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Monday, 30 June 2014

SWAZILAND LOSES US TRADE BENEFITS



After one false start it is now official: Swaziland has lost its preferential trading status with the United States.

US President Barack Obama announced on Thursday (26 June 2014) that the kingdom would lose its benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

He said this was because Swaziland was not ‘making continual progress’ in enacting civil, political and workers’ rights.

Swaziland is not a democracy and is ruled by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

In a statement, a White House spokesperson said, ‘The decision to withdraw Swaziland’s AGOA eligibility comes after years of engaging with the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland on concerns about its implementation of the AGOA eligibility criteria related to worker rights.’ 

The statement said after an ‘extensive review’ the US, ‘concluded that Swaziland had not demonstrated progress on the protection of internationally recognized worker rights. In particular, Swaziland has failed to make continual progress in protecting freedom of association and the right to organize. Of particular concern is Swaziland’s use of security forces and arbitrary arrests to stifle peaceful demonstrations, and the lack of legal recognition for labor and employer federations.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman, said, ‘The withdrawal of AGOA benefits is not a decision that is taken lightly. 

‘We have made our concerns very clear to Swaziland over the last several years and we engaged extensively on concrete steps that Swaziland could take to address the concerns. We hope to continue our engagement with the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland on steps it can take so that worker and civil society groups can freely associate and assemble and AGOA eligibility can be restored.’

AGOA is a US preferential trade programme that provides duty-free access to the $3 trillion US market for thousands of products from eligible sub-Saharan African countries. 

Media in Swaziland have predicted that as many as 20,000 jobs in the kingdom’s textile industry could be lost as a result of the withdrawal of AGOA benefits that comes into force on 1 January 2015. The textile industry in Swaziland is dominated by Taiwanese companies which were drawn to the kingdom by the availability of cheap labour and the AGOA agreement.

In May 2014 Media reported that Swaziland had lost its AGOA status, quoting US Ambassador to Swaziland, Malika James as a source. She later denied making a statement.

See also

SWAZI HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD KILLS AGOA

CONFUSION OVER KINGDOM’S AGOA STATUS

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

DANES SUPPORT JAILED SWAZI ACTIVISTS

Danish party supports Mario and Maxwell

 
Kenworthy News Media, 17 June, 2014 

Danish democratic socialist party, the Red-Green Alliance, on Monday (16 June 2014) sent a statement of support for two imprisoned democracy advocates to Swaziland’s government, writes Kenworthy News Media.

President of the pro-democracy party, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), Mario Masuku, and youth leader Maxwell were arrested on May Day, and subsequently charged with sedition – Masuku for expressing support for his own organization in a speech, Dlamini for allegedly shouting “viva PUDEMO”. They have been in prison since then, as they were denied bail.

Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini were remanded in custody until September 24, 2014 during yesterday’s court session, as their lawyer Leo Gama applied for a postponement of the case to enable the pair’s legal team to challenge the Suppression of Terrorism Act No.3 of 2008 that they are charged under.

Swaziland is in effect an absolute monarchy, although the country holds general elections. These elections were heavily criticized by the Commonwealth Observer Mission, who monitored last years’ election. Amongst other things because all parties are banned and the king chooses the Prime Minister, the government, a large proportion of the senators, and in effect wields a large influence over the election of MP’s through a chief-controlled system, as well as the legal system.

Over two thirds of the Swazi population survives on under a dollar a day, many on food aid from the United Nations.


Read the full statement below:

Statement of support in the trial of Swazi democracy advocates Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini
The Red-Green Alliance party, Denmark, 16. June 2014


Mario Masuku, President of the pro-democracy People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) in Swaziland, and PUDEMO youth league Secretary General and student leader, Maxwell Dlamini, were arrested and imprisoned on May Day. They have since have been charged with sedition, and for contravening the Swazi Suppression of Terrorism Act, for giving support to a “terrorist entity” – PUDEMO. They will appear in court today, 16. June.

Mario Masuku had delivered a speech to the Swazi trade union confederation TUCOSWA where he merely expressed support for his organization, PUDEMO. Maxwell Dlamini had allegedly sung a song that included the words “the king must go”, and both had allegedly shouted “viva PUDEMO” together with the thousands of others who had gathered to show their dissatisfaction with king Mswati III’s absolute monarchy, that has left two thirds of the population in absolute poverty whilst a small elite live in luxury. They have both been refused bail.

The Red-Green Alliance wishes to extend these two comrades our full and unequivocal support, and want to state clearly that we believe that such preposterous charges prove that the Swazi regime simply wishes to lock up anyone who questions its undemocratic rule, however peacefully.

Today, 38 years ago, thousands of students like Maxwell Dlamini, who were equally tired of being oppressed by an unjust and divisive political system, revolted in Soweto in apartheid-South Africa. They eventually prevailed, amongst other means by winning the support of the international community.

People in Swaziland are simply asking the Danish government, and other governments and NGO’s, to support Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini in their struggle for democracy and socio-economic justice.

The arrest of Masuku and Dlamini follows the arrests of, amongst others, PUDEMO’s Secretary General, Mlungisi Makhanya, who was arrested along with six other members of the organization for wearing a T-shirt with PUDEMO’s logo at a trial.

The arrests have been condemned by, amongst others, the South African trade union federation COSATU, in a press release that described Swaziland as “one big national prison”.
Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini have been arrested on questionable charges several times before, and Maxwell Dlamini claims to have been tortured by the police in 2011. He was receiving treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Signed
The Red-Green Alliance


The Red-Green Alliance is a democratic socialist party which aims to combine politics for social change with politics for solving the great environmental problems both on national and international level.

The Red-Green Alliance has, for several years now, been in a project partnership with PUDEMO that seeks to assist the organization in the achievement of its ultimate goal – achieving democracy and socio-economic justice for all Swazis.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

PAPER DEFIES COURT OVER SOURCES

The Swazi Observer newspaper has refused to disclose to the Swaziland High Court its sources in a report that said the Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi had issued warrants for the arrest of three judges in the kingdom.

The Registrar of the High Court wrote to the newspaper which is in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The letter said, ‘On May 19, 2014 you wrongfully and intentionally published a scandalous and contemptuous story to the effect that the Chief Justice of Swaziland had issued warrants against three High Court Judges.’

According to a report in the Swazi News, a rival publication to the Observer, the registrar’s letter went on to say, ‘when it was brought to the attention of the editor of the Swazi Observer that the allegation was false and a blatant lie aimed at scandalising the chief justice, the Judiciary and the administration of justice in Swaziland, he remained defiant.’

The Swazi News said, ‘The registrar said the editor instead issued another publication on May 20, 2014 where it was stated that they stood by their story.’

The letter continued, ‘In these circumstances you are hereby called upon to produce proof of the so-called warrants of arrests within two days from receipt of this letter [11 June 2014] or face the legal consequences for your blatant and contemptuous lies, a dirty campaign which you have passionately been waging for sometime now.’

Swazi Observer Managing Editor Mbongeni Mbingo responded in writing to the office of the Registrar of the High Court. It read in part, ‘Unfortunately, we are not in a position to disclose information, material and sources of our publications, which we have a legal and ethical duty to protect.’

See also

‘CJ ARREST WARRANT FOR CRITIC JUDGES’
SUPREME COURT THREATEN TO QUIT

Thursday, 12 June 2014

PAPER CENSORS CHIEF JUSTICE CRITICISM

The Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland has once again censored itself and in so doing has completely misrepresented is regular columnist Musa Hlophe.

Hlophe, who is the coordinator of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations, a prodemocracy group, writes for the newspaper every week. On 8 June 2014 the Times deleted references about Swazi Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi from the article.

Hlophe wrote a critical assessment of the CJ, who is from Lesotho and is under increasing pressure from democrats to stand down as the judiciary in the kingdom is in crisis.

However, the only part of the assessment the newspaper published was this: ‘You know, I have always admired and respected the person of Chief Justice Ramodibedi.  I have always considered him a good lawyer and a person who just happens to serve a wrong master in the name of the Government of Swaziland, but always trusted him because of his Christian background: he is a devout Catholic, and Catholics preach social justice from their pulpits!’

Here is the full text from the article that the Times Sunday felt its readers were not entitled to see.

‘Secondly, I wish to express my grave concerns about what one newspaper attributed to His Lordship, the Chief Justice of the Kingdom of ESwatini. If the paper has correctly quoted him, it is alleged that he made this startling allegation that there is a conspiracy to overthrow the king of Swaziland, His Majesty King Mswati 111!  Headlined:" Secret Mission to dethrone King:" the articles talks of plotters to have even polluted the judiciary, and that he is ready to deal with these. I have waited for reactions from both the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Minister of Police and the Minister of Justice, who is the political head the judiciary, but, sadly, there has been no comment or correction of this mischievous statement.

‘Why do we, as Swazis, have to be told by a foreigner about the security threats to our King? Does the Chief Justice, who seems to have more problems in his own country, challenges he should be concerned with, wish to tell us, the loyal citizens of this kingdom, that he is so informed about the security of our Monarchy, than our security agencies? What is his motive in saying these allegations soon after he was said to be facing impeachment in his own country, for alleged serious misconduct on his part? If at all there are citizens who are having these plots, why hasn't he shared these fears or perceptions, quietly with the police? And how can we defend him against those allegations that he has a warrant to arrest, at least, three if not four judges, including Justice Qinisile Mabuza, who recently surprised this nation, by refunding Government, the monies she considered not deserved for the kind of work she was being paid for? IF at all, there judges who are part of a plot to dethrone the king, why has this not been handled by the Judicial Service Commission? Why is the Chief justice seemingly having problems with competent local judges? Should we smell intimidation here? This is worrying to me. I am sorry.

‘You know, I have always admired and respected the person of Chief Justice Ramodibedi.  I have always considered him a good lawyer and a person who just happens to serve a wrong master in the name of the Government of Swaziland, but always trusted him because of his Christian background: he is a devout Catholic, and Catholics preach social justice from their pulpits! I thought that given this background, that he would approach issues of justice in the way our God commands: doing justice to the poor and weak and not to favour the rich and powerful. Thus says The Lord our God.

‘If the Honourable Chief Justice wants Swazi citizenship, which I believe he deserves, he must first respect the common Swazi such as I and those Swazis he is privileged to be their master. The moment he is seen to be demonizing anyone of them, then he will have lost our respect. He just needs to know that the Swazi system has been known to misuse the services of foreigners to suppress the Swazis, and once done, and then throw these foreigners in a manner rather too shameful to imagine! Be warned.

Thirdly and lastly, one applauds the judgment in the appeal case won case won by Bheki Makhuu and The Nation Magazine from the Supreme Court.’

The original article was published in the printed newspaper and on the Times of Swaziland website. It has now been removed from the website.

This is not the first time the Times Sunday has censored Musa Hlophe. In March 2014 it refused to publish his article about the trial of Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko, who are on trial for contempt of court after writing and publishing articles critical of the CJ Michael Ramodibedi and the judiciary in Swaziland. He wrote at the time that ‘On trial now is no longer Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu, for whatever they might have been accused of, but on trial now is the country and its institutions of power.’

In April 2013, Hlophe was also censored when he made a mild criticism of King Sobhuza II, father of the present King. Hlophe wrote, ‘In 1973, His Majesty, declared a state of emergency that has never been openly repealed.  He set up an army that is only capable of threatening or harming its own people. 

‘Worst of all, he set in motion a series of events that has led to Swaziland being among the sickest, the poorest, the most corrupt and the unhappiest nations in the world.  Swaziland is no longer a place of African heritage and pride, it is now a place that most other Africans either pity or scorn.’

Media in Swaziland have long history of self-censorship, especially when reporting on King Mswati III, who rules the kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The Swazi Observer newspaper group is in effect owned by the King and all but two of the broadcast media in Swaziland are state controlled.

See also

PAPER DISTORTS STORY TO PROTECT KING
MORE MEDIA SELF-CENSORSHIP OVER KING
CENSORSHIP OVER KING’S LATEST BRIDE
CRITICISM OF SWAZI KING CENSORED

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

MEDIA IGNORE ATTACK ON SWAZI KING



Media in Swaziland have once again misrepresented events in order to deflect criticism of King Mswati III.

The latest in a long line of cases happened at the Swazi High Court in the case of Thulani Maseko, the human rights lawyer who, along with Bheki Makhubu, the editor of the Nation magazine, are on trial for contempt of court, following the publication of articles critical of the judiciary in Swaziland.

Maseko made a submission in court in which he contended he was innocent of the charges. This was reported in the Swazi Observer and the Times of Swaziland, the only significant newspapers in Swaziland.

But both newspapers, and the broadcast media which with two exceptions are all state controlled, refused to report the main thrust of Maseko’s speech which was a criticism of the political system in Swaziland and King Mswati’s role.

Maseko said that in August 2012 the King convened what is known as ‘Sibaya’. The Swazi Constitution states, ‘The people through Sibaya constitute the highest policy and advisory council (Libandla) of the nation.’  The King is the Chairman of the meeting.

Maseko said the King was ‘at the centre of it all’. He added, ‘This means that he
bears the ultimate responsibility to ensure that the people’s resolutions are executed and implemented.

However, Maseko said, the ‘overwhelming majority of those who spoke’ at Sibaya called for multi-party democracy in Swaziland. At present King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

He added, ‘The question that arises is whether this recommendation / resolution were implemented, or even worse, whether there are any plans to implement same? The answer, as far as we are concerned, is in the negative. It is our respectful submission that the failure or refusal to give effect and meaning to the people’s resolution and aspirations to move towards a People’s Democracy, as opposed to the much talked about vague Monarchial Democracy, is contemptuous to the people of this land.

In 2013, King Mswati claimed to have had a vision in which he was told the right form of government in his kingdom was Monarchial Democracy, but when he was asked to explain what it was, he said it was the same as the present ‘tinkhundla’ system.

Maseko also criticised King Mswati as being ‘above the law’. He said ‘Pronouncements by the King become Swazi Law when they are made known to the nation, especially at Esibayeni or Royal Cattle Byre. The King is referred to as umlomo longacali manga (“the mouth that never lies”). That is before any pronouncement or/proclamation, the King will have consulted and will have been advised.

We respectfully submit that such an arrangement is inconsistent with constitutionalism and the Rule of Law which embody democratic governance. For the King is not subject to judicial review, making him above the law.

He added, ‘Rule of Law means that it is the law which ultimately rules, not a monarch, not a president or prime minister, clearly not a dictator, not even a benevolent dictator. Under the Rule of Law no one is above or beyond the law. The law is the ruler.

He added. ‘In so far as the people have called for a democratic process of forming a government under the Rule of Law, they have been treated contemptuously. We surely need leaders who better understand the Rule of Law.

Maseko also criticised King Mswati for appointing Barnabas Dlamini Prime Minister. He said Sibaya had asked ‘King Mswati III and the leadership of this country to give them their right to elect a Prime Minister’.

King Mswati appoints the prime Minister and Government; none are elected by the people.

He added, ‘Is it not contemptuous that while the people called for the removal from office of the Right Honourable Dr. Sibusiso B. Dlamini in the last term, he was instead, re-appointed without their consent?

He added, ‘I respectfully argue that the failure and refusal by the highest authority of this land [King Mwsati] to remove the Prime Minister and instead, re-appointing him is highly contemptuous of the people’s will and aspirations.

In Swaziland the monarch only appoints a man from the Dlamini family, which includes the Royal Family, to the position of Prime Minister.

Maseko said, ‘In any case, what is the criteria or basis for appointing a Prime Minister? Is it not Royal Dlaminism supremacy and superiority? We contend that this is the kind of evil domination of a people by another, which moved and inspired men of conscience and goodwill, to rise up and challenge such immoral social orders. Tinkhundla [the present system of government in Swaziland] is our Swaziland version of South Africa’s grand Apartheid and racial segregation and discrimination in the United States. It must be dismantled, it is inhumane.

Maseko also said that at the Sibaya meeting people asked for ‘Circular No.1 of 2010’to be abandoned. This policy document allowed for substantial payments to government ministers, members of parliament an d civil servants when parliament was dissolved in 2013.

He said, ‘We listened and heard, speaker after speaker, condemn and attack this document as illegitimate in the face of massive poverty and unemployment.

The natives of this land saw this, not as intended to eradicate and alleviate poverty, but meant to secure the comfort of self-serving politicians while we the poor, suffer terrible poverty and unemployment.

What level of contempt of the masses of the people can we speak of? I insist that I am not guilty, but the leadership of Swaziland, jointly, collectively and severally should be in the dock for contempt of the people.

He said is Sibaya was considered to be the kingdom’s ‘annual general meeting’ then ‘failure to execute and implement such decisions and resolutions invite and warrant a vote of no confidence on the leadership. More than just a vote of no confidence, the non-implementation and intransigent refusal to give effect to the People’s resolution in the light of section 232 [of the Swaziland Constitution] amounts to the suspension and or abrogation of the section.

Consequently this is an act of treason.