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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

SWAZI ACTIVIST FORGOTTEN IN JAIL

Zonke needs help to appeal unfair 15-year sentence
Kenworthy News Media, 28 February 2017 

Where is the campaign and help for the appeal of Swazi activist Zonke Dlamini, who was tortured and sentenced to 15 years under repressive terror laws three years ago, asks his co-accused, Bheki Dlamini, who was released without charge? Writes Kenworthy News Media.
 
Activist Zonke Dlamini was sentenced to 15 years in prison three years ago, on 28 February 2014, for allegedly petrol bombing the houses of two Swazi officials, an MP and a high-ranking police officer.

He denies the charges and says he was tortured during his interrogation, but his case has been more or less forgotten and he has subsequently not been able to appeal his sentence, says his co-accused, Swaziland Youth Congress President Bheki Dlamini.

In the 28 July 2010 edition of the Swazi Observer, Zonke Dlamini said he was interrogated and tortured by 18 officers upon arrest. “I declared my innocence but was punched in the face … and told to admit my role as one of the operatives of an operation mastermind by the banned SWAYOCO to bomb houses of prominent people.”

Charged under ‘inherently repressive’ terror act
Both Zonke Dlamini, who is also a member of SWAYOCO, and Bheki Dlamini, were charged under Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act. Both dissociated themselves from the petrol bombings.


Zonke was found guilty on two of the three counts of petrol bombing while Bheki was acquitted and released, in what the judge referred to as “evil” and “indefensible acts” of “terrorism” that “threatened national security” and “peace and stability” in Swaziland, including “its tourism and economy generally.”

The sentences “will send out a message to others,” the judge concluded.

Amnesty International has called Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act, which defines terrorism in sweeping terms, an “inherently repressive” act that is “used to suppress dissent.”

Amnesty furthermore wrote in their 2011 Annual Report that the court was informed that Zonke and Bheki had been “subjected to suffocation torture” and that Zonke’s confession (that led to the arrest of Bheki Dlamini) was allegedly “extracted under duress.”

A humble and dedicated man
According to Bheki Dlamini, Zonke Dlamini is a politically astute and humble man who never complained about his fate and who is dedicated to the struggle for freedom and democracy is Swaziland. He got to know Zonke when at court and by them smuggling letters to each other’s cells.


When Zonke Dlamini was arrested, he left a three-month-old baby and an extended family that he was economically responsible for. He is also an epileptic who needs constant supervision.

– My heart is bleeding when I remember the pain of prison and what Zonke is still going through. When Zonke was arrested, he was badly tortured by the Swazi police. Now he suffers from a persistent headache because of the torture, says Bheki Dlamini, who was himself tortured after his and Zonke Dlaminis arrest in June 2010.

Both went on a hunger strike in 2013 to protest against the prison conditions and the fact that their case was yet to be concluded three years after they were arrested.

Desperately needs appeal, help
But while there was a campaign for the release of Bheki Dlamini, who was eventually released, after having spent nearly four years in prison, and his story was told in an award-winning Danish documentary, Swaziland – Africa’s last monarchy, Zonke Dlaminis case does not get the attention it deserves, Bheki Dlamini says.


– The tragedy about Zonke’s case is that it doesn’t get the necessary attention, be it amongst the Swazi Civil Society, the political parties and the Swazi media. When the EU called for the release of political prisoners, Zonke’s name was missing from the list of four political prisoners that were eventually released, says Bheki Dlamini.

Bheki Dlamini believes that while Zonke Dlamini faced injustice by the Swazi High Court, few came to his rescue. This should have been the role of Swaziland’s civil society and members of the international community, but their inaction has had serious consequences for Zonke, he says.

– As Zonke was convicted in 2014, he was not able to file an appeal because he has no lawyer to take up his case. Where are the NGO’s claiming to be fighting for human rights, where are Lawyers for Human Rights, where is our conscience as a people when we watch such gross injustice happening to someone who is trying to fight the very same regime we claim to be against?

– He desperately needs to appeal his conviction and sentencing. I have been part of the trial and know that he has a high chance of an acquittal because he was sentenced unfairly. There is no direct evidence linking him to the crimes he is accused of. He was made a sacrificial lamb by the judge, who decided to acquit me and convict Zonke to appease the powers that be, Bheki Dlamini says.

CONFUSION OVER LANGUAGE RULING

Private as well as public schools in Swaziland are to be forced to conduct lessons in siSwati, the mother tongue of Swazi people, and applicants to universities and tertiary colleges will be made to take an application test in the language.

This follows an edict from Swaziland’s unelected Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini.

The unexpected announcement is already causing confusing in education circles in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The Times of Swaziland reported that Dlamini told a gathering to mark International Mother Language Day on Wednesday (22 February 2017), ‘In all public and private primary schools in Swaziland, up to and including Grade IV, a child’s education will be conducted in siSwati. 

‘In the later grades of primary education, and in all high schools, siSwati will be one of the compulsory subjects in the curriculum. And before admission to tertiary education, all applicants will be required to take a competency test in siSwati.’

Later, Phineas Magagula, the Swaziland Minister of Education and Training, clarified the PM’s statement. Magagula said Swaziland was not doing away with other languages in schools but siSwati would be a core subject. 

Later, in a further clarification, the Prime Minister said the new policy would not be implemented overnight. The Ministry of Education would appoint a ‘siSwati Board’ to oversee it, he said.

There is still no clarification about the role of siSwati in colleges and universities. If the language is compulsory it would almost certainly made it impossible for students from outside Swaziland to enrol for programmes.

See also

KING’S ROLE IN SCHOOLS CHAOS IGNORED
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2017/02/kings-role-in-schools-chaos-ignored.html

Monday, 27 February 2017

JUDGES APPOINTED UNCONSTITUTIONALLY

King Mswati III, the autocratic ruler of Swaziland, appointed seven judges to the Supreme Court in contravention of the kingdom’s Constitution, Amnesty International has reported.

As a result, the Law Society of Swaziland boycotted the November Supreme Court session and demanded the appointment of permanent judges in line with Section 153 of the Constitution, which stipulates that judges be appointed in an open, transparent and competitive process.

Amnesty said in its just published annual report on human rights in the kingdom that in other legal developments, the High Court ruled that sections of the 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSA) and the 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) were invalid as they infringed on constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The judgment came after provisions in the laws were challenged in the applications filed in 2009 by human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko. Thulani Maseko was charged under the SSA in 2009. 

Another application was filed in 2014 by Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini, leaders of the banned opposition People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), who were charged under both Acts in 2014; and by Mlungisi Makhanya and seven others, who were also charged under the Acts in 2014. 

Amnesty also reported that a Public Order Bill, going through Parliament, if passed, would undermine rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. 

‘Among other things, it would criminalize the act of organizing a public gathering without prior notification to the authorities. The bill, which was expected to be passed by the kingdom’s unelected Senate, before being ratified by the King, remained in draft form at the end of the year,’ it stated.

See also

REPRESSIVE SWAZI LAWS STILL IN PLACE
LAW SOCIETY TAKES ON TOP JUDGES

Friday, 24 February 2017

WORKERS CALL ‘FRAUD’ AT UNISWA



The Administration at the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) is under attack on two fronts: from the students and non-academic staff.

On Monday (20 February 2017) UNISWA closed indefinitely after students boycotted classes in protest over late payment of scholarships and inadequate facilities. 

The following day non-academic staff picketed the Kwaluseni Campus administration block in a row over ‘stop orders’ from salaries. Money has been stopped from pay cheques but it has not been forwarded to the relevant beneficiaries. Staff said this had been going on for at least two years.

A spokesperson for the workers was reported by the Swazi Observer saying, ‘This is a problem that the members of staff have had to endure for two years and each time we raised the issue with management, they promised to work on it.’

The Times of Swaziland reported that 100 members of the National Workers Union of Swaziland Higher Institutions (NAWUSHI) took part in the picket. It quoted the workers’ spokesperson saying, ‘Currently, the institution deducts the money from us, but it does not remit it to the service providers and we consider this as an illegal and fraudulent act, which should be corrected immediately.’

The spokesperson added management had refused to meet to discuss the issue.

See also

MINISTER THREATENS SCHOLARSHIPS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2017/02/minister-threatens-scholarships.html

Thursday, 23 February 2017

PUDEMO WILL NOT FIGHT SWAZI ELECTION

Swaziland’s main opposition political party PUDEMO has refuted media reports that it is ready to contest the national elections in 2018.

PUDEMO (the People’s United Democratic Movement) is the best-known opposition group in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as an absolute monarch. Political parties are not allowed to contest elections and PUDEMO, along with other groups that advocate for democracy in the kingdom, are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom reported on Monday (20 February 2017) that PUDEMO and its youth wing SWAYOCO, ‘have been instructed by their donors to look into changing their strategy for bringing democracy into the country’.

The Times added, ‘After years of denouncing the country’s elections and branding them “not free or fair”, the proscribed entities are considering taking part in the 2018 national elections where Members of Parliament representing the 55 constituencies in the country are chosen by the people.’

PUDEMO responded in a stinging statement and rejected, ‘with the contempt they deserve’ the media reports. It said it had no donors or funders who were forcing it to participate in the elections.

It added, ‘PUDEMO is not afraid of elections, and remains committed to taking part in Swaziland National Elections, that will be conducted under conditions that guarantee a democratic, free, fair, meaningful and transparent process, not the current royal sham.’

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. 

PUDEMO added, ‘The current Tinkhundla elections has no effect in the political life of the country, as power remains concentrated in royal hands, and all meaningful decisions are made through royal command. PUDEMO has no intention, now or in the future to associate its glorious name and record of struggle with such a royal grand scam to defraud our people of their right to democratically and freely elect a government of their own.’

See also

KING’S BOGUS CLAIM ON DEMOCRACY
FALSE CLAIM OVER SWAZI DEMOCRACY
THE CASE FOR POLITICAL PARTIES
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-case-for-political-parties.html

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

MINISTER THREATENS SCHOLARSHIPS

Swaziland’s Minister of Labour and Social Security has made a veiled threat to scrap university scholarships in the kingdom if students continue to protest against late payments.

Minister of Labour and Social Security Winnie Magagula made her comments after management at the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) closed the institution after students boycotted classes.

There have been continuing problems at UNISWA – and other tertiary colleges in Swaziland – about late payments of scholarships and allowances. There are also complaints that facilities in universities and colleges are inadequate.

UNISWA closed on Monday (20 February 2017). UNISWA Registrar Dr Salebona Simelane told local media the University Senate had resolved to close down immediately as a precautionary measure following vandalism to property the previous week. 

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday he said, ‘they needed to protect university property and the students themselves from each other’. 

Simelane said the university would be closed until further notice.

Last week, police fired warning gunshots as students protested about late payment of their allowances.

The Observer reported Minister Magagula saying the government might have to reconsider issuing scholarships, ‘as they were causing too many problems’. 

Following the closure of UNISWA, Magagula said the incident was an unfortunate one as they had met the SRC where they explained the procedures followed when government pays a client. 

The Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported her saying, ‘We met with these children and we showed them that we had indeed paid their allowances as these things take time. There are processes that take place.’

The Observer added, ‘Magagula said the students were clearly refusing to cooperate with government and the university hence if there are no scholarships maybe there’ll be no closure for these institutions.’

UNISWA is not the only tertiary education institution complaining against late payments. The Southern African Nazarene University (SANU) in Manzini, Swaziland, has also been closed following student protests against poor facilities and insufficient allowances. 

See also

UNIVERSITY CLOSED AFTER STUDENT PROTESTS
SWAZI POLICE FIRE AT STUDENTS

POLICE ‘EXTORTION’: 2 IN COURT

Two police officers in Swaziland have appeared in court charged with demanding money from suspects in return for their freedom.

They appeared at the Manzini Magistrates Court on 14 February 2017 charged with, among other crimes, extorting money from civilians by threatening to arrest them and have their names published in newspapers.

The Times of Swaziland reported, ‘The “suspects” were warned that this would embarrass them and no matter what the outcome of the cases would be, they would already have been publicly shamed.’

The accused police officers are alleged to have taken more than E100,000 (US$7,630) from people who feared arrest. The case continues.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

EU MONEY FLOWS DESPITE RIGHTS RECORD

Despite a campaign at the European Parliament to force Swaziland to improve its human rights record, the European Union (EU) has continued to spend tens of millions of euros of taxpayers’ money in the kingdom ruled by the autocratic King Mswati III.

Figures just released show the EU disbursed E365 million last year (26 million euro; US$22 million.

Bertram Stewart, Swazi Ministry of Economic Planning and Development Principal Secretary, said, ‘I wish to express our sincere gratitude to the EU for the financial and moral support they provided to the country,’

He was speaking at the annual Swazi Government and EU project planning meeting to review the progress of EU-funded projects.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported, ‘EU Ambassador Nicola Bellomo said they were really proud of the achievements and were looking at increasing and improving their level of cooperation in partnership with all the relevant stakeholders.’

There has been growing concerns in Europe about Swaziland’s record on human rights, where any political dissent can be outlawed by the Suppression of Terrorism Act. In recent years, journalists have been jailed for criticising the kingdom’s judges. 

In October 2016, more than four in ten Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) did not support Swaziland’s inclusion in a trade partnership deal.

Ambassador Bellomo said at the time, many MEPs wanted Swaziland excluded because of human rights violations.

In a vote, 417 MEPs endorsed Swaziland’s inclusion in the Southern African Development Community (SADC)-EU Economic Partnership Agreement.  However, 216 MEPs voted against and a further 118 abstained from voting.

Bellomo told the Sunday Observer on 9 October 2016 that those who wanted the kingdom to be excluded cited human rights violations. He gave the jailing of the Nation magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko on sedition charges as examples.

The Observer reported the EU ambassador said this should be ‘a wake-up call’ to Swaziland.  

The new trade agreement opened SADC goods to the European markets duty free.

In May 2015, the European Parliament voted for the release of all political prisoners in Swaziland and called for the kingdom to be monitored for its human rights record.

A statement issued by the European Parliament said, ‘Parliament considers the imprisonment of political activists and the banning of trade unions to be in clear contravention of commitments made by Swaziland under the Cotonou Agreement to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and also under the sustainable development chapter of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement, for which Parliament’s support will depend on respect for the commitments made.’

The resolution was passed by 579 votes to six, with 58 abstentions. 

In January 2015, the United States withdrew Swaziland’s trading benefits under the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) after the kingdom refused to accept democratic change.

See also

FREE POLITICAL PRISONERS: EURO MPs
EURO MPs: SCRAP TRADE DEALS
KING DIVERTS WEALTH FROM HIS SUBJECTS
KING MSWATI SPENDS AND SPENDS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/king-mswati-spends-and-spends.html

Monday, 20 February 2017

KING’S ROLE IN SCHOOLS CHAOS IGNORED

A command made by Swaziland’s autocratic King Mswati III that schools must not charge parents top-up fees is about to be overturned following years of confusion.

And, Swazi Government ministers and the media in the kingdom are rewriting history to erase the King’s part in the chaos.

In February 2014, in a speech opening Parliament King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, made the directive to abolish top-up fees even though the government he hand-picked did not have a plan to implement it. 

In Swaziland, the King’s word is a proclamation. Once he speaks nobody is allowed to question him. 

In his 2014 speech the King said, ‘We must encourage the development of local facilities and the improvement of the quality of our education to match the standards of foreign countries. It is not enough, however, to just educate our children to become job seekers.’

Top-up fees allowed principals to charge parents more than the basic school fee. This allowed schools to be able to fund many basic activities. Principals complained that the money paid by government was too meagre to run the schools and a majority of them opted for top-up fees to make up for the shortage. 

Within months reports were circulating in the kingdom that most schools had been forced to suspend activities including participation in sports and music competitions. It was estimated these extra-mural activities had halved when compared to recent years.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported in 2015 that some principals had resorted to selling sweets on behalf of their schools to raise additional funds.

It reported, ‘Swaziland Principals Association (SWAPA) President Mduduzi Bhembe confirmed the sad situation and lamented the fact that the growth of the country’s education system was taking a nosedive.’

In February 2016, school principals who defied the ban were warned they could go to jail. The Swazi Education and Training Minister Phineas Magagula said this after the Kingdom’s High Court confirmed the King’s edict that no school should charge parents top-up fees. 

The Swazi Observer reported at the time that Magagula said by charging top-up fees the principals were, ‘failing to comply with His Majesty King Mswati III’s order that such should not be paid and that no child should be deprived of education’.

Now, media in Swaziland are reporting that the Swazi Cabinet has decided to put forward a law to allow to-up fees to be charged.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported on Friday (17 February 2017), ‘Stakeholders are searching for answers to the question of how to charge top-up fees yet they (top-up fees) are legal in terms of Section 12 of the Free Primary Education Act of 2010.’

It added, ‘Phineas Magagula, the Minister of Education and Training, had submitted a proposal to cabinet to reintroduce the additional fees which schools charged over and above government grants.’

The King’s role in the top-up fee saga is being ignored. On 29 December 2016, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper 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’, reported Magagula had submitted a proposal to cabinet to reintroduce the top-up fees.

It reported, ‘Education Minister Dr. Phineas Magagula yesterday said the decision to enforce a no top-up fee policy was not taken by an individual line minister, in this particular case being himself, but was a collective cabinet decision.

‘Any changes with regard to the implementation of the policy, Dr. Magagula said, would as such have to be taken by cabinet.’

Friday, 17 February 2017

POLICE FIRE SHOTS DURING BUS PROTEST

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.

See also

SWAZI POLICE FIRE AT STUDENTS

MORE POLICE GUNS AGAINST WORKERS