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Thursday, 10 June 2021

Swaziland absolute monarch bid to gag critical Swazi newspaper in S. African court

In an unprecedented move King Mswati III, the absolute ruler of Swaziland (eSwatini), and his government are taking a Swazi newspaper to court in South Africa to stop it publishing articles critical of the king.

They have filed at the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court an application to compel the Swaziland News, an online newspaper, and its editor Zweli Martin Dlamini, to give at least seven days’ notice before publishing any article which is ‘defamatory and or critical’ of the king and or the Government, Ministers or any member of the Swazi Royal Family.

The king also wants the editor to send any written story and or content to the Government official spokesperson and his deputy before publication and give them seven days to ‘read the whole story so they can comment accordingly’.

Avulekha Amazulu (Pty) Ltd, the company that provides the website is also included in the application.

The application is being opposed.

Swaziland is not a democracy and press freedom is severely restricted. Comments critical of the king are not permitted and most media houses and journalists self-censor rather than face harassment and legal problems.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network, a pro-democracy group banned in Swaziland under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, said in a statement, ‘Since its registration in the Republic [of South Africa] the newspaper has flourished. Far away from the Royal censorship in the kingdom, it is able to publish eye opening stories of how the king and his family are abusing their political power.

‘When they are not spending excessive amounts of the country’s meagre resources, they are illegally evicting poor sugar cane farmers from their only source of livelihood. These stories contradict the image of king Mswati as a “God king”. At best they portray him as an evil hearted greedy king not deserving of the reins of power. At worst he is the devil himself.’

The Swaziland News editor, Zweli Martin Dlamini, has been a constant thorn in the King’s side. In April 2020 he wrote and published reports that King Mswati had tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) and had been taken to hospital with breathing problems. This was denied by the Palace at the time, but proved to be correct.

Dlamini had reportedly fled to neighbouring South Africa in March 2020 for the second time. He said he had been arrested and tortured by Swazi police who accused him of sedition.

Also, on 7 February 2020, The Swaziland News reported Dlamini was being harassed and receiving death threats from King Mswati’s first born daughter Princess Sikhanyiso, who is the Minister of Information Communication and Technology.

Dlamini had previously fled to South Africa in fear of his life in 2017. He had received death threats from a local businessman before his newspaper Swaziland Shopping was shut down by the Swazi government when the newspaper’s registration under the Books and Newspapers Act 1963 was declined by the Swazi Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology.

See also

Swaziland absolute monarch sets lawyers on critical online newspaper


Swaziland King in another press freedom row after website accuses him of business wrongdoing

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Swaziland asked for 500,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine, set to get 14,400

Swaziland (eSwatini) is due to receive its first coronavirus vaccines since March 2021, Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi, said on Tuesday (8 June 2021).

The Swazi Government had made similar promises about vaccine delivery in the past that were not fulfilled.

To date only about 35,000 doses have been administered in the kingdom which has a population of about 1.1 million people.

The Minister herself was among the first people in Swaziland – along with absolute monarch King Mswati III, the Royal Family and other Cabinet ministers – to receive a jab.

In a statement, Nkosi said the kingdom would receive 14,400 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX Facility, which is a global initiative to get coronavirus (COVID) vaccines to poorer countries.  It was due to arrive on Tuesday. Swaziland had asked for 500,000 doses.

To be effective a person needs to take two doses over a period of about 12 weeks.

Nkosi said, ‘These doses will be used to provide second doses for all the healthcare workers who received their first doses.’

She added healthcare workers who did not get vaccinated first time would have a chance now.

She said, ‘The remaining doses will be prioritised for the members of the public that will have become due to receive their second doses whilst the Ministry continues to work on bringing 500,000 doses from AstraZeneca.’

See also

Swaziland fails to hit own deadline to get 500,000 coronavirus vaccines

Monday, 31 May 2021

Swaziland fails to hit own deadline to get 500,000 coronavirus vaccines

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government has missed its own deadline to get additional coronavirus vaccines into the kingdom.

So far only 35,000 doses have been distributed among the population of more than 1.1 million.

The Swazi Ministry of Health has repeatedly said over past weeks that 500,000 more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would arrive by the end of May 2021.

But the doses have not arrived. Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi said in a statement there would be a ‘slight delay’. No firm date was given.

She said, some new requirements have had to be incorporated into the agreement with AstraZeneca to access these vaccines.

There is now doubt whether those people who received jabs would get a second dose in time for it to be effective. There should be a 12 week delay between jabs. She said, ‘This, therefore, means that the next two weeks are critical in ensuring that we get doses into the country.’

In an update on the state of play with other coronavirus (COVID-19), she said,

‘Pfizer: Our negotiations are at an advanced stage. We have received the head of terms which have undergone all legal reviews including the Attorney General’s Office and we are on the verge of signing. We are yet to receive a delivery date. Government funding will be utilised for purchasing of these doses.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J): Engagements with J&J, through the African Union, are ongoing and the earliest expected delivery is slated for August 2021. We will receive doses from the COVAX facility and will also utilise the funding we have from Government and the Republic of China (Taiwan) for purchasing of additional doses.

Moderna: With financial support from the Kirsh Foundation, we continue with our negotiations with Moderna. We are waiting to hear next steps from them and if all goes well, delivery will be in Q3 and these vaccines will be prepaid by the Kirsh Foundation.

‘COVAX facility: We have received updated correspondence this week on the delivery of the next batch of 14 400 doses. They are in the process of finalising the logistics of getting the vaccines in-country, which will confirm the exact delivery date.

Sputnik V: Bilateral negotiations are ongoing with the Gamaleya Institute to secure doses of the Russian Sputnik vaccine. As this vaccine has yet to receive approval, we continue to follow up with the WHO, SADC Regional Medicines Authority Harmonisation Initiative (ZAZIBONA) that we are part of and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) on approval of Sputnik V to enable its safe use in the country and in the region.’

See also

Total 86 health workers die from coronavirus at single Swaziland hospital

Swaziland runs out of coronavirus vaccines, only 35,000 people treated

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Five in court after Swaziland police-provoked protests turn violent

Five students appeared in court in Swaziland (eSwatini) following anti-police protests that turned violent.

Three were remanded to a maximum security prison and two were granted bail prior to a trail at the Swazi High Court.

They were arrested on Friday (21 May 2021) before a memorial service for Thabani Nkomonye, a 25-year-old law student.

Nkomonye died in suspicious circumstances and there is widespread feeling in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch that he was killed by police.

The five arrested were Bongumenzi Gamedze, Hlengiwe Magagula, Khumbulani Nxumalo, Siphosethu Mavimbela and the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) Secretary General, Bafanabakhe Sacolo.

They were charged with various offences, including malicious damage and vandalism. The police post at Fairview was badly damaged.

According to local media reports police fired teargas and rubber bullets at the memorial service on Friday.

The Swazi Government had banned large gatherings, saying they broke restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus crisis.

Nombulelo Motsa, President of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Swaziland told Swati Newsweek, ‘We protested in Manzini City demanding justice for Thabani Nkomonye. However police dispersed us at Manzini. We left for the memorial at St Paul’s High School. The police followed us and dispersed us. They fired rubber bullets and teargas at the mourners.’

The Swaziland News reported, ‘Information gathered suggests that the protesters arrived at the police post armed with stones and vandalized the post, two officers allegedly tried in vain to stop them after firing shots in the air.’

The eSwatini Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported ‘dozens had to be rushed to hospitalafter police fired teargas canisters and gunshots at mourners’.

Reporting from the memorial service, the Observer said, ‘What at first started off as a peaceful service, with every other speaker commending how well behaved the youth was during the service, but until the police arrived, all hell broke loose. Seeing the police armoured vehicles making their way through the gate to the sports ground, there was shouting from a section amongst the attendees, demanding that the men in blue make a return as they were not welcome.

‘It seemed the police had one thing in mind – to hurt and make everyone cry. And that was achieved. Teargas canisters were directly shot where the masses were seated, as they bulldozed their way through the gate in their armoured paramilitary police vehicles. What followed was a stampede as mourners ran in all directions with teary eyes from the teargas.

‘The police were not fazed even by the wailing of elderly women and children, who had come to attend the memorial service. The elderly and the weak were trodden upon as a result of the stampede, while others collapsed as they suffocated from the teargas smoke. It was like a replay of the South African movie depicting the treatment suffered by black people during the apartheid regime.

‘The angry youth retaliated with stones. Cars that were parked by the entrance to the sports ground, from where the police were firing shots at first, were left damaged with windows shattered as the angry students fought back.

‘In a sheer act of force display, the police bulldozed their way into the stadium as they continued firing teargas canisters. At this point, some young women were already injured and crying hysterically and couldn’t breathe. The police gave chase as everyone escaped for dear life. The stadium was filled with white smoke, chairs and tables were left upside down. Seeing that their mission had been achieved, the police from the paramilitary wing, OSSU, withdrew and everyone was left worried sick about the injured and collapsed mourners.

‘The sounds of crying women echoed throughout the Fairview community, as others thought the collapsed had died. While people were being rushed in different cars to hospital, others came from corners and bushes, where they had sought refuge in search of water or any tap in sight from the nearby houses.’

See also

Swaziland P. M. tells police to halt public demonstrations as anger spreads following suspicious death

Monday, 24 May 2021

Swaziland media reporting of coronavirus was inadequate, UNESCO reports

Media reporting of the coronavirus pandemic in Swaziland (eSwatini) was inadequate, according to a new UNESCO report.

News concentrated on the statistics and mostly official Swazi Government sources were used in reports.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) studied nine countries in southern Africa, including Swaziland.

Overall, UNESCO reported ‘Most notably, reporting the pandemic has focused on the numbers. This was mostly motivated by statistics on infection rates, recoveries and deaths released by health authorities.’

It added, ‘The main gaps in professional reportage of the pandemic was in the low representation of women’s voices, citizen’s voices, young and elderly people and rural communities in news on Covid-19 in all countries. This meant that perspectives on Covid-19 were heard from men, official figures and urban communities. Other perspectives could however have enriched coverage, particularly understanding how different groups perceived the pandemic and its effects on their lives. This marginalisation of social groups meant that there was little inclusivity and diversity in overall reporting on the pandemic.’

In Swaziland, sixty percent of sources in news reports were men. Only 1 percent of stories were specifically from rural area.

The report said, ‘The media in the region rarely questioned or interrogated issues, numbers and claims they acquired from their sources in compiling Covid-19 articles. Some claims were presented as fact without the media putting disclaimers on such information.’

UNESCO researched news websites from 1 March to 31 August 2020.

See also

Total 86 health workers die from coronavirus at single Swaziland hospital