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Saturday, 17 February 2018


Students in Swaziland are set to protest against the ‘extravagant spending’ of the 50/50 celebrations to mark the King’s birthday and the anniversary of Independence from Britain.

The protest is due to take place on 12 April 2018, the anniversary of the proclamation that turned Swaziland from a democracy into a kingdom ruled by an absolute monarch.

In a statement (14 February 2018), the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) said, ‘The National Executive Committee noted two upcoming national events in the terms of double celebration (50/50 celebration) and National Elections as projects that has been historically synonymous with corruption and extravagant spending and depriving the people fundamental social services in the process. In accordance with the 2018 theme, the NEC resolved to stage a protest on the 12th of April against extravagant spending and corruption.’

Details of the protest have still to be finalised.

The 50/50 celebrations are to mark the 50th birthday this year of King Mwsati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and the 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain. It has already been announced that celebrations will take place on 19 April at Mavuso Trade and Exhibition Centre.
A budget of the equivalent of US$1.7 million has been given by the government. The Taiwan Government has donated US$1.3 million.

When similar celebrations took place in 2008 the cost of the so-called 40/40 celebrations overran by E32.6 million (about US$5 million at the then exchange rate). E17 million was budgeted but it ended up costing ‘at least’ E50.2 million. The exact figure is uncertain.

The celebrations took place at a time when Swaziland was under the pressure of savage financial cuts, imposed by the International Monetary Fund, after years of mismanagement of the economy by successive Swazi governments – all handpicked by King Mswati.

The intended SNUS protest is set for 12 April. This is an important date in Swaziland as it was on this day in 1973 that King Mswati’s father King Sobuza II issued a Royal Decree that banned all political parties and put all legislative, executive and judicial power in the hands of the King. Despite a Constitution that came into effect in 2006, the Decree has not been withdrawn.

Protests are held each year on the anniversary of 12 April.

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APRIL 12 2012

Friday, 16 February 2018


Swaziland’s Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini calls himself a ‘doctor’ although he has no such qualification.

A ‘doctor’ is someone who has a certified medical qualification or a Ph.D (doctor of philosophy) or similar (D.Litt, for example) that has been earned by publishing a substantial record of research. Barnabas Dlamini – sometimes known as Sibusiso Dlamini – has none of these.

Dlamini drew attention to his ‘doctor’ title in his just-published autobiography. He signs himself as ‘Dr’ in letters and is called ‘Doctor’ on the Swaziland Government’s official website.

However the truth is he has no such qualification.

He was awarded an honorary ‘doctor of laws’ by the state-run University of Swaziland (UNISWA) in 2008. The University has King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, as its Chancellor. Dlamini was not elected Prime Minister; he was personally appointed by the King.

Honorary doctorates are not ‘realdoctorates; in other words, being awarded an honorary doctorate is not the same as earning an actual doctorate. By convention, recipients of honorary doctorates do not use the titleDr.’ The title should not be used to further a career or be put on a resume. Honorary awards are designed to draw attention to the university bestowing the honour, since it ties them to the recipient.

Many receivers could paper a room with their doctorate scrolls: former US President Barack Obama has at least 13; Bill Clinton, at least 16. In 1996, Nelson Mandela received eight honorary degrees in a single day in London, UK.

There is a twist in the tail. Dlamini’s ‘doctorate’ was awarded by UNISWA, but no student has ever graduated from the university with a doctorate degree.

The level of educational achievement at the university was so low that there were doubts that it should be called a ‘university’ at all. In 2006, just before it awarded Dlamini the doctorate, 49.7 percent of UNISWA’s 1,370 students who graduated received certificates and diplomas, while 49.2 percent got bachelor degrees. Hardly anyone studied for graduate qualifications: that year, 14 students received masters degrees while only 51 students were studying for master degrees in the whole university. A university is supposed to be an institution of higher learning; UNISWA’s statistics made it look more like a tertiary college. This situation has improved slightly since Dlamini was awarded his honorary doctorate.

The awarding of honorary doctorates and degrees is controversial. In 1996, Long Island University’s Southampton College awarded an honorary Doctor of Amphibious Letters to Kermit the Frog for his work in education and in raising environmental awareness. Even though there were those who did not agree with the idea of bestowing the honour on a puppet, Kermit accepted the award and did indeed give an acceptance speech.

Richard Rooney

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Thursday, 15 February 2018


Swaziland’s Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini has said a newspaper in the kingdom was closed down because it published reports critical of his government.

He told a Cabinet retreat at the Pigg’s peak Hotel, ‘As the government we have seen people who are desperate to criticise us as their public servants at every opportunity. In the past we saw a certain news editor write only on government’s faults.’

The Swazi Observer reported his comments on Tuesday (13 February 2018). It said, ‘Dlamini said the editor in question would write volatile articles published in a certain newspaper every Monday resulting in the newspaper in question eventually being shut down for a period of time.’

The newspaper said, ‘The PM said by writing such scathing articles, the editor caused his newspaper to be shut down and this was unfortunate because a lot of innocent people suffered for one man’s mistakes.’

It added, ‘Although he did not mention names the only newspaper that was closed and later opened was the Swazi Observer. It was closed in 2000 during a time where Dr Dlamini was the PM.’

The PM’s comments come less than two months after the Swaziland Shopping newspaper was forced to close by government. It said it had not registered with Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology. This happened even though the newspaper had been publishing since 2014. It happened after the newspaper published a story about King Mswati III, the absolute monarch in Swaziland, and his business dealings. Editor Zweli Martin Dlamini fled to neighbouring South Africa after he received death threats

The story of the Observer’s closure in 2000 is an example of how media censorship in Swaziland works. The Observer was (and still is) owned by a conglomerate called Tibiyo Taka Ngwane headed by King Mswati but this did not stop it being closed.

It was closed after it published a series of stories critical of Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini the then Prime Minister and Edgar Hillary the Police Commissioner.

Mandla Magagula, wrote in the Nation magazine, an independent comment magazine in Swaziland, in April 2000, ‘The events which led to the sudden closure of the Swazi Observer tell a tale of high drama which could easily have come from a movie script. As the newspaper tried to live up to the principles of good journalism, political figures came down on the editorial team like the wrath of God and when they reached a deadlock closed it down.’

According to Magagula, the main characters in the drama were the Prime Minister, the Commissioner of Police, the managing director of Tibiyo Taka Ngwane A. T. Dlamini; and the Attorney General, Phesheya Dlamini.

The problem for the Observer started when the newspaper’s managing editor and his reporters refused to divulge the sources for stories the Observer had published.

The first was when the newspaper carried a story about the bombings of the Deputy Prime Minister’s office and the Mahlanya Inkhundla, saying that police were poised for a breakthrough arrest. When the story appeared the police commissioner claimed the Observer had interfered with a police investigation.

The second was a report based on a letter written by Edgar Hillary who was seeking the assistance of the South African Special Police Squad in the investigation of a millionaire from Manzini, who was on the run in South Africa.

The International Press Institute (IPI) at the time reported, ‘On the day the article appeared, [the managing editor] was summoned to Hillary’s offices where the journalist was once again reprimanded for the article and asked again to reveal his source.

‘The following day, [the managing editor] was summoned yet again to Hillary’s office for a meeting with Hillary and two other policemen. Speaking to MISA-Swaziland, [the managing editor] said that the second meeting amounted to a mini court session. He was called names such as a “bullying” and “irresponsible” journalist and was warned not to write any “rubbish” that could be published at a later date. He was also asked for the letter and for him to reveal his source, which he declined to do. At the end of the meeting he was warned that he could face criminal charges or face a High Court order because of his actions and his refusal to disclose his source.

‘[The managing editor] along with his news editor were summoned to the offices of the Attorney General, where they were once again pressured to give in to the demands of the police commissioner. The two were again asked to hand over the letter in question.’

The third story was when the Observer called the Prime Minister ‘a liar’ after he said he had left the Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister out of a delegation to open the new embassy of the Republic of China because government had no money. The Observer discovered that China had funded the trip.

The fourth was a story about cow dung that involved the Speaker of the House of Assembly.

The fifth was a story that an influential millionaire had plotted to have the prime Minister sacked.

The Swazi High Court turned down an urgent appeal from the Attorney General to force the newspaper to divulge its sources. Magagula reported that the ‘Attorney General personally went to Observer House [the offices of the Observer] and delivered the documents relating to the application with the dire warning that the newspaper would either divulge its sources or [the managing editor] and his two reporters would be locked up.’

A source told Magagula, ‘The Attorney General was all pomp and majesty until [the managing editor] brought him back to earth with the warning that this brazen harassment could attract unpleasant international repercussions. The AG stormed out of the newspaper offices without another word.’

After the police commissioner, Edgar Hillary had failed to get the newspaper to disclose his sources, A. T. Dlamini, the managing director of Tibiyo intervened on behalf of Hillary.

According to Magagula, the role of A. T. Dlamini ‘is particularly reprehensible because he showed himself to be a double-talker’. He had previously encouraged staff at the Observer to report ‘without fear or favour because he believed in editorial independence. But here he was harassing his top editorial executive.’

When the journalists refused to divulge their sources,
King Mswati III was consulted and, according to Magagula, he was ‘seemingly persuaded that the only way out of the quagmire was to close the newspaper’.

The IPI reported at the time, ‘The board of directors of the entire Swazi Observer group of papers announced on 17 February that the paper was being shut down. Chairman of the Board Timothy Nhleko called in the entire staff and in a one-minute address announced that the paper was being closed immediately and that everyone should vacate the premises.

‘In a written statement, the management said the closure was due to restructuring and financial reorganisation. However, MISA sources said that at a strategic planning meeting sponsored by the board and shareholders in the previous week, a five-year plan had been drawn up for the paper. According to the source, there was no indication of financial difficulties at the paper. Reliable sources in Swaziland claim that the order to close the newspaper came verbally from the King.’

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A E900 million (US$90 million) oil contract that was awarded without being tendered has been cancelled by the Swaziland Government after more than four years.
Kantey & Templer had been contracted to build a ‘Strategic Oil Reserve’ at Phuzumoya in the Lubombo region. It was to store up to 170 million litres of fuel. 

The project had the enthusiastic backing of King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The King receives 25 percent of all mineral income on Swaziland which he holds ‘in trust for the Swazi nation’. In reality he uses the money to fund a lavish lifestyle that includes at least 13 palaces, fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars and a private jet. He is due to take delivery of a second jet during 2018.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy is in the process of terminating the contract, the Observer on Saturday newspaper reported (10 February 2018). It said little progress had been made. 

In October 2013, King Mswati officially launched the construction of the project at a sod cutting ceremony. He said at the time, ‘The project that I bring to you today is one that is geared into transforming lives and take the entire region into higher heights.’

Construction was supposed to take two years and create 300 jobs.

Even though it had already missed its deadline, King Mswati, during the official opening of parliament in 2016, encouraged investors to take advantage of the project.

The project was surrounded in controversy. Once completed the facility would have a 90 million litres fuel capacity to last Swaziland 90 days. It would store 42 million litres of diesel and 38 million litres of petrol. No independent analysis had been undertaken to see if this was needed in Swaziland.
In January 2015, Swazi Media Commentary reported that media had been excluded from a House of Assembly session where a special Act of Parliament was passed to allow the Government to make the payment for the project. 

Members of parliament had previously rejected a Bill to guarantee the payment.

Claims of malpractice circulated in the kingdom and members of parliament were concerned that the lucrative contract had not put out to open tender. Media in Swaziland also reported that some people had registered imposter companies as part of a plan to destabilise the project.

After a year the project had not started. It emerged that the company originally contracted to build the project American Tank and Vessel (AT&V) had withdrawn from the contract.

The reason for the withdrawal of AT&V has not been explained publicly, but it is believed that the move was permitted under the terms of the company’s contract.

Then, without public consultation or going through the legal open tendering process, the contract was awarded to South African Company, Kantey & Templer Consulting Engineers.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported the Natural Resources and Energy Minister Jabulile Mshwama saying that ‘since His Majesty had already announced that work had to begin by cutting the sod, her ministry had been working round the clock that the project kick starts and according to Swazi custom once the King has spoken, things have to be done.’

She said that Kantey & Templer Consulting Engineers had previously erected fuel reserve tanks at the King Mswati III International Airport. 

When a Government Bill was first introduced to the House of Assembly, members of parliament threw it out. The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported, ‘The MPs had tossed out the Bill after concerns had been raised about why the tender for the construction of the about E900m facility had not been an open one and they also questioned the particulars of Kantey & Templer Proprietary Limited (Swaziland) [a company formed to oversee the project]. 

‘The MPs had said all government ministries were expected to adhere to the provisions of the Procurement Act without first resorting to the single provision in the same Act even when the requirements of same are not met by the project at hand as it was in this present case.’ 

The Times Sunday, an independent newspaper, reported, ‘MPs are unhappy that other companies were not engaged, through an open tendering system, to bid for the multimillion project.  Suspicion reached high levels when the MPs learnt that a closed tendering system was used to engage the South African company to embark on the project. The nature of the suspicions cannot be repeated for now.’

The Sunday Observer, another newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported that individuals were trying to destabilise the project. It reported, ‘Two prominent individuals identified as being behind the hijack include a present cabinet minister and a businessman who also happens to be a former cabinet minister.’ 

The newspaper reported, ‘An individual close to the project confided that there is serious lobbying, by those who want a stake in the project, to have it stalled.  “The very same people who wanted to register impostor companies are the ones who are now lobbying members of parliament and cabinet ministers to have the project grounded. They are doing this to serve their own selfish interests. They want to create bad publicity around Kantey & Templer and the project in the hope that the tender award would be cancelled,” the well-informed individual said.’ 

Senators also questioned the awarding of the tender. The Observer on Sunday reported, ‘Senator Chief Kusa had also strongly questioned why the initial company AT&V had suddenly withdrew from the project and questioned how the whole project was costed and how the tendered company Kantey & Templer was eventually awarded tender. 

‘Senator Chief Kekela also wondered if the credibility of the company was considered as the country has experienced a number of projects that have failed as a result of companies whose profiles and credibility was not considered. “We have seen companies that have come and made heavenly promises that have however not come to effect and failed and I must say I do not want to work on risks here as a risk is dangerous, we should not therefore risk with the Swazi people,” the Senator said.’

In February 2018, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy told the Observer on Saturday, ‘The contractor [Kantey & Templer] did not meet the agreed upon timelines and we are working within the framework of the agreement for the next steps in this project. It is envisaged that the project will be returned to tendering in the very near future.’

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Wednesday, 14 February 2018


Police officers in Swaziland have been accused of illegally smuggling mealie-meal into the kingdom from South Africa.

A police car was spotted taking at least 15 bags of 12.5 kg meal across the border at Ngwenya-Oshoek, the Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland reported (11 February 2018). There is a 20kg quota for individuals to import the meal which is also known as corn meal or maize meal. 

The newspaper said one of its own reporters witnessed a police car being loaded with mealie-meal and an officer driving through the border post, ‘without formality, save for the driver greeting officers manning the South African entry point’. It happened on Wednesday  7 February 2018 at about 11.20 a.m.

The car was later seen delivering mealie-meal to Mbabane Central High school.

The newspaper reported, ‘A police officer admitted that some superiors or those with authority to drive vehicles used them to buy mealie-meal on a regular basis, which they suspect is resold locally.’ 

The Observer quoted an unnamed police officer saying, ‘They buy in bulk, which I suspect is not for personal consumption because they buy several bags at a time in any case.’

Police are investigating.

There have been a number of allegations of police corruption in Swaziland. In June 2017, National Commissioner of Police Isaac Magagula announced an investigation into reports officers helped to smuggle illegal foreigners into the kingdom.

In December 2017, Mbabane Magistrates Court was told of an officer selling fake driving licences.
In June 2017, people in Mahlangatsha accuse armed police of forcefully taking away the marijuana (known locally as dagga) that they had illegally farmed and selling it.

In June 2017, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported the kingdom, which is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was riddled with corruption in both private and public places.

It said, ‘The results of grand corruption are there for all to see in the ever increasing wealth of high-level civil servants and officers of state.’ 

It added, ‘For a long time the police, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade as well as the Department of Customs and Excise have often been implicated in corrupt practices.’

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Police officers in Swaziland have been caught on video brutally attacking a woman. One uses a stone to repeatedly assault her.

This is not the first time police have assaulted civilians in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland published stills (11 February 2018).

The newspaper reported the incident happened at Lukhula on Monday 5 February 2018. Two traffic officers based in Siteki were involved. The Observer reported the officers who it named only as Mkhwanazi and Simelane were, ‘seen forcefully shoving a woman, Phum’lile Maseko into a police sedan. During the scuffle, officer Mkhwanazi picks up a stone to brutally assault the defenceless Maseko repeatedly. 

‘In an agonising voice, Maseko is heard screaming uyangilimata, akusimi! (you are hurting me, it is not me) while the police officer continuously assaults her and ordering her to let loose of his police uniform’s jacket. Maseko is holding on to Mkhwanazi’s jacket for dear life, refusing to get into the police car. 

‘At first, before assaulting her, the officer attacked her with fists several times. After realising that she is not letting go of his jacket, the officer bends down to pick up a nearby stone and goes on to use it as a weapon. 

‘Onlookers are heard in the background shouting for him to leave the woman alone, screaming that she had done nothing wrong. Despite this, the police officer continues to hit her hard with the stone.

‘But, they then realise they are being filmed by use of a cellphone, and they quickly shift their focus to the person recording the incident and Maseko finally manages to escape from the clutches of these brutal officers. 

‘In the skirmish, both Maseko and the person recording the incident, identified as Thabiso had their phones extensively damaged by the officers.’ 

Maseko told the newspaper she was at Lukhula to sell grilled mealies to passengers and on-goers.

The Observer quoted Maseko saying, ‘While I was watching the police pushing and shoving Celimpilo Mashaba, a quantum conductor I came close to the scene to watch the drama.’ The newspaper reported police said his vehicle was wrongly parked.

The newspaper added, ‘One of the police officers approached her across the road and allegedly dragged her to where the sedan was parked. The traffic cops were accusing Maseko of opening a door of the police sedan and in doing so letting Mashaba out of the vehicle.’

The Observer reported, ‘Not only do the cops smash the phone on the ground, they are also heard hurling expletives, calling Mashaba by his mother’s private parts, and onlookers are heard shouting at the police officer and also telling Mashaba to go open a case against him.’

Maseko said she suffered injuries to her hand, bruises and some chest pains.

This is not the first case of police assaulting civilians in Swaziland. In December 2017, police attacked people at an illegal drinking den at Ezulwini with guns and whips in what The Observer on Saturday at the time called, ‘the truest form of brutality’.

‘Gunshots were heard with the sizeable number of police officers literally going out of their way to assault the patrons hitting them randomly with whips (tinsilane) and fists,’ the newspaper said. It added, ‘Most patrons  were forced to run helter-skelter into the thick of night in a panic and in the process getting hurt by barbed wires on the fence.’

In August 2017, at least 15 armed police officers shot at an suspected drink-driver in Manzini leaving his car riddled with more than 20 bullet holes. The Times of Swaziland reported at the time the driver Wandile Bhembe, aged 30, said he had not seen the traffic cops because they had the headlights of their cars switched off. The Times reported Bhemebe saying, ‘While trying to open the door and preparing to get off, the cops dragged me into a nearby drainage and severely assaulted me all over the body using fists, kicks and open hands.’ Bhembe ended up in hospital with injuries all over his body, especially to his head, mouth and chest, the Times reported.

Also in August 2017, a security guard told Mbabane court a female police officer sat on his face and other officers assaulted him after they accused him of stealing motor parts.

In March 2017, A man accused of multiple murders told a court he was tortured by police for 11 days to force him to confess. He said he was suffocated with a tube and assaulted all over his body, resulting in many serious injuries. The alleged attack was said to have taken place at Lobamba Police Station, the Manzini Magistrates’ Court was told.

In January 2017, local media reported police forced a 13-year-old boy to remove his trousers and flogged him with a sjambok, to make him confess to stealing a mobile phone. 

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.

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Tuesday, 13 February 2018


The wife of Swaziland’s Correctional Services Commissioner General Mzuthini Ntshangase is among a number of officers reportedly promoted in secret.

Nothando Ntshangase, aged 31, was promoted from superintendent to senior superintendent, and is believed to be the youngest senior superintendent in the kingdom. She is now second in command at the Mawelawela facility.

She is one of a number of jail officers who have been promoted in secret, according to the Swazi Observer newspaper. The newspaper first reported on 1 February 2018 that promotions ‘had been kept secret from the preying eyes of the media’. It said that in the past media had been informed of promotions. This time, it said, ‘The promotions were never shared with the media as per the norm because previously the media questioned the promotion of a particular officer, who is also said to be on the current list of officers promoted.’

It quoted ‘disgruntled officers’ as sources. It said, ‘The sources say the officer is young but has been elevated numerous times in what has been regarded as a “bedroom appointment” as many qualified and qualifying officers have been disregarded for appointments in favour of the officer concerned.

‘The officer is said to treated like royalty within the department and is availed many privileges that even some superiors are not getting.’

In the report it did not name the officer involved.

On 8 February 2018, the Swazi Observer reported, ‘Warder Nothando Ntshangase, who is wife to Correctional Services Commissioner General Mzuthini, is among the officers whose promotion has been kept a secret.’

It added, ‘The 31-year-old, who has been with the service for less than a decade, and has been promoted many a time, assumed her new duties last week beginning of this month.’ She has been married to the Commissioner General for eight years.

The Observer quoted an unnamed source. ‘The source further alleged that the rise by Ntshangase to the rank of Senior Superintendent so quickly had come as a surprise to many within the department as there were people who had been in the department for a very long time and they had not even made it to the rank of sergeant.’

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Swaziland prison warders attacked a journalist in a public street when he took photographs of them travelling in the backs of overcrowded vehicles.

It happened near Kwaluseni. Swazi Observer photographer Lucky Simelane was on his way to cover a job for the newspaper when he saw a convoy of two vans and a truck of officers from His Majesty’s Correctional Services.

The Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (7 February 2018), ‘The correctional services officers who were travelling in an overloaded truck and two vans caught the attention of the public as they were packed like sardines in the truck and vehicles.’

Simelane decided to take photographs.

The newspaper said, ‘While everyone was surprised as to why the two cars had suddenly stopped in the middle of the road about 10 correctional officers from both cars sprang out asking why the journalist was taking pictures.’

The officers started grabbing the camera from the journalist who was still seated inside his car. 

The Observer reported, ‘More officers came to the car which was transporting the photojournalist and a reporter. Soon the road turned to a sea of green as officers blocked the vehicle demanding that the photo journalist hand over his camera. 

‘Some officers went to the extent of trying to snatch the camera from the journalist however the journalist held on to the camera as it was also strapped around his neck making it hard for the officers to take it.’

The car with the journalists sped off. 

His Majesty’s Correctional Services is one of three arms of state security in Swaziland which is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The others are the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) and the Royal Swaziland Police Service (RSPS).

In 2013 a Swaziland police officer pointed a gun in the face of a newspaper photographer to try to force him to destroy pictures he had taken of police beating up a protestor. Walter Dlamini, of the Times Sunday, had taken photos at Gege where police had broken up a peaceful protest march by youth in the area. They were protesting against alleged irregularities at the recent election.

The Times Sunday reported at the time, ‘Dlamini’s only sin was taking pictures of some police officers who were mercilessly beating a protestor, who was only identified by his name Brother next to a police vehicle. The officer pointed a short gun at Dlamini’s face and demanded why he took pictures of the officers who were at work. 

‘The intervention of his colleague Mduduzi Magagula saved the day as the officer was informed to stop interfering with the work of journalists. He left in a huff as the reporters told him that the pictures they had taken would not be deleted.’

In an editorial comment, the paper’s companion title, the Times of Swaziland, said, ‘The casual work-a-day savagery of these police officers and their sense of entitlement to brutalising Swazi citizens with impunity goes a long way to explaining why they would attack with teargas and batons what was a peaceful protest march before their intervention; once again proving the police are responsible for much of the violence that erupts during protests.’

Police later apologised.

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Monday, 12 February 2018


University students in Swaziland have boycotted classes and marched on the government protesting against unpaid and inadequate allowances.

The University of Swaziland (UNISWA) and the Southern African Nazarene University (SANU) have been affected.

The problem of delayed student allowances is not new as public services across the kingdom have been hit by the Swazi Government mishandling of the economy. Hospitals and health centres have run dry of medicines and blood. Schools are unable to run vital food programs for starving children and schools are without teachers.

SANU students were due to march and deliver a petition to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Swaziland Higher Education Council (SHEC) on Monday (12 February 2018). The petition came after a class boycott that started at the previous Wednesday and is continuing.

Students at SANU have a number of issues included in their petition including delayed payment of allowances for first-year students, withholding of ongoing students allowances, unreasonable allowance reduction, lack of project allowances, exorbitant fees and poor infrastructure.

Students at UNISWA have also boycotted classes and marched to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in protest over delayed and inadequate allowances. A total of 634 students received their allowances last Wednesday but this did not end the protests as this did not include students at UNISWA’s main Kwaluseni campus.

At the end of January 2018 at least 11 students from Swaziland Christian University were arrested protesting about delays in receiving allowances and problems over graduation. A local newspaper report said police fired live bullets during the protest.

Meanwhile, William Pitcher Teacher’s Training College is also closed indefinitely after a strike over allowances. The students were ordered to vacate the premises and those who were to be found on the premises were informed that they would be charged with trespassing.

The Swazi Government always delays payment of allowances at the beginning of university semesters and this leads to student protests.  After the start of the previous semester in October 2017 armed police entered college campuses in Swaziland as students across the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch boycotted classes.

Police were at the UNISWA; the private university, Limkokwing; and also at the William Pitcher teacher training college. Campuses had been closed and reopened across Swaziland several times since the semester began nearly two months previously. The Government had promised to pay all allowances by the end of September but this had not been done. 

The Times of Swaziland reported at the time that an officer from the riot squad the Operational Support Service Unit (OSSU) injured his hand at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology when a stun grenade prematurely went off.

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Some schools in Swaziland report they have not received text books and other materials to teach Christianity, a year after the subject was made compulsory without consultation.

School principals said they had been promised all the material by government but they had not received anything, the Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (7 February 2018).

It quoted principals in schools in the Manzini region who did not want to be named. One said schools were compelled to buy pupils bibles.  ‘The pupils informed us that they struggled during the exams as they had no clue of the exam paper.’

The Observer quoted a principal saying, ‘The Ministry of Education and Training should strive to provide quality education and address all the critical issues facing all the schools in the country, rather than for them to improvise for some schools, while neglecting some.’

The Ministry denied books and materials had not been delivered.

In January 2018 Minister of Education and Training Phineas Magagula said there was not enough money to fund teaching of Christianity. About E33 million (US2.6 million) was needed to fund 169 extra teachers.

The new policy that only Christianity and no other religion could be taught in schools was announced in January 2017. Previously, the Religious Education syllabus included Christianity, Islam, Baha’i faith and Swazi ancestors. The decision reportedly came from the Swazi Cabinet, which is handpicked by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. There was no consultation with schools.

The move was controversial. Teaching only Christianity could be against the spirit, if not the letter, of the Swazi Constitution. When the 2005 Constitution was being drafted, it was decided not to insist that Swaziland was a Christian country. This was to encourage freedom of religion. 

In January 2017, Lawyers for Human Rights spokesperson Sabelo Masuku said although Swaziland was predominantly Christian, the Government had to consider the Swazi Constitution which made it clear there was freedom of religious choice. 

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) President Freedom Dlamini criticised the way the new syllabus was introduced. In a statement he said, ‘Our education system was immediately thrown back into the dark ages, not that we had ever got out.’

Dlamini added, ‘We don't want to create religious fundamentalists from our future generation, a predicament that some nations are finding themselves in today.’

According to the CIA World factbook religion in Swaziland is broken down as Zionist (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship) 40 percent, Roman Catholic 20 percent, Muslim 10 percent, other (includes Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish) 30 percent.

See also