The United States has become the first nation to take action against Swaziland over the kingdom’s disregard for human and civil rights. After a lengthy inquiry the US withdrew Swaziland’s benefits under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA). This means from 1 January 2015 Swaziland will lose the ability to export textile goods to the US without having to pay tariffs.
While the US was recognising Swaziland’s failures in human and civil rights an editor and a human rights lawyer continued to languish in prison on remand as a case against them for contempt of court crawls through the Swazi High Court. Bheki Makhubu, the editor of the Nation, a small independent comment magazine, and lawyer and writer Thulani Maseko have spent more than 100 days in jail. They are accused of writing and publishing articles critical of the Swazi Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi. The charges have attracted international attention which refuses to abate the longer the trial continues.
These are just two of the stories covered by Swazi Media Commentary during the second quarter of 2014 and now available as part of a collection Swaziland: Striving for Freedom, Volume 14, free of charge on scribd dot com.
This publication documents many of the struggles for human rights that are taking place in the kingdom during March to June 2014. In April, police illegally abducted prodemocracy leaders and drove them up to 30 kilometres away, before dumping them to prevent them taking part in a meeting calling for freedom in the kingdom.
Seven members of Swaziland’s best known pro-democracy party the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) have been arrested and charged under a terrorism act for wearing t-shirts and berets with the group’s name on them.
More than 1,000 people are in jail in Swaziland (nearly three in ten of the entire prison population) because they are too poor to pay fines.
Meanwhile, an independent survey of attitudes of Swazi people suggested more than six in ten of them are not satisfied with the way democracy works in the kingdom.
Elsewhere, the E3 billion (US$300 million) Sikhuphe Airport (now renamed King Mswati III Airport) remains closed to traffic and the public have been banned from visiting the site of the airport for ‘security reasons’.
Swazi Media Commentary has no physical base and is completely independent of any political faction and receives no income from any individual or organisation. People who contribute ideas or write for it do so as volunteers and receive no payment.
Swazi Media Commentary is published online – updated most days – bringing information, comment and analysis in support of democracy in the kingdom.