Swaziland Newsletter No. 754 – 25 November 2022
News from and about Swaziland, compiled by Global Aktion, Denmark (www.globalaktion.dk) in collaboration with Swazi Media Commentary (www.swazimedia.blogspot.com), and sent to all with an interest in Swaziland - free of charge.
People go to war when diplomacy fails - SADC chairperson
By Thokozani Mazibuko, eSwatini News, 19 November 2022
LOBAMBA: The new South African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation (Troika), chairperson has said people go to war when diplomacy fails.
He made this statement during his courtesy visit to His Majesty King Mswati III yesterday at Mandvulo Hall. Namibian President Hage G Geingob advised the King and the people of Eswatini that the solution to the political turbulence in the country and the rest of the Southern African region can be sought only through dialogue. President Geingob first shared the 22 years of suffering his country endured and revealed that it was only through dialogue and the support of other countries that peace was restored.
The president noted that it was not Eswatini alone which was faced with a political crisis, but also the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Mozambique and Lesotho.“I am not here to discuss political matters, but I am here on a courtesy visit to the King as you all know that I am new in the office of Chairperson of the SADC Troika Organ.
“I am still going to visit other member States and then soon the date of the Troika meeting will be set, where we will discuss all the afflictions of our member States including Eswatini. After those discussions we will then invite all parties concerned to be also engaged, as we look forward in solving our differences soon,” said the president. He went on to emphasise that SADC countries do not need war but to solve their problems amicably through dialogue as it was time to end the suffering among the people. His Majesty King Mswati III and SADC Troika Chairperson and Namibia President Geingob both reiterated the need for the promotion of peace and stability in the SADC region.
The King informed the media present that he had briefed the SADC chairperson on the situation in Eswatini. “I have briefed the president about the disturbances with regards to security that we have been experiencing in Eswatini. It is also important to strengthen relations between both States (Namibia and Eswatini) as we are experiencing numerous challenges.
“It is of importance to ensure that there is an inter exchange of tourists, which will provide job opportunities as we still have a lot to do in improving conditions of the lifestyle of the people as we are still advocating and committed in achieving the First World status for both States,” said the King.
Their discussions also focused and touched on the restoration of peace and resolution of conflicts through peaceful dialogue. It was a one-day working visit for the SADC president to the Kingdom of Eswatini.
Worth noting is that the working visit is informed by the commitment of President Geingob to implement decisions of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation. The SADC Organ Summit that was held on August 16, 2022 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, at which President Geingob assumed the role of Chairperson of the Organ, reinforced the need for the SADC Organ to work for a peaceful and stable SADC region.
Ever since the political unrest last year between June/July, political formations have been pressurising government and the King to have a national dialogue to solve the political crisis in the country. It all began when pro-democratic groups called for an elected prime minister (PM) after the passing away of the late Prime Minister Mandvulo Dlamini. Political formations resolved to deliver petitions to voice out their discontent at the Tinkhundla System of Government.
The then acting PM, Themba Masuku banned the delivery of petitions which he recently told senators that government took that decision after there were elements of violence and that children as young as seven were made to carry placards. Masuku said because of that, government had a responsibility to see to it that the rights of children were protected.
By Mhlonishwa Motsa, Times Sunday (eSwatini), 20 November 2022
LOZITHA: Prime Minister (PM) Cleopas Sipho Dlamini has said the position of His Majesty King Mswati III was not up for a vote.
The PM said by virtue of being a leader of the country under a monarchy, the King was exonerated from any vote of approval by anyone. He echoed Reverend Madudu Mabuza’s sermon, where he mentioned that the King was respected by God. “Rev Mabuza, your majesty mentioned that the position of a King is not a voted position but one that was there before anything else. The monarchy is not made by the constitution, but the Constitution recognises the position of Ingwenyama as the King.
Relies on Constitution
“This is not similar to our positions with the DPM which relies on the Constitution. The position of a King is the fabric of the nation and in the event the people want to change the constitution, they go back to the King for an endorsement of the repeal. In other words, we cannot vote out the king or suspend his position,” said Dlamini. The PM further stated that emaSwati were a peculiar nation and were different from any other nation in the world. He said the prayer service was one of the things that made the nation. He added that the service was an example of how the nation feared God and respected culture and tradition as it precedes the resumption of the traditional calendar.
King MisuZulu sucked into eSwatini’s domestic turmoil
By Sandile Motha, Sunday World (South Africa), 20 November 2022
A few days after AmaZulu king MisuZulu kaZwelithini jetted off to the Fifa World Cup in Qatar, the king finds himself dragged into political turmoil plaguing the landlocked country of Eswatini, his mother’s ancestral land.
A long-standing feud is raging in Eswatini, with pro-democracy forces fighting King Mswati lll’s autocratic regime and insisting the AmaZulu king should be stripped of the benefits he enjoys in Eswatini.
It has since emerged the citizens of Eswatini are footing the bill for MisuZulu’s security detail.
The People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) – a key political grouping advocating for the fall of king Mswati’s monarchy – accuse the king of plundering the country’s coffers and resources, while 60% of the population is living in abject poverty.
“Our problems have been compounded by the coronation of the Zulu King MisuZulu as the rightful heir to the throne.
“King MisuZulu is King Mswati’s nephew and the Eswatini king has developed a more direct interest in the affairs of the Zulu royal family,” said Spuku Phakathi, the Pudemo chairperson in KwaZulu-Natal.
“We are aware that some of the security detail of the Zulu king is now sponsored by king Mswati, and this is worrisome because we know it is done using our taxpayers’ money while our people are poor.
“The Eswatini royal family business is used to milk and loot poor citizens of their hard-earned money through taxes and levies to fund the opulent lifestyle of the king and the royal family.”
Phakathi said their struggle should not be misconstrued as a war against the AmaZulu nation and their king, saying the AmaZulu king had merely been caught up in the firing line of their struggle against Mswati’s regime.
King Mswati III is Africa’s last absolute monarch, having been in power since 1986.
He is the brother of King MisuZulu’s late mother, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, who was the late AmaZulu king Zwelithini kaBhekuZulu’s third wife.
The Swaziland Solidarity Network, an organisation at the forefront of opposing the Eswatini governing system, known as tinkhundla, based on traditional administration headed by Mswati, also questioned the granting of state security to MisuZulu’s estranged wife, Queen Nozizwe Molela, in Eswatini.
“The people of Eswatini are concerned that even king MisuZulu’s second wife is being granted state security. This is at the expense of the people of Eswatini,” said organisation’s spokesperson Lucky Lukhele.
The issue of King MisuZulu’s security while seeking refuge in Eswatini broke last year when he was named heir to the throne, succeeding his father, the late King Zwelithini.
This led to other factions of the AmaZulu royal house challenging his legitimacy with the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government deciding not to release benefits to him until the kingship question was resolved.
Mswati subsequently came on board to supply his nephew with security amid safety concerns, but the KwaZulu-Natal government then made a U-turn and footed the bill for the king’ and his consorts’ upkeep.
For the 2022/23 financial year, the AmaZulu royal household has been allocated a budget of R67-million by the provincial KZN government.
Prince Thulani Zulu, King MisuZulu’s spokesperson, said when the king was in Eswatini as a dignitary, he was afforded state security. “Like anyone who falls in the category of the king, state security is granted to them when visiting foreign countries.
“But as far as I know the king’s security is taken care of by the South African state. It would be against normal protocol if security forces from another country were assigned to the king in a foreign land,” he said.
This week, pro-democracy forces in Eswatini embarked on rolling mass action calling for regime change and the release of all political prisoners.
In response to a wave of sporadic protests and to clamp down on political activism, King Mswati introduced a 60-day detention without trial proclamation.
The protests have left scores of people dead while other political activists have fled the country to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.
Hailstorms shatter homesteads
By Relief Web, 22 November 2022
Eswatini Meteorology department's weather forecast for the 5th November was isolated thundershowers and rain showers being warm to hot in the Lowveld. A hailstorm with strong winds and hail stones as big as a child's fist was experienced on Saturday 5 November 2022 night, affecting mostly Nsingizini and Nsubane communities under Hosea and Somntongo in the Shiselweni region. The affected communities are in the Lowveld of the country.
An estimated 1,058 people (213 households) were affected by the storm with some families losing their roofs which were blown away or roofing sheets riddled by the hailstones. Window glasses were also shattered and household furniture, food, and other documents soaked in water. School uniforms and books for school pupils were not spared. The affected people were exposed to more danger as they had to sleep in that day in the yet-to-be-fixed structures as no support had been rendered yet.
Baphalali Eswatini Red Cross Society (BERCS) mobilized and deployed four volunteers and two officers who conducted the rapid household assessment through interpersonal interviews with the household heads on the 6th November 2022. The standard rapid assessment tool was used. The National Society also provided psychological support to the distraught communities. On 7th November, a joint assessment was further done with National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), where available response material was 16 tarpaulins and 30 food parcels were disbursed on the subsequent days.
Scope and Scale
From the joint assessment conducted with NDMA, the community reiterated the need for support on shelter, food, and school materials destroyed. The communities are subsistent farmers who thrive on agricultural activities such as crops and poultry. Their economic status categorizes them as the most vulnerable, which means they may struggle to recover from the impact of the storm.
Assessments further revealed that food items were destroyed by the water as roofs have now become porous following impact of the hailstones. According to the IPC Eswatini Acute Food Insecurity analysis, populations in Shiselweni are in IPC 3 (crisis). Households which already food insecure would have their situation exacerbated thus a need to support them to meet food needs. Moreover, other household items such as furniture, school books, and uniforms were not spared. High vulnerability entails that the household's important documents were also not spared.
The affected communities have some vulnerabilities including child-headed households, the elderly, children under five years and people suffering from chronic diseases that pull the limited resources. Communities affected by hailstorms in the past received support on shelter but not all the losses are compensated. Some who lost their livelihoods could not be assisted due to limited available resources. For example, commercial vegetable farmers need more investment to support them and also field crop support has been less supported in the past.
eSwatini records E55m loss to fraud
By Slindzelwe Nxumalo, eSwatini Observer, 23 November 2022
National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini has disclosed that Eswatini has lost E55 million through fraud.
Dlamini, who was represented by Deputy National Commissioner Mumcy Dlamini said available statistics showed that over E55 million was lost through fraud in the period spanning from October, 2021 to September which indicated a 0.5 per cent increase when compared to the previous year.
Dlamini said this during the launch of the International Fraud Awareness Week Launch themed ‘Think before you Click’, held at the Eswatini Bank head offices in Mbabane yesterday. He said without doubt, fraud was a scourge that was constantly affecting the financial stability of individuals and businesses in the country.
‘The rerun theme "Think Before You Click" encourages thoughtfulness, soberness and consciousness, and when transacting online,” he said.
The national commissioner stated that the belief was that as more people moved to digital platforms for day-to-day transactions such as the payment of utility bills, chances of users lowering their guard and clicking right away increases, opening a doorway for cyber fraudsters to their cash and savings.
“Therefore, people should always be mindful and alert that one click can result in serious money losses and because of the strong existing link between fraud and cybercrime nowadays, a huge chunk of fraud crimes committed locally have evolved to cyber frauds which can be tracked regionally,” he said.
He added that the Eswatini Bankers Association (EBA) and all stakeholders should be lauded for their resolve and commitment in conducting anti-fraud awareness and education to help reduce the impact of the phenomenon in the country.
“Practical strategies and interventions that have been employed through co-operation and collaboration are evidence that you have consistently championed this campaign,’ he said.
He further added that cyber related fraud scams that were most predominant in the country included ATM Fraud where the victims PIN and debit or credit card numbers were stolen and used to withdraw money from ATMs without authorisation.
“More than E400 000 was lost from 45 cases reported under this scam and over 141 cases of this scam have reported between the period of October, 2021 and September, 2022 on internet fraud,” she said.
King Mswati’s forces in Swaziland attack public transport workers during strike action
by Pavan Kulkarni, Peoples Dispatch, 21 November 2022
Several public transport workers were shot, abducted, and tortured by the army and the police during a strike action on November 15 and 16 in the Kingdom of Swaziland. The strike followed another two-day strike on November 10 and 11.
Condemning “the brutal attacks by the armed forces opening fire on bus drivers,” International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) general secretary Stephen Cotton said on November 17, “Murders of transport workers have increased over the past year.”
He said that the ITF will hold the authorities of this southern African country, which is the continent’s last absolute monarchy, “accountable to its actions at all international levels including the International Labour Organization (ILO).”
Despite the police violence, ITF’s national affiliate, the Swaziland Transport Communication and Allied Workers Union (SWATCAWU), successfully brought most cities and towns in the kingdom to halt with their strike action. The union represents over 3,000 of the around 5,000 public transport workers in the small land-locked country, with a little over a million people.
“Even the sugar-mills owned by the King, which is the largest employer in Swaziland after the government, had to be shut down because of our strike. The mills are a key source of the monarch’s income. We know we have delivered a blow to the regime when we shut these mills,” Sticks Nkambule, general secretary of SWATCAWU, told Peoples Dispatch.
Times of Swaziland reported that buses remained parked and most businesses remained shuttered due to the strike on November 15 and 16. The usually busy streets of capital Mbabane, commercial hub Manzini, and other cities and towns wore a deserted look – except for instances where security forces attacked the striking workers.
Many of the larger businesses that were brought to a halt by the strike are owned by King Mswati III and his cronies, who control most of Swaziland’s economy and run it for the benefit of the royal family, Sticks points out.
The monarch’s indulgences, including palaces, private jets, a fleet of Rolls Royce cars and extravagant celebrations and parties, have become an eye-sore in the country where up to 70% of the population survives on less than two dollars a day. Wages of public transport workers, who are government employees, start at R2,400, which barely adds up to USD 4.5 per day.
Along with demanding an increase in wages and better regulation of the sector, the public transport workers are also insisting on the release of incarcerated pro-democracy members of parliament (MPs) Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube.
The MPs were arrested last year after they came out in support of the demand for a multi-party democracy as put forth in the mass-demonstrations and rallies that for the first time spread across rural areas, largely thought to be loyal to the King.
When these peaceful rallies that had unprecedentedly spread across Swaziland faced a violent crackdown by the army and police, an insurrection erupted in the industrial areas around the cities, which have long been a hotbed of anti-monarchist sentiment.
Mass attacks on properties and businesses owned by the King and his cronies began by the end of June last year, whereupon the king briefly fled the country, returning only in mid-July when the insurrection had been put down by the army which killed over 70 and injured hundreds.
In the several protests and strikes witnessed since – be it by students demanding scholarships to access education or public workers and civil servants demanding living wages and decent working conditions – “Mswati must fall!” became a common slogan across Swaziland.
King Mswati III appoints the prime minister and other ministers of the cabinet, as well as the top jurists, 2/3rds of the upper house of the parliament, and 12% of the lower house. No political parties, all of which are banned, are allowed to participate in the “elections” for the remaining seats in the lower house. Only individuals approved by the King’s local chiefs can contest these seats.
Mabuza and Dube were two MPs within this undemocratic setup who however rose to popularity after taking the side of the masses against the monarch by calling for democratization of Swaziland.
The demand for multi-party democracy and the release of political prisoners including the incarcerated MPs has consistently been raised alongside the different economic demands put forward in the demonstrations and industrial actions by different groups.
These political demands are not incidental but central, Sticks reiterates. “If the MPs are not released during their next hearing in court in December, we will paralyze the state with another strike,” he said.
The first day of the transport workers’ latest strike was intentionally scheduled to coincide with the court hearing of the MPs on November 15. Deputy chairperson of SWATACAWU in Manzini, Mbhekeni Dlamini, along with other union members, were headed to the court in Mbabane to express solidarity with the MPs on trial.
Just before reaching Mbabane, they were confronted by a group of armed security personnel who threatened to shoot if they did not return home. “We were not even marching or shouting slogans. We were only walking in our union T-shirts. The government had said only a day ago confidently that November 15 will be a normal day. And yet, the security forces were behaving as if there was a curfew,” Mbhekeni told Peoples Dispatch. “When we were walking back home, we were suddenly attacked by heavily armed policemen.”
The policemen allegedly fired shots and chased those who fled, while Mbhekeni, who was held at gunpoint, was forced down into the leg-space of the backseat of a private SUV with a South African number plate. Held under boots with his face covered, he was kicked all the way as the vehicle was driven to a jungle on the outskirts of Manzini, where he was lashed repeatedly with a leather whip.
“They were seven. They took turns one after another. One kept beating and lashing me till he got tired and handed over to another. It lasted for two hours. Then they dumped me in the bush and drove away,” Mbhekeni recalled.
“I was dizzy, in too much pain – did not know where I was. A passerby found me and asked what happened. I told I was kidnapped and tortured by the police. He helped me out. We made a phone call to my comrades who came to pick me up in a car.”
At the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital in Manzini, where he was admitted for treatment, he found that his comrades who had tried to flee the abduction attempt by the policemen were also later admitted in a wounded state.
“There are policemen in civil clothes roaming the corridors outside. They are keeping a constant eye on who comes to visit us,” he said on November 16, speaking on phone from the hospital ward where he was admitted. Nevertheless, he added, “I have been receiving many visits from my comrades,” reiterating that the transport workers are not intimidated.
But the regime imposes a high cost on those who dare. “I am a bus driver. They have dislocated my elbow. I cannot drive for at least one month now,” Mbhekeni said, adding that he doesn’t know how he will make ends meet. “I only know that I will keep on fighting until all my comrades are freed from prison, until all Swazi people are freed from the monarchy.”
The workers calling for the overthrow of the monarchy are not necessarily motivated by a political ideology, explains Sticks. “It is because they understand that the monarchy is an economic liability to them. They understand that so long as the monarchy exists, they will never secure decent wages and labor rights. That is why they are willing to fight for democracy and make all sacrifices necessary.”
At least two protesters were reportedly shot that day. The Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku, however, said on November 15, “We note that today was generally peaceful, despite a few skirmishes as a result of provocation from those few individuals who decided not to heed the Government’s pronouncement about the illegal protest march and that no one should engage in it.”
“His Majesty’s Government would particularly like to acknowledge the role played by State security officers in maintaining peace, the rule of law and order across the country, despite several attempts by small groups of people to disrupt operations,” he added.
Many more transport workers had been shot during the earlier strike on November 10. Sticks explained that while the November 15 strike had been planned in advance, the strike action on November 10 was not.
After “nothing substantial came out of the commissions set up in October by the government,” which was forced to the negotiating table when the strike by public transport workers had gone on for two weeks last month, the union had decided to strike again on November 15.
“To disrupt our planned strike on the 15th, the police arrested five of our key activists on November 9,” he said. These activists had earlier complained to the police that registered transport workers were being undercut by private vehicles illegally ferrying customers. “But the police did not act. So the union had intervened to stop this practice,” he added.
The police painted this intervention as an offense, and the five activists were in and out of court for some time when suddenly, “less than a week before the planned strike, the court handed them into police custody. We knew the purpose was to disrupt the oncoming strike. So we struck the very next day on November 10, demanding their release. And we succeeded in securing their release on November 11.”
This success came at a cost. Several workers were shot and injured by the army and the police during the agitation on November 10, which continued into the next day.
The Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) said in a statement on November 11, “We celebrate the bravery of this important sector of society, who despite being the most downtrodden and marginalized, are always able to defend their own.”
“[W]hen one of their own is unjustly incarcerated, SWATCAWU is their first and last line of defense. This is something we must aspire to make a culture in the Mass Democratic Movement,” it added. “SWATCAWU membership braved and held fort even when the military was deployed into the streets. They stood firm on their demands even when the state’s security forces used live ammunition.”
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