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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

SWAZILAND’S ‘BLACK WEDNESDAY’

Students at the University of Swaziland did not this year mark the anniversary of the campus invasion by armed soldiers known as ‘Black Wednesday.’

According to the Swazi Observer, a commemoration was called off at the last minute because present-day students were protesting that colleagues had been barred from taking examinations because school fees had not been paid.

It would be a pity if these events stopped people remembering the events of 14 November 1990.

It happened during what the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency called a ‘rebellion’ that ‘became a seminal event that signalled a new generation's political consciousness’. It was, IPS said, ‘a dawning political awareness born from a confluence of historical forces then sweeping the world and the Southern African region’.

The IPS report said ‘armed soldiers pushed police aside and forced students out of the library where they had barricaded themselves’.

The day began as a ‘disorganised demonstration’ against campus issues such as poor food ‘but soon turned into demands for democratic reforms in Swaziland's government’.

The IPS report quoted Manzini lawyer Lindiwe Khumalo-Matse, a university student at the time, saying, ‘The reason why soldiers were called in was because government saw our protest as a political uprising.’

Khumalo-Matse is further quoted by IPS, ‘This was because of the involvement of Sabelo Dlamini, who was a member of the People's United Democratic movement (PUDEMO). Sabelo was prominent in the Students Representative Council,’ he said.

In 1990, one of the Swazi Government’s most draconian measures, a 60-Day Detention Law, was still in force, permitting authorities to lock up anyone they saw as a threat to public order. All political protestors were designated as such threats.

The violence that ensued after soldiers swept through campus has been a sensitive subject with government ever since. A commission of enquiry had its report secreted away for years, with a bowdlerized version finally released to the public in 1997.

Two students who were seriously injured sued government for damages, and their cases were settled out of court.


IPS reported that not only was the traditional leadership’s fear of democracy revealed on ‘Black Wednesday’, but also a proletariat attitude of resentment, displayed by the soldiers, was shown against the educated student ‘elite’. The military's code name for the university invasion was ‘Operation Tinfundiswa (educated ones).’

‘It was a time of wild rumours,’ recalled Khumalo-Matse. ‘We heard that government feared we would burn down the library, which belied common sense because we were inside and would have incinerated ourselves.’

The army officials in charge gave students a five-minute warning, and then unleashed what one onlooker later told an investigating committee was a ‘military riot against civilians’.

Students were beaten as they emerged from the library to escape teargas canisters hurled through windows, and had to run a gauntlet of soldiers. Other soldiers chased students until they cornered them along fences. As they beat students with batons, the soldiers informed them they were being ‘punished’.

People in Swaziland were shocked by the brutality. Particularly offensive was one newspaper photo depicting a young woman carried out of the library between soldiers ‘like a slaughtered pig’, according to a letter writer to the Times of Swaziland.

Following the events, Michael Prosser, a professor from the United States who was working at the University of Swaziland at the time, posted a personal eye-witness account online. This is what he wrote.

BLOODY WEDNESDAY IN SWAZILAND

November 14, 1990, ‘Bloody Wednesday’ in Swaziland still lingers as a most important moment in my life. It was the only day that I thought I surely might die. I was a Fulbright Professor at the University of Swaziland in south east Africa that year.

University students began boycotting classes on November 12 in protest of a lack of faculty lecturers, poor food conditions, and the suspension of a popular young sociology lecturer for promoting democracy in Swaziland.

Early on November 12, all 1 600 university students held a protest meeting and boycotted all classes. At noon, they dumped their plastic wrapped lunches at the administration office door. The Swazi radio, and tv stations, Swaziland’s newspapers gave extensive coverage to the dumping of the lunches. Many Swazis were subsistence farmers who often went to bed hungry; thus this student decision reflected very badly on them. All students received a University notice demanding the end of their class boycott on November 13. They decided to continue it. The University Council demanded their return to classes on November 14, or be considered in defiance of the twenty-three-year-old King Mswati III.

Another student meeting on November 14 continued the boycott. About 500 students peacefully barricaded themselves in the two-storey university library. Several hundred students left campus or stayed in their student hostel area. At about 5pm, armed Swazi soldiers entered the high fenced campus.

A university official drove through the campus announcing the immediate campus closure. Five young women rushed to me and asked for emergency protection in my home. I took them there immediately.

A fifteen-hour rain and thunderstorm had just begun. The young women were quite terrified.

The young soldiers broke into the library and the student hostels, dragging students out, beating both men and women with their night sticks on their arms and legs, and forcing them to run a gauntlet toward the front gate while the soldiers gave them sharp blows.

The soldiers taunted the students: ‘We’ll beat the English out of you.’ They were especially vicious toward the women. The soldiers had been stationed that day at the high school next door to the campus and drank lots of beer before they attacked the campus, making them even more violent than otherwise so likely.

A neighbor warned us that at 10pm, soldiers would search our houses and arrest any students found there or on campus. Two Canadian families and I, in a caravan of three autos, took 11 frightened Swazi students in the three cars to the front gate to take them to safety.

With a gun pointed the first driver’s cheek, he got permission from the guard to leave the campus with the students. In the swirling rain, lightening, and thunderstorm, we took the students to safe shelters. When we returned to campus late in the evening, two soldiers were posted all night in the back and in the front of our houses.

With some students, I drove to the nearby hospital where more than 120 students had received emergency treatment. We visited more than a dozen badly injured students. We learned that soldiers possibly had injured as many as 300-400 and had killed perhaps as many as two-four students.

The Swazi radio and tv stations gave no information about what had happened after the students had dumped their food. However, the two Swazi newspapers did give the event considerable coverage over several weeks. They also printed many letters to the editor decrying the incident and called for a national judicial enquiry. Reuters News Agency and the South African press gave it some coverage.

Amnesty International cited it in their 1991 Annual Review. The University remained closed for two months, reopening on January 14. A national judicial enquiry, more heavily critical of the student boycott than the hostile military response, began on March 14, 1991 and ended on May 14. The enquiry panel never released any details to the public.

The print media called the incident ‘Black Wednesday’ but my students and I attempted to have the newspapers rename it Bloody Wednesday since so much innocent student blood had been shed.

I always recall that day as my worst and best day in Swaziland when much evil occurred but many good people at the campus, the hospital, and nearby clinics generously helped the students. Do these former African students, now in their thirties, still remember that day? I assume so. I certainly always do.

Monday, 28 November 2016

SWAZI DPP CALLS ASIANS ‘TERRORISTS’

Swaziland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Nkosinathi Maseko has said, ‘most nationals of Asian origin were associated with terrorist activities’.

The Observer on Saturday (26 November 2016) reported he told this to a parliamentary select committee set up to investigate what the newspaper called an ‘influx of illegal immigrants’ into the kingdom.

The newspaper reported Maseko had said, ‘it was public information that most nationals of Asian origin were associated with terrorist activities; and their continued entry illegally put the country and its citizens at high risk of being a nucleus for terrorist activities.’

Maseko and the Observer gave no evidence to support this. 

The newspaper reported, ‘Maseko said it was possible that even the huge sums of money being invested in the country by those who paraded as businessmen were proceeds of illicit activities.’

The Observer added Maseko told the committee, ‘The country is under siege, and it is very scary.’

It added, ‘His greatest fear is that these people are multiplying in great numbers.’

See also

ALL ASIANS BANNED FROM SWAZILAND
ASIANS EVICTED FROM HOME
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2016/07/asians-evicted-from-home.html

Friday, 25 November 2016

SWAZI POLICE CHIEF SNUBS ‘UNION’

Swaziland’s National Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula has reacted angrily to a request from the Police Staff Association that its executive committee be recognised.

The Association’s executive was elected on 13 July 2016, but so far has not been acknowledged by the Swazi police chief.

Magagula took exception that Staff Association President Isaac Kaire Lukhele had spoken to the Swazi Observer newspaper about the matter.

The Observer reported on Wednesday (24 November 2016), ‘The National Commissioner has since decided to remind Kaire and his executive to be careful in the manner they make public statements.’

The newspaper quoted Magagula saying, ‘The language being used makes us suspect this is not the association we expected to be formed but seemingly they are using unionist language. Their tone is unacceptable and they should be careful on that. Again, it is a Police Staff Association and not just a police association and it needs to be corrected.’

The newspaper reported, ‘Magagula also said there was no way his office or the national executive would be put under pressure so as to recognise the Police Staff Association.’

There have been attempts in the past to form a trade union for police officers. The Swaziland Police Union was declared illegal by the Swazi Supreme Court in 2009.

At the time, Secretary General of the Union, Khanyakwezwe Mhlanga had written to the then Commissioner of Police Edgar Hillary and asked for recognition as a bargaining body of the police. Hillary refused and insisted that the Police Staff Association was the only authentic bargaining group for the police.

See also

JUDGE BACKS SWAZI POLICE UNION
SWAZI POLICE REFUSE TO ARREST COLLEAGUES
SWAZI POLICE ATTACK ON VIDEO

Thursday, 24 November 2016

SWAZI POLICE ‘TERRORISE’ MUSLIMS

Muslim visitors to Swaziland say they were ‘terrorised’ by local police.

The Imam of Ezulwini Islamic Centre, Feroz Ismail, said guests had visited the kingdom from across Africa for a graduation and Jasla Ceremony.

The Times of Swaziland newspaper on Wednesday (23 November 2016) reported him saying the guests, ‘were abused while in the country. They informed me that they were terrorised by the police while visiting some tourist attraction areas including the glass and candle factory.’ 

He said police demanded that the visitors produce their passports and other documents required for visitors to be in the country.

The Times reported Ismail saying, ‘They were ferried in police vehicles to their hotel rooms as the officers demanded that they immediately produce documents which proved that they were in the country legally.’

This is not the first time police have been heavy-handed with Muslims. In September 2016, it was reported undercover police were infiltrating Muslim mosques to attend Friday prayers.

The Times, the only independent daily newspaper in the overwhelmingly Christian kingdom, reported that police were suspected of monitoring the Muslim community.

There has been increased tension in Swaziland as a parliamentary select committee has been investigating ‘Asians’ in the belief that many are in the kingdom illegally.

See also

ASIANS EVICTED FROM HOME
ALL ASIANS BANNED FROM SWAZILAND
VERBAL ASSUALTS ON SWAZILAND’S ASIANS
RACISM IN SWAZILAND’S ‘TIMES SUNDAY’
‘UNDERCOVER COPS INFILTRATE MOSQUE’
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2016/09/undercover-cops-infiltrate-mosque.html

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

POLITICAL BAR IN SWAZI BROADCAST BILL

People in Swaziland who are affiliated to any political group will not be granted radio or television broadcasting licences in a proposed law.

Swaziland is controlled by King Mswati III who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Broadcasting and newspapers in the kingdom are already heavily restricted. Political parties are not allowed to contest elections and those that advocate for democracy are in effect banned in Swaziland.

The Swaziland Broadcasting Bill was discussed by stakeholders at a workshop organised by the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology at the Royal Swazi Sun Convention Centre.

The Principal Secretary to the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology, Sikelela Dlamini, said the definition of what was meant by ‘political group’ would be included in the Bill, before it was tabled to parliament.

The move is not unexpected. At present, nearly all broadcasting in Swaziland is state controlled. Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS) oversees state radio stations. The only independent radio is Voice of the Church, a Christian station that does not carry news.

There are only two TV stations in the kingdom, the state-controlled Swazi TV and the independent Channel S, which has a publicly-stated policy of supporting King Mswati.

Most people in Swaziland get their news and information from radio. Newspapers hardly penetrate rural areas where more than 70 percent of the population lives and television is too expensive for most people.

Currently, broadcasters in Swaziland serve the interests of the ruling elites and not those of the people. No criticism is allowed on the airwaves of the status quo in Swaziland. Any criticism of the ruling elite is seen as ‘non-Swazi’. The Prime Minister of the day is editor-in-chief of the Swazi broadcasting and can decide what goes on the air and what does not.

There are only two daily newspapers in Swaziland, One, the Swazi Observer, is in effect owned by King Mswati. It was described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) in a report on media freedom in the kingdom as, a ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’.

See also

SWAZI BROADCASTING WILL NOT BE FREED

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

CALL TO PROBE TREASURY DEPARTMENT

Trade unionists in Swaziland have called for an official inquiry after it was revealed that E5.1billion (US$360 million) was unaccounted for in Treasury Department bank accounts.
 
The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) called on the Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini to launch an inquiry headed by a judicial officer of national repute or a judicial inquiry.
 
The missing E5.1 billion was highlighted during an audit of the Accountant General’s office by Kobla Quashie and Associates. The independent auditors feared there may have been fraud, misappropriation and embezzlement. 
 
TUCOSWA Secretary General Vincent Ncongwane in a statement said, ‘Failure to address this matter will leave us with no option but to call for a national shutdown in order that the due importance and urgency of the matter is appreciated.’
 
TUCOSWA estimated the missing funds amounted to more than 35 percent of the national budget of Swaziland.

See also

BILLIONS MISSING IN TREASURY BANKS

SCHOOLGIRLS ‘GIVE SEX FOR FOOD’

Primary schoolgirls in Swaziland are falling pregnant because they are forced to have sex with older men for food.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Thursday (17 November 2016), ‘a worrying number of pupils’ at Bekezela Primary School in Lubulini were said to have fallen pregnant this year, ‘due to the poverty levels which are said to have been worsened by the El Nino-induced drought’. 

The newspaper reported Bongile Ngubeni, who is the welfare teacher at the school, saying they were currently facing numerous challenges which have come as results of the drought. 

The newspaper reported, ‘Ngubeni said the school has since the beginning of the year been recording cases of pregnancy amongst the children, especially those in the higher grades. She highlighted that these children were said to have mainly been impregnated by older men who would promise them food and other necessities. 

‘Ngubeni said according to their assessment, most of these children stay alone while their parents are away in search for employment opportunities to sustain their families.’

Thursday, 17 November 2016

BILLIONS MISSING IN TREASURY BANKS

The Swaziland Government Treasury Department bank accounts have a shortfall of E5.1 billion (US$360 million).

Independent auditors fear there may have been fraud, misappropriation and embezzlement.

A forensic report undertaken by Kobla Quashie Consultants found the shortfall between what was in the bank accounts and other financial records.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported that, ‘this has put the spotlight on wholly unacceptable banking reconciliation systems at the Treasury Department’.   

The newspaper quoted Kobla Quashie saying, ‘It should be stated that the amounts noted as differences are so significant that it renders the annual treasury accounts submitted to Parliament and other government agencies inaccurate and misleading.’

It added that the suspected reconciliation was done for the sake of ‘administrative convenience’ and had ‘created doubt over the entire process, but has also opened a window for fraud, misappropriation and embezzlement’.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

SELF-CENSORSHIP AT ‘TIMES’ NEWSPAPER

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, censored itself heavily in a report about exploitation of sugar workers to deflect criticism away from the absolute monarch King Mswati III.

This trend of misinformation has been continuing at the newspaper for years.

The Times said on Monday (7 November 2016), ‘The new International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) report is called “Swazi gold”’. 

In fact, the report was called, King Mswati’s gold:  Workers’ rights and land confiscation in Swaziland’s sugar sector.

The Times reported that ITUC said many companies made big profits from sugar. The newspaper added, ‘Sugar cane production has brought about more human suffering than development in Swaziland. Many people have been evicted and the general conditions in the sugar industry are atrocious.’

Not once did the Times report that the blame for the problem was put squarely on King Mswati.

The Times did not report the opening sentences of the ITUC report that said, ‘On 12 April 1973, King Sobhuza II decreed a national state of emergency thereby assuming total control over all aspects of Swazi public life. Political parties were banned and political activism was criminalised. Though the state of emergency was lifted in 2005, little has changed. The royal family has used Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, established in 1968 as a development fund, as the means to control the Swazi economy and to amass a large fortune.’

Tibiyo Taka Ngwane controls the sugar industry in Swaziland.

The ITUC report added, ‘The King is the sole trustee of Tibiyo and the fund is immune from all judicial review. As such, Tibiyo is able to compete unfairly in the economy, undermining local business and discouraging much-needed foreign investment (FDI).’

It added, ‘However, for workers employed in the sugar industry, the sector has no such lustre; instead, workers live in extreme poverty despite long hours and hard work generating wealth for the King. Trade union activities are highly repressed, and laws such as the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act, 1938, Public Order Act of 1963 and the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008 are used to suppress trade union activity.’

This is not the first time newspapers in Swaziland have censored themselves in order to shield their readers from criticism about King Mswati. The Swazi Observer group of newspapers is owned by Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, and thereby the King. It was described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on press freedom in Swaziland as a ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’.

It is impossible to know how much censorship and self-censorship takes place in Swaziland because it is hidden. Occasionally, newspapers are found out.

In January 2014, CNN reported about US President Barack Obama’s criticism of Swaziland and its King. Obama was speaking at the tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela. 

The Times was reporting a commentary written by Frida Ghitis and published online by CNN, the international cable news channel. The newspaper reported that Ghitis said Freedom House, an international human rights organisation, described Swaziland as a ‘failed state’.

But, that is not what Ghitis actually wrote. She said Freedom House called Swaziland a ‘failed feudal state’, which is something quite different. By deliberately changing the sense of the statement, the Times deflected the criticism away from the King. 

The newspaper also did not report that Ghitis also referred in her article to, ‘dictators and their right-hand men’ who were present at the tribute to Mandela. 

Ghitis wrote, but the Times did not report,  ‘It included the likes of Swaziland Prime Minister [Barnabas] Sibusiso Dlamini, representing the small kingdom described by Freedom House as “a failed feudal state,” where the king uses photos of beautiful girls to attract tourists, “distracting outsiders from Swaziland's shocking realities of oppression, abject poverty, hunger and disease.”

In March 2013, the Times Sunday, the Times of Swaziland companion newspaper, distorted a report from what it called the ‘reputable’ Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa about Swaziland’s parliamentary election that was due in 2013. 

It reported ISS saying that there could be violence around the time of the election, as a result of ‘public dissatisfaction, stemming particularly from among other things, governments unsatisfactory activity in the year 2012’.

The Times Sunday reported, ‘It said such had worsened and had also been exacerbated by the government’s failure to heed demands from the unions for reduced expenditure and a pro-poor budget.’

But, in fact, what the ISS report, called Swaziland’s non-party political system and the 2013 Tinkhundla elections, actually said was, ‘Public dissatisfaction in 2012 has been exacerbated by the government’s failure to heed demands from the unions for reduced royal expenditure and a pro-poor budget.’ The Times deliberately censored the word ‘royal’ to distort the meaning of the sentence.

The previous month in February 2013, the Times of Swaziland newspaper once again misled its readers by misrepresenting a report from KPMG Services Proprietary Limited on the kingdom by international business consultants that criticised King Mswati for the political crisis that had stagnated the economy and said protesters were calling for the King to give up his power as an absolute monarch. 

The report said that if banned political parties were allowed to contest that year’s national election and they won a majority of seats, ‘it is possible that the King would respond by revoking the constitution and trying to rule by decree’.

The Times reported that international consultants had issued a ‘gloomy’ report on the kingdom’s prospects from 2012 to 2016. According to the newspaper, KPMG predicted prodemocracy protests would take place in Swaziland over the coming year.

This is what the Times reported KPMG saying, ‘Although the protests have been sparked by the fiscal crisis, they reflect a range of deeper-rooted issues: the mismanagement of public money and government’s stubborn resistance to calls for democratic reform.’

But, this is what KPMG actually said, ‘Although the protests have been sparked by the fiscal crisis, they reflect a range of deeper-rooted issues: the extravagance of the royals and the political elite, the mismanagement of public money and the government’s stubborn resistance to calls for democratic reform.’

Top of the list for the reasons behind protests in Swaziland were, according to KPMG, ‘the extravagance of the royals’.

Again, in October 2012, the Times Sunday distorted a story about UK Prime Minister David Cameron and freedom and democracy in the kingdom, to deflect criticism away from the King.

The newspaper carried a report saying that Cameron had responded to a petition from the Swazi Vigil, a prodemocracy group in the UK. 

According to the Times Sunday, the petition read in part, ‘Exiled Swazis and supporters urge you to put pressure on (the Swazi government) to allow political freedom, freedom of the press, rule of law, respect for women and affordable AIDS drugs in Swaziland.’

The newspaper inserted the words ‘the Swazi government’ into the petition to make it seem that it was Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini and his cabinet that was being criticised.

In fact, the petition sent to Cameron in May 2012 actually read, ‘Petition to the British Government: Exiled Swazis and supporters urge you to put pressure on absolute monarch King Mswati III to allow political freedom, freedom of the press, rule of law, respect for women and affordable AIDs drugs in Swaziland.’  

The Swazi Vigil made it very clear that it was criticising ‘absolute monarch King Mswati III’.

In September 2011, the Times censored itself when it reported on a US Embassy cable that said King Mswati III was ‘advised by dishonest and uneducated people’.

The newspaper was reporting on a cable sent by Earl Irvine, US Ambassador to Swaziland, in December 2009 and leaked by whistleblowing website Wikileaks.

The cable reported Irvine saying he was told by Prince David, a half brother of King Mswati, who was also a former Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, that because of the dishonest and uneducated people around him the King received bad advice.

But, what the Times did not report was the criticism Prince David made about King Mswati himself. Prince David in effect called the King a liar and said that the international community should not trust him.

The cable from Irvine said, ‘Prince David emphasized that what the King says to foreign leaders cannot be relied upon, because he always deflects and temporizes to bring pressure off himself.’

The Times of Swaziland is scared of King Mswati and knows that is it criticises the monarch he will close it down. In April 2007, the Times Sunday published a minor criticism of King Mswati, sourced from an international news agency. The king went ballistic and told the Times publisher Paul Loffler he would close the paper down unless people responsible for the publication at the paper were sacked and the newspaper published an abject apology to the king. These things were done.

The Times Sunday and other media in Swaziland constantly mislead their readers and audiences about how King Mswati is viewed outside his kingdom. In May 2012, there was widespread criticism against King Mswati’s invitation to join a lunch in London to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. 

There were street demonstrations in London against the King and prodemocracy campaigners drew attention to the lack of freedoms in Swaziland and the lavish lifestyle the King enjoyed, while seven in ten of his subjects languished in absolute poverty, earning less than US$2 a day.

Inkhosikati LaMbikiza one of the king’s 13 wives who accompanied him to the lunch wore shoes costing £995 (US$1,559), the equivalent of more than three years’ income for 70 percent of Swazi people. The total cost of the King’s trip was estimated to be at least US$794,500.  

The Times Sunday, reported at the time that Inkhosikati LaMbikiza had ‘rave reviews’ from the Daily Mail newspaper in London for her dress sense, but omitted to say the same newspaper also reported, ‘Guests from controversial regimes include Swaziland’s King Mswati III, who has been accused of living an obscenely lavish lifestyle while many of his people starve.’  

There was similar criticism a year earlier in April 2011 when King Mswati went to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The Times newspaper in South Africa reported at the time, ‘The controversial absolute monarch, whose country is ranked among the poorest in the world, spent much of this week playing hide-and-seek with prodemocracy demonstrators tailing him across London.’ The King was forced to change his hotel to avoid pickets.

The Swazi media failed to report any of this, but did say that King Mswati had been welcomed by business people in the UK.

See also

HUMAN SUFFERING AND SWAZI SUGAR
KING EXPLOITS SUGAR WORKERS
PAPER DISTORTS STORY TO PROTECT KING
‘TIMES’ MISLEADS ON KING’S LONDON VISIT