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Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Pro-democracy protests sweep rural Swaziland

Pro-democracy protests have been taking place across Swaziland (eSwatini), especially in rural areas, as a campaign steps up to allow people to elect their own prime minister, among other sweeping changes.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King appoints the PM and other ministers as well as top judges and civil servants.

The people also called for the economy of the kingdom to be democratically controlled by the people and the provision of free quality healthcare, education and other services. About seven in ten of the 1.1 million population live in abject poverty.

At least 15 separate demonstrations took place on Saturday (19 June 2021). Police fired live bullets in an attempt to disperse a crowd at Kukhanyeni in the Manzini region.

A reporter from the AFP news agency at the scene said about 500 youth gathered. Tyres were burnt and roads blocked. They chanted political slogans as they marched through the village.

AFP reported police fired stun grenades and live bullets a rare event in rural areas, which tend to support the monarchy. The angry crowd threw stones in response.

A police spokesperson confirmed shots were fired into the air.

People also marched at Mafutseni, Zombodze Emuva, Lomahasha and Ntfonjeni among other places. More protests are expected this week.

Protestors have been marching to local government centres (known as tinkhundla) to deliver petitions demanding reforms.


 Hundreds of youthful protestors blocked the road around Kukhanyeni Inkhundla while demanding that King Mswati III returns to multiparty democracy politics. Pictures from Swati Newsweek,

See also

Swaziland police shoot student in eye during protest unrest

https://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2021/05/swaziland-police-shoot-student-in-eye.html

Swaziland police ‘assault man’ during protest against police harassment

https://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2021/05/swaziland-police-assault-man-during.html

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Campaigners tackle Swaziland absolute monarch on lack of media freedom

Media freedom in Swaziland (eSwatini) is getting worse and a regional campaign group is calling on absolute monarch King Mswati III to respect human rights.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) wrote to the King to express ‘concern at the deteriorating media freedom and freedom of expression environment’ in the kingdom.

It said that ‘media freedom violations are on the increase’ and there is a ‘lack’ of media rights.

MISA said, ‘harassment, intimidation and physical violence against journalists are all common and result in almost constant self-censorship’.

Zweli Martin Dlamini, the editor of the Swaziland News, an online newspaper, has been forced into exile in South Africa. Eugene Dube, editor of the Swati Newsweek website, has also been forced into exile in South Africa.

‘Dlamini and Dube’s “crimes” have been to write articles deemed to be too critical of the King,’ MISA said.

King Mswati and the Swazi Government have filed high court papers in South Africa seeking to stop eSwatini publications from publishing stories on the King, his family and associates without their prior consent.

‘Such a lawsuit presents Eswatini and the King as intolerant to criticism and averse to being held to account,’ MISA said.

It added section 24 of the Swaziland Constitution promotes freedom of expression. MISA told the King, ‘But this right remains elusive for media workers in your country. In addition, the lawsuit filed in South Africa also flies in the face of this constitutionally guaranteed right.’

It called on the King to respect the principles of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, which expressly calls on African governments to promote freedom of expression and of the media in their respective countries.

MISA said, ‘We urge the eSwatini authorities to demonstrate their commitment and adherence to constitutionally guaranteed rights by allowing the media to operate freely without any harassments, assaults, threats or reprisals for doing their work.’

It called on the King ‘to intervene in the cases against Dlamini and Dube and ensure that they are allowed back into the country to freely continue with their constitutionally guaranteed professional rights without hindrance’.

See also

Swaziland absolute monarch sets lawyers on critical online newspaper 

https://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2021/03/swaziland-absolute-monarch-sets-lawyers.html  

 

Swaziland journalist critical of King flees, hides in forest five days 

https://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2020/05/swaziland-journalist-critical-of-king.html

Monday, 14 June 2021

Swaziland tightens coronavirus restrictions in fear of third wave

As Swaziland (eSwatini) faces months without adequate numbers of coronavirus vaccines, and with a third wave of the pandemic feared, Acting Swazi Prime Minister Themba Masuku announced further restrictions to everyday life.

He said in a statement that the daily number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases increased since the first week of June 2021, ‘and currently remains above 10 cases per day on average. This represents a more than doubling of COVID-19 cases that are being diagnosed since the beginning of June.’

He said on Friday (11 June 2021) Swaziland had recorded 82 new cases in the past week alone with three recorded deaths in the past three days.

‘These numbers are a serious cause for concern particularly when we consider that from mid-March we were averaging five daily cases and had gone 18 days without any new recorded death.

‘This is really concerning and provides a clear indication that a third wave of the pandemic is closer than we may think.’

He added, ‘As we began the month of June 2021, we have realised a 20 percent increase in new cases for two consecutive weeks and the increase in positivity rates for COVID-19 to 2 percent.

‘Although this increase may seem minimal, the numbers are a warning call for us to take swift action to prevent an uncontrollable increase in infections and minimise the adverse effects of COVID-19 on the population and the health system.’

Restrictions of one kind or another have been in place since March 2020, with relaxations and tightenings made over time.

Now, Masuku announced a raft of measures to take effect Monday 14 June 2021:

1. Religious gatherings:

Religious establishments will only be allowed to host one weekend daytime service, within a maximum of two and a half hours. All other standard protective measures should be in place including 1.5m social distancing.

2. Community meetings:

Indoors: Only a maximum of 50 people can attend and this should be held within two hours. All other standard protective measures should be in place including 1.5m social distancing.

Outdoors: A maximum of 100 people can attend and this should be held within two hours. All other standard protective measures should be in place including 1.5m social distancing.

3. Sports:

Only sporting codes categorised as low and middle risk will be allowed to operate as well as high level football such as Premier League, National First Division and National Teams. These activities will continue as per the guidelines previously outlined by the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs. Only formal sections of these sporting codes are permitted and thus social and informal sport remains strictly prohibited.

4. Alcohol:

Liquor outlets will be permitted to sell alcohol from Mondays to Thursdays, between 9am and 5pm. Alcohol remains strictly for home consumption only.

5. Entertainment and Arts:

Entertainment and arts activities are allowed only in outdoor or open spaces with a maximum of 200 people in attendance with a duration of two and half hours and strict adherence to safety protocols

6. Funeral and Memorial Services:

A maximum of 50 people can attend funeral services and they should be held within 2 hours. All other standard protective measures should be in place including 1.5m social distancing. Memorial services, night vigils and Kufukama are strictly prohibited.

7. Weddings/Kuteka:

A maximum of 50 people can attend. The activity should be held within a maximum of 2 hours. All other standard protective measures should be in place including 1.5m social distancing.

8. Shopping:

All shopping outlets will operate between 8am and 7pm. All other standard protective measures should be in place including 1.5m social distancing.

9. Public Transport:

Public transport vehicles are allowed to carry 100 percent sitting capacity, no standing. Standard measures including the wearing of face masks and sanitising should be implemented at all times.

10. Restaurants and food outlets:

Standard protective measures should be in place including social distancing of 1.5m. No alcohol should be sold or served after 7pm.

11. Education:

Schools at all levels will remain open and will continue to implement the blended learning approach [online and in-person classes] where applicable.

Swaziland received only 14,400 doses of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine this week when it needed 500,000 for the population of about 1.1 million people.

On distribution of the vaccines, Masuku said, ‘We will start with health workers who received the first dose and those who are yet to be vaccinated. We continue to source more vaccines in spite of the global challenges experienced in vaccine access and we request for patience among the public.’

 

See also

Swaziland runs out of coronavirus vaccines, only 35,000 people treated

https://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2021/05/swaziland-runs-out-of-coronavirus.html

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Swaziland absolute monarch bid to gag critical Swazi newspaper in S. African court

In an unprecedented move King Mswati III, the absolute ruler of Swaziland (eSwatini), and his government are taking a Swazi newspaper to court in South Africa to stop it publishing articles critical of the king.

They have filed at the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court an application to compel the Swaziland News, an online newspaper, and its editor Zweli Martin Dlamini, to give at least seven days’ notice before publishing any article which is ‘defamatory and or critical’ of the king and or the Government, Ministers or any member of the Swazi Royal Family.

The king also wants the editor to send any written story and or content to the Government official spokesperson and his deputy before publication and give them seven days to ‘read the whole story so they can comment accordingly’.

Avulekha Amazulu (Pty) Ltd, the company that provides the website is also included in the application.

The application is being opposed.

Swaziland is not a democracy and press freedom is severely restricted. Comments critical of the king are not permitted and most media houses and journalists self-censor rather than face harassment and legal problems.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network, a pro-democracy group banned in Swaziland under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, said in a statement, ‘Since its registration in the Republic [of South Africa] the newspaper has flourished. Far away from the Royal censorship in the kingdom, it is able to publish eye opening stories of how the king and his family are abusing their political power.

‘When they are not spending excessive amounts of the country’s meagre resources, they are illegally evicting poor sugar cane farmers from their only source of livelihood. These stories contradict the image of king Mswati as a “God king”. At best they portray him as an evil hearted greedy king not deserving of the reins of power. At worst he is the devil himself.’

The Swaziland News editor, Zweli Martin Dlamini, has been a constant thorn in the King’s side. In April 2020 he wrote and published reports that King Mswati had tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) and had been taken to hospital with breathing problems. This was denied by the Palace at the time, but proved to be correct.

Dlamini had reportedly fled to neighbouring South Africa in March 2020 for the second time. He said he had been arrested and tortured by Swazi police who accused him of sedition.

Also, on 7 February 2020, The Swaziland News reported Dlamini was being harassed and receiving death threats from King Mswati’s first born daughter Princess Sikhanyiso, who is the Minister of Information Communication and Technology.

Dlamini had previously fled to South Africa in fear of his life in 2017. He had received death threats from a local businessman before his newspaper Swaziland Shopping was shut down by the Swazi government when the newspaper’s registration under the Books and Newspapers Act 1963 was declined by the Swazi Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology.

See also

Swaziland absolute monarch sets lawyers on critical online newspaper

https://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2021/03/swaziland-absolute-monarch-sets-lawyers.html

 

Swaziland King in another press freedom row after website accuses him of business wrongdoing 

https://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2020/08/swaziland-king-in-another-press-freedom.html