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Saturday, 29 June 2013

KING UNDER SUSPICION ON ARMS DEAL

News that Swaziland’s army has taken delivery of another arms shipment has sparked fears that King Mswati is acting as an intermediary for a rogue state that cannot directly buy arms due to embargoes.

The Swazi Army took delivery of an arms shipment on Thursday (27 June 2013), including firearms and other military hardware.

Local media reported a cargo plane delivered the shipment under conditions of great secrecy.

The shipment has aroused the suspicion of the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a prodemocracy organisation banned in the kingdom.

Swaziland already has more than a million rounds of ammunition and weapons to fire them and there is little reason for King Mswati, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, to buy more.

In a statement SSN said, ‘[A]t the moment our network is not excluding the possibility that the country is being used as an intermediary by rouge states who cannot directly buy arms due to unilateral arms embargoes.

‘For the last decade Swaziland has had the dubious record of having one of the highest defence budgets. What made this record further ridiculous was the fact that the country has never been invaded in its entire history and boasts excellent relations with its neighbours, with whom it has signed security pacts disallowing either neighbouring country to be used by a third party as a base for military aggression against the country.

‘It is not easy to therefore conclude that all arms purchased by the country are intended for internal use against dissenters. The special weapons purchased by the Swazi army of late raise eyebrows. Sources within the defence force indicate that some of the shipments include unusual equipment such as anti-aircraft rocket launchers, which can never be used to quell local civil unrest even by the most wasteful army.

‘The answer to this intriguing choice of weaponry can be found in a 2011 Wikileaks cable which indicates that the United Kingdom government once blocked a similar arms shipment worth over $60 million. An arms broker trading under the name Unionlet had applied for a license to import the arms into Swaziland. According to the cable the reason for blocking the shipments was that the UK government had “end user concerns”.

‘Whether king Mswati has become a middle-man for arms dealers or he is hell-bent on staying in power by waging war on his own subjects leads to one conclusion: that is the world has to restrict the amount and type of arms that the country can purchase.

‘Taiwan, The European Union and the United States in particular are countries which hand out aid to king Mswati’s government. Together they have enough leverage to demand responsible use of available resources from king Mswati. They should use that leverage. It is an insult to these countries for this despot to purchase arms for killing the very population that friendly states help to keep alive.’

See also

SWAZILAND AND SECRET ARMS DEAL
ARMS SHIPMENT HEADS TO SWAZILAND

JAIL OFFICERS ASSAULT KIDS FOR 5 HOURS

Children at the Malkerns Juvenile Industrial School were systematically assaulted for more than five hours by correctional service officers.

Some of the children were forced to strip naked for beatings by the officers who used belts, sneakers, open hands and feet to assault them all over their bodies.

The Swazi News newspaper reported that 15 officers were involved and more than two thirds of the 430 pupils at the school were assaulted from 8.30 am until after 2.00 pm, during a day last week. 

One child interviewed by the newspaper said, ‘They were using belts, open hands and an All-Star (sneaker). We were ordered to strip naked before being assaulted all over the body, indiscriminately.’

The attack was also described by another as being worse than police torture known as ‘lishubhu’.

Another said, ‘Besi bulawa (we were being murdered).’

When asked why they were assaulted, one pupil responded, ‘Watsi lomunye thishela basi faka luvalo (one of the teachers told us that they were instilling fear).’

The pupils said they did not report the matter to the police because they feared being victimised.
Pupils at the school include juvenile offenders and children who live near nearby.

Correctional Services Commissioner Mzuthini Ntshangase told the newspaper, ‘Thina besicala ukube thusa (It was the first time we used corporal punishment).’ He said the officers only used a stick to deliver corporal punishment.

See also

KIDS WHO COMMIT NO CRIME LOCKED UP
BOY, 12, JAILED FOR INSULTING GRANNY

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

PM: STATE FILES KEPT ON CRITICS

Swaziland’s Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini told parliament that files are being kept on people in the kingdom who criticise the government and they will be used to ensure they never get positions of influence.

Dlamini said the files contained information on all Swazis who speak negatively about the country and its leaders.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and the prime minister and cabinet ministers are appointed by the king. All political parties are banned from taking part in parliamentary elections.

Dlamini said the files would be visited when it came to consideration for political positions either when people stand for election or when political appointments were made, the Times of Swaziland reported him saying. 

He said, ‘We are aware that certain individuals do this [speak negatively about Swaziland and its leaders] and let me assure senators that we are not taking anything they say lightly nor ignore it. Some of these persons will one day run for elections and want to come to Parliament, but these files will be brought into the picture too.’

He also said the files continued to pile up and there would come a time when government would start acting on the cases.

The revelation comes as no shock to political opponents of the undemocratic regime in Swaziland. A campaign to boycott the national election due in September is gaining ground in Swaziland. Opponents say the parliament has no powers and is just a rubber stamp for King Mswati.

Monday, 24 June 2013

LOW TURNOUT SO REGISTRATION GOES ON

King Mswati III of Swaziland has ordered election registration in the kingdom to be extended by a week as the number of people signing up has failed to reach targets.

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (ECB) announced that with two days of registration still to go only 344,679 of an estimated 600,000 potential voters had signed up. This represents only 57.45 percent of the eligible population. At the last election in 2008, 88 percent of eligible voters registered to vote.

The ECB has been trying to talk up the figures saying there had been a rush to register over the final two days of registration which ended on Sunday (23 June 2013). 

ECB Chair Chief Gija Dlamini also told media in Swaziland that the figures were inaccurate because some people who registered have yet to appear on the ECB computer. He also said some Swazi people who wanted to register were presently outside the kingdom.

Chief Gija has once again denied that the ECB had targeted to register 600,000 people. He told the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, ‘It would have been a miracle to have 600,000 of the populace within the given times but it is only fair for EBC to use it as a measure to attempt to register a high number. However we are pleased with the current figures of the people who have registered and we are hopeful that before the deadline we would have reached 400,000.’

He added there were no threats to the elections even if the 600,000 was not reached.  ‘There is nothing wrong even if the figures do not reach half of the estimated population,’ he said.

Chief Gija told a press conference that the deadline for registration had been extended to 30 June 2013 in order to avoid possible stampedes and overcrowding at the registration centre. 

He told the media, We have been sent by the King to announce the extension of the registration process.’

The ECB has yet to address the real reasons for the low turnout. King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and those who support him, believe the Swazi people support his undemocratic political system, known as tinkhundla, but the evidence of the voting suggests this might not be the case.

The election due in September has always been recognised as bogus by the international community. Now, more than ever, people within the kingdom might be coming to the same conclusion. All political parties are banned from taking part in the election due in September and the parliament that is selected is seen as a rubber stamp for the king.

The election is for 55 members of the 65-seat House of Assembly. The king appoints the other 10 members. No members of the 30-strong Swazi Senate are elected by the people: 20 senators are appointed by the king and the other 10 are selected by members of the House of Assembly.

A campaign organised by prodemocracy groups to boycott the election has been gathering momentum over the past few months.

See also

VOTERS ‘REJECT’ ELECTION REGISTRATION
ELECTION CORRUPTION AT REGISTRATION

Saturday, 22 June 2013

MASUKU CAMPAIGNS IN DENMARK

PUDEMO’s Mario Masuku urges Denmark to pressurize Swazi regime
Kenworthy News Media, June 22, 2013
SOURCE 
 
During an official visit to Denmark this week, President of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) in Swaziland, Mario Masuku, met with the speaker of the Danish parliament and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mogens Lykketoft, and several other Danish MP’s, whom he urged to increase the pressure on Swaziland’s undemocratic regime, Writes Kenworthy News Media.

Mogens Lykketoft referred to PUDEMO as the “leading democratic movement in Swaziland” in a press release, where he also spoke of “possibilities of stronger pressure coming from especially South Africa and the EU regarding freedom of speech and organisation, and a process that would allow the poverty stricken country a democratic constitution.”

“I was very pleased to be able to meet Mogens Lykketoft and the other Danish MP’s, and have discussions with several political parties in Denmark,” Masuku told me. “Swaziland is famous for all the wrong things. For having the highest aids-prevalence in the world, for nearly 70% of the population having to live on under 1$ a day, and for being the country in the world that spends most on the military per capita, even though we have no external enemies.”

The support for absolute monarch King Mswati III’s repressive and undemocratic regime is dwindling, said Mario Masuku, who pointed to the campaign for boycotting elections led by PUDEMO as one of the ways to reveal the lack of support for Swaziland’s absolute monarchy amongst the population.
“The national elections in Swaziland are not free and fair,” Mario Masuku said. “We have therefore decided not to participate in them, but to instead educate civic society and individuals on what democratic and non-democratic elections are and on the fundamental rights of the population.”

The registering process for Swaziland’s general elections in September are underway and there is immense pressure on those eligible to vote to register. People have been offered bribes to register twice according to the Elections and Boundaries Commission, cabinet ministers and the sole mobile phone company in Swaziland, MTN,  which has Swaziland’s absolute monarch as a major shareholder, is giving presents to those who register, and many people who fail to register are threatened with eviction by their local chief.

Nevertheless, only half of the electorate are expected to register and even less to actually come out and vote on election day. Only half of the population eligible to vote did so at the last election in 2008, and the proportion of the population who vote in elections has been falling steadily since independence.

Instead of the present undemocratic and corrupt Tinkundla election system, where absolute monarch king Mswati III chooses the cabinet and Prime Minister, as well as a large proportion of the Senate, and has full control over Swaziland’s coffers and armed forces, PUDEMO are fighting for a truly democratic society for Swaziland, says Mario Masuku.

“PUDEMO envisages a united country that has a transparent, accountable, culturally vibrant and economically sustainable government, and a country where all political parties work together with civil society for a prosperous and free democratic Swaziland”, Masuku said.

“We believe that our liberation will be done by ourselves. But in order to pressurize the present undemocratic regime into a democratising process, PUDEMO and the democratic movement in Swaziland need the support of the European Union,” he insisted.

“The EU has a role to play in insuring that all partnership agreements between Swaziland and the EU are respected, such as the Cotonou agreement. And we are also calling on the EU to observe the elections now, not in September, because pressure is being put on people now, the rights of the people are being violated now”.

Asked what he believed the time-frame is for the democratisation of Swaziland, Masuku said he was cautiously optimistic. “I believe we will see the breakthrough in our lifetime. I and PUDEMO have laid a brick in the building of a multistory structure. Others will continue, we are all in there together.”

Friday, 21 June 2013

VOTERS ‘REJECT’ ELECTION REGISTRATION

Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) chair Chief Gija Dlamini is making excuses for the low turnout for registration for this year’s discredited national election.

He told media in Swaziland that it would ‘take a miracle’ to register the 600,000 people eligible to vote. He said more than 300,000 had signed up with registration closing on 23 June. 

He said one problem was that some eligible Swazi people lived outside the kingdom.

At the start of the campaign to sign up voters, the EBC said it wanted to reach 600,000 people, but it has struggled to generate interest. At the last election in 2008, the EBC signed up 88 percent of the eligible 400,000 population. If it signed up a similar proportion this year, it should have 528,000 people on its electoral roll.

The Times of Swaziland reported him saying the low take-up to register was not a problem. ‘But what is very important is that Swazis are free to register without inhibitions. Unlike in some countries, there is no penalty imposed on anyone who will choose not to vote. Swaziland is a democratic country after all.’ 

However, Chief Gija was not being honest here. Last week, media reported Chief Maloyi of Ensingweni had told his subjects registration to vote in the elections was compulsory. 

He said those who would not participate in the upcoming national elections would be in defiance with King Mswati III’s orders. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

He said participating in the upcoming national elections was compulsory for his subjects because it was the King’s order that the kingdom should go to elections this year. He said he had heard that some people thought that registering and participating in the elections was by choice, the Times reported him saying. 

‘I have been told that some of you thought that participating in the upcoming national elections is for those who like it. That is not true; it is for every Swazi citizen. The only people who have a choice of participating are foreigners, not you,’ he reportedly told his subjects at a community meeting.

Meanwhile, King Mswati said he was ‘impressed to learn that a number of Swazis stood up to go to the registration centres, the turnout is encouraging indeed. We are happy to see that Swazis, when time for registration arrived, showed initiative and supported the system.’ 

However, the figures suggest the king might be wrong. A boycott campaign has been gaining ground in Swaziland and this might have directly resulted in the low turnout.

The election due in September is widely recognised as bogus. All political parties are banned from taking part and the parliament that is selected is seen as a rubber stamp for the king.

The election is for 55 members of the 65-seat House of Assembly. The king appoints the other 10 members. No members of the 30-strong Swazi Senate are elected by the people: 20 senators are appointed by the king and the other 10 are selected by members of the House of Assembly.

See also

ELECTION CORRUPTION AT REGISTRATION
SWAZI BOGUS ELECTION – SPONSORED BY MTN
SWAZILAND REDUCES ELECTION TARGET

POLICE SHOOT AS CHILDREN PROTEST

Police in Swaziland fired live bullets and teargas as children protested against alleged corruption at their school.

It happened at Mhubhe High School in Ngculwini when police were called after school pupils boycotted classes.

Local media reported police were armed with rifles and pistols. Gun shots were fired at the pupils after police drove them away from the school, but they tried to return.

‘The pupils were not deterred by the warning shots fired in the air and police had to call for back-up  The police’s contingency plan seemed to work out as the back-up officers arrived armed with rifles and teargas canisters,’ the Times of Swaziland reported.

Pupils were protesting after a newspaper reported that funds at the school had been misappropriated.
The Times said police fired at the children after they threw stones at them.

A spokesperson for Swazi Police said they were investigating to see if any of the pupils could be charged with an offence.

See also

SWAZI GUN COPS ENDANGER CHILDREN

Saturday, 15 June 2013

ONLY 822 PASSENGERS AT KING’S AIRPORT

Only 822 passengers per day on average are expected to use the new Sikhuphe Airport when it eventually opens, official figures reveal.

That is about the equivalent of two Jumbo Jets landing at the airport every 24 hours.

The airport, dubbed King Mswati III’s ‘vanity project’ by critics, is at least three years behind schedule. It was originally intended to open in time for the FIFA World Cup held in 2010 in neighbouring South Africa.

Despite endless problems, including a claim last week that the structure of the airport was defected and large jet airlines would not be able to land, King Mswati’s supporters continue to talk up the prospects of the airport.

So far, no airline has signed up to land at the airport. Despite this, the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA) has projected 300,000 passengers will use the airport each year, raising E7 million (US$700,000) per year in service charges. Although SWACAA did not say so, this equates to 822 passengers on average per day.

Deris Hlophe, SWACAA’s Air Transport Economist, revealed the figures to the Times of Swaziland. He also said aircraft parking fees at the airport could amount to E452,000 per year, with E137 being charged per aircraft.

The airport project, which has the personal support of King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is being built in the wilderness of eastern Swaziland, at least 80km from major towns.

Swaziland at present has an airport at Matsapha, close to the main cities of Mbabane and Manzini, but it only manages to attract about 70,000 passengers a year.

No needs-analysis was made before work started on building the airport, 10 years ago and so far no strategic plan has been revealed on how the airport intends to operate and how it will recoup the estimated E2.36 billion it has cost so far.

As long ago as 2003, the International Monetary Fund said it should not be built because it would divert funds away from much needed projects to fight poverty in Swaziland. About seven in ten of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 per day.

See also

KING’S AIRPORT ‘WILL BE UNUSABLE’
DOUBTS OVER PROSPECTS FOR AIRPORT

Friday, 14 June 2013

ELECTION: CORRUPTION AT REGISTRATION

People are registering more than once ahead of the Swaziland national election due in September.

The revelation puts the integrity of the election in the kingdom ruled by the autocratic monarch King Mswati III in doubt.

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) said some people were offered bribes of E100 (US$10) or E200 to register twice.

EBC Chair Chief Gija Dlamini told local media, ‘There are people who have promised the voters that, if they vote for them twice, they will give them E100 or E200 and they get tempted.’

He said voters caught registering more than once would be arrested.

Despite double-registering, the total number of registrations for the election has fallen far short of the 600,000 people who are entitled to vote. Registration ends on 23 June and at the current rate of sign-up, the EBC might not reach 400,000 voters.

The registration process has been hampered by computer break-downs and staff who have not been trained properly to use them.

A campaign to boycott the election is gathering pace in Swaziland. Political parties are banned from taking part in the election and the parliament that is selected has no real power and acts as a rubber stamp for King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Last week the EBC said it did not have enough money to run the election successfully as the Swazi Government had cut its allocation from E200 million to E100 million. It is claimed that the EBC cannot afford enough staff to monitor the registration of voters across the whole kingdom. There is also doubt that staff working for the EBC will be paid on time.

The Times of Swaziland quoted Chief Gija saying, ‘The current state we are in is caused by the initial budgeting constraints. We had asked for E200 million, but government said it could only afford E100 million. It does not come as a surprise then when we struggle in some aspects. The money is now less and we are patching here and there.’

See also

SWAZI BOGUS ELECTION – SPONSORED BY MTN

ACTIVIST STONES GININDZA DIES

Kenworthy News Media, June 14, 2013
Swazi activist Stones Ginindza passes away
It was with great sorrow that Africa Contact has learnt that long-serving Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice (FSEJ) Secretary General to the Board, Stones Ginindza, has passed away, writes Kenworthy News Media

Stones Ginindza was a dear and long-serving partner of Africa Contact as well as being a major capacity in Swaziland’s democratic movement, where she also served as Secretary General for the Swaziland National Association of Teachers and Chairperson of Swaziland Network Campaign for Education for All, amongst other things.

”Stones has played an important role in the partnership between FSEJ and Africa Contact,” says Africa Contact’s Head of Secretariat, Morten Nielsen. ”As a member of FSEJ’s board, she understood straightaway that FSEJ could play an important strategic role in joining and strengthening the various grass roots movements that are members of FSEJ. Stones’ efforts have therefore been vital in making the democracy movement what it is today. We in Africa Contact, and the many others who fight for democracy in Swaziland, have lost an important ally with the passing away of Stones. She will be remembered and revered for her efforts in posterity.”

Stones visited Denmark in 2009, where she amongst other things spoke about political oppression in Swaziland at a public meeting arranged by Africa Contact, met with Danish Foreign Ministry officials, and gave interviews to the Danish press.

The will be a Memorial Service, Saturday June 15, and Stones will be laid to rest on Sunday June 16 after a short prayer in her home.

BULLYING CHIEFS RULE IN SWAZILAND

A demand by a chief in Swaziland that his subjects pay him E5,000 (more than two years’ income for some of his people) as a ‘tribute’ highlights the power chiefs have over people in the kingdom of the autocratic King Mswati III.

Chief Mshikashika Ngcamphalala, of  Kangcamphalala, is reported to have demanded the money from sugar cane farmers in his chiefdom.

He is demanding ‘setfulo’, which traditionally are tributes paid to the chief a person pays allegiance to.

The Times of Swaziland reported that he is demanding the money from 18 sugar cane farming schemes and he stands to collect E90,000 in total.

The paper reported that people in the area said, ‘members of the sugar cane associations were tentatively earning around E2,000 a year each on average’.

The chief has, through his inner council, sent letters to the sugar cane schemes in the area, reminding them to pay the ‘agreed’ E5,000 with immediate effect.

A source told the newspaper, ‘If you raise such a matter in my area, you will be viewed as radical and you will be victimised. Therefore, most people are complaining in hushed tones.’

Farmers denied that they consented to the arrangement of paying E5,000, claiming the idea was imposed.

Chief Ngcamphalala, described by the Times as, ‘well-known as a disciplinarian’, told the newspaper that he deserved a cut of the takings earned by his subjects. He criticised some of his subjects for talking to the media.

Chiefs in Swaziland have enormous powers over their subjects, because they are personally appointed by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and traditionally they lead a band of area elders. They can decide who lives where and some have been known to banish people from their homes for not obeying rules. Sometimes chiefs demand tithes from their subjects such as a beast or money.

Chiefs also settle disputes such as over land, accusations of witchcraft, and wandering livestock that harm someone’s crops. Many also settle criminal disputes that probably should best be left to magistrates.

Chiefs are given stipends by the national treasury, but not salaries, and community members pay their allegiance to chiefs by weeding and harvesting their fields, and constructing the traditional mud and thatch huts usually found at chiefs’ homesteads.

In Swaziland chiefs do the king’s bidding at a local level. People know not to mess with the chief because their livelihood depends on his goodwill. In some parts of Swaziland the chiefs are given the power to decide who gets food that has been donated by international agencies and then the chiefs quite literally have power of life and death in such cases and with about a third of the population of Swaziland receiving food aid last year.

Chiefs can and do take revenge on their subjects who disobey them. There is a catalogue of cases in Swaziland. For example, Chief Dambuza Lukhele of Ngobelweni in the Shiselweni region banned his subjects from ploughing their fields because some of them defied his order to build a hut for one of his wives.

Nhlonipho Nkamane Mkhatswa, chief of Lwandle in Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland, reportedly stripped a woman of her clothing in the middle of a Swazi street in full view of the public because she was wearing trousers against his orders,

Chiefs know they have the backing of th eking if things go wrong.  Zwide Nxumalo defied a courtorder to stop being chief of the Ezikhotheni area in the Shiselweni region of Swaziland because he was appointed to the post by King Mswati III. Magistrates told him he couldn’t go ahead with a sibhimbi ceremony that officially introduces a new chief to his subjects because of a dispute about whether he had been correctly chosen as chief. So he went with the ceremony anyway.
 
See also

HAIL TO SWAZI CHIEFS

Monday, 10 June 2013

THREE ACTIVISTS ‘BEATEN IN JAIL’

Three members of the pro-democracy group SWAYOCO charged with sedition for carrying a banner at an election rally in Swaziland say they have been beaten up while in prison awaiting trial.

They say warders beat them at the Sidvwashini Correctional Facility. They told magistrates they now feared for their safety.

The accused, described in local media as members of the Swaziland Youth Congress, one of a number of pro-democracy groups banned in Swaziland, are Mfanawenkhosi Mbhunu Mtshali, 37, of Gobholo, Derrick Dickson Nkambule, 47, of Mgababa and Maxwell Manqoba Thandukukhanya Dlamini, 23.

They appeared before Magistrate Ndumiso Shongwe last week and claimed to be beaten and subjected to harsh treatment and were denied medical treatment.

Dlamini, who is the Secretary General of SWAYOCO, also said he was beaten by an officer from the Correctional Facility just as he was about to enter the court.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported he told Magistrate Shongwe that he had been beaten by an officer because he refused to have chains on his legs untied as it was normal that they entered in court with the chains.

The chief escort from the Correction Facility, whom the newspaper did not name, told the court the three men had caused trouble in prison because they ‘sometimes sang struggle songs whilst in the cell and disrupted other inmates’.

The three men are charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008 and the Sedition and Subversive Act of 1938. They are alleged to have taken part in an illegal demonstration on 19 April 2013 and carried a huge banner inscribed with ‘subversive material’.

They were remanded back in custody pending committal to the High Court.

See also
POLICE BREAK UP ELECTION MEETING

Sunday, 9 June 2013

SWAZI ELECTION – SPONSORED BY MTN

MTN, which has absolute monarch King Mswati III as a major shareholder, and is the sole mobile phone company in Swaziland, has been attacked for sponsoring registration for the kingdom’s controversial national election.

It comes at a time when a campaign by pro-democracy groups to get people to boycott the election appears to be succeeding.

MTN is giving away T-shirts, caps and other products imprinted with its logo, to people who register for the election.

The phone company that has been accused in the past of blocking calls made on its network by pro-democracy campaigners in Swaziland has entered into a deal with the kingdom’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), the Swazi Observer newspaper reported.

The Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported that the sponsorship was an incentive to get people to register for the elections.

The elections which are due to be held on 20 September are mired in controversy. The EBC at first announced it was targeting 600,000 people to sign up for the election, but with 18 days of registration still to go had registered only 210,000 people.  

Then, as it became clear it was unlikely to reach its target, the EBC back-tracked and denied its target was 600,000. This figure was the total number of people eligible to register, not the Commission’s actual target, the EBC chair ChiefGija Dlamini told the Observer.  

The increasingly discredited EBC has been travelling the kingdom trying to get people to sign-up for the elections. Places it has visited include work places, media houses and hospitals. It has also been criticised for failing to stop sitting cabinet ministers from illegally giving gifts, including money and food, to constituents to entice them to vote. 

But, the EBC and the Observer have failed to report that a campaign by pro-democracy groups to get people to boycott the election appears to be gaining ground. 

Opponents of the election say the poll is valueless because political parties are not allowed to take part and the parliament that is selected has no real power and works as a rubber-stamp for King Mswati.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), one of a number of pro-democracy groups banned in Swaziland by King Mswati, said in a statement the sponsorship by MTN was a ‘desperate’ move by the EBC to get people to register.

The SSN said, ‘Fearing that [the boycott] call was resonating within the population, the EBC resorted to some extremely desperate measures to ensure that they registered as many of those who normally do not vote because they saw no importance in participating in this useless exercise. 

‘This resulted in hospitals being invaded, with sickly patients disrupted from their recuperation as King Mswati’s PR [public relations] agents sought to create the impression that the majority of the population is fully behind his absolute grip of power.’

It added, ‘MTN Swaziland has since shamefully joined the fray, sponsoring this sham exercise, knowing well that poor Swazis will not pass the opportunity to have free T-shirts and caps. We ask a simple question to these friends of dictatorship, “Does this mean that the company does not value those amongst its subscribers who wish to live in a democratic country?” Surely if it valued them then it would not plough the profits it makes from their patronage into sustaining their oppression.

‘If this gesture is innocent and has nothing to do with pleasing the king then MTN should also give out its products to those organizations who called for a boycott of the elections, failing which the Mass Democratic Movement is rightly advised to boycott this company, difficult though this may be, since it is a total monopoly thanks to the fact that its “esteemed shareholder” [King Mswati III] pulls the strings to ensure that there is no competition in the mobile telephone industry.’

See also

US DECRIES KING ON MTN DEAL
PHONES CUT AS SWAZILAND PROTESTS

Friday, 7 June 2013

SWAZI POLICE AND THE AFRICAN DESPOT

Swaziland is to train more police cadets for the discredited government of Equatorial Guinea.

This was announced only days after President Teodoro Nguema Obiange of Equatorial Guinea claimed that his party, the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE), had won 99 of the 100 seats in the lower house of assembly and 54 of 55 senate seats in elections held last month.

The main opposition party the Convergence for Social Democracy said it completely rejected the results, calling them, ‘a real fraud, in total violation of the law’.

During the election campaign police in Equatorial Guinea arrested opposition politicians and dispersed demonstrators who accused the President of ‘maltreatment’.

Reuters news agency reported the United States voiced serious concerns over the election process, pointing to arbitrary detentions, limits on freedoms of assembly and speech, and severely restricted media access for the opposition. 

At least four members of the opposition in Equatorial Guinea were detained for trying to organize a protest march ahead of the election.

Police in Swaziland have taken a similar stand against any opposition to the national elections due in the kingdom for September. Meetings have been banned and organisers arrested. 

People protesting against the Swazi poll, which is seen as undemocratic because political parties are not allowed to take part and the parliament that is elected has no real powers, have been charged with sedition. King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Swaziland signed a five-year deal in 2012 to train police cadets for Equatorial Guinea. 

See also

SWAZI COPS TRAIN HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSERS
NEWSPAPERS DO GOVERNMENT’S BIDDING
VERY CRUDE SWAZILAND OIL DEAL

KING’S AIRPORT ‘WILL BE UNUSABLE’

Swaziland’s Sikhuphe Airport, the multi-billion rand vanity project of King Mswati III, has construction flaws and is likely to be unusable, a South African newspaper has claimed

The Mail and Guardian reported it had two confidential technical reports by engineer Derrick Dlamini alleging that there were major structural defects in the airport’s concrete apron and ‘that it is unfit for use by large commercial aircraft’.

The Swazi Government has denied the claim. Percy Simelane, the Swaziland government spokesperson, said the state was ‘absolutely’ satisfied with the work done.

The newspaper also said that there might be ‘widespread fraud and other irregularities’ at the airport, but did not give details.

The newspaper reported the cost of the airport was in the region of R2.36 billion (US$236 million), but estimates in the past have put the cost much higher. One report in 2010, in the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by the king, estimated it could be as much as US$1 billion. 

The king has been the leading force behind the airport which is being built in a wilderness in eastern Swaziland, about 80km from the kingdom’s capital, Mbabane. No needs analysis was done before the project started and to date no airline has agreed to use the airport, which is many years behind schedule for completion. Swaziland already has an underused airport at Matsapha, close to both the kingdom’s capital, Mbabane, and its main commercial city, Manzini.

The newspaper reported Sikhuphe airport was scheduled to open later this year (2013).

Sikhuphe is an on-going project to build an ‘international airport’. Since the idea for the airport was first raised by King Mswati, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, more than 10 years ago independent observers have called it a waste of resources.

As long ago as 2003, the International Monetary Fund said it should not be built because it would divert funds away from much needed projects to fight poverty in Swaziland. About seven in ten of King Mswati’s 1.1 million subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 per day.

Meanwhile, the king has a lavish lifestyle, including a personal fortune, once estimated by Forbes magazine to be US$200 million, 13 palaces, a private jet and fleets of top-of-the range Mercedes and BMW cars.

See also

KING’S VANITY COMES BEFORE THE POOR
DOUBTS OVER PROSPECTS FOR AIRPORT
PROOF: KING’S AIRPORT POINTLESS

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

ARMED POLICE STOP ELECTION WORKSHOP

Armed police stopped a youth group in Swaziland from holding an election workshop at a local church.

The workshop organised by the Swaziland Youth Empowerment Organisation, also known as Luvatsi, was due to be held in Sidvokodvo.

The police had no warrant or court order, but were acting on instructions of their station commander, local media reported.

The workshop was to cover the election due in Swaziland this year, human rights and democracy.
About 50 young people from Sidvokodvo and surrounding areas were reported to have assembled at the Pentecostal Church for the workshop by the time police arrived.

The Times of Swaziland reported that a police officer was waiting for the Luvatsi Coordinator Colani Nhleko when he arrived at the venue. He was told that the workshop would not be allowed to proceed.

Nhleko went to the police station to find out why the workshop was banned and was told it had been done on the orders of the police station commander, who was not present at the station.

Nhleko returned to the church and began the workshop. Then about 10 armed police officers arrived and forced them to stop.

See also

POLICE BAN DEMOCRACY PUBLIC MEETING

SWAZILAND REDUCES ELECTION TARGET

Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Chair Chief Gija Dlamini is backtracking over the number of people expected to be registered for this September’s national poll.
 
It comes as the EBC has struggled to meet targets for voter registration. The EBC had said there were 600,000 people in Swaziland eligible to vote and allowed the media to report this as the body’s target for registration.

But, with only 20 days of registration to go only 190,000 people have signed up to vote.

At this rate of registration only about 363,000 people will have signed up by the end of the registration period on 23 June 2013.

But, now Chief Gina is claiming the 600,000 figure was never a target. The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, reported, ‘The chairman [Chief Gija] also clarified that the 600 000 people expected to register were not in actual fact the commission’s target.’ 

The newspaper added, ‘However, he explained that this was the number of people eligible to vote in the country. Such people are those who are 18 years and above.’

If 363,000 people register to vote, it will represent only 60 percent of the total number of people eligible to vote.

At the last election in 2008, King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, claimed a triumph when 350,778 people registered to vote. In 2008, the EBC claimed the total number of people eligible to vote was 400,000 (200,000 fewer than the figure claimed for this year).

Those 350,778 represented 88 percent of the total number eligible to vote. 

To at least match the 88 percent take-up figure for 2008, this year the ECB must sign up at least 528,000 people.

The Swazi Observer gave no reason why Chief Gija and the ECB had moved the goal-posts and revised down its figure for participation at this year’s election.

A campaign by prodemocracy groups to get people to boycott this year’s election is in full swing. They say the elections are meaningless because political parties are not allowed to take part and the parliament that is selected has no real powers.

The election is for 55 members of the 65-seat House of Assembly. The king appoints the other 10 members. No members of the 30-strong Swazi Senate are elected by the people: 20 senators are appointed by the king and the other 10 are selected by members of the House of Assembly.

See also

DATE SET FOR CONTROVERSIAL ELECTION
‘SWAZIS WANT CHANGE’: POLL FIGURES

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

DATE SET FOR CONTROVERSIAL ELECTION

King Mswati III of Swaziland, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has announced the controversial elections to the House of Assembly in his kingdom will be held on 20 September.

The ‘primary’ elections will take place on 24 August 2013.

In Swaziland political parties are banned from taking part in the elections. Only 55 of the 65 members of the House are chosen by the electorate: the other 10 are selected by the king. No members of the Swazi Senate are elected: of 30 seats, 20 are appointed by the king and the other 10 are chosen by members of the House of Assembly.

Swaziland is broken up into 55 tinkhundla or administrative districts and each of these makes up one constituency in the House of Assembly. One Member of Parliament is elected from each inkhundla at the secondary election.

This is how the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, explained the election process at the last poll in 2008.

Nominations: This is done at the Imiphakatsi (chiefdoms) regardless of whether there is a chief or not. A minimum of four people to a maximum of 10, are nominated. 15 registered voters should second each nominee. After being seconded he must express his willingness to represent the people at a higher level.

‘These nominees will then go for Primary elections, where out of the four in some cases or the 10 in others, one must come out victorious. These are still conducted at the Imiphakatsi. The winners will then represent their Imiphakatsi in the election for constituency representatives MPs.

Campaigning: It is in this stage that campaigning is then allowed. The Primaries winners are then taken to all the Imiphakatsi under that constituency and campaign publicly fielding questions asked as well as tell the people what he has in store for them. Only one person must come out the winner, so he can go for Secondary elections.

Secondary elections: These are the final elections where winners will then go to Parliament to represent their constituencies.’

The Observer did not point out that this process is controversial because of the amount of power it gives chiefs over the selection of candidates. Chiefs are the representative of the king in their chiefdom.

The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) in its observer mission report on the last election in 2008, stated, ‘The chiefdoms serve as a nomination base for the primary elections for the secondary phases. Here the chiefs have used their power to influence the nomination and election of candidates in the primary election in a way that is in conflict with basic democratic values and practices. They are in a position to coerce the voters.

‘The grouping of the chiefdoms into an inkhundla necessarily and unavoidably advantages candidates from chiefdoms with large populations over those with small ones.

‘Currently an inkhundla is established by the King on the recommendation of the Elections and Boundaries Commission.’

A campaign by prodemocracy groups to boycott the 2013 election is growing in Swaziland. At the 2008 election there was some evidence that a boycott might have been successful as only 189,559 people actually voted in the secondary election out of 350,778 people who registered to vote. 

In 2013, the Elections and Boundaries Commission estimates 600,000 people are eligible to vote in the forthcoming elections.

See also

HUNGRY WILL SELL THEIR VOTES FOR FOOD
‘SWAZIS WANT CHANGE’: POLL FIGURES

Monday, 3 June 2013

'SOLIDARITY FORCES POLICE APOLOGY'

Kenworthy News Media June 3, 2013
“Pressure” and “solidarity” causes Swazi police to apologize for march ban

“The Royal Swaziland Police have written a statement of apology to the Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly,” the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice (FSEJ) said in a statement, writes Kenworthy News Media.

According to FSEJ this apology has not “come natural” and the excuse given, that “permission had been granted but there was a communications breakdown,” was not likely to be true.

Instead, FSEJ said that the resolve of the Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly (SRWA) and “pressure exerted by international pressure groups” had been the true reason for the apology.

“To us this is an example of the practical power of solidarity, not only to this matter but for the broader struggle for democracy in Swaziland.”

Last Wednesday Swazi police had banned a march arranged by the SRWA intended to raise awareness about gender-based violence in general, and more specifically to protest against a man punishing his girlfriend by stripping her naked, cutting of some of her hair with a knife and injuring her in the process, and parading her naked along a heavily trafficated road for 3 kilometres.

“The women made to walk naked for 3 kilometres by a man carrying a knife still feels alone and her voice silenced. But this time it is not because we were silent but because women who stood with her in solidarity were not allowed to even speak on her behalf,” Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly said in a press release on Thursday.

Swazi women are legally subordinate to men. In Swazi customary law, women in effect have the status of minors and cannot get a bank loan without the consent of their husbands. Women can also be fined for wearing trousers by traditional authorities.

Violence against women is widespread in Swaziland. One in three females have “experienced some form of sexual violence as a child”, and nearly two thirds of 18 to 24 years old women have “experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime”, according to UNICEF.

Generally, there has been a steady rise in violence against women in the past ten years.

Swaziland has signed the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Swaziland’s Constitution guarantees women the right to equal treatment with men – politically, economically and socially.

See also

POLICE BAN MARCH AGAINST VIOLENCE

KING’S MAN WHO WHIPPED VIRGINS DIES

One of Swaziland’s most senior traditionalists Ntfonjeni Dlamini, who once made international news for whipping virgins, has died.

The Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland said he reportedly died of tuberculosis, aged 65, but cast doubts on whether this was true by stating,  ‘It was not immediately clear how he could have died of TB, as it is a curable disease.’

Ntfonjeni Dlamini was the overseer of the Imbali maiden’s regiment. This is the group of young women, supposedly virgins, who parade semi naked before King Mswati III at the kingdom’s annual Reed Dance.

Ntfonjeni is survived by three wives and 34 children with the youngest aged eight.

His family described him as a disciplinarian. ‘He would beat us each time we strayed. He never hesitated to discipline us, no matter our age,’ one of his son’s, Lusaseni, told the newspaper.

The Times Sunday reported that Ntfonjeni Dlamini’s reign as overseer of the Imbali maidens’ regiment was characterised by controversy.

‘He was known for being a strict disciplinarian but the kingdom’s authorities retained him,’ the newspaper reported.

‘His reputation attracted a lot of criticism both locally and internationally when he hit [King Mswati’s eldest daughter] Princess Sikhanyiso, the leader of Imbali maidens after he stumbled across her at a party, hosted by the then 17-year-old that featured loud music during the Reed Dance activities in 2005.’

It added, ‘Unimpressed with what he saw, Ntfonjeni whipped the princess with a stick as she fled.’

It went on, ‘His act was widely criticised and condemned by both local and international children’s rights organisations.

‘Dr Allen Brody, then Country Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was among those who condemned it and said it was child abuse.

The newspaper reported, ‘However, his act was lauded by traditionalists such as Prince Jahamnyama who said Princess Sikhanyiso received what she had bargained for by turning such an important event (the Reed Dance) into a social gathering.

‘As he lived up to his reputation of being a disciplinarian in the ensuing years, on September 3, 2007 he assaulted a group of maidens with a stick resulting in two of them being rushed to the Lobamba Clinic.

‘The girls were Nokulunga Mamba and Calisile Tfwala of Mzimnene.
‘They could not dance before Their Majesties as they were seriously injured after the beating.

‘Mamba and Tfwala were not the only maidens who were beaten as four others were also involved but were lucky not to sustain serious injuries,’ the newspaper reported.

Swazi Media Commentary (SMC) reported on Ntfonjeni Dlamini and the Reed Dance whipping controversy in 2007. Not only were women whipped but men also.

The traditional authorities who were given the responsibility of supervising the ‘maidens’ systematically detained and whipped at least 27 young men who were caught at night trying to get close to the young women. 

The whippings were not isolated incidents, taking place over at least two days. ‘So we must assume that the detention and whipping of unwelcome visitors was an agreed method of discipline among those tasked with supervising the maidens,’ SMC reported.

Muzi Dlamini, one of the men responsible for supervising the maidens, said at the time that the men were taken to a small tent. ‘They were beaten with sjamboks and sticks. We were disciplining them and I must say they deserved such a punishment.’

In September 2007, the Times of Swaziland, a companion paper of the Times Sunday, reported that Ntfonjeni Dlamini, assaulted a group of maidens with a stick. He hurt two of them so badly, the Times reported, that they had to go to Lobamba Clinic, where one of them was treated for injuries to her right leg and bruises all over her body. The other was reported to have bruises all over her body and was bleeding on her back.

The Times reported four other ‘maidens’ were also thrashed, but were not as badly injured. 

The Times later said that the two women had reported Ntfonjeni Dlamini to the police. 

In an editorial comment, the Times said, ‘Ntfonjeni Dlamini … seems to believe he holds the right to beat up anybody’s child for no apparent reason.’ It called on ‘traditional authorities’ to take strong action against the blemishing of the Reed Dance, which it described as a ‘colourful event’ and an opportunity for Swaziland to make a bit of money from tourists.

The Times also gave an account of eight stabbings in isolated incidents at the Reed Dance. The newspaper reported that those stabbed were involved in brawls over ‘girls’.

Swazi Media Commentary at the time commented, ‘There are two themes that emerge from these stories that deserve further consideration from the Swazi media.

‘The first is the role of those in “traditional” authority and the way they are allowed to ignore the law. The Times in its editorial comment cast doubt on whether anything would be done about Ntfonjeni Dlamini and we might assume this is because in Swaziland the ruling elite relies on the upholding of Swazi traditions for their power. 

‘A legal system that places a person’s human rights at its centre would not tolerate “Swazi custom” for one moment.

‘The second is the general attitude of Swazi society to its women. Many see the annual Reed Dance as an event that cements Swazi culture, but others with a more modern outlook, believe it to be outdated and some say the Reed Dance, is old fashioned and makes a mockery of women, as it has become little more than a showcase for the king to choose a new bride.’
  
See also

REED DANCE – DARK SWAZI CULTURE

MAY: ELECTION CHAOS STARTS


The national elections have started in Swaziland amid chaos. As it sets out to register voters, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) is unsure how many people are eligible to vote in the kingdom and has almost certainly under estimated the number substantially.

The month of May has been dominated by the election as people trying to register have been turned away: the EBC blamed malfunctioning computers. The campaign to boycott the election because political parties are banned and the parliament that is selected is a stooge for King Mswati III is gaining momentum.

Sitting ministers have been found out bribing would-be voters with food and other goods. So many Swazi people are so poor they are unable to eat and some have admitted they would willingly sell their vote to the person who feeds them. Meanwhile, a scandal is emerging about food donated to feed the hungry by the international community deliberately being left by the government to rot – allegedly as punishment for an attempt to pass a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister last year.

Elsewhere, police and security forces continue to clamp down on legitimate protest. The month began with a muted May Day celebration as police made house arrests of union and political leaders to stop them appearing at rallies. The month ended with police banning women protesting against gender violence from marching. Police reportedly told the women they did not want any noise ahead of the election.

King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has yet to set the date of the election.

Swazi Media Commentary has published free of charge on scribd dot com Swaziland: Striving For Freedom, the fifth volume of information, commentary and analysis on human rights in the kingdom taken from articles first published on its blogsite in May 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.