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Monday, 19 November 2018

Swaziland King’s newspaper reports ‘assassination attempt’ on Prince Sicelo

A newspaper in Swaziland / Eswatini has reported what it calls an ‘assassination’ attempt against Prince Sicelo, a prominent member of the Swazi Royal Family.

The Sunday edition of the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III the absolute ruler in Swaziland, reported Sicelo was the victim of a drive-by shooting.

In the headline to its story the Observer said he had been ‘left for dead’.

The Observer reported (18 November 2018) Prince Sicelo was driving a white seven-seater vehicle at  Malagwane Hill near Mbabane when he was pursued by another vehicle that flashed its lights.

It reported he slowed down ‘ready to engage his pursuers’.

It added, ‘Just as the vehicle reached his side, he is said to have heard a loud banging sound which left him disoriented.

‘Seeing as he was slowing down, he is said to have involuntarily continued pressing his foot on the brakes as he moved further to the side of the road.

‘While in shock at the occurrence, still not aware that he had been shot, he is said to have heard two people approach the vehicle.’

The Observer said the attack happened on 20 September 2018 but details had only just emerged. It reported he lost consciousness for a while but later woke up and drove himself to the Mbabane Clinic where he was admitted for a week while being treated.

It reported he was ‘left for dead’ but added only one shot was fired and this lodged in his thigh.

It reported the attack as an ‘assassination attempt’ and said police later found a gun that it believed was used in the shooting.

Prince Sicelo is a controversial member of the Swazi Royal Family. Alleged exploits in his personal life are widely reported on social media.

Swaziland is an absolute monarchy. Political parties are banned from taking part in national elections and the King appoints the Prime Minister and Cabinet members. The attack on Prince Sicelo happened on the day before the national election in September 2018.

See also

PM speaks of ‘assassination threat’

Friday, 16 November 2018

Legitimacy and credibility of Swaziland election hampered by political parties ban, UN group reports

The ‘legitimacy and credibility’ of the recent national election in Swaziland / Eswatini was ‘significantly hampered’ because political parties are banned in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, according to a United Nations group.

The King has ‘excessive powers’ in the appointment of the Government, Parliament and the judiciary, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) said in a report just published.

It follows a visit to Swaziland on 6 to 8 November 2018 to review a number of human rights issues outlined in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The HRC reported, ‘According to the Constitution of Eswatini (Swaziland), the system of Government is based on the Tinkhundla, in which individual merit is a basis for election and appointment into public office. In practice, this translates in a system where the King has excessive powers appointment over the Government, Parliament and the judiciary, incompatible with article 25 of the ICCPR.’

Elections for the House of Assembly took place on 21 September 2018. Political parties were banned from taking part. The people were only allowed to elect 59 members of the House, a further 10 were appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swazi Senate were elected by the people; 10 were elected by the House of assembly and 20 appointed by the King.

Following the election the King appointed a Prime Minister and Cabinet in contravention of the Swaziland Constitution. He also appointed six members of his Royal Family to the House of Assembly and eight to the Senate.

In its report the Human Rights Committee said, ‘The legitimacy and credibility of the elections was significantly hampered by the design of the electoral mechanisms as a culture of political pluralism is lacking. There is no freedom of genuine and pluralistic political debate, political parties are unable to register, contest elections, field candidates or otherwise participate in the formation of a Government. 

‘Political organisations have tried to challenge the Government to allow at least individual candidates to express their affiliation to political parties during the election campaigning period in order to promote steps towards political plurality. On 20 July 2018, the High Court of Eswatini dismissed an application brought by SWADEPA for an interim order allowing individual candidates to express their affiliation to political parties during the election campaign period.’

Swaziland ratified the ICCPR in 2004 and its initial report on progress was due by 2005, but by 2017 it had failed to report. After such a long delay the HRC reviewed of the kingdom in the absence of report. The November visit was an attempt to review progress since then.

See also

Swaziland quizzed on terror law
https://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2017/06/swaziland-quizzed-on-terror-law.html

Thursday, 15 November 2018

LGBT Pride film shows what it’s like to live with prejudice and ignorance in Swaziland

A ground-breaking documentary on life in Swaziland / Eswatini as an LGBT person has been released. It focusses on the first ever Pride event that took place in the absolute monarchy in June 2018.

Homosexuality is illegal in Swaziland and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) people are routinely discriminated against in the kingdom ruled since 1986 by King Mswati III. He has reportedly described homosexuality as being ‘satanic’ 

Riyadh Khalaf made a documentary Fighting For Pride: Swaziland with the assistance of YouTube’s Creators For Change project. It can be viewed on YouTube.

In an interview with Gay Times, he said there were three main contributors in the film, ‘A gay guy named Mlando, a lesbian called Alex, and a trans woman called Polycarp, and it was amazing to see that each of them had their own struggle, but their struggles were very individual. 

‘So the gay guy, Mlando, actually fled Swaziland to neighbouring South Africa to have a somewhat free and open life. He just couldn’t live as his true self in his home country, and it was devastating that he had to leave. But he made that journey back to his homeland for this Pride, which was a huge moment for him. There were tears in the interview, and he couldn’t believe it was finally happening in Swaziland, talking about his father beating him as a kid for not being masculine enough. 

‘Then we had the lesbian side which was fascinating, because they’re not believed to be lesbians, the men think that these women just haven’t seen the light, and that they need to basically just get their shit together and realise they actually fancy men. That’s why in Swaziland there have been corrective rapes of women, to try and snap them out of it, and if you say you’re a lesbian, what you’ll often hear is that the men will be really offended, like, “How dare you not be attracted to me?”

‘And then for the trans woman, Polycarp, that’s the most difficult story. She’s essentially terrified for her life every time she leaves her house. She doesn’t always “pass” when she’s out in public, so she speaks of being afraid of people coming up to her, grabbing her hair, pulling her into a ditch, and she said that her auntie tried to send her to a pastor to rid her of her possessions because she believes she has a demon. Her parents understand that she’s trans but beg her to present as a man for the sake of the family. So it’s multi-level and it’s just a constant battle with your identity and society and trying to find this middle ground where you can be who you are without offending everyone else.’

There is a great deal of prejudice against LGBT people in Swaziland. In May 2016, Rock of Hope, which campaigns for LGBTI equality in Swaziland and organised the Pride event, reported to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review on Swaziland that laws, social stigma and prejudice prevented LGBTI organisations from operating freely.

The report, presented jointly with three South African-based organisations, stated, ‘In Swaziland sexual health rights of LGBT are not protected. There is inequality in the access to general health care, gender affirming health care as opposed to sex affirming health care and sexual reproductive health care and rights of these persons. HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care services continue to be hetero-normative in nature only providing for specific care for men born as male and women born as female, thereby leaving out trans men and women as an unprotected population which continues to render the state’s efforts at addressing the spread and incidence of HIV within general society futile.’

The report added, ‘LGBTs are discriminated and condemned openly by society. This is manifest in negative statements uttered by influential people in society e.g., religious, traditional and political leaders. Traditionalists and conservative Christians view LGBTs as against Swazi tradition and religion. There have been several incidents where traditionalists and religious leaders have issued negative statements about lesbians.   

‘Human rights abuses and violations against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex population continue to go undocumented, unreported, unprosecuted and not addressed.’

It added, ‘There is no legislation recognizing LGBTs or protecting the right to a non-heterosexual orientation and gender identity and as a result LGBT cannot be open about their orientation or gender identity for fear of rejection and discrimination. For example, the Marriage Act, only recognizes a marriage or a union between a man and a woman. Because of the absence of a law allowing homosexuals to conclude neither marriage nor civil unions, same-sex partners cannot adopt children in Swaziland.’

See also

LGBTI Pride gets global attention
Kingdom’s first LGBTI Pride takes place
‘Observer’ steps up LGBTI hate campaign

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Remembering Black Wednesday, the day armed forces invaded the University of Swaziland

The fourteenth of November marks the anniversary of the time Swaziland soldiers invaded the University of Swaziland and according to independent witnesses beat students with sickening brutality.

It happened in 1990 and each year on or about this day students and others commemorate the events.

Dr. Joshua Mzizi, a theology lecturer at UNISWA at the time (and now deceased), called the event which became known as Black Wednesday a ‘sceptic sore’ in the history of UNISWA. In an account that appears in the book Religion and Politics in Swaziland he recounts that ‘a combined army of young soldiers and the police were ordered to flog students at the Kwaluseni campus.

‘The students were beaten under the pretext that they had refused to vacate the campus after the Senate had ordered that it be closed.’

Students had begun boycotting classes on 12 November in protest of a lack of faculty lecturers, poor food conditions, and the suspension of a popular young sociology lecturer for promoting democracy in Swaziland, according to another eyewitness, Michael Prosser, a professor from the United States who was working at UNISWA.

In Mzizi’s account, ‘A great number of students had assembled in the library where they thought no one in their right senses would disturb their peace. But their action was perceived as potentially volatile; hence the safety of the library and the entire campus could not be assured.’

Mzizi writes one version of events was that students threatened to burn the library down but another was that they were peaceful and non-threatening.

Mzizi personally witnessed events. He wrote, ‘The brutality of the armed forces was sickening to say the least. There was blood and torn limbs, all inflicted on defenceless and fleeing students.

‘Students were chased from the library via the front of the administration building to the main car park where another bunch of blood-thirsty soldiers kicked them with boots, batons and guns to escort them to the gate.’

Prosser also witnessed brutality He wrote an account on his own webpage, ‘The young soldiers broke into the library and the student hostels, dragging students out, beating both men and women with their night sticks on their arms and legs, and forcing them to run a gauntlet toward the front gate while the soldiers gave them sharp blows.

‘The soldiers taunted the students: “We’ll beat the English out of you.” They were especially vicious toward the women. The soldiers had been stationed that day at the high school next door to the campus and drank lots of beer before they attacked the campus, making them even more violent than otherwise so likely.

‘A neighbor warned us that at 10pm, soldiers would search our houses and arrest any students found there or on campus. Two Canadian families and I, in a caravan of three autos, took 11 frightened Swazi students in the three cars to the front gate to take them to safety.

‘With a gun pointed at the first driver’s cheek, he got permission from the guard to leave the campus with the students. In the swirling rain, lightening, and thunderstorm, we took the students to safe shelters. When we returned to campus late in the evening, two soldiers were posted all night in the back and in the front of our houses.

‘With some students, I drove to the nearby hospital where more than 120 students had received emergency treatment. We visited more than a dozen badly injured students. We learned that soldiers possibly had injured as many as 300-400 and had killed perhaps as many as two-four students.’

In 1999 the Inter Press Service (IPS) looked back at the events. It called the student action a ‘rebellion’ that ‘became a seminal event that signalled a new generation’s political consciousness’. It was, IPS said, ‘a dawning political awareness born from a confluence of historical forces then sweeping the world and the Southern African region’.

The IPS report quoted Manzini lawyer Lindiwe Khumalo-Matse, a university student at the time, saying, ‘The reason why soldiers were called in was because government saw our protest as a political uprising.’

In 1990, one of the Swazi Government’s most draconian measures, a 60-Day Detention Law, was still in force, permitting authorities to lock up anyone they saw as a threat to public order. All political protestors were designated as such threats.

The violence that ensued after soldiers swept through campus has been a sensitive subject with government ever since. A commission of enquiry had its report secreted away for years, with a bowdlerized version finally released to the public in 1997.

People in Swaziland were shocked by the brutality. Particularly offensive was one newspaper photo depicting a young woman carried out of the library between soldiers ‘like a slaughtered pig’, according to a letter writer to the Times of Swaziland.

The Times Higher Education Supplement, a newspaper in the UK, later reported, ‘In the ensuing melee several students were crippled for life, hundreds injured and one woman successfully sued the government for an out-of-court settlement of E225,000 for the loss of an eye.’

Mzizi wrote, ‘The painful part is that the children of the nation were brutally beaten by the security forces, they very people who were supposed to protect them.’

He added, ‘Since we know that security forces are under the state, we still wonder who exactly ordered them to pounce on defenceless students.’

Mzizi concluded, ‘The memories of 14 November 1990 will never be wiped away. They will linger on until Domesday.’

See also

Black Wednesday at Swaziland University

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Tens of millions lost to banking fraud in Swaziland, but outstripped by Government corruption

Swaziland / Eswatini lost E30 million from the economy because of fraud during the past year, the kingdom’s national police Deputy Commissioner Mumcy Dlamini said.

She told an event for International Fraud Awareness week on Monday (12 November 2018) this was mainly connected to ‘banking sector business’.

She said fraudulent activities involve electronic fund transfers and false banking instructions.

However, she did not reveal the extent of fraud within the public sector which far outstrips that in private business. Earlier this year the Swaziland Auditor General exposed widespread financial irregularities across many government ministries. 

Acting Auditor General Muziwandile Dlamini said in an annual report that financial accounts were incomplete, billions of emalangeni were unaccounted for and laid-down rules, guidelines and procedures were ignored. The offices of the Prime Minister, National Commissioner of Police, Defence Department and Correctional Services were among a string of government departments and agencies that broke the law by spending tens of millions of emalangeni on vehicles and transport running costs without authority

Muziwandile Dlamini said, ‘Bank balances were misstated by E7,528,772,278.72 due to non-reconciliation between the government cash books and bank statements. Some bank balances were overstated by E2,285,935,191.93 and other bank account balances were understated by E5,242,837,086.79 thus reflecting an incorrect cash flow position of the Government of Swaziland at year end.’

The report detailed inconsistencies throughout government, including:

Disability payments went to people who did not qualify and those who were entitled were not getting them because the DPM’s Office had not developed guidelines on how to distribute grants. During the three years 2014 to 2016 disability grants amounting to E12.4 million were disbursed in the absence of guidelines which should have been created in line with the National Disability Policy of 2013. Eligibility assessment and screening of disabled citizens was conducted by social workers. The Auditor General’s report identified  non-deserving people from across Swaziland who received a total of at least E228,720 without proper approval.

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING

More than E3 million was unaccounted for by the Ministry of Education and Training. The report stated that the money was part of E23 million allocated to the ministry for rehabilitation of schools that were damaged by storms. Only E20 million was used for the project, an under-expenditure of 13 percent. Under expenditures, according to the report, were as serious as over-expenditures because if funds were not used, development would be retarded and economic growth negatively affected.
The Ministry also underspent on a project to supply water to schools. E2 million was approved and released but expenditure only amounted to E247,000, an under-expenditure of 88 percent. 

MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS 

Government had lost E1.04 million paying salaries for four immigration officers who had been suspended from work, three of them on full pay since June 2014. No information was forthcoming about their cases and whether criminal proceedings had taken place against them. In another case the salary of an officer had been paid for three months after his death.

MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENERGY

A conveyancer defrauded the ministry of E3.29 million by submitting false information relating to the transfer of legal titles on two properties in 2014. The two properties were valued at E34 million and E21 million but the Registrar of Deeds was told they were valued at E2 million and E1 million. The conveyancer who was not named in the report should have paid transfer duty of E3.29 million but only E20,000 has been recovered. The Auditor General could not find transfer duty certificates when auditing the revenue collections by the Deeds Registry. 

STRATEGIC OIL RESERVE FUND: An amount of E35.82 million was transferred from the Strategic Oil Reserve Fund without following proper procedures. The money was transferred on 25 August 2016 and based on a 3 percent interest rate it had earned an interest amounting to E1,077,571 by six months later. The Auditor General was not given any evidence supporting or explaining the transfer of the funds even though the public accounts committee (PAC) had ordered that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy should provide documentation that the withdrawal and transfer was done with the permission of the Ministry of Finance. The Auditor General concluded the money was taken illegally.

MINISTRY FOR TINKHUNDLA ADMINISTRATION AND DEVELOPMENT

Water project material amounting to E432,033 had gone missing at Mangcongco Inkhundla. The auditors discovered that water project materials amounting to E221,033 had remained unused for seven years. The material was kept at an Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) camp situated in Mangcongco. This, according to the auditors, indicated that bills of quantities were not used at every stage of the water project to give appropriate quantities and to correctly define the extent of work based on drawings and specifications of the project. The bills of quantities, according to the report, should have been prepared by an expert such as a water engineer. 

According to delivery notes, the material was acknowledged to have been delivered. Therefore, the material could have been stolen after delivery. The report expressed a concern on the weak controls which existed within the ministry, whereby funds were released without ensuring that technical experts were involved when the material was quantified and released. The ministry also displayed a care-free attitude by not designing a follow-up mechanism of the project to ensure that the project was executed and completed properly. The ministry was negligent in taking care of scarce public funds. 

EMPOWERMENT FUND: An amount of E3.67 million for the Empowerment Fund was used by the Ministry for Tinkhundla Administration and Development without rules and regulations or any documented control. The report concluded there was a risk that the fund could be used for purposes not intended. 

Swaziland’s lack of financial prudence has been noted internationally. Each year the United States reviews governments that receive its assistance help ensure US taxpayer money is used appropriately and to provide opportunities to dialogue with governments on the importance of fiscal transparency.

The  Fiscal Transparency Report on Swaziland for 2017 stated, ‘During the review period, budget documents were available to the general public, including online. While budget documents provided a general picture of government revenues and expenditures, revenues from natural resources and land leases were not included in the budget. 

‘Expenditures to support the royal family were included in the budget but lacked specific detail and were not subject to the same oversight as the rest of the budget. Information in the budget was considered generally reliable, and the supreme audit institution’s reports of the government’s annual financial statements were published within a reasonable period of time, but some budget items were not subject to audit. 

‘The criteria and procedures for awarding natural resource extraction licenses and contracts were outlined in law, but the opacity of the procedures, which involve submitting applications for licenses directly to the king, cast doubt on whether the government actually followed the law in practice. Basic information on natural resource extraction awards was not always publicly available. 

‘Swaziland’s fiscal transparency would be improved by: providing more detail on expenditures and revenues in the budget, particularly for off-budget accounts, natural resource revenues, and royal family expenditures; subjecting the entire budget to audit and oversight; demonstrating applicable laws are followed in practice for awarding natural resource extraction contracts and licenses; and making basic information on natural resource extraction awards publicly available.’

See also

Fraud at Deputy Prime Minister’s Office
Govt ministries broke law on spending
Swaziland ‘riddled with corruption’
https://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/swaziland-riddled-with-corruption.html

Monday, 12 November 2018

Swaziland King demonstrates how he is an absolute monarch by picks for government and parliament

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland / Eswatini, ignored the kingdom’s constitution across the board as he appointed his Prime Minister, government and members of the House of assembly and Senate.

His actions highlight the complete control he has in the kingdom.

Swaziland held a national election in September 2018 under the political system that the King calls ‘Monarchical Democracy’ and is widely known as tinkhundla. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and people only elect 59 members of the House of Assembly, a further 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the House of Assembly elects 10 and the King appoints 20.

Following the election which is held every five years the King appoints a Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The King rules under a Royal Proclamation of 1973 that abolished political parties and allowed the then King, Sobhuza II to rule as an absolute monarch. A Constitution came into effect in 2006, but the King largely ignores its provisions.

The Constitution requires the King to ensure that at least half of the cabinet of ministers are people who were directly elected by the people into the House of Assembly. Only eight of the 20 members of the Cabinet he appointed were elected.

The Constitution also requires King Mswat to choose his Prime Minister from within the House of Assembly. His choice of Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini was not in the House. He was not elected by the people nor was he one of the ten members of the House appointed by the King.

Lisa Peterson, the US Ambassador to Swaziland, drew attention to another breach of the Constitution in an article published by both of Swaziland’s daily newspapers.  

She wrote, ‘I am disappointed, disheartened and disturbed that parliamentary appointments made by the Palace disregard explicit provisions of the country’s Constitution. 

‘The terms are quite simple: among the members of the House of Assembly appointed by the King, at least half shall be women: among the 20 for the Senate, at least eight shall be women. Out of 10 appointees to the House, only three were women. In the Senate, only seven women were appointed. These shortfalls show that gender equity is not a priority for the country’s most senior officials, which means that it will not be a priority for many others in Eswatini’s male-dominated leadership.’

The appointments by the King are in clear breach of the Constitution and highlight how the document is generally meaningless. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and this is allowed for in S65(4) of the Constitution which states, ‘Where the King is required by the Constitution to exercise any function after consultation with any person or authority, the King may or may not exercise that function following the consultation.’

Richard Rooney

See also

U.S. Ambassador calls for repeal of decree that makes Swaziland an absolute monarchy
Swaziland King chooses new PM with no political experience, but together they have close business ties
https://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2018/10/swaziland-king-chooses-new-pm-with-no.html

Friday, 9 November 2018

Death of Swaziland newspaper editor puts spotlight on kingdom’s health crisis

Thulani Thwala the editor of the Swazi Observer died in hospital after collapsing in a toilet. When he was taken to a public hospital there were no doctors immediately available to treat him. 

The Times of Swaziland reported on Friday (9 November 2018) that paramedics took him to Mbabane Government Hospital.


It reported, ‘However, when they arrived at the hospital later on the night, he said they found that there were no doctors.

‘Attempts were made to call doctors and one of them responded promptly.’

Thwala was unconscious and the doctor ordered that he should be rushed to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

A family member told the Times, ‘However, the ICU was full and unfortunately, he died while being taken to another ward to receive further treatment.’

Thwala, aged 45, had been a journalist in Swaziland / Eswatini for 23 years and worked in senior positions on both of the kingdom’s daily newspapers.

Health services in Swaziland are in crisis and in August 2018 the Times of Swaziland reported, ‘If you are in a critical condition and want help, you will not get it at the Mbabane Government Hospital. This is due to the shortage of vital drugs and working equipment, which could result in the death of some of the patients.’

Nurses at the time were picketing health facilities to draw attention to drug and staff shortages caused by the government-induced financial crisis.

The Times reported the Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) unit at the hospital had also run out of Unigold Testing Kits, which are used to confirm an HIV positive status. Also, more than 10 drugs were not available at the hospital.

The Times reported, ‘All this is happening at a time when government is facing serious financial challenges. It was established from sources that the crisis within the health sector was due to the financial catastrophe faced by government.’

The Times reported ‘“It’s a serious matter. Patients will die if these issues are not addressed,” some of the nurses said.’

The Swazi Observer reported in August 2018, ‘The shortage of common drugs are hitting even other government health institutions across the country, including Mankayane, Dvokolwako, Pigg’s Peak Hospitals and other clinics, putting the health of patients at risk.’

See also

Swaziland nurses picket, drugs run out, lives put at risk as Government fails to pay suppliers