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Thursday, 14 November 2019

Swaziland King’s purchase of 15 Roll-Royces came from private money, not public funds, PM says

The Prime Minister of Swaziland (eSwatini) Ambrose Dlamini said that the fleet of 15 Rolls-Royce vehicles purchased by the kingdom’s absolute monarch King Mswati III were paid for by private money and not public funds. They were reported to have cost up to US$4 million.

News of the purchase had been reported around the world and the King came under heavy criticism for the lavish spending. It had been reported that Rolls-Royce had been purchased for the king’s wives.

A few days after the purchase the King also took delivery of a fleet of 126 BMW vehicles which were reportedly for ‘escort duties’.

The Times of eSwatini reported Dlamini told a press conference on Wednesday (13 November 2019) the Rolls-Royce cars ‘were purchased privately and not through the public purse and no money from the national budget went to the purchase of these cars’.

The eSwatini Observer (previously Swazi Observer), a newspaper in effect owned by the king, reported Dlamini warned those who protested against the king were in danger of breaking the kingdom’s Suppression of Terrorism Act. ‘Violators of the law will be prosecuted,’ he said.

Swaziland is not a democracy and political parties are banned from taking part in elections. The king personally appoints the government, including the Prime Minister.

The Observer reported,Government, he said, would not tolerate statements that were demeaning to the person of His Majesty and the institution of the Monarchy.’

On the same day the Prime Minister spoke a march by political parties protesting against King Mswati and calling for democracy was stopped by police in Mbabane.

The Times reported the Prime Minister confirmed that it was responsible for buying 84 BMW cars and 42 BMW motorbikes. The exact cost of these has not been reported.

‘The purchase of the fleet came against  the backdrop of an ailing economy, where the country was struggling to meet its obligations,’ the Times reported. 

It quoted the Prime Minister saying, ‘Government receives the public criticism regarding the purchase of the vehicles given the current financial situation in the country.  It is worth noting that the decision to replace the fleet was taken in July 2018 before austerity measures were put in place.

‘A commitment was made with the supplier at that time hence the agreement could not be reversed now as doing so could lead to litigation which would come with adverse consequences for government.’

The Times added, ‘Dlamini said as previously stated, the purchase of this fleet was in line with government policy to replace cars after five years. He said most of the VIP and escort vehicles being replaced now were 11 years old and others were no longer roadworthy, which was a huge cost to government as they had to constantly cater for the repairs of the cars. He said government saved a lot of money from having a newer fleet because it came with a warranty and service plan.’

In a speech the US Ambassador to Swaziland Lisa Peterson criticised the purchases. She said, ‘While the government continued using its existing vehicle fleet, the palace sees fit to acquire more than a dozen Rolls-Royce vehicles with a minimum  price tag of E52.5 million. To accompany this royal fleet, there is now an even larger fleet of official escort vehicles, purchased  with public funds.’

She said, ‘It  is exceedingly difficult for development partners to continue  advocating for assistance to eSwatini when such profligate spending or  suspicious giving is taking place.’

She said, However, should the people of Eswatini really be comfortable with such disregard for the perilous fiscal state of the country, particularly with so many of His Majesty’s subjects living below the international poverty line?  Should people really believe that a possible multi-million dollar gift came without any strings attached?

See also

King of impoverished Swaziland takes delivery of 79 luxury BMW cars worth US$6 million
Threat to censor U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland after criticism of King’s lavish spending

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Threat to censor U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland after criticism of King’s lavish spending

Authorities in Swaziland (eSwatini) want to censor future public speeches by the US Ambassador Lisa Peterson after she criticised the kingdom’s absolute monarch King Mswati III for his lavish spending on luxury Rolls-Royce and BMW cars.

It was not the first time she had criticised the King. She warned that donors who gave money to Swaziland for development would think twice before contributing in the future.

An online newspaper the Swaziland News reported that Ambassador Peterson is now under police surveillance.

Peterson had made comments while giving certificates to young entrepreneurs at Nhlangano on Friday (8 November 2019). Earlier in the week the King had taken delivery of at least 15 Rolls-Royce cars for his wives and family and 79 luxury BMW cars worth US$6 million for ‘escort duties’. A fleet of BMW motorcycles were also purchased.

The African Press Agency (APA) quoted her saying, ‘As a development partner, I have serious concerns about  the leadership example currently coming out of the palace.’

She added, ‘While the government continued using its existing vehicle fleet, the palace sees fit to acquire more than a dozen Rolls-Royce vehicles with a minimum  price tag of $3.71 million. To accompany this royal fleet, there is now an even larger fleet of official escort vehicles, purchased  with public funds.’

She said, ‘It  is exceedingly difficult for development partners to continue  advocating for assistance to eSwatini when such profligate spending or  suspicious giving is taking place.’ 

An official transcript of the speech issued by the US Embassy in Swaziland, reported her saying, ‘Should the people of eSwatini really be comfortable with such disregard for the perilous fiscal state of the country, particularly with so many of His Majesty’s subjects living below the international poverty line?  Should people really believe that a possible multi-million dollar gift came without any strings attached?’
 
Following her comments the former chief executive officer in the King’s Office, now Shiselweni Regional Administrator, Vincent Mhlanga, told the Eswatini Observer (formerly Swazi Observer), a newspaper in effect owned by the King, that he was angered by the Ambassadors speech.

The Observer quoted him saying, ‘Going forward, when she comes to the region for any activity or event, we need to first know what she will say.’

The Swaziland News reported, ‘The Regional Administrator said it was unfortunate that he was not present when the Ambassador made these sentiments, otherwise, he could have stopped her from continuing with the speech.’

He said, ‘If I was present, I could have intervened and told her that she was offside, it’s unfortunate that I was not there to reign on her. We have learnt a lesson and now each time she comes in the region she would have to declare what she has to offer. We can’t allow her to push any political agenda in function we thought are to capacitate the youth, doing so is dangerous.’

The Swaziland News also reported that Ambassador Peterson was under police surveillance. It said plain clothes police posing as journalists took photographs of the Ambassador during her visit to Nhlangano. 

It reported eSwatini Police Spokesperson Superintendent Phindile Vilakati said it was part of the Intelligence Unit duties to gather information on what was happening in the kingdom.

It reported, ‘The Intelligence Officers who posed as journalists were seen keeping an eye on the Ambassador and monitoring her movements after delivered a speech highly critical of the Monarch. However, the core message of her sentiments was censored in the eSwatini two newspapers.’

Vilakati told the Swaziland News, ‘We go to any gathering and collect information, it’s not like we’re only targeting the American Ambassador. We have been doing this for a long time, collecting information for our files.’

The Swaziland News reported, ‘Information gathered suggests that the police spies were not only monitoring the US envoy but independent journalists, union leaders and members of the progressives. But the interest of the police to the USA Ambassador intensified after she came hard on King Mswati for the continuous expenditure particularly on the delivery of BMWs and Rolls-Royce cars to the royalty.’

Ambassador Peterson has previously criticised the absolute monarchy in Swaziland. In an article published in November 2018 by both of Swaziland’s two national daily newspapers she called for the decree that puts King Mswati in power as an absolute monarch to be repealed. She also called for political parties to be allowed to contest elections. 

In 2016, after reports that three of the King’s wives had taken an entourage of 100 people on a shopping trip to Toronto, Canada, Peterson warned Swaziland that the kingdom might not receive further food aid from her country because of the King’s ‘lavish spending’ on holidays.

News24 in South Africa reported at the time Peterson said the US had limited funds for drought relief. She said, ‘When we hear of the lavish spending by the Swazi royal family – especially while a third of their citizens need food aid – it becomes difficult to encourage our government to make more emergency aid available. You can’t expect international donors to give more money to the citizens of Swaziland than their own leaders give them.’

South African media reported that the queens, their bodyguards, protocol officials, family and other ‘support staff’ were on the trip that was expected to last eight days. The City Press newspaper in Johannesburg reported the vacation had irritated diplomats who were motivating for more drought relief aid for the Kingdom, which was in the grips of its worst drought in 18 years.

See also

King of impoverished Swaziland takes delivery of 79 luxury BMW cars worth US$6 million
U.S. Ambassador calls for repeal of decree that makes Swaziland an absolute monarchy
Swazi Royals spend, spend, spend

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Swaziland political parties unite in bid to end absolute king’s power

Political parties in Swaziland – some of them outlawed – have joined together to try to force an end to the rule of absolute monarch, King Mswati III.

Their leaders intend to march on Wednesday (13 November 2019) to deliver a petition to Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini. They will also petition the South African High Commission to Swaziland, saying it is the accomplice and beneficiary of the ‘royal dictatorship’.

This will be followed on Saturday by a public gathering in Manzini.

The political parties include the Ngwane National Liberation Congress (NNLC), the Communist  Party of Swaziland (CPS), the Swazi Democratic Party (SDP) and the People’s  United Democratic Party (PUDEMO). They have formed a grouping called the Political Parties Assembly (PPA).

In Swaziland, political groups advocating for democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

All political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King appoints the government.

In a statement the PPA said it wanted to end the kingdom’s form of government, known as Tinkhundla, or monarchical democracy. They want power returned to the people. 

PPA stated, ‘We unanimously observed that the royal project Tinkhundla has reached a point of no return in dragging down our dignity and stretching beyond  limits our patience as a people.’

The announcement came days after it was revealed the King had taken delivery of at least 15 Rolls-Royce cars for his wives and family and 79 luxury BMW cars worth US$6 million for ‘escort duties’.

PPA said, ‘Brazen looting and plunder of national resources by the monarchy have reached levels unmatched in history, plunging our people into unbearable conditions as witnessed through escalating cost of living, crisis in education and health, high unemployment as well as poor general service delivery.’

In a statement, Mduduzi Gina, Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), said, ‘A petition should be delivered to the office of the Prime Minister and other Ministries by the PPA lead coalition on Wednesday November 13 in Mbabane. A Mass Meeting of every concerned organizations and persons shall be convened on Saturday 16th, November at the SNAT Center starting at 0900hrs. A long-term program of action will be taken for implementation in the mass meeting envisaged. Any changes if any, will be communicated in due as we receive direction from the PPA.’

See also

King of impoverished Swaziland takes delivery of 79 luxury BMW cars worth US$6 million
Not enough Supreme Court judges so Swaziland Terrorism Act appeal postponed

Friday, 8 November 2019

King of impoverished Swaziland takes delivery of 79 luxury BMW cars worth US$6 million

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of impoverished Swaziland (eSwatini), has taken delivery of 79 luxury BMW cars worth about US$6 million.

This happened a week after he took delivery of 15 Rolls-Royce cars.

The Sowetan newspaper in South Africa reported details of the purchase on Friday (8 November 2019).

It reported, ‘Yesterday, 12 trucks loaded with the latest model BMW X3 SUVs and BMW 540 sedans, mostly navy blue in colour and a handful of them in white, waited for hours in Carolina, about 100km from the Oshoek Swazi border post. The 12 trucks took almost the entire truck stop parking space in the small Mpumalanga town.

‘The spanking new fleet was transported from the BMW Rosslyn plant to Manzini in eSwatini in abnormal load trucks with some carrying as many as eight vehicles a truck.

‘An entry-level BMW X3 USV retails at more than R650,000 each [US$44,000], while the BMW 540 sedans retail for more than R1m each.

‘Although it's unclear what the intended use for the vehicles is, most of those navy blue were already fitted with roof top blue lights.’

The Swaziland News, an online publication, reported the cars would be used by escorts of the Swazi royal family.

The Times of eSwatini reported, ‘Sources claimed that a large number of BMWs would be delivered in the country and they would be used as escorts. They also claimed that government did not have the money to buy the cars upfront so it signed a letter of commitment but the claims could not be verified.’

The Sowetan reported that15 ultra-luxury Rolls Royce cars had been shipped into South Africa through the Durban port and delivered to the royal palace at Manzini, Swaziland, a week ago.

It added, Daytona, which was understood to have facilitated the importation of the king's Rolls-Royces, would not disclose any customer details or purchase information but confirmed it was the sole importer of Rolls-Royce motor cars in Southern Africa.

Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg refused to answer questions about the purchases in the House of Assembly, the Times reported.

Rijkenberg did say that Swaziland presently had a public debt of E18.6 billion (US$1.2bn). He had been trying to negotiate loans of E2 billion to pay suppliers. 

Public services across the kingdom are in meltdown. At least six children were reported to have died  from diarrhoea in August 2019. Drugs to treat them were unavailable.

In August 2019 the Ministry of Health confirmed in its first quarter performance report delivered to the Swazi parliament that drugs had run out and there were shortages of nurses, midwives and other health professionals. Fuel frequently ran out and ambulances and other vehicles had broken down.

The government has not paid schools fees and support staff have been sacked as a result. Teaching supplies have run out and in some school pupils have been without a teacher for more than a year. Some programmes to feed destitute children at school have been stopped because of lack of funding.

About seven in ten of the estimated 1.3 million population live on incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. On the day news broke of the king’s multi-million dollar purchase it was announced that bread prices would rise.  


Some of the BMW cars purchased being transported to King Mswati. Picture souced from Facebook.
 



Front page of the Sowetan newspaper


See also

Absolute King of impoverished Swaziland buys himself and wives 20 Rolls-Royce cars worth $15 million
Swaziland cancer patients refused treatment because Govt. has not paid hospital bills
More deaths in Swaziland as govt fails to pay medicine suppliers

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Swaziland soldiers reportedly beat pregnant woman in latest case of assault on innocent civilians

Soldiers in Swaziland (eSwatini) have again been accused of beating and humiliating innocent civilians.

The latest incidents were reported to have happened at Nsubane in the southeast of the kingdom near the border with South Africa. A pregnant woman was slapped and thrown to the ground by two soldiers in one of the incidents, the Times of eSwatini reported on Wednesday (6 November 2019).

It said a 29-year-old woman was walking in the street when she was stopped by a man in civilian clothes who demanded to look her bag. He said he was a soldier and had a right to search her. 

The Times reported she said, ‘He then grabbed the bag but I held on to it. He was trying to pull the bag but I did not loosen my grip. Eventually, he called another man to assist him and before I knew it there were two men wrestling with me over the bag.’

The Times added, ‘She said after the man had thoroughly searched the bag they dropped it down and then slapped her several times.

‘She said they accused her of disrespecting them.

‘She was slapped and kicked several times before the men left her sprawling on the ground.’

The Times said later she went to the Nsubane army camp to report the matter and was again assaulted. ‘She said she was slapped several times and further pulled by the hair.’

In a separate incident also at Nsubane a 36-year-old woman said she was assaulted and dragged on the ground by soldiers. She told the Times a neighbour had told her that her 10-year-old son and younger brother had been taken to the Nsubane army camp. She went to investigate and soldiers told her to leave.

The Times reported, ‘She pleaded with them not to assault her 10-year-old son.’

She told the newspaper, ‘As I was pleading with them they started assaulting me. They slapped me several times and further kicked me all over the body. Another one was hurling all sorts of insults at me.’

She said as she was leaving the camp another soldier stopped her and ordered her to go back inside. ‘Fearing for her life,’ the Times reported, she refused. She said, ‘He grabbed me and dragged me on the ground.’

Police are investigating both incidents.


There is a long history of army assaults on civilians in Swaziland. In March 2019 the High Court ruled the army, known officially as the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (UEDF), should pay E70,000 damages to a man it tortured.

High Court Principal Judge Qinisile Mabuza also criticised the kingdom’s police for not investigating alleged assaults on civilians by members of the army.

The case followed an incident at Vuvulane in the Lubombo region in October 2003 when soldiers attacked Themba Maziya and kicked him with heavy boots, punched him with fists and immersed him in a canal full of water and assaulted him with an electric cable. Soldiers had accused him of stealing an Army vehicle.

The High Court was told Maziya was assaulted all over the body and the head.  As a result he suffered temporary loss of memory, he had scars all over the body and severe trauma.

This was not the only time UEDF forces had been accused of assault. In October 2018 soldiers were said to have tortured farmers who crossed the border with South Africa at Dwalile to retrieve their straying cattle.

Residents told the Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland at the time they were abused each time they crossed a collapsed fence dividing the two countries to collect their livestock, which often strayed into South Africa.

The newspaper reported the farmers said members of the UEDF ‘would dip them in a nearby swamp’ in their clothes.

It added, ‘They are also made to do frog jumps, rolled on the ground and some are assaulted and kicked by the soldiers. Most of the abuse lasts for over an hour and had left some of the farmers sick.’

In a separate case in June 2018 three soldiers were charged with assault for burying a man alive after they accused him of stealing a phone from them at Mbekelweni.

In December 2017 soldiers were accused of routinely sexually assaulting women as they crossed border posts with South Africa. The Observer on Saturday reported at the time, ‘The army troops have been accused by women of abusing their powers by touching them inappropriately as they lay their hands on their buttocks just to allow to cross either to South Africa or into Swaziland. 

‘Some women when being searched for illegal goods alleged that they are touched almost everywhere by the male army officers and these informal crossings.’

The newspaper said the inappropriate behaviour took place ‘almost every day’ around the Ngwenya informal crossing. 

In July 2017 soldiers reportedly forced a bus-load of passengers to strip naked after it crossed the Mhlumeni Border Gate into Mozambique. Local media reported it happened all the time. 

The Times of Swaziland reported they were ordered to strip ‘stark naked’ as part of a ‘routine body search’. The newspaper said the passengers had been on vacation in Mozambique.

In June 2017 it was reported women at the informal crossing situated next to the Mananga Border Gate with South Africa were made to remove their underwear so soldiers could inspect their private parts with a mirror. The Swazi Army said it happened all the time.

Soldiers were said to be searching for ‘illegal objects’ using a mirror similar to that used to inspect the underside of cars.


In September 2015, the Swazi Parliament heard that soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows. Member of Parliament Titus Thwala said that the women were among the local residents who were regularly beaten by soldiers at informal crossing points between Swaziland and South Africa.


See also

Army tortures recruitment cheats 
Army sexual assaults at border posts
Soldiers inspect woman’s private parts

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Swaziland police fire gunshots and shoot student with rubber bullet as campus protests continue

Police in Swaziland (eSwatini) fired live ammunition and shot a university student with a rubber bullet as class boycotts entered their second day.

It was the latest police shooting during legal protests in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III.

Students across the kingdom are angry that the government failed to keep its promise to pay them their allowances for books, accommodation and other equipment.

The shooting happened at the Southern Africa Nazarene University (SANU) in Manzini.

Armed police patrolled the campus after students boycotted classes and set up a roadblock and started fires near the university.

The SANU administration ordered the university to be closed indefinitely and told students to vacate the premises immediately.

That was when police moved in, the Times of eSwatini reported. It quoted sources saying, ‘That is where all hell broke loose and the students clashed with the law enforcers who were trying to drive them out of the institution.’

It added students lit a fire on a public road. ‘As a result of the students’ behaviour, the police fired several warning shots in the air and also used rubber bullets to disperse the scholars, who ran helter-skelter.’

Phephile Sifundza, aged 20, a student, was shot in the leg.

The Swazi Observer reported, ‘[Sifundza] said she was not among the protesting students but was crossing the road at the traffic lights towards Manzini City. She said she was in the company of her friend when she heard gunshots.’

It quoted her saying, ‘In a moment, I was on the ground and I realised that I was hurt. I tried to call out for help but everyone was running around.’ When the chaos died down her colleagues took her to hospital.

On Thursday (31 October 2019) workers marched in protest against police brutality and delivered petitions to the Ministry of Public Service, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Ministry of Education and Training and the police headquarters in the Swazi capital, Mbabane.

Police recently used live ammunition, rubber bullets, teargas and water cannon against public service workers engaged in legal protests. More than 30 people were injured by police.

Last month (October 2019) the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) condemned police brutality. ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said in a statement, ‘Respect for workers’ rights, good faith dialogue and a government that responds to people’s needs and concerns – just like any other country, this is what eSwatini needs, not state violence against the people. eSwatini’s King Mswati pledged to us earlier this year to build these bridges, yet now we are seeing the government pulling all stops to undermine them.’

See also

Swaziland students boycott classes as Govt. breaks promise to pay allowances
Swaziland police brutality under attack from international workers’ group
Swaziland workers to march and petition against police brutality

Monday, 4 November 2019

Swaziland students boycott classes as Govt. breaks promise to pay allowances

Students in Swaziland (eSwatini) boycotted classes and at least one college has been closed after the government failed to honour its promise to pay allowances.

Some students have been without payment for the past two months.

The William Pitcher teacher training college at Manzini was closed down indefinitely, according to a report from the Swaziland Youth Congress.

Students at the Southern Africa Nazarene University at Manzini have also boycotted classes.

The government fails to pay allowances on time most years and boycotts routinely take place. In September 2019 students only agreed to return to classes after the government promised to double their allowances and pay it monthly. No payments have been made in the past two months.

A statement from the SANU student representative council (SRC) said it wanted the immediate release of book, practical and monthly allowances; scholarship for all students admitted at the institution and allowances to be increased to meet students economic needs.

SANU SRC Secretary General Colani Khulekani Maseko sustained serious injuries during a confrontation with other non-protesting students and was admitted to the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital, the Observer on Saturday reported.

It said some students who were not government sponsored wanted to continue with classes. Police were called to SANU after students marched on the university administration.

SANU SRC President Tholumuzi Gubevu Simelane told the newspaper the first day of class boycott was a huge success. ‘The boycott continues until our demands are met,’ he said.

The Swazi News reported Simelane said the students were concerned about government’s inability to uphold its agreement to pay their monthly allowances within a period of 30 days. This was stipulated by a clause contained in the pre-service tertiary education study loan agreement form the students signed in September 2019. 

Simelane said they had not received their allowances for September and October.

In a letter to tertiary institutions the Ministry of Labour and Social Security said payments had been delayed because it did not have all students’ bank details.

See also

Striking Swaziland students win victory in dispute with government
Students march on government