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Friday, 17 February 2017


For the second time in a week police in Swaziland fired warning gunshots at civilians during a street protest.

Kombi drivers and conductors brought traffic to a standstill at Mvutshini on Tuesday (14 February 2017) by blocking the highway and stopping public transport. They were protesting about an alleged corrupt traffic police office.

The Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (15 February 2017) three gun shots were fired in the air by the police ‘after the conductors attacked a bus fully loaded with passengers on its way to Mbabane, from Manzini’. 

It quoted one conductor saying, ‘We had to run for our lives, as we didn’t expect shots to be fired. We thought we were calm and are lucky to have not been shot,’

This was the second time in a week that police fired shots during civilian protests. On Sunday police fired warning gunshots as students protested about late payment of their allowances.

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Thursday, 16 February 2017


Police in Swaziland fired warning gunshots as students protested about late payment of their allowances. 

It is now commonplace for Swazi police to fire at civilian protests, such as student and labour disputes.

The latest attack on Sunday (12 February 2017) happened after students at the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) tried to march with a petition to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, following a meeting on the Kwaluseni campus.

Local media reported armed military police from the Operational Support Services intercepted the students who were walking down the road near the Mahhala shopping complex and fired warning shots.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Tuesday (14 February 2017), ‘about three warning shots were fired by the police as they dispersed the students’. The students were then forced to return back to the campus. 

The Times of Swaziland reported the students want to restore the 60 percent of allowances that was slashed after the implementation of a scholarship policy during the 2011/2012 academic year.

It is common in Swaziland for police to fire at civilians during disputes. On 6 February 2017, they fired live gunshots and teargas as workers at Juris Manufacturing in Nhlangano when workers were locked out in a dispute over allegations that management planned to purge the staff of ‘troublesome elements’. 

In February 2016, Swazi security forces attacked students at the UNISWA Kwaluseni campus by driving an armoured troop carrier at speed into a crowd, injuring one so badly her back was broken. Students had been protesting and boycotting classes to protest about delays in registration.

The assault was one of many violent attacks on students by police and security forces dating back a number of years.

In November 2013, police raided dormitories and dragged students from their rooms. Later they beat up the students at local police stations. Students had wanted the start of examinations postponed. 

Armed police stood guard outside examination halls as the UNISWA Administration attempted to hold the exams.

In August 2012, two students were shot in the head at close range with rubber bullets, during a dispute about the number of scholarships awarded by the government. Reports from the Centre for Human Rights and Development, Swaziland said several other students were injured by police batons and kicks.

In February 2012, police fired teargas at students from Swaziland College of Technology (SCOT) who boycotted classes after the Swazi Government did not pay them their allowances.

In November 2011, armed police attacked students at the recently-opened private Limkokwing University. The Swazi Observer said Limkokwing students reported that police ‘attacked them unprovoked as they were not armed’.

The newspaper added, ‘During a visit to the institution about 10 armed officers were found standing guard by the gate’. The Observer said police fired as they tried to disperse the students. 

In January 2010, Swaziland Police reportedly fired bullets at protesting university students, injuring two of them. They denied it and said they ‘only’ fired teargas. Students from UNISWA had attempted to march through the kingdom’s capital, Mbabane, to call for an increase in their allowances.

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017


The Swaziland newspaper in effect owned by autocratic monarch King Mswati III has launched another bogus scare story against Asians living in the kingdom.

This time the newspaper described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on press freedom as a  ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’ has reported that Asians might try to take control of parliament at the 2018 national elections. 

The newspaper reported incorrectly on Thursday (9 February 2017) that there were ‘more than 190,000 Asians in the country and some of them have even obtained citizenships’.

The newspaper reported, ‘the biggest worry among traditional authorities now is that Asians might go for Parliament next year’.

It added, ‘The worry amongst the chiefs was that Asians have money and they can use it to lure people to vote for them if they want to.’

In fact, there are nowhere near as many Asians in Swaziland as the newspaper reported. According to the CIA Factbook, an independent source, 97 percent of Swaziland’s 1.3 million people are African. That would mean only about 39,000 of the kingdom’s inhabitants were non-African.

The190,000 figure quoted by the Observer is entirely bogus and has no foundation in reality. To put the figure in context, in 2013 at the last national election in Swaziland 251,278 people voted from the 414,704 who had registered. 

The Observer has been very loose in its reporting of Asians. In November 2016, its companion newspaper the Observer on Saturday reported Swaziland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Nkosinathi Maseko saying, ‘most nationals of Asian origin were associated with terrorist activities’.

It 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. 

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Tuesday, 14 February 2017


Shops in Swaziland have been ordered to stop displaying photos of alleged shoplifters because it infringes their human rights.

It has become increasingly common for supermarkets in the kingdom to display photographs on their walls or on video screens. It is thought the practice has been going on for many years and that shoplifting is increasing.

Superintendent Khulani Mamba, Chief Police Information and Communications Officer, said there was no law allowing shopowners to display the photos. 

He warned shops not to keep alleged shoplifters in their storerooms for a long time before calling the police. ‘The same goes for those who make them pay double the price of the stolen goods; it is illegal as they must just call the police,’ Mamba told local media.

Human rights lawyer Mandla Mkhwanazi said the treatment was degrading and inhumane. ‘This is violation of human rights and degrading dignity of the individual,’ he said.

Monday, 13 February 2017


A campaign of misinformation has begun in Swaziland to convince people that it is a democratic kingdom when it is not.

King Mswati III, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has urged people to vote at next year’s national election to pick their own leader.

The King’s message was delivered by Chief Gija Dlamini, Chairperson of the Elections and Boundaries Commission.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported Dlamini saying on behalf of the King, ‘If any Swazi fails to register to vote for the upcoming 2018 national elections then they are abandoning their basic right of choosing their own leader, thus hurting the whole Kingdom in the process because they would be silencing their own voice because voting unites the kingdom and gives all people a voice and a chance to be counted, but most fundamentally of all, Swazis through voting, have the right to choose who they feel will lead them to the future.’

Dlamini made the comments at a consultative meeting on civic education for traditional leaders at Pigg’s Peakon 2 February 2017.

However, he misled his audience because in Swaziland political parties are not allowed to contest elections and groups that advocate for democracy in the kingdom are banned under The Suppression of Terrorism Act.
The Swazi people have no say in who their leaders are. They 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.

The King choses the Prime Minister and cabinet members. Only a man with the surname Dlamini can, by tradition, be appointed as Prime Minister. The King is a Dlamini.  

He also choses senior civil servants and top judges. The elections have no real purpose other than to give King Mswati a fig leaf of democracy. The King is in control of Swaziland ahead of the 2018 election and he will be in control after it, regardless of which individuals the people vote into the House of Assembly.

The Swazi Parliament has no powers. King Mswati can, and does, overrule decisions he does not like. This was the case in October 2012 when the king refused to accept a vote of no confidence passed by the House of Assembly on his government, even though he was obliged by the constitution to do so. 

Elections are held every five years in Swaziland. After the last one in 2013 a number of groups who had been official observers of the process reported the election was not free and fair.

The official report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission called for a review of the kingdom’s constitution. It said members of parliament ‘continue to have severely limited powers’ and political parties are banned. 

The Commonwealth observers said there was ‘considerable room for improving the democratic system’.

They called for King Mswati’s powers to be reduced. ‘The presence of the monarch in everyday political life inevitably associates the institution of monarchy with politics, a situation that runs counter to the development that the re-establishment of the Parliament and the devolution of executive authority into the hands of elected officials.’

The report said the constitution needed to be revisited with an open debate on what changes were necessary.

It added, ‘This should ideally be carried out through a fully inclusive, consultative process with all Swazi political organisations and civil society (if needed, with the help of constitutional experts.’

The African Union (AU) also urged Swaziland to review the Constitution, especially in the areas of ‘freedoms of conscience, expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement as well as international principles for free and fair elections and participation in electoral process.’ 

The AU called on Swaziland to implement the African Commission’s Resolution
on Swaziland in 2012 that called on the Government, ‘to respect, protect and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly.’

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Friday, 10 February 2017


King Mswati III, the absolute monarch in Swaziland who himself pays no tax, has ordered his subjects to be ‘100 percent tax compliant’ and pay up in order to help the kingdom out of its present financial mess.

After the speech, the Swazi Finance Minister Martin Dlamini told local media that government did not have money to deliver services to the people unless people paid taxes or it took loans from outside the kingdom. Then, tax revenue was needed to repay the loans.

The King was speaking at the opening of the Swazi Parliament on 3 February 2017.

This was not the first time the King, who himself has at least 13 palaces, a private jet and fleets of top-of-the-range Mercedes and BMW cars, and who with his royal family regularly take expensive international trips, has called on his subjects to pay their tax. 

In his 2015 speech at the opening of Parliament, he berated tax dodgers. At the time, he said, ‘Time has also come for the authority to fast track the programme of lifestyle audits.’ This was aimed at exposing people who made money corruptly. 

In Swaziland, King Mswati is above the law. He cannot be investigated and he pays no tax. It is unclear how much money he has, but the lavish lifestyle he openly displays could give a clue.

In 2009, Forbes magazine estimated that the King himself had a personal net fortune worth US$200 million. Forbes also said King Mswati was the beneficiary of two funds created by his father Sobhuza II in trust for the Swazi nation. During his reign, he has absolute discretion over use of the income. The trust has been estimated to be worth US$10 billion.  

In August 2014, the Sunday Times newspaper in South Africa reported King Mswati personally received millions of dollars from international companies such as phone giant MTN; sugar conglomerates Illovo and Remgro; Sun International hotels and beverages firm SAB Millerto.

It reported that MTN, which had a monopoly of the cell phone business in Swaziland, paid dividends directly to the King. He holds 10 percent of the shares in MTN in Swaziland and is referred to by the company as an ‘esteemed shareholder’. It said MTN had paid R114 million (US$11.4 million) to the King over the previous five years.

The newspaper also reported that the King was receiving income from Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, which paid dividends in 2013 of R218.1 million. The newspaper reported ‘several sources’ who said it was ‘an open secret’ that although money generated by Tibiyo was meant to be used for the benefit of the nation, Tibiyo in fact channelled money directly to the Royal Family.

The King also holds 25 percent of all mineral wealth in Swaziland ‘in trust for the Swazi nation.’ In reality he uses this money to fund his lavish lifestyle.

In March 2016, it was revealed the King’s share of the just-reopened Lufafa Gold Mine at Hhelehhele in the Hhohho region of Swaziland could be worth up to US$149 million. 

Meanwhile, seven in ten of Swaziland’s tiny estimated 1.4 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 a day; three in ten are so hungry they are medically diagnosed as malnourished and the kingdom has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world.

King Mswati received a 9 percent increase for his spending from the taxpayer in the year started April 2016. The ‘Civil List’, the money given to him to run the Royal household, was budgeted to increase by E30m (US$1.9m) to E370m (US$24m).

The increase in the King’s budget was contained in the annual budget estimates in February 2016. Although the Swazi media covered aspects of the budget, the news about the King was not published.

The budget also revealed that about US$9 million would be spent on a private jet for the King. Also US$12 million would reportedly be spent on décor at the Royal Terminal Building at King Mswati III (KMIII) Airport. 

Observers note that the King has had many chances in the past to cut back on his spending and reduce the amount of money he takes from his subjects, but so far he has increased his budget, rather than reduced it. In 2011, as Swaziland hurtled towards financial meltdown, Majozi Sithole, the then Finance Minister, in his budget demanded 10 percent budget cuts (later increased further) from government departments, but in the same budget the amount of money given to the King increased by 23 percent.

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The Swazi Observer newspaper has misled its readers by reporting that Swaziland has the same political structure as England.

The Observer, which is in effect owned by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, did this in an attempt to legitimise the undemocratic system in Swaziland.

Political parties are not allowed to contest elections and groups that advocate for democracy in the kingdom are banned under The Suppression of ‘Terrorism Act.
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. Swaziland is divided into 55 ‘tinkhundla’ or administrative districts. One member of parliament represents each district.

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (7 February 2017) that Mbonisi Bhembe, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Communications Officer, had told a group of invited guests that Swazi people living outside the kingdom had failed ‘to explain the tinkhundla system of governance properly’.

Bhembe reportedly said, ‘Swaziland is not the only country that is using the tinkhundla system of governance.’ He went on list a number of countries, he said, had tinkhundla. He said England had 650 tinkhundla.

‘All this proves that the system works very well because if it did. not, then all these countries would have not adopted it,’ the Observer reported Bhembe saying. 

But it is simply not true. The 650 figure for England stated by Bhembe presumably refers to the number of parliamentary constituencies in the United Kingdom, which is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They have nothing in common with Swaziland’s undemocratic tinkhundla. 

Political parties contest the UK constituencies and the political party that gains most seats in parliament forms the government with the party leader as prime minister. In Swaziland, the King choses the prime minister, forms the government and choses senior civil servants and judges.

This is not the first time the Observer, 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’ has misled readers about international support for its undemocratic tinkhundla political system.

In August 2015, The Observer on Sunday, reported that neighbouring South Africa was considering adopting the kingdom’s political system. The Observer reported that civil rights groups in South Africa were advocating for a change in the republic’s electoral system, ‘to incorporate a constituency-based method’. 

The Observer added, ‘This is the same system of government practised in Swaziland and described in the kingdom’s constitution.’

But it was not true. Nobody in South Africa was calling for political parties to be banned from contesting elections.

Unlike in Swaziland, where people who wish to discuss the kingdom’s electoral system are harassed and arrested, in South Africa political debate is allowed.

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Thursday, 9 February 2017


Police in Swaziland fired live gunshots and teargas as workers at a factory were locked out following an industrial dispute.

It happened at Juris Manufacturing in Nhlangano on Monday (6 February 2017). The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported ‘about 1,600 workers reacted angrily to a rumour that management was planning to purge the staff of troublesome elements’.

The Times reported, ‘Interviewed workers said the violence was triggered when the employees found the main gate to the factory locked when they reported for duty yesterday morning, as management was planning to make the workers enter in different groups. Soon word spread that the new entry arrangement was a plan to get rid of male employees of the company who management believe were sowing discontent among the staff.’

There has been a long-running dispute at the factory about management style and accusations of racism by one boss in particular.

The Times reported, ‘A witness said when the workers were not satisfied with the communication from management, they ganged up and vandalised the factory structure. The situation worsened when police officers tried to control the workers and fired teargas.’

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, put the number of workers involved at 2,000.

It reported, ‘The company premises resembled a war zone as the workers and police exchanged missiles. 

‘Police fired warning gun shots in the air, hoping to scare off the workers who were on the rampage.’

It added, ‘They fired teargas at the strong crowd of workers who ran helter-skelter in all’

The Observer reported, ‘A thick cloud engulfed the area with some of the employees seen dashing towards the nearby forests as police were hot on their heels to ensure they keep a distance from the company premises.’

It is commonplace in Swaziland for armed police to intervene on behalf of managements during industrial disputes.

In September 2016, media in Swaziland reported women strikers were ambushed by armed police and ‘brutally attacked’ at the Plantation Forest Company, near Pigg’s Peak. Police had previously used rubber bullets and teargas against the strikers and had fired live rounds to disperse a crowd. 

In 2013, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported that Swaziland was becoming a police and military state.

It said things had become so bad in the kingdom that police were unable to accept that peaceful political and social dissent was a vital element of a healthy democratic process, and should not be viewed as a crime.

These complaints were made by OSISA at an African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia on 10 April 2013.

OSISA said, ‘There are also reliable reports of a general militarization of the country through the deployment of the Swazi army, police and correctional services to clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country’s undemocratic elections.’

OSISA was commenting on the trend in Southern Africa for police and security services to be increasingly violent and abusive of human rights.

In particular, OSISA highlighted how the police continued to clamp down on dissenting voices and the legitimate public activities of opposition political parties prior to, during and after elections.

In a statement OSISA said in February 2013 a battalion of armed police invaded the Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral in Manzini and forced the congregation to vacate the church alleging that the service ‘intended to sabotage the country’s general elections’. 

OSISA added, ‘A month later, a heavily armed group of police backed up by the Operational Support Services Unit prevented members of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) from holding a peaceful commemoration prayer in celebration of the federation’s anniversary. In both instances there was no court order giving the police the legal authority to halt the prayers.’

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).

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