean Presidential to Swaziland made headlines in the international media. Swazi Media Commentary (SMC) said at the time that the Times of Swaziland reported that King Mswati had done a deal with the President to import crude oil into his kingdom.

The Times reported Thembinkosi Mamba, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy, saying the Swazi Government had plans to build its own refinery so that, in future, the crude oil would be brought directly to Swaziland for refinement and separation, thereby, cutting down on costs.

SMC reported, ‘Although the Times doesn’t say this, it looks like this deal is something special the King has dreamt up. In the past, as with the notorious US$5 billion power plant deal that turned out to be a con-trick, the King has bypassed his parliament and made deals on his own initiative. 

‘Clearly, Swaziland has no need to import the crude oil and doesn’t have the capacity – nor can it develop the capacity in the foreseeable future – to process the oil once it receives it. Mamba’s claim that Swaziland will be able to build its own refinery is a fantasy.

‘The deal is pointless - why doesn’t Equatorial Guinea just send the crude oil to South Africa for refinement, bypassing Swaziland altogether?

‘The deal is also too costly. Mamba told the Times, ‘There are costs involved in the acquisition of the oil, like the cost of transporting it to South Africa where it will be refined, and the charges that we will have to pay for refining it in that country.’

‘Looks like King Mswati is about to enter a bad deal that will cost his subjects a great deal of money, rather than save them some.

‘So what’s going on? Obiang’s regime has been labelled one of the world’s most corrupt by international rights groups.  
‘Transparency International has ranked Equatorial Guinea 168th out of 178 countries for its efforts in tackling corruption.

‘Only last month (December 2011), the UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell told his parliament that oil wealth was being stolen from Equatorial Guinea ‘for the corrupt and personal use of an unaccountable and self-serving elite’. 

‘The US Justice Department said in October 2011it was looking to seize assets worth more than US$70 million from Obiang’s son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, including a US$30 million home in Malibu. 

‘In September 2011 the president’s son visited Swaziland. While he stayed at the five-star Royal Villas Resort (where the president has been staying this week) he had his bag stolen – containing US$2.5 million in bank notes. We still don’t know why he came to Swaziland with so much cash in his case, but it is hard to believe it was for legitimate reasons.

‘Now, three months later his father is in town and a needless oil deal is signed with the King.’

See also


MISA TELLS ‘TIMES’ EDITOR TO RESIGN

‘POLICE SPIES INFILTRATE MEDIA’

VERY CRUDE SWAZI OIL DEAL

VOTING CHAOS AS NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP



Voter registration in Swaziland is in chaos – even the electoral board running the election does not know how many people are eligible to vote in the kingdom.

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) announced it believed there were 600,000 people in Swaziland who would be eligible to vote. 

EBC Chairman Chief Gija Dlamini confirmed the figure to theVoice of America radio. He said, ‘From the statisticians, they gave us a population of 600,000 Swazis who are eligible to vote and we are targeting that number.’ 
 
But, Dlamini’s estimate might be well wide of the true picture.

The law says that people aged 18 and over can vote, with a small number of exceptions, including those who are not of sound mind.

The latest estimates suggest the total population of Swaziland is 1.38 million people.  

The total population is broken down by age group. Unfortunately, the exact number of people aged 18 and above is not measured. But, the statistics show that there are 557,080 people aged 25 and above in Swaziland. If the number for those aged 15 to 24 is included the total number aged 15 and above is 868,858.

Even a conservative estimate would place the number of people aged 18 and above comfortably above 600,000.

The ECB has almost certainly underestimated the number of people eligible to vote in the 2013 national election.

But, it was even more wrong at the last election in 2008. Then, it was estimated that the number of people eligible to vote in Swaziland was only 400,000. When the ECB signed up 350,778 people to vote it claimed a huge success, saying 88 percent of those eligible to register actually did so. 

However, if the true figure of the numbers eligible to vote in 2008 was broadly similar to the figure today (600,000), the percentage that registered falls to 58 percent – which, rather than being a huge success, is a pretty poor result.

In 2008, only 189,559 people actually voted in the secondary election (the vote that finally determines who goes to the House of Assembly). This was only 31 percent of the 600,000 people who were probably eligible to vote.

So, the 2008 election was not a success, and on the basis of these figures it might be described as a failure.

Registration has until 23 June 2013 to run and media in Swaziland have been reporting a series of problems, ranging from computer malfunctions, poorly trained staff not knowing how to operate equipment and local chieftaincy disputes denying people the opportunity to register. 

The Swazi News estimated at the current rate of registration 269,970 people would have signed up by the time the registration is over.   

See also
‘SWAZIS WANT CHANGE’: POLL FIGURES
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2013/05/swazis-want-change-poll-figures.html

HUNGRY WILL SELL THEIR VOTES FOR FOOD

SWAZILAND, A WORLD HOTSPOT FOR CRIME



Swaziland has been labelled one of the world’s hotspots for crime, in a report published by the United States Government. 

Gangs armed with knives or firearms roam the streets of the cities looking for houses to break into, while residents live barricaded behind ‘perimeter walls, security guards, dogs, security lighting, window grills, and alarm systems with security response teams […] essential for ensuring the safety of residents’.

Burglaries and home invasions occur frequently.  Gangs have been known to break into homes while the residents are still at home.

Pedestrians cannot walk the streets in safety and robberies take place in broad daylight. Motorists are stopped on the roads and robbed.

Swaziland’s autocratic ruler King Mswati III and his supporters constantly say the kingdom is a place of peace. The king, in particular, tells the international community that all is well in his kingdom and his subjects are happy and contented.

A report from the United States Department of State contradicts that picture. It says streets, public parks, roads, homes, restaurants and hotel rooms are not safe.

The US Department of State has designated Swaziland as a ‘Critical Threat Crime Post’. 

In a report called Overall Crime and Safety Situation in Swaziland it says, ‘Criminals consider Mbabane, the capital city, and Manzini, Swaziland’s urban industrial center, prime grounds for operation due to the number of people, businesses, and affluent areas.  

‘Additionally, crime affects urban and rural areas due to limited police assets. 

‘Criminals will resort to force if necessary, including deadly force, in order to accomplish their goal.  Gangs are not deterred by confrontations with their intended victims.  Car-jackings are not common, but they occasionally occur.  Crime increases dramatically during the holiday season. 

The report written by US government’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) is intended as guidance to Americans visiting Swaziland.

It says, ‘Congested urban areas are particularly dangerous at night; although, daytime larceny is not uncommon.  The presence of other pedestrians on the street should not be taken as an indication of a secure or safe environment. 

‘Many victims report being robbed in broad daylight in the presence of witnesses. 

‘Mob justice exists in Swaziland; suspects can find themselves pursued and beaten by by-standers. 

‘Pedestrians are cautioned not to wear jewelry or carry expensive items in plain view.  It is not advisable to display large amounts of cash, flashy jewelry, expensive clothing items, or cellular telephones.

‘Walking around at night, either alone or in a group, is strongly discouraged.’

The report says, ‘Most residents in Swaziland take residential security seriously and attempt to protect their homes accordingly.  Perimeter walls, security guards, dogs, security lighting, window grills, and alarm systems with security response teams are essential for ensuring the safety of residents.  Burglaries and home invasions occur frequently. 

‘Gangs, armed with knives or firearms, target homes they suspect possess cash or valuables.  Criminals have been known to enter residences while the occupants are home.’

The report says that Manzini, Swaziland’s largest city, ‘is notorious for criminal activity’. 

It says, ‘The bus rank in Manzini, which most inter-city transportation must pass through before traveling throughout the country, is routinely cited as being dangerous.’

The report warns motorists to keep doors of vehicles locked and windows rolled up at all times when driving in Swaziland.. 

‘Do not roll down your window in the event someone approaches your vehicle.  Ignore persons outside your vehicle, and drive away if you feel uncomfortable.  While stopped in urban traffic, continue to scan rearview mirrors to identify potential trouble.’

It adds, ‘Do not stop your vehicle if you encounter rocks or logs in the middle of the road.  This is a technique used in Swaziland and South Africa for robbers to force vehicles to stop.  Either drive around the barriers or turn around.  Do not stop to assess the situation.

‘Keep belongings out of plain view at all times.  While idling at a light or stop sign, leave adequate space between your vehicle and the one in front of you so that you can quickly depart should the need arise.  Park only in well-lit areas, preferably in parking lots with a security guard.’

The Swazi police are slow to respond to incidents, if they respond at all, the report says.

‘Swazi police consider a 30 minute response time adequate, even in urban areas.  Police are generally willing to assist but often lack the transportation and resources to properly investigate crimes.’

The report paints a picture of constant danger of crime in Swaziland. In tips to visitors on how to avoid becoming a victim, it says, ‘Most crimes that occur in Swaziland are crimes of opportunity.  The criminals are generally interested in cellular phones and cash.  

‘Visitors should always be aware of their surroundings and maintain visual/physical contact with their belongings.  Avoid walking alone, particularly after dark. 

‘Travel in groups.  Never hail a taxi that has passengers already in the car.  If you take a taxi, ensure it is a reputable taxi.  Dining establishments have been robbed late at night when there are few diners in the restaurant.’

It adds, ‘The most reoccurring crimes involve robbing victims on the streets, particularly in residential areas, regardless of the time of day.  Residential break-ins are very common throughout Swaziland, even when the tenants are in the home.  Most residential break-ins occur at houses without security guards and/or centrally monitored home alarms.  Criminals often perpetrate such robberies using edged weapons, e.g., a knife or machete, and occasionally firearms.’   

It tells visitors to avoid parks in Mbabane, the Swazi capital. ‘In particular, Coronation Park should be avoided at night and only visited as a group (more than two people) during daylight hours. 

‘This is often the rally point for marches and demonstrations.  At night, criminals have been known to loiter in the park.  As a general rule, visitors should avoid night clubs and walking around any town after dark to minimize the risk of being victimized.’

GOVT ‘DELIBERATELY STARVING PEOPLE’


Starving people in Swaziland are being denied food by the government because it is punishing the kingdom’s members of parliament for passing a vote of no confidence against it, local and international media have claimed.

Food intended to feed destitute families, especially those headed by single women with children, has been deliberately left to rot in government warehouses, they said. One Swazi newspaper said, ‘[T]here could be a deliberate ploy at cabinet to systematically starve the people’.

Swaziland has a food crisis and in recent years up to a half of Swaziland’s 1.1 million population have relied on donated food to stop from starving.

Now, a scandal is being uncovered in Swaziland that points to the government deliberately withholding food from starving people, in the hope they will blame their local members of parliament for the problem.

The international news agency IRIN reported the problem is being blamed on ‘bad blood’ between members of parliament (MPs) and members of King Mswati III’s cabinet. This is after the House of Assembly passed a no-confidence vote in October 2012 against Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini, who is both a relative and appointee of the king. The no-confidence vote was later reversed.

The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, in an editorial comment said, ‘[T]here could be a deliberate ploy at cabinet to systematically starve the people’. 

IRIN reported, ‘Although the country has institutions resembling those in democracies, Swaziland's parliamentarians do not enact legislation; rather, they approve policies of the king’s appointed cabinet.

‘But MPs are still responsible to their constituents - voter registration began a few days ago for this year’s scheduled elections, although a poll date has yet to be announced. Political parties remain banned.

‘Some observers believe the disruption of food supplies was meant as a lesson for the MPs.

‘Aaron Simelane, a Swaziland-based political commentator, told IRIN, “MPs are considered community development agents by the people who vote ... Swazis want their MPs to bring roads, jobs and aid to their communities, but MPs have no power to do any of these things. [The] cabinet has this power.

‘“The people do not know this, and when things aren’t done they blame MPs, who promise to deliver this and that to get elected. By withholding food aid, [the] cabinet is teaching MPs a lesson about power.”’

Local media in Swaziland reported that ‘hundreds of 50kg bags of beans, mealie-meal and boxes of cooking oil’ had been left to rot at the government central warehouse in Matsapha. 

IRIN said the spoiled food included, ‘15,000kg of the staple maize meal, 25,000kg of beans and 600 cartons of vegetable oil.’

The Swazi Observer in an editorial comment stated, ‘[T]ons of donated staples like maize, beans and cooking oil were deliberately being allowed to rot at a government granary in Matsapha, while starving people had to contend with the pangs of hunger out there.

‘We may be forced to agree with the honourables [members of parliament], who are now claiming there could be a deliberate ploy at cabinet to systematically starve the people and obliterate them from the face of their army worm-ravaged areas.’

The Observer went on to say, ‘Or much sinister still, it is to alienate the present crop of MPs from their constituents, so they cannot be voted back to parliament, if that was to happen.

‘Are the hungry people being used to hit back at the MPs for their still-born vote of no confidence last year? When things happen in this manner, one starts to believe even the most far-fetched theories, which is why government should avoid such embarrassing situations at all costs.

‘That people are hungry out there is a given. Even those who send money home from towns have drastically reduced the amounts they send as a result of high costs of living and the triple-taxation they are forced to shoulder.’

The Swazi Government which is hand-picked by King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, caused a scandal in March this year when it was revealed it had sold maize donated forhungry people by Japan, for about US$3 million.

The money was put in a special account at the Central Bank of Swaziland. The Government has yet to publicly reveal exactly what the money was spent on. 

IRIN reported the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Swaziland provides food assistance at more than 1,500 neighbourhood care points, more than 200 secondary schools and 12 health facilities. In 2012, the WFP supply chain reached 327,000 people.

In 2007, more than half of the kingdom’s 1.1 population required food aid, IRIN said.

See also

SALE OF FOOD AID BY GOVT ‘NOT ANOMALY’

GOVT SELLS MAIZE DONATED FOR HUNGRY

GOVT-DONATED MAIZE SCANDAL WON’T DIE