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Monday, 13 August 2018

Swaziland Freezes Govt Recruitment and Promotions as Cash Crisis Bites, But PM Will Still Get Retirement Home

The Government of Swaziland (recently renamed Eswatini) has frozen all job hiring, promotions and creation of new posts because it is broke.

The decision had been long expected but was finally confirmed at the beginning of August.

Evart Madlopha, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, announced this to principal secretaries and heads of departments through Establishment Circular No. 3 of 2018.

It read in part, ‘This state of affairs has been necessitated by the current financial situation in the country and the cash flow problems faced by government.’

Meanwhile, the Swazi Government confirmed it would go ahead with building the outgoing Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini a retirement home worth at least E3 million.

According to a report in the Observer on Saturday newspaper in Swaziland (11 August 2018) the government plans E560 million (US$40 million) in cuts, including more than E49 million to upgrade schools and colleges in the kingdom. E50 million will be cut from the health budget.

As of 30 June 2018 Swaziland owed a total of E12.9 billion, the equivalent of 20.8 percent of the kingdom’s GDP. Of that nearly E3 billion was owed to suppliers of goods and services.

All areas of public services have been hit by the financial crisis as companies refuse to supply the government until outstanding bills are dealt with, announced it had run out of stocks of medicines because the government has not paid its bills.

In July Swazipharm, Swaziland’s largest distributor of pharmaceutical products and medical equipment to the healthcare system of Swaziland, including government hospitals, private hospitals, local government, clinics, humanitarian organisations, private organisations, missionaries, pharmacies and chemists, reported it was running out of stocks because bills had not been paid.

Long before Swazipharm’s announcement medicines, including  vaccines against polio and tuberculosis had run out in many government hospitals and clinics because drug suppliers had not been paid. In June 2017, Senator Prince Kekela told parliament  that at least five people had died as a result of the drug shortages. About US$18 million was reportedly owed to drug companies in May 2017.

In June 2018 it was reported that children collapsed with hunger in their school because the government had not paid for food for them. The kingdom had previously been warned to expect children to starve because the government had not paid its suppliers for the food that is distributed free of charge at schools. The shortage was reported to be widespread across the kingdom.

Meanwhile, King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as one of the world’s last absolute monarchs wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with gold weighing 6 kg, at his 50th birthday party in April. Days earlier he took delivery of his second private jet, a A340 Airbus, that after VIP upgrades reportedly cost US$30 million. He received E15 million in cheques, a gold dining room suite and a gold lounge suite among his birthday gifts. He now has two private planes, 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars.

Seven in ten of Swaziland’s 1.1 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. 

Despite the funding crisis, the Swazi Government has also earmarked E1.5bn to build a conference centre and five-star hotel to host the African Union summit in 2020 that will last only eight days. There are also plans for a new parliament building that will cost E2.3 billion.

Meanwhile, the World Food Program has said it cannot raise the US$1.1 million it needs to feed starving children in the kingdom in the coming six months.

See also

Only 12 Govt Ambulances in Whole Kingdom
Swaziland Admits it is Broke

Friday, 10 August 2018

Nearly Half Surveyed in Swaziland Never Heard of Global Warming and King Says Drought is Act of God

Nearly half the people surveyed in Swaziland / Eswatini have not heard of climate change even though the kingdom has experienced its worst drought.
But, the people surveyed by Afrobarometer did say they had noticed an increase in severe weather in recent years. Afrobarometer said, ‘The same period has also seen a sharp decline in crop-production levels and crop diversity due to climate variability. Maize production in the country dropped by 67 percent between the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 planting seasons, especially in the lowveld. Declines in crop production are major setbacks to subsistence and commercial farmers as well as to a national economy in which agriculture ranks second only to manufacturing.’

The results of its survey of 1,200 adults has recently been released. About two-thirds of people said that droughts (65 percent) and flooding (64 percent) had become ‘somewhat more severe’ or ‘much more severe’ in their region over the past decade. 

Even so, almost half (45 percent) of respondents said they had never heard of climate change.  

Afrobarometer reported, ‘Among respondents who are aware of climate change, six out of 10 (61 percent) attribute it to human activity.’ It added, ‘More than half of citizens who are aware of climate change believe that ordinary people can do “a little” (27 percent) or “a lot” (24 percent) to fight climate change.’

Afrobarometer did not report that people in Swaziland were continually mislead about the nature of the drought. The kingdom is ruled by King Mswati III who is one of the last absolute monarchs in the world. The media in Swaziland are heavily censored when covering  the King and report his words uncritically.

In January 2017, King Mswati told his subjects that the drought was a test from God. He said that it was only because people believed in the Christian God that rain had recently fallen in Swaziland.

The drought had crippled Swaziland and according to statistics from United Nations Children’s’ Fund (UNICEF) at the time about 350,000 of Swaziland’s 1.2 million population were affected by drought and of these 189,000 were children. UNICEF stated 308,059 people were ‘food insecure’ and 8,460 children aged under 59 months suffered ‘acute malnutrition’.

Despite the King’s lavish personal spending, including putting down a deposit of US$7.3m for a private jet plane, Swaziland was unable to fund drought relief. 

In February 2016, the Swazi Government declared a national emergency and called on international agencies to donate E248 million (US$16 million) over the coming two months. In total, government would need about E2 billion to address the situation over five years, it was reported.
The national emergency was declared only weeks after King Mswati III told his subjects the drought in his kingdom was over. He had this when his regiments took part in the Incwala ceremony. The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported on 1 January 2016 that the King had ‘pronounced an end to the drought situation’.

It reported, ‘The King said the drought situation changed as soon as the water party (bemanti) was commissioned to fetch water in the Indian Ocean in Mozambique.

The newspaper added, ‘As he pronounced an end to the drought situation, the King predicted a bumper harvest and urged all Swazis to go and work hard in their fields.’

Scientists agree that the drought in Swaziland and across southern Africa is the effect of El Niño, a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns.

The Sunday Observer, (29 January 2017) a companion to the Swazi Observer, reported, ‘His Majesty said he was proud because it turned out that Swazis really believed in God as they were now experiencing tremendous amounts of rain.’

The newspaper said the King told ‘thousands of Christians’ assembled at the Mandvulo Grand Hall, ‘God tests your faith as a Christian by setting challenges and it is through these that as a Christian you must really pray and trust in Him to come through for you, because He is a faithful God.’

See also

Drought: People Died of Hunger

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Swaziland: Elections Without Democracy

Kenworthy News Media, 8 August 2018
Swaziland will hold national elections on September 21. But according to reports that examine the country’s last national elections in 2013 and many Swazis, Swaziland’s political system is undemocratic and only serves to keep its absolute monarch in power, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Organised Certainty, a new study published in July by journalist and former associate professor at the University of Swaziland Richard Rooney, concludes that Swaziland’s last national elections in 2013 were “not democratic” and that “the political system exists to keep the ruling absolute monarchy in power”.

According to Rooney, bribery, corruption and election blunders were widespread in 2013, women were banned from nomination for wearing trousers, Swaziland’s police and state forces clamped down on peaceful political and social dissent, media coverage in the Swazi media failed to report opposition views, and it took the Election and Boundaries Commission over three years to formally release the election results.

Voters in Swaziland will elect 59 of Swaziland’s 69 members of the country’s House of Assembly at national elections on September 21. Absolute monarch King Mswati III picks the remaining ten, as well as most of the Senate, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Political parties are barred from participating in the elections.

The king is above the law
“The lack of democracy in Swaziland is well documented”, Rooney writes in his report. Many other reports point to this fact, as well as to an increase in repression and human rights abuses towards those who advocate a boycott of the elections and campaign for multiparty democracy.

Elections in Swaziland have “increasingly become arenas for competition over patronage and not policy,” African NGO the Institute for Security Studies wrote in a report before the last national elections 2013.

The Commonwealth Observer Mission Report, who sent over 400 international and local observers to monitor the 2013 elections, concluded that the election had showed “major democratic deficits”, amongst other things because “parliamentarians continue to have severely limited powers, and political parties continue to remain proscribed … there is considerable room for improving the democratic system”.

The EU’s Election Experts Mission, who sent over 150 observers, said in their report that the elections showed that the Swazi state was unwilling to tackle “fundamental problems [with] the system of government and the respect for the principles of separation of power, rule of law and independence of the judiciary”.

These problems included that “the King has absolute power and is considered to be above the law” and that “a bill shall not become law unless the King has assented to it”, the Election Experts Mission concluded.

The latest annual Freedom in the World-report from independent watchdog organisation Freedom House gives Swaziland its lowest score of seven in regard to political rights. The report concludes that “political dissent and civic or labor activism are subject to harsh punishment under laws on sedition and other offenses. Those who criticize the monarchy can also face exclusion from traditional patronage systems”.

And Human Rights Watch concluded in their 2017 report that “Swaziland continued to repress political dissent and disregard human rights and rule of law in 2017”.

Growing dissatisfaction
Many Swazis are becoming increasingly disaffected with their political system.

In a poll conducted in 2015 by pan-African independent research institute Afrobarometer, only a third of the population saw Swaziland’s political system as democratic and only 28 percent were fairly or very satisfied with how democracy works in Swaziland (down from 36 percent in 2013).

Another Afrobarometer poll from 2016 revealed Swaziland to be one of the 36 African countries polled that have seen the biggest positive change in favour of democracy in the previous five years. In July, another Afrobarometer poll found that less than four in ten Swazis approve of the job performance of Swaziland’s Prime Minister and MPs.

Current elections legitimise King’s rule
Political coordinator of the Swaziland United Democratic Front, Wandile Dludlu, is adamant that this year’s elections will in fact only serve to legitimise the power of Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III.

“The power to govern and to determine the destiny of Swaziland rests upon the King and therefore Mswati is always the victor in every election”, he says.

According to a report from Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission, 41 percent of the estimated 600,000 Swazis who were entitled to register voted in the 2013 elections (although the report chooses to conclude that 61 percent of the 414,704 voters who registered to vote actually did so). Less than the 47 percent who voted in 2008.

For this downward trajectory to change, Swaziland’s needs democratic reform says exiled editor of Swaziland News, Zweli Martin Dlamini.

“These elections are meaningless and nothing will change in the country for as long as absolute powers vests with the King. The voters will elect MPs who will be accountable to the King not to the people, and until we adopt democratic reforms, nothing will change”, Zweli Martin Dlamini concludes.

That many people register to vote simply shows that people are afraid not to, according to President of the Swaziland Youth Congress Bheki Dlamini.

“The Swazi elections do not allow any change in the distribution of political power. More and more people are aware of the uselessness of the elections, but because of fear of reprisals from the regime’s agents they still register to be part of the elections”, Bheki Dlamini says.

See also

All Public Events Banned in Swaziland on Day of Primary Election
Swaziland Police Force Worshippers From Churches to Attend Election Nominations

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Swaziland Election in Confusion as Nominees Who Did Not Pay Tax Drop Out

The new rule that people nominated for public office must be paid up to date on their taxes has thrown the election in Swaziland / Eswatini into confusion. Hundreds of people have reportedly withdrawn from the election because they cannot afford to pay their taxes.

Thousands of people besieged Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) offices across the kingdom trying to get tax clearance certificates. There was confusion about how much time they had to obtain the documents with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) issuing contradictory information about extending the deadline.

There were not enough staff at SRA offices to deal with the rush, local media reported.

Many of those nominated feared they would be disqualified from the election if they did not have the certificate on time. In July 2018 the EBC announced that prospective candidates for this year’s election would be vetted after nominations had closed and if they owed taxes, they would be disqualified.

Police reportedly scuffled with candidates at Siteki when they blocked the entrance to the SRA office.

According to official EBC figures a total, 6,486 people were nominated to stand for office locally or for the national parliament across 59 constituencies. All needed to obtain clearance certificates.

The Swazi Observer reported that some nominees dropped out of the election because they could not afford to pay the taxes they owed. It was reported (3 August 2018) that people were expected to pay off at least 25 percent of what they owed. The Observer quoted EBC sources at Northern Hhohho confirming ‘that hundreds of nominees’ had dropped out.

The Times Sunday reported (5 August 2018) that Richard Phungwayo, EBC Head of Secretariat, said the figure of people with tax issues could be more than 100.

It June 2018, EBC Chair Chief Gija Dlamini said all people nominated for the elections would also be vetted by the police. In an interview with the Observer he said the vetting would be at police headquarters in Mbabane where the fingerprints of all candidates would be checked.

‘All nominated candidates will be required to go to police headquarters to be vetted and a record will then be forwarded to us,’ he told the newspaper.

Elections in Swaziland are widely recognised outside of the kingdom as undemocratic. Political parties are banned from taking part. Parliament has no powers as these are vested in the King who rules as an absolute monarch. After the election, the King will chose the Prime Minister, government ministers and the top civil servants and judges. At past elections people only got to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chose the other 10. At the forthcoming election there will be an additional four seats for people to vote for. It has not been announced how many members the King will choose but the Swaziland Constitution allows him to pick up to ten.

No members of the 30-member Senate are elected by the people.

See also

All Public Events Banned in Swaziland on Day of Primary Election
New Study Shows Why Swaziland Elections Are Not Democratic
Swaziland Police Force Worshippers From Churches to Attend Election Nominations

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

All Public Events Banned in Swaziland on Day of Primary Election

Swaziland / Eswatini has banned all public events including weddings and funerals that fall on the day of the kingdom’s primary election.

It is the first time this has happened in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III who is one of the world’s last absolute monarchs.

The announcement was made on Monday (6 August 2018) by Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Chair Chief Gija Dlamini. 

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported him saying, ‘All Eswatini events that are slated for the eve and the 25th of August 2018, the day of the national primary elections, must be cancelled. This date was announced by His Majesty the King as primary elections day and Emaswati should respect that.’

He added that every eligible and registered person should vote at the election.

Elections in Swaziland are widely recognised by international observers as a sham. Political parties are banned from taking part and King Mswati chooses the Prime Minister and the government. No members of the Swaziland Senate are elected by the people. Only 59 House of Assembly members are elected and the King chooses a further 10.

Dlamini, who is also one of the King’s brothers, said that all events that coincided with the primary election, including weddings and funerals, were banned. The Observer reported, ‘He said events such as weddings and funerals should either be shifted to earlier dates or postponed to later dates other than the 25th.’

He said, ‘Funerals can be shifted to Sunday, unless the family is certain that by 5am of Saturday [25 August] the burial would be over for the mourners to be able to have at least an hour to spare and prepare for the elections that will start at 7 am.’

The Observer listed events affected including weddings, lobola, stovel meetings, schools meeting, soccer matches, fundraising walks, funerals, and birthday parties.

In Swaziland nominations for member of the House of Assembly (parliament), constituency executive committees (Bucopho) and constituency headmen have already taken place. At the primary election people at chiefdom level elect the member of the Bucopho for that particular chiefdom.  Aspiring Members of Parliament and the constituency headman are also elected from each chiefdom.  At the end of the primary elections, there should be one candidate for the position of the Member of Parliament and one for the position of the constituency headman who then contest elections at secondary level on 21 September.  

See also

New Study Shows Why Swaziland Elections Are Not Democratic
Swaziland Police Force Worshippers From Churches to Attend Election Nominations

Monday, 6 August 2018

U.S. Halts Funding to Swaziland NGO as Anti-abortion Policy Bites

The Family Life Association of Swaziland / Ewsatini has lost a quarter of its total funding after the United States tightened up its policy against abortion.
A total of 56 jobs have been lost.

The halt in US funding worth the equivalent of E10.7 million is a direct result of an executive order signed by US President Donald Trump on his first full day in office. He reinstated and extended what is known as the Mexico City Policy or Global Gag Rule which had first been put in place in 1984. 

Under the revised rule organisations receiving aid from the United States have to show they do not use their own non-United States’ funds to provide abortion services, counsel patients about the option of abortions, refer them for abortion or advocate for the liberalisation of abortion law.

Abortion is not legal in Swaziland, unless ordered by the courts. 

FLAS was opened in 1979. For almost the first two decades of operations its strategic focus was contraception and family planning services. On its website FLAS explains, ‘However, since 1999, FLAS has undergone a process of transformation that has seen its focus shift from family planning to comprehensive and holistic sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and HIV services and information. This was largely prompted by the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994. Given that more than half of Swaziland’s population is younger than 20 years of age, FLAS’s target population is now youths aged 10 to 24 years.

‘For over a decade FLAS’s core services have included counselling and treatment for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues, family planning including vasectomy and tubal ligations, male circumcision, pre- and post-natal care, immunisations and screenings including for cervical cancer, breast cancer and pregnancy tests.’

Maxwell Dlamini, FLAS Resource Mobilisation and Communications Office, told the Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland (5 August 2018) its E10.7 million funding from the United States had been halted and 56 jobs (26 staff and 30 community workers) were lost as a result. The Associated Press news agency had previously reported this was about one-quarter of FLAS’s total funding.

Dlamini told the Observer FLAS recognised that unsafe abortion was a major killer of women in Swaziland. FLAS came across several women each day with unwanted pregnancies, he said.
The Observer reported, ‘He added that its recognition as a health problem was essential as well as designing preventive measures for it.’

He said FLAS worked within the law in Swaziland.

Coordinating Assembly of Non- Governmental Organisations (CANGO) Communications Officer Nkosingiphile Myeni said many non-governmental organisations providing sexual and reproductive health services believed that the US policy did not reduce abortions but increased more unsafe and unhealthy ones, leading to more women’s deaths which could be averted.

See also

Kingdom’s Confused Law on Abortion

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Observer Group Says Swaziland Election Nomination Successful, Despite Some Shortcomings

Swaziland’s election nominations were marred by delays at most of the voting centres, according to the first independent report from observers to be published.

Some venues for nomination were changed at the last minute, and provision for people with disabilities was non-existent at some.

Some presiding officers lacked experience and need additional training.

Despite these shortcomings the nomination process was successful, according to the Coordinating Assembly of NGOs (CANGO) in its report.

CANGO organised 11 groups in Swaziland which deployed 110 observers in 87 nomination centres in 37 (out of the total 59) Tinkhundla constituencies across all four regions of Swaziland / Eswatini on 28 and 29 July 2018.

It reported, ‘Logistic delays were common in most nomination centres due to lack of extension cables to charge laptops. In some nomination centres, lack of tables and chairs for election officials including shelters was also common delaying the commencement of the nomination process. Some centres had PA [public address] systems and some had megaphones. Some of the nomination centres finished as late as 8.00 p.m. like Nkanini Umphakatsi in Lobamba.’ It said many centres did not have electricity and this should be provided as a priority.

It added the process was well organised but some nomination centres were changed at the last minute like Emhlane, Old Nkhaba Inkhundla which caused confusion. 

CANGO reported most centres were accessible to people with disabilities but listed 10 of the 87 it visited were not adequate. It called for the provision of braille and interpreters for people with hearing difficulties to be made available at all voting sites.

Its report was mixed about the abilities of presiding officers. CANGO reported, ‘In all areas covered, most presiding officers were knowledgeable on the nomination process to be undertaken as provided in the electoral laws of Eswatini [Swaziland]. However some presiding officers lacked patience in managing the process as observed in KaLanga. Such misunderstanding could easily have been managed by explaining the process to the communities and what was expected from eligible voters.’

It recommended the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) should ‘use experienced presiding officers who have extensive knowledge of such a process to avoid untimely delays’.

The report criticised some nomination centres for opening the process with a Christian prayer, ‘making eligible voters very uncomfortable like in Mangwaneni community school in Mbabane and six other nomination centres. Eligible voters were quick to react to the prayers and some even approached CANGO observers to document the prayers and highlight that not only eligible voters are of Christian domination.’

CANGO concluded the nomination process was ‘transparent, peaceful, free and fair in all the nomination centres’.

See also

Media Report Chaos and Confusion During Nominations For Swaziland Election
Swaziland Police Force Worshippers From Churches to Attend Election Nominations

New Study Shows Why Swaziland Elections Are Not Democratic