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Friday, 30 October 2015

KING ‘TOOK 100 SERVANTS' ON INDIA TRIP

King Mswati III of Swaziland booked more than 200 hotel rooms to accommodate his entourage at the Indo-African summit that concluded in Delhi on Thursday (29 October 2015), according to media reports from India.

Zee media reported he took his 15 wives, 30 children and 100 servants to a five-star hotel.

According to News World India, each room cost between 7,000 and 15,000 rupees (US$230) a night. If the account is correct the rooms alone would have cost up to US$46,000 a night.

Swaziland was one of 54 nations represented at the summit, designed to encourage trade between India and African countries.

Media in Swaziland which extensively cover the King’s official foreign travels have been silent about the cost of the trip.

King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has a stranglehold over the media in his kingdom where seven in ten of his subjects live in abject poverty earning less than US$2 per day. At that rate it would take most Swazi workers nearly four months to earn the cost of the King’s hotel room for one night.

King Mswati was listed among seven ‘dictators’ who attended the summit by India’s Catch News. 

It said, ‘Mswati III came to power as a 14 year-old following his father’s passing, even though his mother ruled in his stead until he turned 18. Waiting for him to mature into a sensible leader was a good idea, unfortunately, it didn’t pan out that way.

‘As King of Swaziland, Mswati III is virtually all-powerful, with powers over both the executive and judiciary. But with great power comes great responsibility. Sadly no one ever told Mswati III that. 

‘He practises polygamy and currently has 15 wives, which isn't the problem. No, the problem is that not all of his brides consented to marrying him. One, as young as 18, disappeared from her school and was later found being forced to marry Mswati III, an act that was condemned by Amnesty International.

‘Still, he builds his wives palaces and sends them to Europe on his private jet for lavish shopping sprees. Unfortunately this benevolence doesn't extend to Swaziland's general populace, with over 60% of the population living on under $2 a day.

‘He's also been accused of using force (even lethally) to silence dissenters, activists and journalists. With Swaziland's monarchical system deeply entrenched in the Swazi way of life, his reign isn't ending anytime soon.’

ONE IN THREE WANT POLITICAL PARTIES

More than one in three Swazi people want political parties to be allowed in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III as an autocratic monarch.
 
The figure comes even though all debate on democratising the kingdom is ruthlessly crushed by King Mswati’s state police and security forces. Meetings called to discuss democratic change are routinely disrupted by police and prodemocracy activists are jailed.

No news media in Swaziland support political parties.

In Swaziland, political parties are banned from taking part in elections. Groups that support democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The King chooses the Prime Minister and Government. No members of the Swazi Senate House are elected by the people.

The people are allowed to elect 55 members of the 65-strong House of Assembly but the other 10 are chosen by the King.

Afrobarometer reported on Thursday (29 October 2015) that in Swaziland 36 percent of people questioned agreed with the statement, ‘The Swazi Constitution should be amended to allow for the existence of political parties in our country.’

A total of 58 percent agreed with the statement, ‘The constitutional ban on political parties has served our country well and should therefore be maintained.’

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

KING: ‘I’VE NO ASSETS OUTSIDE SWAZILAND’

King Mswati III of Swaziland who was once reported to have a personal net worth of US$200 million has told a court that he has no assets outside of Swaziland.
 
He made his statement in a case where he is personally being sued over a US$3.5 million debt relating to repairs and improvements to his private jet aircraft. 

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) made a freezing order against the King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, which meant he could not dispose of his jet until the debt dispute was resolved. King Mswati was also required by the court to disclose his assets. 

In an affidavit to the court, Sihle Dlamini, the King’s Private Secretary and Director of Administration at the King’s Office, who had been authorised by the King to swear on his behalf, stated the King had no ‘commercial assets’ outside of Swaziland. He also stated the King, ‘does not own any assets in the United Kingdom’ and that the King did not ‘own any assets in any overseas territories of the United Kingdom’.

He also stated that the King and the King’s company Inchatsavane, which is also being sued, ‘do not own any other property, solely or jointly, in their own name or not, in any other jurisdiction outside of Swaziland’.

King Mswati’s wealth is a closely guarded secret. In August 2007, Forbes magazine first disclosed that his personal net worth was US$200 million (E1.4 billion at the then exchange rate). That figure was revised downwards in later years. 

In June 2014, Forbes estimated his wealth had fallen to US$50 million, which made him the third wealthiest monarch in Africa. 

Forbes reported, ‘The King is one of Africa’s wealthiest royals. His personal net worth is at least $50 million, based on the annual $50 million salary that he is paid out of government coffers. 

‘He also controls Tibiyo TakaNgwane, an investment holding company that owns stakes in sugar refining giants Ubombo Sugar and Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation (RSSC), dairy company Parmalat Swaziland, spirits manufacturer Swaziland Beverages and hotel chain Swazi Spa Holdings. The company has assets worth over $140 million, but he holds it in trust for the people of Swaziland.’

In 2012, Forbes named King Mswati as one of the top five worst rulers in Africa. 

It reported the King ruled over a kingdom which has one of the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates: over 35 percent of adults. Its average life expectancy is the lowest in the world at 33 years; nearly 70 percent of the country’s people live on less than US$1 a day and 40 percent are unemployed. 

It added, ‘But for all the suffering of the Swazi people, King Mswati has barely shown concern or interest. 

‘He lives lavishly, using his kingdom’s treasury to fund his expensive tastes in German automobiles, first-class leisure trips around the world and women. But his gross mismanagement of his country’s finances is now having dire economic consequences. Swaziland is going through a severe fiscal crisis. 

‘The kingdom’s economy is collapsing and pensions have been stopped. In June last year [2011], the King begged for a financial bailout from South Africa.’

In February 2011 the Mail & Guardian newspaper in South Africa reported King Mswati also had US$10-billion that was put in trust in King Mswati’s name for the people of Swaziland by his father, King Sobhuza II.

In 2015, a report from the United States government report concluded there was no oversight in the kingdom on how the King, his 15 wives and vast Royal Family spent public money.

See also

KING DIVERTS WEALTH FROM HIS SUBJECTS
KINGDOM’S WEALTH STAYS WITH THE KING
KING MSWATI SPENDS AND SPENDS

WRITERS SEEK MILLIONS IN COMPENSATION

The two Swaziland journalists who were jailed for writing and publishing articles critical of the judiciary but later released by the Supreme Court are suing the Swazi Government for millions of emalangeni.

Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer and writer, wants E20 million (about US$2 million) and Bheki Makhubu, the editor of the Nation magazine, where the articles appeared, wants E3.7 million.

The pair spent about 470 days in jail of a two-year sentence after being convicted of contempt of court in a case that attracted condemnation from across the world.

They claim unlawful arrest, prosecution and detention.

Makhubu, in his letter of demand directed to the office of Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini, says his arrest, prosecution and detention were unlawful and without probable and/or reasonable cause and were motivated by malicious intent.

Makhubu’s claim includes compensation for malicious arrest, prosecution and detention; defamation of character; emotional trauma, shock and discomfort and legal costs incurred during his trial.

Thulani Maseko who is claiming E20 million stated that he was maliciously prosecuted and he was released when the Crown conceded that the arrest, prosecution and detentions were unlawful. 

See also

SWAZI HUMAN RIGHTS WORSEN: AMNESTY
JOURNALISTS JAILED TO DETER OTHERS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/07/journalists-jailed-to-deter-others.html

US BACKS CONVICTED SWAZI JOURNALISTS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/07/us-backs-convicted-swazi-journalists.html

JUDGE RESTRICTS PRESS FREEDOM
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/07/judge-restricts-press-freedom.html

SUPPORT FOR CONVICTED JOURNALISTS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/07/global-support-for-convicted-journalists.html 

WHAT CONVICTED JOURNALISTS WROTE
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/07/convicted-journalists-what-they-wrote.html

Monday, 19 October 2015

COMMITTEE TELLS SWAZI SPEAKER TO QUIT

The Swaziland House of Assembly Speaker Themba Msibi has been told to resign by a Parliamentary Select Committee.

The five-member committee found him guilty of a series of offences, including nepotism and favouritism in the hiring of parliamentary staff;

plotting the ousting/removal of the Prime Minister  Barnabas Dlamini from the Premiership position;
abusing the name of the monarchy for his own selfish ends;

promoting anarchy and running parliament like a personal fiefdom, and

engaging in corrupt practices not being trustworthy and being fraudulent.

The Select Committee recommended he resign within seven days of the adoption of its report. Parliament has yet to discuss the report.

Msibi has been surrounded in controversy over the past few months. He was briefly suspended from his duties in June 2015.

Following the publication of details contained in the Select Committee report, Msibi told local media in Swaziland that he had no intention of resigning.

The Observer on Sunday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III and seen as the mouthpiece of Swazi Royalty, published the findings of the Select Committee report on Sunday (18 October 2015). It is reproduced below.

Select Committee findings

 1. The Speaker (Honourable Themba Msibi) indeed interferes with the hiring and promotion of staff members in parliament. The Speaker’s actions are tantamount to nepotism and favouritism, abuse of authority, corruption and fraud.

2. The Honourable Speaker Themba Msibi (MP) did misrepresent the CPA [Commonwealth Parliamentary Association] Swaziland branch in the CPA Africa branch; when he fraudulently nominated himself as CPA Southern Africa Regional Representative much against the Swaziland CPA Constitution. The Speaker Themba Msibi fraudulently selected himself to become Regional Representative without consent of the Executive Committee, CPA Swaziland branch.

3. That the Honourable Speaker did expel the Joint House Committee; directly or constructively. The Speaker Honourable Themba Msibi acted improperly and violated the privileges of House by acting ultra vires.

4. The Speaker plotted the ousting/removal of the Right Honourable Prime Minister  Sibusiso Dlamini from the Premiership position. The presiding officers abuse the name of the monarchy for their own selfish ends. They were a deadly combination that sought to destabilise the government as ‘messengers’ of royalty.

5. The Speaker has no admiration, respect, regard and reverence for members of parliament; as he took two secretaries, including his favoured Secretary 1, for a trip to Korea.

6. That the parliamentary organogram and remuneration need review; particularly the Hansard Department. The entire staffing system in parliament has been grossly corrupted.

7. The presiding officers interfere and jeopardise the work of the clerk to parliament. Unfortunately, the clerk gets intimidated and succumbs to their whims.

8. The Speaker did hire and promote parliamentary staff, yet there is no single piece of regulation or policy that assigns that responsibility to his office.

9. The Speaker not only practices nepotism in parliament, but also promotes anarchy. The Speaker is running parliament like a personal fiefdom, without any regard for the government’s general orders which govern the parliament’s staff.

10. The Honourable Speaker did unscrupulously try to siphon the select committee’s investigation information from the Technician working with the select committee, as evidenced by the police statement attached.

11. The Speaker Honourable Themba Msibi fails to control his temper, as per evidence of Honourable Sitezi Dlamini, Library1, Library 2, assistant clerk 4 and others.

12. The Honourable Speaker did engage in corrupt practices, which include his failure to recuse himself or at least declare interest to the Parliamentary Service Board meetings when accounts 1, cleaner 1, canteen 1were interviewed.

13. The Speaker is not trustworthy and is fraudulent.

14. The Speaker treats parliament as an extension of his own personal property. 

15. The Speaker does have dubious, shady, and adulterous relationships with parliamentary female staff members. It is unfortunate that about half of those ladies associated with the Speaker’s ‘shenanigans’ are married.

16. The Speaker usurped the responsibility of procurement from the office of the clerk and made it his own business, obviously for unclean and unprofessional reasons.

17. The Honourable Speaker has no respect for parliament, as he flatly refused to appear before the select Committee while on the other end continued to tarnish the image of parliament by making headlines in the media, responding to the allegations he was being investigated for.

18. That in parliament, there are serious allegations of ‘sex for jobs’.

19. That the Honourable Speaker has uncontrollable weakness for women.

Recommendations   

1. The presiding officers ‘interference in purely administrative matters should be condemned in the strongest terms since it is tantamount to flagrant abuse of authority. Therefore a review of all the illegal appointments made should be undertaken by the Management Services Department and a way forward mapped out.

2. Parliament should expedite the enactment of the Parliamentary Service Board Bill, so that a properly constituted PSB can be established.

3. The whole staffing system needs a thorough review that will address improved working conditions, including remuneration, promotion etc.

4. The hiring of parliamentary staff should be based on the principle of meritocracy, to avoid the ‘sex for jobs’ scenario.

5. The Joint House Committee must resume its duties forthwith, as it was illegally dissolved by the presiding officers. Those responsible for its dissolution should not be allowed to interfere in its operation ever again.

6. The Honourable Speaker must be surcharged by Treasury for 
a) The money unduly paid to him in ‘refund’ for a book he bought in London, which remains unaccounted for;
b) Defrauding government by filing for full per diem on a fully sponsored trip to South Korea; and this must also include all those who formed part of his delegation;
c) The computers that he unilaterally purchased.  

7. Fraud, corrupt practices, theft and abuse of authority are covered in the Prevention of Corruption Act, 2006. It is expected therefore that the Anti-Corruption Commission will execute its mandate as provided in law; without fear or favour. It is quite incontestable, if not indubitable, that the findings portray the administrative atmosphere in parliament as so polarised and corrupted that the long arm of the law has to intervene.

8. The House business should continue with or without the Speaker. Parliamentary Committees should not compromise the integrity of Parliament by remaining indifferent even when the institution is being eroded. No individual has the right to stall parliamentary business, for this is a sacred institution.

9. It is crystal clear, and one need not be a rocket scientist to tell that the current Speaker Honourable Themba Msibi is not fit to hold the office of the Speaker; and cannot be rehabilitated.

In light of the preceding revelations, which include acts of corruption, fraud, misrepresentation of facts, illegal procurement, graphic sexual escapades, nepotism, favouritism, abuse of power, bringing the name of the monarchy into disrepute; it is, therefore, concluded that the Hon. Speaker, Honourable Themba Msibi must sacrifice the seals of his office.

The Honourable Speaker must, within seven (7) days from the adoption of this report, do the honourable thing and resign as Speaker of the House of Assembly; failing which a vote of no confidence be passed on him in terms of Section 102(7)(b) of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland.

See also

SWAZI HOUSE SPEAKER SUSPENDED
‘KING’S MAN’ STANDS FOR SPEAKER JOB
DISSIDENT STANDS AS HOUSE SPEAKER

Friday, 16 October 2015

ARMY SHOOT 16 BULLETS INTO ‘SMUGGLER’

Soldiers in Swaziland put 16 bullets into a man and killed him because he would not stop his car at a road check.

This was the latest in a long line of incidents that show the kingdom’s army is out of control and also enforces a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy.

The army in Swaziland is known as the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) and has King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, as its chief.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported on Friday (16 October 2015) that the soldiers, ‘found themselves with no option but to open fire when a Toyota Tazz bearing foreign registration numbers was smuggled into the kingdom with the occupants failing to stop when ordered to do so’.

It added, ‘A total of 16 bullet wounds were found on the deceased’s body which the army riddled through at him as he tried to escape.’

The shooting occurred at Gege. There were two occupants in the vehicle believed to have been stolen from around Piet-Retief. The driver was killed on the spot while his colleague who also got shot managed to flee with several bullet wounds, according to the Observer

The newspaper added, ‘Army mouthpiece Madoda Mkhatshwa said the soldiers tried to stop the car but the driver ignored them even after firing warning shots.’

This incident comes less than two weeks or so after soldiers also gunned down another suspected car smuggler near Mshololo not far from Zombodze Emuva. 

In July 2015 it was reported by Titus Thwala a member of the Swazi parliament that Swaziland soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows. They were among the local residents who were regularly beaten by soldiers at informal crossing points between Swaziland and South Africa.

This was not the first time soldiers in Swaziland have been accused of beating and torturing people. A man was reportedly beaten with guns and tortured for three hours by soldiers who accused him of showing them disrespect.

Soldiers have been out of control in the kingdom for a very long time. In January 2010 they were warned by the Swaziland Human Rights and Public Administration Commission that their attacks on civilians amounted to a ‘shoot to kill’ policy and this was unconstitutional. 

See also

SWAZI SOLDIERS TORTURE OLD LADIES
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2015/07/swazi-soldiers-torture-old-ladies.html

Thursday, 15 October 2015

SWAZI GOVT BLAMED FOR DROUGHT CRISIS

The Swaziland Government has been blamed for not acting quickly enough nor giving the financial support it promised to avert a ‘national disaster’ as cattle die and people go hungry in drought-hit areas of the kingdom.
 
The government had promised it would devote 10 percent of the national budget to agriculture, but instead only allocated 3.5 percent, according to a report just published.

This was at a time when the budget for King Mswati III, who rules the kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, increased by 25 percent over the previous year and amounted to E792 million (US$79.2 million), roughly half the E1.5 billion allocated to agriculture.

This extent of the drought was revealed in a study commissioned by the Swaziland Economic Justice Network (SEJUN) on poverty in outlying areas, particular in the Lubombo region. Among some of the areas it visited in the first week of October 2015 were Siphofaneni, Gucuka, Sithobeklweni, Big Bend, Nsoko, Lubulini, Zindwendweni, Somntongo and Maloam. 

The report concluded the situation, ‘now borders on a national disaster and quick and decisive intervention [is] needed’.

On Wednesday (14 October 2015) SEJUN reported, ‘We are, however, disappointed that government has not acted with the requisite speed to try and find short and long term solutions to the problems of draught not just the Lubombo region but the entire country. In our visit we were informed that in one family they had lost close to 43 cattle owing to draught while other families have not planted anything for their own livelihood in over a year.’

SEJUN reported the Swazi Government allocated only E1.5 billion in the 2014/2015 national budget towards agriculture. ‘This is despite that in 2002 she signed the Maputo declaration which states that she would allocate nothing less than 10 percent of the national budget towards agriculture. This year’s budget allocation to agriculture was about 3.5 percent of the national budget.’

SEJUN added Swaziland lagged behind other African countries, ‘in terms of developing agriculture to be the main driver of the Swazi economy, especially as our rural agriculture has not been integrated into mainstream economy. For example, our people in rural areas still use manual labour for agriculture which does not reflect modern ways of engaging in agriculture.’

SEJUN reported, ‘Swaziland is ranked as a lower middle-income country yet income distribution within the country is extremely unequal. The wealthiest 10 percent of the population account for nearly half of total consumption and there is an ever-widening gap between urban and rural development. There are clear signs that poverty and unemployment are on the rise. About 84 percent of the country’s poor people live in rural areas, where per capita income is about four times lower than in urban areas, and food consumption is two times lower. 

‘A large proportion of rural households practice subsistence agriculture. About 66 percent of the population is unable to meet basic food needs, while 43 per cent live in chronic poverty. 

‘When drought hit Swaziland in 2004 and 2005 more than one quarter of the country’s population required emergency food aid.’

To underline the income inequality in Swaziland, in June 2015, the Nation magazine, an independent monthly publication in Swaziland, revealed that the budget for King Mswati and the royal household rose 25 percent in 2015 from E630 million [US$63 million] the previous year to E792 million.

SEJUN said the effects of the drought in Swaziland were, ‘a result of long-term environmental degradation and policy blunders at all levels’.

It said, among others, the following measures were needed:

‘Strengthen, improve early warning systems to prepare local people and build their resilience before the disaster hits;

‘The National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) needs proper financing or enhancement. The Swaziland government need to set aside adequate funding to address impact of climate change without relying much on donor community.’

‘SEJUN added, ‘We therefore propose that as an immediate solution the problems of drought in the Lubombo region the following needed to be done:

‘The Minister of Agriculture as well as Minister of Health must visit the affected areas for a first-hand account of what is happening around these areas. This will assist the Honourable Ministers to develop ideas and suggestions which would serve the remaining livestock and prevent any human loss of lives through practising safety precautions. 

‘This is because the poverty stricken people of these areas tend to eat some of the decaying meat and this is a health hazard and could cause an outbreak of many diseases. Some of the cattle die in the muddy streams only to find that downstream there are people who are using the water for cooking and washing. This is an early warning that very soon we could face problems of loss of human life.

‘Immediate water and food supply to the people. This is necessitated by the fact that it is not just animals that are affected by this drought but ordinary people too who have not planted any crop in the last year owing to the drought. These people were surviving by selling their cattle and right now there is no longer anything they can sell nor eat. Government must immediately assist the our people with food and water.

‘The government must immediately provide hay as a temporary measure for those cattle that have survived the drought. Government also needs to dispatch a veterinary team to inspect if the cattle have not been infected by any diseases and to assist the people in getting their cattle back. 

‘Government, working with the communities, must also assist identify and burn the dead and decomposing cattle in an environmentally safe way.’

See also

KING GETS NEW JET AS PEOPLE STARVE
SWAZIS AMONG HUNGRIEST IN THE WORLD
HUNGER INCREASES IN SWAZILAND
GOVT ‘DELIBERATELY STARVING PEOPLE’
CORRUPTION ‘LEADS TO STARVATION’
FEAR OF MASS HUNGER IN SWAZILAND

BEATING BANNED IN SWAZI SCHOOLS

A directive from Swaziland’s Ministry of Education that corporal punishment is now banned in schools seems to have gone largely unnoticed.

Phineas Magagula, Minister of Education and Training, warned that teachers who beat pupils should be reported to the ministry so that they could be disciplined, according to a report in the Times of Swaziland.

The directive was issued without fanfare and few teachers appear to know it has been made.

Swaziland has a long history of atrocities committed by teachers against their pupils in the name of ‘discipline’. Although there were rules about how corporal punishment could be administered, these were largely ignored.

As recently as September 2015, the Times reported a 17-year-old school pupil died after allegedly being beaten at school. The pupil reportedly had a seizure.

In March 2015, a primary school teacher at the Florence Christian Academy was charged with causing grievous bodily harm after allegedly giving 200 strokes of the cane to a 12-year-old pupil on her buttocks and all over her body.

In February 2015, the headteacher of Mayiwane High School Anderson Mkhonta reportedly admitted giving 15 strokes to a form 1 pupil for not wearing a neck tie properly.

In April 2015, parents reportedly complained to the Ndlalane Primary School after a teacher beat pupils for not following his instruction and shaving their hair. 

In October 2014, 20 pupils were thrashed before they sat an examination because they had been absent from school studying for the exam the previous day.

On Thursday (15 October 2015), the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III and the voice of the traditionalists in Swaziland published an article against the abolition of corporal punishment. 

Observer journalist Fanyana Mabuza wrote that if corporal punishment was abolished, ‘[T]he future could be bleak, especially for the children who for their own good need a bit of spanking to bring them to order.’

The article in the Observer, a newspaper that believes Swaziland will be a ‘First World’ nation by 2022 added, ‘We just do not see the future clearly without the cane in our schools.’

See also

SWAZI SCHOOL ‘TORTURES’ STUDENTS
 
CHILDREN CHAINED AND FLOGGED BARE
PROBE VICIOUS SCHOOL BEATINGS
 
SCHOOL FLOGGINGS OUT OF CONTROL
 
SCHOOL HEAD PUBLICLY FLOGS ADULTS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2011/02/school-head-publicly-flogs-adults.html

Friday, 9 October 2015

TEXTILE PROTEST: POLICE FIRE GUNS

Police in Swaziland fired guns and teargas at workers engaged in a legitimate protest against employment conditions.
 
According to different local newspaper reports between 2,000 and 3,000 workers at the Zheng Yong Garment factory in Nhlangano had a confrontation with the company’s security guards.

According to the Swazi Observer newspaper one of the workers was ‘assaulted heavily by the guards’ which led to workers throwing missiles.

Management at the textile firm called in the police.

According to the Observer, ‘It was then that gunshots were heard which saw another stampede as the workers ran in different directions.’

According to the Times of Swaziland, ‘Witnesses said the violence was sparked by an incident, on Wednesday [7 October 2015] afternoon, where one of the textile firm workers was attacked by the security guards, following a misunderstanding with one of them.

‘Apparently, the worker had complained after he discovered that his E10 had gone missing from a table where one of the security officers was keeping guard.

‘An argument ensued when the man enquired about the whereabouts of his money from the security guard, leading to an exchange of blows.

‘Other security guards stationed at the company are said to have wasted no time and rushed to the scene upon receiving a report.

‘However, it is alleged that instead of calming the situation, they added fuel to the fire.’

Police are routinely called in during legitimate industrial disputes and there is a long history of weapons being fired at striking workers. Police in Swaziland have also been criticised for having a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy.

In June 2015, Swaziland was named as one of the ten worst countries for working people in the world, in a report from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Thursday, 8 October 2015

KING REPORTED TO UN OVER DEATHS

A human rights lawyer has reported Swaziland’s King Mswati III of Swaziland to the United Nations over the deaths of children and young women at the Kingdom’s Reed Dance.
 
At least 13 people died, but the number has been disputed, with some reports putting the figure at 65.

They died when they were loaded up onto the back of a truck used for conveying building materials. The truck was involved in a road collision on 28 August 2015. They were on their way to the annual Reed Dance or Umhlanga where they were expected to be among thousands of ‘virgins’ to dance half-naked in front of the King.

Femi Falana, a lawyer in Nigeria, has reportedly sent a petition to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Juan Ernesto Mendez; the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Dubravka Simonovic; and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Christof Heyns.

Punch, a Nigerian-based news site, reported, ‘The lawyer said it was particularly insensitive of the Swaziland monarch to have reportedly allowed the dance festival to proceed despite the news of the victims’ death.

‘He said it was also condemnable that rather than address the issues of rights violation, King Mswati III had continued to cover it up by trying to prevent publication of reports on the incidents.’

According to Punch, the petition read in part, ‘I argue that the annual Umhlanga Reed Dance itself is unlawful as it has continued to perpetuate forced marriages, entirely inconsistent with international human rights standards.

‘I also argue that religion, culture and tradition cannot be used to justify human rights violations, including violence against women, which is what the annual Umhlanga Reed Dance constitutes. The continuation of the Umhlanga Reed Dance also gives rise to other human rights abuses, including forced marriages.

‘Under international human rights law, states like Swaziland are to be held accountable if they fail to act with due diligence to prevent violations of rights such as those highlighted above or to investigate and punish acts of violence against women and provide effective remedies and access to justice for victims and their families.

‘By packing the girls onto the back of open trucks, the government of Swaziland should have reasonably foreseen that this would lead to violation of their rights to life and human dignity.

‘In fact, due diligence places a strict standard of conduct upon the government of Swaziland to protect all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction, including the girls and women.

‘I argue that the government of Swaziland has the supreme duty to prevent acts such as those highlighted above that can cause arbitrary loss of life such as the unnecessary deaths of these girls.’

King Mswati came in for heavy criticism after the crash because journalists were prevented from reporting the event. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and media are heavily restricted in his kingdom.

There was a dispute over the number of deaths. The officially sanctioned figure was 13, but prodemocracy groups in Swaziland said it was as high as 65.

Punch, the Nigerian website reporting on Falana’s petition to the UN, caused controversy in August 2015 when it incorrectly reported that girls and young women in Swaziland were forced to undergo public virginity tests before King Mswati III decided whether to take them as his wife.

See also

DEAD GIRLS ARE VICTIMS, NOT HEROES
DEAD GIRLS TRANSPORTED LIKE CATTLE
‘COVER-UP ON SWAZI REED DANCE DEATHS
‘CANCEL REED DANCE AFTER DEATHS’