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Tuesday, 19 September 2017


Swaziland’s failed democratisation
By Kenworthy News Media, 17 September 2017
The reason for the lack of democracy in the tiny absolute monarchy of Swaziland is an authoritarian reinvention of tradition, and a lack of both internal and external pressure on the regime, writes Swazi activist Bheki Dlamini, writes Kenworthy News Media.

If you are looking for books on political solutions in Swaziland in your local or university library, or in bookstores or on Amazon, you won’t find much to enlighten you.

A young Swazi activist and student of Public Administration at the University of Bergen, President of the Swaziland Youth Congress Bheki Dlamini, has tried to fill this void by writing his Master’s Thesis about “Democratization in Swaziland.”

“When doing the research for this thesis, I realized the huge void that exists in the literature about the political situation in Swaziland. Most of the writings about the political situation in Swaziland have focused on the domestic actors,” Dlamini tells me.

“My motivation was based on the ultimate legitimacy and support that the Swazi regime has received internationally, even from those external actors (USA, EU, SADC, AU) who claim to pursue democracy and human rights beyond their own borders, because I understood that the Swazi struggle cannot be isolated from the regional, continental and global trends.”

Failed to democratize
Amongst other things, the thesis focuses on the failure of Swaziland to democratize, while its neighbours, with their one-party states and others non-democratic systems, did so in the early nineties.

Unlike other African countries, whose regimes are or were based on one-party authority, military rule, or religion, Swaziland is an absolute monarchy.

Many other countries in Africa and elsewhere repealed their independence constitution and established an absolute and centralized power, Dlamini argues. The main difference was that Swaziland banned all political parties, centralized and based its regime around culture and tradition, and failed to subsequently democratize.

The thesis also focuses on the role of external and internal forces in ensuring that Swaziland will become a democracy in the future – according to Dlamini, because especially the study of the external dimension of regime transition in regard to Swaziland has been neglected.

This fact is important in properly diagnosing the struggle for democratic change in Swaziland, Dlamini writes. Because the present understanding leads those who wish to understand or help the democratic movement in Swaziland to emphasize the weakness of this movement, and not the lack of international support, in explaining why Swaziland has failed to democratize.

Divide and rule
British colonialist and settlers changed the social and political fabric of Swazi society, with an apartheid-like rural-urban divide, a land-partition that kept most of the arable land in the hands of British settlers, and a two-tier governance model. They thereby enabled the Swazi monarchy to create a royal supremacy “that is at the centre of the undemocratic nature of the regime,” Dlamini emphasises.

This was a traditional system, based on a “superficial culture carefully created by both colonialism and King Sobhuza [father of the present king Mswati], as a form of political control and for capital accumulation,” in a more classic “divide and rule”-strategy, which was employed throughout much of Africa.

“The shortage of land, because of the 1907 Land Appropriation Act, meant that land became a scarce resource,” says Dlamini. Suddenly, chiefs, who were previously judged on whether they could distribute land fairly and abundantly, realised that control over land allocation meant power.

“The alliance between traditional leaders and the colonial administration left the masses helpless, as they were now exploited by both the traditional leaders and the white settlers. This situation has not changed.”

An absolute monarchy
Today, King Mswati controls Swazi society. He appoints the Prime Minister, the government, ten MP’s and most of the senate, the Chief Justice and judges, and members of the Public Service Commission, who are responsible for recruiting civil servants. And he controls over half of Swaziland’s economy, which is based to a large extent on Swaziland’s lucrative sugar industry and mineral rights.

This he does, Dlamini points out, through the Tibiyo taka Ngwane fund, which was established to buy back land for resettlement of ordinary Swazi’s, in trust for the Swazi people. It is currently being used by the King on prestige projects, in partnership with foreign companies, and to finance his extravagant life style, however.

And there is seemingly no united opposition to challenge his rule.

Political parties are banned and divided amongst themselves, and most of the middle class in Swaziland, including some members of the democratic forces and trade union movement, “rely on the state or political networks to maintain its privilege,” and is thus “compromised by its proximity to the regime,” according to Dlamini.

Swazi’s living in the rural areas amount to about two thirds of the population, who are mostly subsistence farmers struggling to survive. They are controlled by a system that amongst other things enables chiefs, who act on behalf of the king, to evict them from their land if they cause any trouble.

Foreign friends and foes
But the fact that King Mswati pretty much runs Swaziland as a 17th century feudal manor is not only due to matters internal to Swaziland, or colonial issues from 50 years ago or more, Bheki Dlamini insists in his thesis.

“The regime is partly reproduced by the support it receives from the external actors, politically and financially. The proliferation of foreign capital into the country, and their dealings with Tibiyo and the king, helps in the reproduction of the regime,” Dlamini writes.

He names several external actors as being particularly important, and able to influence Swaziland’s stagnant democratisation process.

85 percent of Swaziland’s imports and 60 percent of its exports come from neighbouring South Africa, whose ruling party have historical economic interests in Swaziland, including a partnership with Mswati in the mining industry. The ANC government may be supportive of democracy in Swaziland, and pass resolutions to this extent, but “has not done anything to pressurize Swaziland.”

The Southern African Customs Union, which Swaziland has relied on since independence in 1968, for a large part of its revenues, the Southern African Development Community, which Mswati chaired last year, and the African Union have not done much to pressurize the regime either.

The EU, one of Swaziland biggest trading partners, “has publically condemned the authoritarian regime in Swaziland” but this ”does not transcend into action” through e.g. demands that Swaziland live up to the dictates of the Cotonou Trade Agreement with the EU, that includes matters of human rights observance and good governance.

“Our task is to engage, ‘put pressure’ is not the right word … I believe in constructive engagement from all levels … in order to promote dialogue on democracy … the Swazi people should not think that the EU is here to solve their problems,” as the EU ambassador – interviewed by Dlamini – put it.
The UK, Swaziland’s former colonial power, “is not doing much in Swaziland since it closed its High Commission office in 2005 … for economic reasons.”

Besides trying to broker negotiations between the democratic movement and Mswati, the Commonwealth, of which Swaziland is a member, “has done nothing to promote democracy in Swaziland.

The USA, a big donor and trade partner, has condemned Swaziland’s lack of democracy and poor human rights record and actually acted on this in removing Swaziland from the list of beneficiaries of the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2015 for human “rights abuses.” The USA has also supported arrested pro-democracy activists.

Observer mission reports from the African Union, EU and the Commonwealth have declared Swazi elections not free and fair, unlike SADC.

Walk the walk
But the fact that Swaziland’s trade partners and other external actors may play a positive role in the democratisation of Swaziland by pressurising Mswati’s regime through trade and aid is clear, just look at Malawi and Zambia in the early 1990s, and Swaziland to a degree 20-odd years later, says Dlamini.

“The wave of protests in 2011 and 2012 in Swaziland [calling for democratic change] was a direct response to the reduction of government revenue coming from SACU … and only last year, Swaziland lost preferential trade (through AGOA) with the USA for failure to respect human rights.”

Swaziland subsequently unbanned trade union federation TUCOSWA, is now looking into amending one of the main offending laws in regard to AGOA, the Suppression of Terrorism Act – an act that Amnesty International has called “inherently repressive.”

“Political pressure would compel the regime to consider democratisation,” especially if the international community focused more squarely on the critical questions of unbanning political parties and multi-party democracy, although the external actors need to coordinate their actions better, to be effective, says Bheki Dlamini.

For this political pressure to materialise, solidarity movements around the world will have to pressurize governments and companies that prop up Mswati’s regime, as well as mobilise financial resources for the democratic movement in Swaziland.

Like solidarity organisations Afrika Kontakt in ACTSA, who support civic education and advocacy work in Swaziland, or the Danish International Development Agency, who support political parties PUDEMO and SWADEPA.

Democracy begins at home
Because however much external forces can and may help democratise Swaziland, the main push must come from Swaziland’s democratic movement and mass mobilisation.

“Democracy cannot be embedded without the democratic forces growing strong inside the country. External forces cannot create these forces where they do not exist. Democracy cannot be imported from abroad, but the internal actors need solidarity from the external in pursuit of democracy,” as Dlamini writes.

And here, Bheki Dlamini – who has himself been tortured, imprisoned and exiled by the regime for his role in Swaziland’s democratic movement – has a message for his colleagues and comrades in Swaziland’s democratic movement: stop the disunity, infights and antagonism, and bring people in the rural areas on board, if you want to defeat the regime and bring about democracy.

“Presently, the democratic forces and divided amongst themselves. Their power base is mainly in the urban areas, and they are weak in the rural areas where the great majority of the people reside. The rural people take the brunt of the repression and exploitation of the regime. It is therefore central to mobilize these magnitudes if the building of democracy from below is to be realized.”

Download the thesis here
See also

Monday, 18 September 2017


Some people in Swaziland are so hungry they willingly eat dog food, a newspaper in the kingdom reported.

It came after residents looted a van full of dog food that overturned on the Manzini – Mbabane highway.

It was not an isolated incident, Ackel Zwane, an opinion columnist in the Swazi Observer wrote on Friday (15 September 2017). He wrote, ‘The reasons are simple because people are so poor and desperate they will consume anything that would not kill them.’

Zwane gave an insight into how hungry people in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch are. Seven in ten of his 1.1 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

He wrote that people pretend ‘to be collecting bones or food remains for their dogs back home when in fact that is a lie, they were collecting the leftovers to feed their loved ones’.

Zwane who writes for a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati wrote, ‘This practice is even common in cocktails, garden parties or state banquets where top government officials fill the boot and vans of their vehicles with leftover food all in the guise that they are taking them to their dogs.’

Many people attend cultural events in Swaziland because free food is on offer, he wrote.

‘Just watch the stampede each time the governor of Ludzidzini Royal Residence announces that the King invites the nation for a meal especially during national events, it is as if people were having their only meal to last a lifetime.’

Hunger is widespread in Swaziland. In a report in May 2017, the World Food Program estimated 350,000 people in Swaziland were in need of food assistance. WFP helped 65,473 of them. It said it was regularly feeding 52,000 orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) aged under eight years at neighbourhood care points. About 45 percent of all children in Swaziland are thought to be OVCs.
It reported chronic malnutrition affected 26 percent of all children in Swaziland aged under five. 

Meanwhile, the King lives a lavish lifestyle. At his 49th birthday party in April 2017, media in Swaziland reported that it took three months to prepare his cake.

The Times of Swaziland the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom where reporting about the King is severely restricted, said at the time, ‘All eyes were on the cake that was beautifully displayed in the front during the garden party at His Majesty’s birthday celebration. Most people were asking themselves how much time it took the bakers to prepare the cake. The company has always made it a point that it prepares a beautiful cake every year for His Majesty’s birthday celebrations.’

The Swazi Observer said, ‘The purple and cream white cake was set on a gold stand that connected the 49 pieces to make it one and the artistic look was finished off with a gold lion shaped piece.’

King Mswati lives a lavish lifestyle with at least 13 palaces, a fleet of top-of-the-range Mercedes and BMW cars. He is soon to take delivery of a second private jet. 

The people of Swaziland have been left hungry for many years and the problem seems to be getting worse.

In October 2014, the Office of the Swaziland Deputy Prime Minister Paul Dlamini reported that 223,249 people were estimated to require interventions aimed at maintaining their livelihood and at least 67,592 of the Swazi population required immediate food assistance. This was contained in a report from the kingdom’s Vulnerability Assessment Committee.

Earlier in 2014, the Global Hunger Index report published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) revealed the proportion of people who were undernourished more than doubled in Swaziland since 2004-2006 and in 2011-2013 was 35.8 percent of the kingdom’s population or about 455,000 people.

IFPRI reported that since 1990, life expectancy in Swaziland fell by ten years, amounting to only 49 years in 2012.

IFPRI defines undernourishment as an inadequate intake of food - in terms of either quantity or quality.

The reports underscore numerous previous surveys demonstrating the state of hunger in the kingdom.
In 2012, three separate reports from the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the Institute for Security Studies all concluded the Swazi Government was largely to blame for the economic recession and subsequent increasing number of Swazis who had to skip meals.

The reports listed low growth levels, government wastefulness and corruption, and lack of democracy and accountability as some of the main reasons for the economic downturn that led to an increasing number of hungry Swazis.

Poverty is so grinding in Swaziland that some people, close to starvation, are forced to eat cow dung in order to fill their stomachs before they can take ARV drugs to treat their HIV status.  In 2011, newspapers in Swaziland reported the case of a woman who was forced to take this drastic action. Once the news went global, supporters of King Mswati denounced the report as lies. 

In July 2012, Nkululeko Mbhamali, Member of Parliament for Matsanjeni North, said people in the Swaziland lowveld area had died of hunger at Tikhuba.

See also



Sunday, 17 September 2017


Administration staff at Swaziland’s Institute of Development Management say they have been victimised because they want to join a trade union.

It came after they failed to resolve continuing issues with management and decided to join the Swaziland Union of Non-Academic Staff for Higher Institutions (SUNASHI).

According to a report in the Sunday Observer (10 September 2017), ‘However, their decision has landed the members of staff on a collision course with management, who have instituted disciplinary hearings against 10 of the members who have attempted to join the union.’

The newspaper said according to one of the employees at IDM, staff members tried three times to get the union to address them before management called them to a disciplinary hearing, ‘and threatened to fire them for joining and holding meetings with the said union’.

He said, ‘The actions of IDM intimidate the employees to continue working in harsh, unfavourable and oppressing conditions. At this point they are between a rock and a stone, management refuses to hear them and refuses to allow them representation.’

In 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). 

The kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, was grouped alongside some of the worst human rights violators in the world, including Belarus, China, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The report called The World’s Worst Countries for Workers, reviewed the conditions workers faced during the previous year. Among the worst cases in Swaziland the ITUC reported on the strike at the Maloma Mine which is partly owned by King Mswati.

It reported, ‘Some 250 workers went on strike on 24 November [2014], after the mine management refused to negotiate over a US$72 housing allowance with the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Swaziland (ATUSWA). All legal requirements were observed by the striking workers, and even though the strike was peaceful, the workers were surrounded by police equipped with riot shields, protective headgear, guns and teargas.

‘During the strike, management refused the workers access to water, toilets and medical facilities. Chancellor House, the investment arm of the ANC, owns 75 percent of the Maloma mine, with the remaining 25 percent owned by the Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, a fund controlled by King Mswati III, who is one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchs.’

Separately in 2015, the International Labour Organization (ILO) told Swaziland it must stop interfering in the activities of trade unions; ensure workers’ organizations were fully assured of their rights and ensure they had the autonomy and independence they needed to represent workers.

The ILO urged the Swaziland Government ‘without further delay’ among other matters to:
Ensure all workers’ and employers’ organizations in the country are fully assured their freedom of association rights.

Ensure organizations are given the autonomy and independence they need and fulfil their mandate and represent their constituents. The Government should refrain from all acts of interference in the activities of trade unions; 

Investigate arbitrary interference by police in lawful, peaceful and legitimate trade union activities and hold accountable those responsible.

See also



The family of the man who was killed at point blank range in ‘cowboy style’ by Swaziland police are calling for an inquiry. 

They say Siboniso Brian Mdluli (22), was assassinated by trigger happy police officers for no apparent reason, according to a local media report.

On 21 August 2017 a newspaper in Swaziland reported, ‘It is believed he died as a result of excessive bleeding. It is said police riddled him with bullets as he was fleeing while they were trying to arrest him.’

It happened when police raided the home of Mdluli’s girlfriend. They were searching for him in connection to an alleged armed robbery and illegal possession of a firearm.  

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (12 September 2017), ‘The family members have a strong feeling that their son was not incidentally killed, but he was assassinated by the same police officers who arrived at the girlfriend’s rented house.’

It added, ‘It is unclear as to why the police opened fire other than claims that Mdluli was escaping from lawful arrest, but another version was that he was shot at close range. 

‘After the fatal shot, it is said Siboniso died and his body was found the following morning.’

The Observer reported, ‘The family also believes the killing of their son was deliberate as they (police) did not make any attempt to find out what happened after the fatal bullet hit the target but they decided to leave, only for the deceased to be found by residents at a neighbour’s yard.’
It added, ‘The deceased’s uncle Thulani Mbuyisa said as a family they need an explanation as to why the police brutally killed their son. 

‘He said the family was still in pain as they were not expecting such a thing to happen and such brutality by police was a tip of an iceberg as it was now clear that many innocent lives have been lost as a result of police being trigger happy. 

‘“They (police) assassinated him and that is a fact and we do not want to believe Siboniso, young as he was, could overcome armed police officers.”’

The newspaper added, ‘He said even after the body was found, when searched, no firearm or any live round of ammunition were found except for E15.10 which was found in the pair of jeans he was wearing.’

Swazi police have a long history of shooting civilians in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

In November 2015 they shot a man at close range after he overturned rubbish bins and then ran away from them. The Times of Swaziland, reported at the time that a 21-year-old man had been suspected of throwing rubbish in the road and pelting vehicles with stones. The newspaper said, ‘he was shot by police at close range after refusing to board their vehicle’.

In October 2015 police fired guns and teargas at workers engaged in a legitimate protest against employment conditions at the Zheng Yong Garment factory in Nhlangano. 

A plain-clothed policeman shot an unarmed man in the back killing him while on a public bus in February 2014. The man had allegedly stolen some copper wire before boarding the bus, travelling from Siteki, in eastern Swaziland to Manzini. The Times Sunday newspaper reported at the time the driver of the bus Majahonke Zikalala said, ‘the man was attempting to force his way out of the bus, the police officer shot him in the back, near the spine… the man fell on the floor after which he was handcuffed while he bled’. He died of his injures at the scene.

In March 2013, Swaziland police shot a man dead in front of his 11-year-old child as he held his hands up in an attempt to surrender to them. Thokozani Mngometulu, aged 31, was killed as he got out of his car at his homestead in Dlakadla, in the Shiselweni region of Swaziland. Thokozani’s family, who also witnessed the killing, say he was shot in the pelvis at close range by a police officer.

In June 2012, a serial rapist suspect Bhekinkhosi Masina, popularly known as Scarface, was shot by police as they cornered him for arrest. Police say they only shot him in the thigh and he unexpectedly died of his injuries. The Times of Swaziland newspaper later revealed he had been shot six times, including in the head and back.

In July 2012, a mentally ill man, Mduduzi Mngometulu, aged 34,
was shot seven times by police and died of his injuries. He had four holes in his stomach, one in the leg and two bullet wounds on the left side of his chest.

These are not isolated incidents in Swaziland where police across the kingdom have a growing record of killing or maiming suspects before arrest. The cases have largely gone unreported outside of the kingdom itself.

In one example, police executed a suspect, Thabani Mafutha Dlamini, at Nkwalini in Hlatikulu in the presence of his colleagues and home boys
in what local media called ‘cowboy style’. The Swazi Observer newspaper reported the incident in December 2011 saying, ‘Police had previously warned the mother of the dead man to “budget for funeral expenses” as they intended to remove him. He was said to be on a police “wanted list”’. Dlamini was unarmed.

In a separate case in February 2011, a Swazi policeman shot Mbongeni Masuku, described in media as a Form IV pupil, in the head in what was later described as
‘an execution-style killing’. The killing happened outside a bar in Matsapha, an industrial town in Swaziland. Masuku’s uncle Sigayoyo Maphanga said Mbongeni had been dragged out of his car by police. He told the Swazi Observer, a policeman whom he named, ‘shot my nephew at the back of the left ear and he fell on the ground with blood oozing from his mouth and ears. We were all shocked and angered by such brutality from police officers.’ 

In May 2011, Mathende Matfonsi was shot dead by police while he was attending a field of dagga (marijuana) inside the remote forests of Lomahasha near the border with Mozambique. His family accused the police of ‘cold-blooded murder’. Matfonsi was shot dead at Ebhandeni, the same area where Nkosinathi Khathwane had previously been shot dead by soldiers at night.

In March 2010, police
shot a man as he was trying to surrender to them. This time the victim, Mncedisi Mamba, did not die. His mother Thoko Gamedze said Mamba had his hands up and was surrendering to police, but they shot him anyway.

It is not only crime suspects who get shot at. In June 2013, police
fired live bullets and teargas as children protested against alleged corruption at Mhubhe High School in Ngculwini Police were called after school pupils boycotted classes.

See also


Saturday, 16 September 2017


Male bosses in Swaziland demand sexual favours from their domestic workers, a new report reveals.

Many women quit their jobs rather than give themselves up for sex.

The information comes from Women and Law in Southern Africa - Swaziland (WLSA) where these cases were reported.

The Swazi Observer reported on Thursday (14 September 2017), 43 cases of exploitation against domestic workers had been reported to WLSA in the past three months. 

The reported cases include sexual abuse, not being released on off-days, working extremely hard with no specific time to knock off and being called names.

The Observer reported, ‘Late last month, a domestic worker, Gugu Hlatjwako endured five hours of torture allegedly by her employer who is said to have used a live electric cable while interrogating her for alleged theft.’

Sexual abuse of women by employers is not uncommon in Swaziland.

In July 2016 it was reported that women temporary employees at Swaziland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) had allegedly been forced to have sex with their bosses to keep their jobs. 

The women were engaged in the Swaziland Population and Housing Census and the Swaziland Household Income and Expenditure Surveys, according to a report in the Observer on Saturday newspaper (2 July 2016). It said senior employees who were employed on a permanent basis demanded sexual favours from the temporary workers if they wanted to keep their jobs.

An unnamed source told the newspaper, ‘The CSO bosses are taking advantage of the female staff. They have wives yet they use their power to have sex with the defenceless young girls so they can keep their jobs.’

Physical and sexual abuse has been prevalent in Swaziland’s textile industry for years. In July 2014 a survey of the Swaziland textile industry undertaken by the Trades Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) revealed workers were subjected to harsh and sometimes abusive conditions, many of the kingdom’s labour laws were routinely violated by employers, and union activists were targeted by employers for punishment. 

More than 90 percent of workers surveyed reported being punished by management for making errors, not meeting quotas or missing shifts. More than 70 percent of survey respondents reported witnessing verbal and physical abuse in their workplace by supervisors.

Commenting on the survey, the American labour federation AFL-CIO said, ‘Some workers reported that supervisors slap or hit workers with impunity. In one example, a worker knocked to the ground by a line manager was suspended during an investigation of the incident while the line manager continued in her job.

‘Women reported instances of sexual harassment, as well. Several workers said they or other contract (temporary) workers were offered a permanent job in exchange for sex.’

University students are also not immune from sexual abuse. In November 2012 it was reported at a Colloquium on Sexual Harassment in Higher Learning Institutions held at the University of Swaziland that some male lecturers demanded sex in return for good grades.

See also



Public servants in Swaziland are to march and petition the government on Wednesday (20 September 2017) as part of a campaign for a cost of living salary adjustment.
They want a 9.15 percent increase, but the Swazi Government has offered them zero.

Unions who are set to participate in the march to the Ministry of Public Service are the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), Swaziland Nurses Association, National Public Services and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) and the Swaziland National Association of Government Accounting Personnel (SNAGAP). 

The decision comes after negotiations between government and unions reached deadlock on Wednesday (13 September 2017).

In January 2017, public servants said they wanted a minimum 70 percent pay increase and they were prepared to take to the streets to achieve it. They have been at loggerheads with the Swazi Government for years over pay and conditions. Many international groups such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) say Swaziland already devotes too much of its overall public spending to public servant salaries.

In 2016, the Voice of America reported public sector workers in Swaziland had called for increased pay for the past 10 years. The government had often said the global economic downturn had made it difficult to meet these demands.

In 2016, public servants received a 17 percent increase. Members of Parliament got a 32 percent increase in salaries.

In September 2016, the Times of Swaziland reported that the Swazi Government had been exposed making ‘empty promises’ to the IMF that it would control public spending. The Government, which is hand-picked by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, had promised only to increase public sector salaries in line with the cost of living. Instead salaries rose 17 percent adding an estimated E300 million (US$22.14 million) to government spending.

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Friday, 15 September 2017


Critics of Swaziland King Mswati III or his unelected government face jail for two years under a new law.

The offences are classed as showing ‘contempt against the cultural and traditional heritage of the Swazi nation’ and are contained in the Public Order Act 2017. Contempt includes defacing a picture of King Mswati who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. 

The Public Order Act allows for a E10,0000 (US$770) fine, two years imprisonment or both for inciting ‘hatred or contempt’ against cultural and traditional heritage. In Swaziland seven out of ten people have incomes less than US$2 a day.

The Act also targets gatherings of 50 or more people in a public place where policy actions or criticisms of any government or organisation are made.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom where reporting the activities of King Mswati and his family is severely restricted, reported, ‘These gatherings could be those which are convened or held to form pressure groups, to hand over petitions to any person or to mobilise or demonstrate support for or opposition to the views, principles, policy, actions or omissions of any person, organisation including any government administration or institution. 

‘The Act states that to avoid any doubt people who also speak ill or incite hatred against the cultural and traditional heritage of the country could be those who are involved in a picket or protest action. 

‘Other acts that carry a similar penalty also include a person who trashes, burns or otherwise destroys, defaces or defiles or damages any national insignia or emblem. The nation insignia or other emblem has been defined by the Act as any weaving, embroidery, sewing, drawing, picture, illustration and painting which represents His Majesty, the Indlovukati [King’s mother], national flag or Swaziland Coat of Arms.’

Earlier in 2017, Swaziland came 142nd out of 167 countries in an international survey on democracy called the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Democracy Index. It labelled Swaziland an ‘authoritarian’ country.

It said ‘In these states [authoritarian], state political pluralism is absent or heavily circumscribed. Many countries in this category are outright dictatorships. Some formal institutions of democracy may exist, but these have little substance. Elections, if they do occur, are not free and fair. There is disregard for abuses and infringements of civil liberties. Media are typically state-owned or controlled by groups connected to the ruling regime. There is repression of criticism of the government and pervasive censorship. There is no independent judiciary.’

In Swaziland, political parties are not allowed to take part in elections and most of the political groupings in Swaziland that advocate for democracy have been banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008.

The Swazi people are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, the other 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swaziland Senate are elected by the people: the King appoints 20 members and the other 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly.

One of only two national newspapers in Swaziland is in effect owned by the King. The state controls one of only two television stations and all radio, except for a small Christian-orientated channel.
The EIU scored Swaziland 3.3 out of ten on the Democracy Index, lower than Iraq. Swaziland scored 0.92 on electoral process and pluralism and 3.53 on civil liberties.

The report followed one published in December 2016 by Afrobarometer. In that, Swaziland came last out of 36 countries in Africa in a survey on political freedom.

Also in 2016, an analysis on the legal system in Swaziland published by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) concluded all opposition to the rule of the King was treated as ‘terrorism’ and the courts had often been seen to do the King’s bidding

See also