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Friday, 22 February 2019

Swaziland King’s plan for SADC-wide university of transformation quietly shelved

The plan made by King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland / eSwatini, for his kingdom to build  a new ‘university of transformation’ to take students from across the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) has been quietly shelved.

He made his pledge in 2016 when he was chair of the organisation. He said it would be up and running within a year. He also said Swaziland would pay for 300 students to study at the university.

Now, SADC has quietly dropped the idea. In a move in August 2018 that received little publicity at the time, SADC said it would try to create a ‘virtue university’ instead. No date for it to start operating was set.

A virtual university provides higher education programmes through electronic media, typically the Internet. No details have been worked out yet but it is expected that programmes would be made available through existing universities across the SADC region.

SADC said in a statement the university would ‘focus on entrepreneurship, innovation, commercialisation, technology transfer, enterprise development, digital and knowledge economy, to support the SADC industrialisation agenda’.

King Mswati made the SADC university the major promise of his one-year tenure as Chair of SADC which started in August 2016. 

Both the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, and the Swazi Observer, which is in effect owned by the King, reported on 31 August 2016 that King Mswati told the SADC heads of state summit held at Lozitha, ‘This initiative will give new hope and opportunity to our youth and our women. The intention is to have the first intake of students prior to the 37th SADC summit in 2017.’

The King and the media in Swaziland that enthusiastically and uncritically reported his statement, gave no indication of where the money would come from for the project, who would teach at the university, what academic programmes it would run, and how programmes would be administered.

The University of Swaziland (UNISWA), the kingdom’s largest and oldest university had been unable to start teaching that academic year because students were protesting against cuts in scholarships.

Later, King Mswati announced the University of Transformation would initially be housed at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Swaziland. Limkokwing is a private university. The King did not choose UNISWA, where he is Chancellor.

According to its website, Limkokwing in Swaziland only offers ‘associate degrees’ which are at a level below Bachelor degrees and in many universities are known as diplomas.

The failure to deliver the university is one of many promises the King has not met. These included a plan partly financed from in the oil state of Qatar to build a US$4.8bn ‘world class facility’ that would store at least a three-month supply of fuel for Swaziland. Other plans that failed to materialise included one to build a pharmaceutical plant, a food processing plant, a bottled water plant, a cosmetics plant and a granite and marble venture to create more than 3,000 jobs.

In April 2009 King Mswati announced the building of a multi-billion emalangeni Swazi City, financed by international money and comprising a 25,000 sq m shopping, entertainment and ‘wellness’ centre ‘to rival the world’ creating 15,000 new jobs. 

In October 2010, the Swazi Government, which is not elected but handpicked by the King, announced its ‘fiscal adjustment roadmap’ to save the kingdom’s economy. This would include attracting investment to create, ‘between 25,000 and 30,000 new jobs’ in the private sector. These jobs have not materialised. 

In 1998 the King was said to have teamed up with pop singer Michael Jackson to bring a ‘Netherland-style’ theme park to Swaziland.

See also

Swaziland’s absolute king misses out on AU Chair because his kingdom is broke
King’s new university stalls

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Swaziland’s absolute king misses out on AU Chair because his kingdom is broke

King Mswati III, the autocratic ruler of Swaziland / eSwatini, has lost the chance to be chair of the African Union in 2020 because his kingdom is broke.

The honour will now go to the head of state of South Africa, who is presently Cyril Ramaphosa.
King Mswati had been expected to take the chair of the AU Commission which changes each year, but at its heads of state summit in Addis Ababa earlier in February 2019 the decision was made to make the change.

Media in South Africa reported Swaziland missed out on the chair because it did not have the resources to fulfil the role. 

The AU is an organisation that promotes unity and solidarity among African states.

City Press in South Africa reported officials ‘made a desperate plea to South Africa’ to take over the chair.

It added, ‘They cited “capacity constraints” as the reason eSwatini could not fulfil this duty, according to government officials with knowledge of the meeting.’

The Daily Maverick reported,There was talk initially that it was eSwatini’s turn to lead. Officials, however, said the monarchy – which is heavily in debt – complained about “capacity constraints”. The officials didn’t clarify the meaning of this, but it seems to be about money.’

Swaziland is still expected to host the AU mid-year summit. However, following reforms mid-year summits have been downgraded to ‘gatherings’. 

Even if Swaziland does host the mid-year meeting, South Africa is reportedly expected to meet most of the expenses, the Daily Maverick reported an official saying.

This was, ‘because it would have to provide security and logistics,’ the official said.

Swaziland does not have the military, the cars or drivers to transport all the important people who would be attending, it was reported.

It is no secret that Swaziland is broke. Hospitals have run out of vital drugs and schools have been forced to close because the government has not paid its suppliers. In his budget speech in March 2018 Finance Minister Martin Dlamini said government owed E3.1bn (US$230 million) in total to its suppliers for goods and services. 

Even with these debts, the government, which is not elected but handpicked by King Mswati, allocated E1.5 billion for a conference centre and five-star hotel to house the AU summit. This was more than the sum allocated to the Ministry of Agriculture (E1.4bn) or the Ministry of Defence (E1.15bn). It was the biggest single capital project in Swaziland’s budget that year. Total capital spending was set at E5.6bn.

In 2016, when King Mswati was Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) he took about E40m, mostly from public funds, to host a lavish Heads of State summit at a time when his government was so poor it could release only E22 million of the E305 million earmarked for drought relief in that year’s national budget. 

When he formally opened the Swaziland Parliament on 8 February 2019, King Mswati demanded severe public spending cuts for the coming year. He said the kingdom’s spending had ‘surpassed sustainable levels’ and government debts were increasing. The kingdom’s financial reserves were falling and there was little economic growth. He warned that taxes collected in Swaziland would not be enough to pay the bills.

See also

Kingdom fails SADC delegates

Millions ‘wasted’ on luxury vehicles at SADC summit

Absolute king takes chair of SADC

‘Dictator king not fit to chair SADC’

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Muslims in Swaziland fear xenophobia as plan to build mosque rejected

Muslims in Swaziland / eSwatini have accused local government councillors of being ‘xenophobic’ because they refused to allow a mosque to be built in Matsapha, one of the kingdom’s major industrial towns.

They said councillors told them that they were of the Christian faith and therefore they could not allow the mosque to be built.

This was stated during a commission of inquiry set up by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development into the affairs of Matsapha Town Council.

Newspapers in Swaziland reported that the plan for a mosque was made in 2017 and rejected. The Times of Swaziland reported, ‘They [the Muslims] labelled the council as having a xenophobic attitude after it threw out their application.’

The Observer added, ‘All they wanted from the Council was to be granted permission to build the house of worship. They explained that the construction site or plot legally belonged to them, they were not asking for land.’

The Observer added other towns in Swaziland had allowed mosques to be built.

Muslims in Swaziland, who are almost all of Asian heritage, have faced prejudice in the past. 

In November 2016 the Observer on Saturday reported Swaziland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Nkosinathi Maseko saying, ‘most nationals of Asian origin were associated with terrorist activities’. It reported he told this to a parliamentary select committee set up to investigate what the newspaper called an ‘influx of illegal immigrants’ into the kingdom.

The newspaper reported Maseko had said, ‘it was public information that most nationals of Asian origin were associated with terrorist activities; and their continued entry illegally put the country and its citizens at high risk of being a nucleus for terrorist activities.’

Maseko and the Observer gave no evidence to support this. 

In September 2016 it was reported undercover police were infiltrating Muslim mosques to attend Friday prayers. The Times, reported that undercover police were also suspected of monitoring the Muslim community.

‘We do not understand the perception of the local people regarding the Islamic religion,’ one source told the Times. He added that Muslims were perceived as people who wanted to perpetuate violence.

At about the same time, the Muslim community in Swaziland were under attack by Christian leaders for distributing meat to needy people. President of the League of Churches Bishop Simon Hlatjwako was among Christian leaders who told people not to attend a special Muslim ceremony at which meat was distributed. Hundreds of hungry people ignored the instruction.

The Imam of Ezulwini Islamic Centre, Feroz Ismail, said guests had visited the kingdom from across Africa for a graduation and Jasla Ceremony. The Times reported him saying the guests, ‘were abused while in the country. They informed me that they were terrorised by the police while visiting some tourist attraction areas including the glass and candle factory.’ 

He said police demanded that the visitors produce their passports and other documents required for visitors to be in the country.

The Times reported Ismail saying, ‘They were ferried in police vehicles to their hotel rooms as the officers demanded that they immediately produce documents which proved that they were in the country legally.’

In 2017 the Swazi Government, which is not elected but appointed by King Mswat III, who rules as an absolute monarch, announced that Christianity would be the only religion to be taught in schools. 

When the present Swaziland Constitution which came into effect in 2006 was being drafted it was decided not to insist that Swaziland was a Christian country. This was to encourage freedom of religion. 

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

All Asians banned from Swaziland
Asians evicted from home

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Swaziland youth calls for democracy at National Congress

Kenworthy News Media, 18 February 2019
The biggest youth movement in Swaziland, the Swaziland Youth Congress, called for democracy at its 12th National Congress last weekend. The congress was held in South Africa because of repression in Swaziland against organisations who call for democracy, writes Kenworthy News Media.

The main theme of the first National Congress of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) since 2013 was democracy and “reawakening youth zeal for liberation.”

“We are committed to a peaceful transition from the current dictatorship under the monarchy to a democratic Eswatini [Swaziland]. As young people, we want liberation now, because the injustice to Swazis has long overstayed its time,” says newly elected President Sonkhe Dube.

Dube, a teacher by profession, had told congress that it was an “enormous task to build [SWAYOCO into] an effective organization capable of transforming its beautiful slogans into action.” The congress came at a time when SWAYOCO has been “battered by the regime” in recent years, the organization said in a statement.

In the statement, SWAYOCO also said that it would work with the labour movement and marginalized groups in Swaziland such as the LGBTI-community, and that the organisation was seeking international help to achieve democracy in Swaziland.

Liberation and social justice
SWAYOCO, a member of the International Union of Socialist Youth, was formed in 1991, as the youth league of Swaziland’s largest democratic movement, the People’s United Democratic Movement. Both organisations were proscribed under Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act, an act that Amnesty International called “inherently repressive” when it was implemented in 2008.

Amongst other things, SWAYOCO has previously launched campaigns against Swaziland’s “undemocratic elections” and for political awareness in Swazi schools, demanded smart sanctions against the country’s royal family, and that the International Criminal Court arrest Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III.

“The renewal of SWAYOCO will inspire the youth to demand their rights and define their role in the creation of a new kingdom of Eswatini [Swaziland]. We will sell the idea of liberation and social justice to the people,” says President Sonkhe Dube.

Outgoing President Bheki Dlamini agrees. “I am delighted to hand over the baton to other comrades. I have dedicated all my youth to fighting Mswati’s oppression. I shall continue to support the new leadership and the broader struggle for democracy,” Dlamini said.

A dangerous job
Sonkhe Dube has, along with many other SWAYOCO-members, personally experienced Mswati’s oppression. In 2009 and 2011, he was detained and tortured by police at peaceful SWAYOCO rallies. And in 2013, he fled to exile in neighbouring South Africa after again having been arrested by police, tortured and threatened that they would “come back and deal with me.”

Because being a member of SWAYOCO, let alone President, is a dangerous job.

SWAYOCO’s first President Benedict Didiza Tsabedze died in a mysterious car accident next to the royal palace in 1996 after having been taken to the hospital by the police. SWAYOCO member Sipho Jele was found hanged in his cell under mysterious circumstances, after having been arrested for wearing a PUDEMO t-shirt.

Several other former SWAYOCO leaders, including Wandile Dludlu,  Maxwell Dlamini and Bheki Dlamini, have all been tortured by police, detained, and later released without charge. Bheki Dlamini after having spent nearly three years in prison.

SWAYOCO member Zonke Dlamini served a long prison-sentence for charges he insists he only admitted to under torture. And other SWAYOCO members have been beaten up, tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets by police, as well as detained, shot and killed.

Amnesty International described in 2017 how “repressive legislation” and “politically motivated trials and laws that violate the principle of legality … continue to be used to suppress dissent” in Swaziland.

See also

Youth want democracy in Swaziland
Swazi law used against human rights
How Swazi state harasses activists

‘Secret plan’ to create National Intelligence Agency in Swaziland

There is a secret plan in Swaziland / eSwatini to set up a National Intelligence Agency, an  investigative website has reported.

The new body would report directly to King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, the Swaziland News said.

The former National Commissioner of Police and present senator Isaac Magagula is said to be spearheading the move.

The new body would work closely with the police and correctional services in Swaziland which make up the kingdom’s present civilian security services, the Swaziland News reported.

The website reported Government Spokesperson Percy Simelane saying it was normal for countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to have national intelligence agencies. He added he had not been told of any developments in Swaziland.

The website reported that ‘sources within the security forces’ told it that in November 2018 Senator Edgar Hillary sought an appointment with the new Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini to convince him to establish the NIA ‘and that he [Edgar Hillary] was the rightful person to head it’. 

No details of the objectives of the new NIA have come to light. In other countries, intelligence agencies are run by the government (often in secret) to collect information in support of national security and military objectives.

One of the most famous intelligence agencies was South Africa’s Bureau of State Security (BOSS) which operated during the apartheid years.

There is a long history of police spying in Swaziland. Police routinely video legal public demonstrations and protest marches. They then use the information to deprive people of college scholarships, jobs in the army, police, and correctional services or promotions in government departments, the Swaziland News reported in July 2018. 

In September 2017 the Sunday edition of the Swazi Observer newspaper reported police in Swaziland disguised themselves as news reporters at a march of public servants in Mbabane.

It called it ‘spying’ and said it had happened before at other public demonstrations, ‘They [police] are always plain clothed and carry traditional journalistic tools including cameras and notebooks,’ the newspaper reported.

It added police took video and still photographs of marchers. The newspaper speculated that these might be used to later track down and intimidate participants. The march was legal. A police spokesman said they were not spying because the march took place in a public place.

In June 2017 some senior politicians in Swaziland reported fears their phones were being tapped. One also thought his car might be bugged.  

In July 2013 it was reported that police in Swaziland were spying on the kingdom’s members of parliament. One officer disguised in plain clothes was thrown out of a workshop for MPs and one MP reported his phone had been bugged. Ntondozi MP Peter Ngwenya told the House of Assembly at the time that MPs lived in fear because there was constant police presence, in particular from officers in the Intelligence Unit. 

In Swaziland, political parties are banned from taking part in elections and King Mswati rues as an absolute monarch. Pro-democracy campaigners are routinely prosecuted under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act.

See also

Top Swazi Politicians’ ‘Phones Bugged’

State Police Spy On Swazi MPs
Police Spies Infiltrate Media
Swaziland ‘Becoming Military State’