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Thursday, 23 November 2017


King Mswati III, the absolute monarch in Swaziland, has been named in an global report on human trafficking for forcing children to work in his fields.

One organisation has called this modern day ‘slavery’.

It is not the first time the King has been criticised for using forced labour.

The annual Trafficking in Persons Report for 2017 from the United States State Department stated it had been reporting conditions in Swaziland for the past five years. It said, ‘Swazis are culturally expected to participate in the seasonal weeding and harvesting of the King’s fields and those who may refuse are subject to coercion through threats and intimidation by their chiefs.’

A report Child Labor and Forced Labor from the US Department of Labor looking at 2016 stated penalties imposed by chiefs included ‘evicting families from their village and confiscating livestock’.

King Mswati was at the centre of an international controversy in January 2015 when Swazi Media Commentary revealed that schools in Swaziland were forced to stay closed after Christmas so children could weed the King’s fields. As many as 30,000 children were thought to have missed schooling as a result. 

The Global Slavery Index for 2016 reported that the Swazi Government ‘attempted to backtrack on its intentions when its use of unpaid child labour was reported by international media’.

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Wednesday, 22 November 2017


Swaziland came 50th out of 54 African countries for participation and human rights in a survey just published. It has got worse over the past five years.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation reported its Index of African Governance on Monday (20 November 2017). Swaziland which is ruled by King Mswati Iii as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, scored a total 48.9 out of 100 in a range of four areas of governance. Swaziland got a score of 24.6 out of 100 in participation and human rights.

The annual report did not detail the kinds of human rights abuses taking place in Swaziland but these have been well documented elsewhere.

The United States State Department in its annual report on human rights in Swaziland published in 2017 stated, ‘The principal human rights concerns are that citizens do not have the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot; police use of excessive force, including torture, beatings, and unlawful killings; restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; and discrimination against and abuse of women and children.’

It added, ‘Other human rights problems included arbitrary killings; arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community and persons with albinism; mob violence; harassment of labor leaders; child labor; and restrictions on worker rights.’

Human Rights Watch in its report on events in Swaziland in 2016 stated Swaziland, ‘continued to repress political dissent and disregard human rights and rule of law principles in 2016. Political parties remained banned, as they have been since 1973; the independence of the judiciary is severely compromised, and repressive laws continued to be used to target critics of the government and the king despite the 2005 Swaziland Constitution guaranteeing basic rights.’

In May 2017 the global charity Oxfam named Swaziland as the most unequal country in the world. The report called Starting With People, a human economy approach to inclusive growth in Africa detailed the differences in countries between the top most earners and those at the bottom.

In 2014 the United States withdrew trading privileges from Swaziland under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) because the kingdom had not fulfilled all the requirements of the programme, including respect for human rights.

The US wanted Swaziland to implement the full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to the STA; full passage of amendments to the Public Order Act; full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act relating to civil and criminal liability to union leaders during protest actions; and establishing a code of conduct for the police during public protests. 

Amnesty International in April 2015 renewed its criticism of Swaziland for the ‘continued persecution of peaceful political opponents and critics’ by the King and his authorities using the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act.

It said the Swazi authorities were using the Acts, ‘to intimidate activists, further entrench political exclusion and to restrict the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.’

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Thursday, 16 November 2017


A new report that more than 11,000 children in Swaziland are forced to stay away from school to tend cattle is only the tip of an iceberg in child exploitation in the kingdom.

A draft Report on Child Labour In Herding In Rural Areas of Swaziland published in the Times of Swaziland on Thursday (16 November 2017) revealed 11,329 children between the ages of eight and 17 were not attending school because they were engaged in herding. Of these, 1,917 were aged between eight and 12 years. 

Children reported they were kept away from school because parents or guardians could not afford school fees or they had to work to help pay family debts.

But the report failed to uncover the full extent of forced child labour in Swaziland where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

A report on forced child labour in Swaziland from the United States Department of Labor covering 2016  identified what it called ‘categorical worst forms of child labour’ widespread in the kingdom as livestock herding, domestic work, farming and market vending.

It said Swaziland was ‘complicit in the use of forced child labour’. It concluded Swaziland made ‘no advancement’ because ‘local chiefs continued to force children to engage in agricultural and domestic work.

‘Penalties for refusing to perform this work included evicting families from their village and confiscating livestock.’

The Department of Labor said Swaziland had  signed a number of international conventions on child labour but they had not been enforced.

The report said children were being trafficked outside the kingdom to neighbouring countries such as South Africa, ‘for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in agriculture and domestic work’.

It also said some Mozambican boys migrate to Swaziland and become victims of human trafficking and are forced to conduct street work and herd livestock. Lubombo and Manzini were said to be the worst regions for forced child labour.

The report said, ‘Swazi children have become increasingly vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor due to the high prevalence of HIV, low economic growth, and high poverty levels.’

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Wednesday, 15 November 2017


Game rangers in Swaziland shot dead a man hunting food for his family and wounded another in the latest example of the kingdom’s ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy against poachers.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Wednesday (15 November 2017) the men begged for their lives but the rangers shot them anyway.

It happened near Somntongo in Lavumisa. The dead man was named as Caiphas Mpisi Zwane. The newspaper said he was in a hunting expedition with a friend Mxolisi Tebe Mbhamali on 10 November 2017. 

The newspaper said, ‘It is said they were seen trespassing by rangers who then followed them as they were leaving with game that they had already killed. 

‘Zwane was gunned down by the rangers while his friend also got shot but he managed to flee with the bullets lodged in one of his legs.’

The Observer said that following the recent drought that killed livestock people have been hunting game to survive and have been trespassing onto private land.

The newspaper said the two were spotted by rangers but it was too late for them to flee.

It added, ‘Having managed to apprehend the two poachers, it’s unclear what actually then led to the rangers decided to shoot them. 

‘The two tried to reason with the rangers where they asked for forgiveness, but the rangers opened fire, hitting the target.’ 

It said, ‘Reports are that as the rangers opened fire which thundered all over the area, their bullets hit Zwane on the thigh and also riddled him near the stomach, killing him instantly.’ 

Other bullets hit Mbhamali on one of the legs but he managed to escape.

Police are reported to be investigating the incident.

In May 2017 it was reported that game rangers shot dead a ‘mentally challenged’ man they suspected of poaching at Inyoni Yami Swaziland Irrigation Scheme (IYSIS), Sihhoye. The Swazi Observer reported at the time rangers shot the man who had lived all his life on the roadside and was known to the rangers who assaulted him and ‘finished him off as he ran for dear life’.

The newspaper called it ‘cold blooded murder’.

It came at a time when a United Nations’ group was questioning Swaziland about a law that gives game rangers immunity from prosecution for killing any person suspected of having poached and just after Survival International reported Swaziland ‘appears’ to have a shoot-on-sight policy that allows game rangers to kill suspected poachers.

The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) questioned the Swazi Government about the Game Act (No. 51/1953) as amended in 1991, which gives conservation police personnel (game rangers) immunity from prosecution for killing any person suspected of having poached, in line with the Covenant, and to train game rangers in human rights.

In April 2017, Survival International wrote to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, saying Swaziland ‘appears’ to have a shoot-on-sight policy that allows game rangers to kill suspected poachers.

In its letter it said, ‘We say “appears” because usually the policy is not defined by any law, or even written down.  As a consequence, nobody knows when wildlife officers are permitted to use lethal force against them, and it is impossible for dependents to hold to account officers whom they believe to have killed without good reason.’

Stephen Corry, Survival International Director, said the shoot-on-sight policy directly affected people who lived close to game parks and guards often failed to distinguish people hunting for food from commercial poachers.   

There has been concern in Swaziland for many years that game rangers have immunity from prosecution and can legally ‘shoot-to-kill’.

In 2016, the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) reported to a United Nations review on human rights in Swaziland, ‘There are numerous cases where citizens are shot and killed by game rangers for alleged poaching as raised by community members in several communities such as Lubulini, Nkambeni, Nkhube, Malanti, Sigcaweni, and Siphocosini.’

In January 2014, Swaziland’s Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula said rangers were allowed to shoot people who were hunting for food to feed their hungry families.

Magagula publicly stated, ‘Animals are now protected by law and hunting is no longer a free-for-all, where anybody can just wake up to hunt game whenever they crave meat.’ 

He told a meeting of traditional leaders in Swaziland, ‘Of course, it becomes very sad whenever one wakes up to reports that rangers have shot someone. These people are protected by law and it allows them to shoot, hence it would be very wise of one to shun away from trouble.’

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Tuesday, 14 November 2017


A male head teacher of a school in Swaziland has been arrested and charged for allegedly beating an 18-year-old female pupil on the buttocks with a black pipe.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Tuesday (14 November 2017) that the woman who it did not name was beaten because she had not had her hair cut as instructed by the school.

In Swaziland corporal punishment is banned in schools. As an 18-year-old the woman is legally an adult.

The newspaper, the only independent daily in the kingdom, reported she was left with ‘serious injuries’ to her buttocks and hand. She attended Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital for treatment. It allegedly happened at Lozitha High School.

Corporal punishment is widely used in schools although it was banned in 2015. In October 2017 it was reported the Swaziland Government was being sued for E2.5 million (US$185,000) after a child was maimed by a teacher who was dishing out corporal punishment.

Former Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Education and Training Pat Muir told this to a workshop on ‘positive discipline’ designed to sensitise ministry officials on alternatives to corporal punishment. He also said that the Ministry of Education and Training had a number of cases in all regions of the country where teachers have been accused of assaulting pupils under the banner of corporal punishment. 

As recently as September 2017 it was reported that an 11-year-old boy from Ekuphakameni Community Primary School in the outskirts of Hlatikhulu lost an eye when a cane his schoolteacher was using to illegally beat other pupils broke and splintered. 

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Monday, 13 November 2017


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.’

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Friday, 10 November 2017


Police in Swaziland shot a woman in the head with a rubber bullet as they fired on workers protesting for a pay rise.

They also fired teargas that spread for 100 metres.

It happened at a Poly Pack factory at Ngwenya where workers were asking for a 20 percent pay rise, according to local meda reports.

In a detailed account the Swazi Observer reported on Friday (10 November 2017), ‘The shot is said to have been fired by one plain clothed police officer.’

It added the shooting was done, ‘in an effort to disperse the workers from the premises of the company’.

The woman identified only as ‘Nelly from Motshane’ was taken by ambulance to Mbabane Government Hospital.

Workers were protesting because management at the company that makes sacks would not listen to their request for more pay.

Negotiations on the pay increase are reported to have started in July 2017. Two weeks ago workers were prevented from striking by the Industrial Court. However, members of the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Swaziland (ATUSWA) decided to strike on Thursday after employers offered a wage increase but only to selected workers.

When workers blocked a company car from entering the premises and set fire to it police, including members of the Operational Support Service Unit (OSSU), intervened.

The Observer reported, ‘They ended up using teargas, which could be inhaled from as far as approximately 100 metres away.’

It added, ‘Rubber bullets were also used to remove the workers from near the premises of the company. 

‘The workers did not want to be dispersed from near the premises as they would regroup, with an intention of going back from where they were dispersed. The police ended up taking about 40 workers for questioning. Some are said to have been arrested from nearby homesteads, where they had run to hide.’

Nelly was reportedly treated and released from hospital, but is one of those workers arrested.

Police in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and political parties are banned from contesting elections, often intervene on behalf of management in labour disputes.

In February 2017, police fired live gunshots and teargas at Juris Manufacturing in Nhlangano where workers had been locked out during a dispute. There had been a long-running row at the factory about management style and accusations of racism by one boss in particular.

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.

OSISA said, ‘There are also reliable reports of a general militarization of the country through the deployment of the Swazi army, police and correctional services to clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country’s undemocratic elections.’

OSISA was commenting on the trend in Southern Africa for police and security services to be increasingly violent and abusive of human rights.

In particular, OSISA highlighted how the police continued to clamp down on dissenting voices and the legitimate public activities of opposition political parties prior to, during and after elections.

In a statement OSISA said in February 2013 a battalion of armed police invaded the Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral in Manzini and forced the congregation to vacate the church alleging that the service ‘intended to sabotage the country’s general elections’. 

OSISA added, ‘A month later, a heavily armed group of police backed up by the Operational Support Services Unit prevented members of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) from holding a peaceful commemoration prayer in celebration of the federation’s anniversary. In both instances there was no court order giving the police the legal authority to halt the prayers.’

In 2015, Swaziland was named as one of the ten worst countries for working people in the world, in a report from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

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