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Friday, 12 August 2022

Swaziland Newsletter No. 739 – 12 August 2022

 

Swaziland Newsletter No. 739 – 12 August 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.

Security threats ground some Govt operations

Times of eSwatini, 9 August 2022

SOURCE

 

MANZINI: Part of the government machinery came to a grinding halt yesterday as offices and schools did not render services.

The government machinery stopped operations following an audio clip purporting to be a threat announcement by an anonymous ‘commander’. The audio advised security forces to withdraw their services in defending the Tinkhundla System of Government, while also making a litany of threats which cannot be repeated given their nature. In the audio, the members of the State security organs were given 14 days (which elapsed last Friday), to withdraw the said services. This audio clip came at a time when the nation was still anticipating partaking in a national dialogue, which political parties have been calling for, subsequent to the political unrest experienced in June /July 2021.

This was subsequent to the stalemate between government and the Public Sector Union (PSUs) of Swaziland, wherein the latter advised civil servants to stay put in their places of abode in fear of the threats which were supposedly issued by the ‘commander’ and the former insisting that the purported threats were a ‘hoax’. Yesterday, a majority of government services were not rendered as the offices were vacated by civil servants as early as 10am. Services like the issuance of travel documents, birth and death certificates; national identity documents and paying for government services at Revenue Offices, were not available. The closure of some government ministries and departments resulted in a number of people returning home without any assistance. Some offices and departments were operating in the morning, but were closed at about 10am as there was fear of the unknown.

Locked

The offices and departments had their doors locked and padlocks hanging from the burglar proof doors. Some people in Manzini were seen waiting in anticipation that the offices would be later opened for them to access services; however, this did not happen and they ended up leaving after lunch. On the other hand, learners in most schools were ordered to return home. This was said to be as a result of some parents not allowing their children to attend lessons yesterday. Some head teachers said they had to release the learners early in spite of the  on-going examinations. They claimed that they could not proceed with the examination while other pupils were not present. The head teachers, who spoke to this publication, expressed fear that the examinations could be thrown into disarray as they did not know what would happen during the course of the week.

They said the examinations were critical as the grades accorded to learners were the ones used to secure places in the next grades for those sitting for external examinations. Also, some of the head teachers acknowledged that there were teachers who had not reported for work and their suspicions were that the threats which had been circulated regarding their safety were the cause. They also highlighted that there was uncertainty on the availability of public transport, which might have deterred the teachers and learners from attending the lessons of the day.

Meanwhile, in most bus ranks across the country, public transport was operational and available. However, despite its availability, there were minimal commuters. Despite the threats which advised the public to stay at home, textile workers in Matsapha had reported for work yesterday morning. However, they did not work the whole day like in most instances as they were released early. This publication started monitoring the situation in Matsapha at 6am and at that time, public transport vehicles operating between Manzini/Matsapha Industrial Site were available, thus the workers managed to get to work on time.

Factories

At around 8am, this publication visited some of the textile factories located in the industrial hub of the country and found that they were operating normally and at 100 per cent workforce.

However, later on, it was gathered that some factories released their workers just after the lunch-hour. A source close to the matter said the factories decided to release the workers early for their safety. In fact, he said they took the unrest threats seriously, because of what happened in June/July 2021, where workers who were going to work were caught in the crossfire.

“They feared that the threats could materialise and the workers’ lives would be at risk when going back home in the late afternoon, thus they released them early,” the source said.

It was further reported that there was also uncertainty regarding the availability of public transport, thus some of the employers in the sector decided to release the workers early while public transport vehicles were still available. Some of the employers confirmed that they released the workers before knock- off time for their safety. They said they would be monitoring the situation and they had also asked the workers to update them so that they could plan ahead.

Meanwhile, the Eswatini Textile and Apparel Traders Association (ETATA) Chairperson, Tokky Hou, confirmed earlier on the day that workers managed to report for duty in the factories yesterday. However, she could not be reached for a comment later on as her mobile phone rang unanswered for the better part of yesterday afternoon. A WhatsApp message was sent to her, but she had not responded by the time of compiling this report.

 

Eswatini's king praises police crackdown on pro-democracy protests

By AFP, 5 August 2022

SOURCE

 

The king of Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, on Friday praised police who brutally put down last year’s pro-democracy demonstrations in which dozens of protesters were killed.

At least 37 people were killed and hundreds injured during weeks of anti-monarchy protests that first erupted in June last year, in the worst unrest to hit the usually peaceful former British colony.

Human Rights Watch put the toll at 46.

In recent weeks, at least four police officers have been killed in what authorities believe are revenge attacks by suspected anti-government activists.

King Mswati III said: “I am very happy that even in present day, after you have been victims of attacks from terrorists, you have not stopped, but continued to uphold the oath that you took when you joined the police service.

“The high work ethic and level of acumen in your policing approaches should be maintained and continually strengthened,” the monarch said, speaking at an event to celebrate the police force in Eswatini, which was formerly known as Swaziland.

Eswatini has traditionally stifled dissent and pro-democracy movements and political parties have been banned in the southern African country since 1973.

Last year's violence in the country of 1.3 million people sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique drew international condemnation.

 

King’s forces attack Communist Party of Swaziland members as pro-democracy protests continue

BPavan Kulkarni, Peoples Dispatch, 8 August 2022.

SOURCE

 

The Operation Support Service Unit (OSSU), a militarized police unit of King Mswati III in Swaziland, opened fire in the crowded working-class township of Matsapha and assaulted members of Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) on the evening of Friday, August 5. 

“I was held face down at gunpoint with my arms and legs bound behind for half an hour as they fired shots and chased down my comrades,” CPS central committee member Vuyiswa Maseko told Peoples Dispatch. Maseko was forced to the ground after resisting the police with his hands up in the air, along with another member Gcinizwi Lukhele.

Kwazi Dube was among the other members who had managed to dodge the police encirclement and sprint their way out. “The police chased him down, firing live bullets in this crowded area in the evening time. People waiting for their buses had to run in all directions for cover,” Maseko said.

“He fell down while running under fire. They captured him, beat him with clubs, kicked him with boots and dragged him on the ground to where we were held captive, and tied him to us.”  

The 15-20 heavily armed OSSU men allegedly also called for army backup. Soldiers promptly arrived and joined the assault. “We were then interrogated about party activities, our addresses and university details, where we headed”, and also “why we wanted to attack them?” Maseko added, explaining that the OSSU had apparently thought that they would come under attack and panicked. 

The army and police in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, where all political parties are banned, have been jittery since they killed over 70 people and arrested hundreds others mid-last year to put down the anti-monarchist rebellion.

When the unprecedented peaceful pro-democracy marches, which for the first time also spread across the villages of Swaziland, were met with force in June 2021, an uprising erupted in urban industrial areas. Matsapha, where the CPS members have a large presence and were attacked on Friday, was a hotspot. 

Angry workers used petrol bombs, stones and sticks to attack properties of the King, who owns most of the economy and runs it for his indulgences such as a fleet of Rolls Royce cars, private jets, palaces and parties, while nearly 70% of the population survives on less than a dollar a day. Ordering the army to crack down, Mswati had fled his kingdom by the month-end, returning only in mid-July 2021 when his security forces had brought the kingdom back under his control.

However, with the churning of a strong anti-monarchist sentiment, repeated protests have continued, especially by the student union and community organizations associated with the CPS. The banned party also has a strong presence in trade unions which have organized government employees for whom getting salaries is a continuous struggle as the government pleads poverty even as the King, who controls the government, siphons billions each year. 

“Democracy Now!” and “Mswati Must Fall!” – the slogans of the CPS – have become a cry at the protests by students and workers, and even at the rallies in villages and small towns in Swaziland. 

King Mswati tells police to take “an eye for an eye”

Telling his security forces to take “an eye for an eye,” the King delivered an aggressive speech during the ‘Police Day’ that was held at the Matsapha Police College on Friday, August 5. This was earlier in the day, before the CPS members were assaulted. The chief of police from Rwanda, which has close security relations with Swaziland, was reportedly in attendance, along with the South African police chief and police representatives from Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique.

“The town was full of police that day,” said Maseko, who was walking with Lukhele and Dube to the Matsapha traffic circle where they were to meet three other members. Together, they were to board a bus to Hhukwini, 20 kilometers from capital Mbabane, to attend the funeral of a relative of another member. 

The police in an OSSU truck stationed at the circle “saw us approaching toward them from two sides wearing red T-shirts with the party regalia and thought we were going to attack them. They immediately jumped and started attacking us,” he explained. “It was around 4:30 when they captured us, and around six when we were released.”

No charges were pressed. For an hour and a half – when the CPS members were forced face down on the ground, beaten and interrogated – they were not taken into custody, but harassed in public view. “The police know Matsapha is our stronghold. So by harassing CPS members in public, the police are trying to scare the people of the community who support us,” Maseko said.

Young communists remain undeterred

However, this episode on Friday does not seem to have deterred the young communists – all in their 20s. On Saturday, Maseko and his comrades, along with over a hundred Hhukwini community members at the funeral, held a pro-democracy demonstration: breaking into a dance and responding with a chorus of war cries to party National Organizer Simphiwe Dlamini’s rhythmic chants challenging the King’s authority.

“Every site should be a site of struggle. Funerals and any other community gatherings should be rallies of the fight for Freedom, Democracy & Socialism,” the CPS said. Addressing a gathering of community members later in the evening, Dlamini reiterated the CPS’ call for the formation of security councils and welfare councils to defy the King’s police and local chiefs. He urged pastors and the church to play an active role in the struggle for democracy.

Also present at this funeral-demonstration was Bongi Nkambule, another party member who has been forced underground since July 13 after escaping about 30 heavily armed policemen who raided his home in Msunduza, another township on the capital’s outskirts. 

Unable to capture him, the police had taken his wife into custody and beaten her for hours. Nkambule had become a target of the police after he was identified as a key organizer of the sunset rallies in his community in Msunduza. 

To signify to the communities the nearing end of the monarchist reign over Swaziland, which the King has arbitrarily renamed Eswatini, the CPS started organizing what it calls sunset rallies from March. Later that month, police abducted Nkambule and, without pressing any charges, dumped him outside the capital in an injured state after torturing him for hours regarding these rallies. 

Although small in numbers, these rallies, where community members defy the monarch by raising the flag of the banned party and call for his overthrow, appear to have unsettled Mswati. By the time Nkambule’s home was raided in July, these rallies had become a weekly protest.

“We organize rallies in different places each week. For security reasons, we don’t reveal the venue in advance,” Maseko explained. A day after the funeral, on Sunday, August 7, residents marched in the sunset rally led by CPS commissar Titus Vilakati in the Madonsa township on the outskirts of Manzini.

 

SWALIMO SG warns Swazis on King’s statement

By Nontobeko Dvuba, Swati Newsweek, 9 August 2022

SOURCE

 

MANZINI: Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO) says the recent statement by Mswati III instructing the police force to intensify the shooting and killing of citizens is clearly a demonstration of poor leadership and a confirmation that he can no longer be trusted to lead the people of Swaziland.

SWALIMO secretary general Dr Siphetfo Dlamini released a statement yesterday concerning this issue.

“SWALIMO views this reckless statement as a deliberate attempt to frustrate and stall the efforts for democratic reforms in Swaziland,” Dlamini said.

“The ‘eye for an eye’ statement further confirms that he indeed ordered the soldiers to kill over 100 innocent people, injure hundreds and imprison over 600 individuals. The ‘iso ngeso’ statement further confirms that he is more concerned about himself as shown in the way he amasses personal wealth while about 70% of the people languish in poverty,” Dlamini said.

“Mswati’s declaration of war among citizens is very costly to human life and stability. It has become clear that the regime is adamant and determined to assassinate citizens considering the preceding articulation of the Police Commissioner ‘akuyiwe eshashalazini’, calling everyone to the battlefield and Prince Simelane’s articulation of ‘fire with fire’, insinuating that police must shoot to kill,” Dlamini said.

“These national authorities, supported by their master Mswati III, are clearly advocating for violence and killing of citizens.

“SWALIMO appeals to the police and other security forces to disregard this instruction that seeks to set citizens against each other and refrain from putting their lives into risk for an oppressor that has no interest in their welfare,” Dlamini said.

“SWALIMO insists that what remains as a demand from Mswati is the delivery of an all-inclusive dialogue that will in essence mean the release of the incarcerated prodemocracy MPs, Comrades Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, the exoneration of the SWALIMO President, Comrade Mduduzi Simelane from the political fabricated charges as well as the return of all political exiles,” Dlamini said.

“In that regard, SWALIMO calls upon the Mass Democratic Movement to intensify the fight for liberation and to diligently work together to ensure the survival of this great nation and attainment of freedom,” Dlamini said.

 

Swaziland National Teachers’ Union calls on members to stay home due to political tension

By Mthobisi Mkhaliphi, SABC News (South Africa), 8 August 2022

SOURCE

 

The Swaziland National Teachers’ Union (SNAT) has called on the teachers in Eswatini to stay home due to brewing political tension in the country. This is after a voice note issued by an unknown person threatening to attack King Mswati the 3rd and armed forces.

The tension takes place amid the recent attack on police officers reported in Eswatini. SNAT president Mbongwa Dlamini says their members will not return to work until their safety is guaranteed.

“They gave a specific instruction to our members, to the teachers that they should not attend work because immediately they will start fighting anyone they come across even at school. So, it was safe for us to make sure that our members are safe. Because at the moment even if you can have an accident once you call the police, they refuse to come citing that they are also afraid of being attacked.”

Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO) Dr Siphetfo Dlamini has called on the Eswatini citizens to be cautious and avoid unnecessary movements.

“There’s a number of sectors or categories that have been affected by what is currently happening in Swaziland. The tensions have eventually led to quite a number of Emaswati especially those who are also working for the government, and the officials in a number of departments where services should be rendered for the people of Swaziland that have been shut down. Therefore as the Swaziland Liberation Movement, we have encouraged and requested all Emaswati to stay indoors and to ensure that their safety is a priority.”

 

Editor meets with Solidarity Forces Commander during an inspection of weapons

By Zweli Martin Dlamini, Swaziland News, 11 August 2022

SOURCE

 

MBABANE: On Wednesday, the Executive Command of the Swaziland International Solidarity Forces (SISF) invited this journalist to witness the inspection of weapons to be used during underground operations.

King Mswati, an absolute Monarch incited a civil war by refusing to engage in a political dialogue and subsequently unleashed his soldiers and police to shoot and kill dozens of civilians merely for demanding democratic reforms.

Despite efforts by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to facilitate a peaceful resolution in the eSwatini crisis, King Mswati refused to attend a SADC meeting and continued to brutalise protestors.

The King recently instructed his police officers to meet “an eye for an eye”.

“I therefore advise you that as you go about your very important duties, you go out in full alert and in readiness to respond effectively and decisively against any criminal elements and you must meet them eye for an eye,” he said.

On another note, the Commander of the Solidarity Forces said the weapons would be used in the next stages of the ongoing operations.

“These weapons would be used in the next stages of the ongoing operations. We don’t want to reveal our strategies, but we just want our people to know that the process of liberating the country from the hands of Mswati is ongoing,” said the SISF Commander, who was accompanied by other senior members commanding other units.

The Swaziland International Solidarity Forces (SISF) recently received a one hundred thousand Rand (R100,000.00) donation from a Swazi businessman, and it has been revealed that other businessmen are coming-in with monetary support to liberate Swazis.

A questionnaire was sent to Government Spokesperson Alpheous Nxumalo, however, he had not responded at the time of compiling this report.

Eswatini is in the midst of a political crisis as a result of King Mswati's deployment of his security forces to shoot and kill scores of civilians merely for demanding democratic reforms. Recently, he refused to appear before SADC, a regional body that is encouraging a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis.

 

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Monday, 8 August 2022

Swaziland Newsletter No. 738 – 5 August 2022

 

Swaziland Newsletter No. 738 – 5 August 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.

A battle royal for eSwatini's future

Protests are increasing pressure on King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, to relinquish power, says Koffi Sawyer, Chatham House, 3 August 2022

SOURCE

 

Domestic and international calls for a national dialogue in eSwatini are growing as the leadership in Africa’s only absolute monarchy, under King Mswati III, grapples with the sociopolitical crisis that continues to fester following last year’s intense pro-democracy protests.
 
The death of a law student – who many allege was killed by the police – sparked widespread protests last summer and led three members of parliament to petition for a democratically elected prime minister. The message was clear: the demonstrators wanted democratic reforms and an end to the absolute monarchy. 

With no comprehensive strategy to address these longstanding demands for democracy, the government continues to deflect and fall back on a hardline approach of intimidation: stifling voices of dissent, arresting protest leaders and deploying security forces to crack down on demonstrators and perceived troublemakers. 

The protests and the security-centred response have led to violence, death, destruction of property – and even cross-border tensions, with attempts to blockade the South African border due to sympathetic support from some in the neighbouring country. 

All of which makes critical the introduction of democratic reforms in eSwatini (known as Swaziland until 2018). These reforms will, in the short-term, defuse the current sociopolitical tensions and over time build more resilient and accountable institutions. 

Other popular monarchies that have moved to democracies with accountable governance show it is possible. From the mid 20th century in Bhutan, a succession of kings played a proactive role in introducing democratic reforms that led to a constitutional monarchy: executive power was invested in a cabinet of elected officials and the monarch acted as the head of state.

By relinquishing some power, then, King Mswati would enlarge the institutional circle of power, responsibility and accountability. In this way, proactively leading democratic reforms will not only probably preserve the monarchy but will protect its long-term viability and popularity among the population.
 
Last year’s tensions were initially defused by a ministerial delegation from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), urgently dispatched to Mbabane in early July 2021. The political and diplomatic role SADC has taken shows just how important sociopolitical cohesion and stability are for the region. 

Following the visit to eSwatini by SADC delegates, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived in November 2021, and King Mswati agreed to an inclusive national dialogue to address the political upheaval.

A key lingering issue, however, has been the form that the dialogue should take, as pro-democracy groups have rejected the Sibaya – a traditional platform through which citizens’ views are brought before a national gathering at the King’s kraal. This scepticism stems from concerns that the Sibaya has been compromised over the years – exposing it to potential manipulation by the establishment to further entrench the monarchy’s power and authority – and is no longer a legitimate instrument for open dialogue. 

SADC’s continued mediation faces several challenges. There is little evidence of political will on the part of eSwatini’s leadership. No regional precedent or blueprint for a process involving an executive monarchy or other constitutional neotraditional structures exists. Complicating matters further are allegations of foreign meddling and a regime change agenda behind what is now being referred to as eSwatini’s ‘winter revolution’.

Towards a national dialogue

A golden rule for constructive national dialogue is that it is nationally led and owned. However, in eSwatini a few key challenges constrain the process. The country’s political leadership lacks the trust of the people. Independent political institutions are at best weak, at worst not designed to perform their democratic accountability and oversight roles.

The power balance between the king and the pro-democracy groups is asymmetrical. The king lacks strong incentives to loosen his grip on power and authority. And, importantly, a strong, organic grassroots movement for reforms doesn’t appear to extend beyond the country’s main capital cities. 

Although pro-democracy groups represented by civil society and political groups are leading the call for governance reforms, it is important to expand the pool of consultations to involve other key national stakeholders, including traditionalists, women and young people.

Cultural, historical and financial links with the South African economic and governing elite are practical aspects that should be considered. Given the deep ties between the countries, South Africa and its governing ANC should invest in long-term peace and stability in eSwatini. 

The international community can be an important guarantor of a genuine process, support more effective local participation, and bolster national ownership. The approach must be coordinated, integrated, and sensitive enough to mitigate the risks of the process being manipulated for other purposes. 

It is only within a constitutional order that the institution of the monarchy can be safeguarded and sustainably protected. As father of the nation, it is incumbent upon King Mswati to show honest and proactive leadership – and be ready to shed some of his absolute power in the long-term interest of his people and future monarchs. 

Sawyer is a consultant and researcher on politics and governance in Africa

 

By-election victory for Eswatini pro-democracy activists

AFP, 1 August 2022

SOURCE

 

The wife of a self-exiled pro-democracy lawmaker in Eswatini won Sunday her husband’s seat in a by-election that activists said showed continued support for reforms a year after deadly protests. Nomalungelo Simelane-Zwide was elected as the new member of the lower house for Siphofaneni on Saturday, winning 53 percent of the vote in the small town about 80 kilometres south-east of the capital Mbabane.

Speaking after the results were announced early on Sunday, Simelane-Zwide thanked all Swazi people for “entrusting me with the responsibility to represent them in parliament”. Simelane-Zwide is married to Mduduzi Gawuzela Simelane, a pro-democracy activist who fled to South Africa after police issued a warrant for his arrest following a wave of protests last year.

Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, is the last absolute monarchy in Africa. Rights groups say 46 people were killed last year as police violently quashed demonstrations calling for democratic reforms. Police put the death toll at 37. Simelane is among a group of lawmakers who have advocated for changes to the country’s complex system of non-party elections that critics says ensures King Mswati III faces no meaningful dissent.

 

Sive Siyinqaba: LaZwide's victory is a big lesson to tinkhundla regime

By Eugene Dube, Swati Newsweek 3 August, 2022

SOURCE

 

MBABANE - Sive Siyinqaba Sibahle Sinje National Movement, MP LaZwide’s election victory is a confirmation of a political conscious generation of Eswatini who embraces democracy.

This was revealed in a statement by Sibahle Sinje’s acting chairman Ngomyayona Matoni Gamedze.

“May I, on behalf of Sive Siyinqaba National Movement, take this opportunity to congratulate the Swaziland Liberation Movement for winning the constituency seat in Siphofaneni and choosing to keep it home. The victory by Swalimo’s Comrade Nomalungelo Simelane popularly known as LaZwide is a confirmation that people heeded the calls for change and it is evident that democracy has successfully permeated the notorious system.

“The winds of change blowing across the country are unstoppable,” he added.

 

Gamedze said the claim that her win is about the credibility of Tinkhundla is self-fooling and an attempt of trying to convert a political defeat to a positive now that all efforts of undermining her candidacy failed dismally.

“From the day she was nominated, her nomination was a nightmare for the regime. Fortunately, there was very little the regime could do to her because the world was watching, hence supporting a rival candidate became an option.”

He said this scenario will be replicated in the next general elections. By no small measure this is a victory for political parties’ democracy against the outdated and undesirable Tinkhundla system.

Gameze explained that Swaziland needs to claim its rightful place in the nations of the world, not just as a quantity element but as an effective participant in the global affairs. The country needs to achieve its full potential and stop being a “skunk” of the international community that fails to honour its obligations and opting to shy away from regional summits.

In happier times the relationship between the Sive Siyinqaba and the monarchial systems was cosy before the fall out, under the tenure of late Prime Minister, Barnabas Dlamini.

 

Eswatini royal riches – the business of being king

By Inhlase Centre for Investigative Journalism, The Namibian, 3 August 2022

SOURCE

 

Never in the history of Eswatini has a king been directly involved in business.

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Eswatini, has changed that.

His vast business interests first raised eyebrows and set tongues wagging in 2004 when he acquired 10% shares at mobile telecommunications service provider MTN Swaziland.

The availability of the MTN shares in the market had not been advertised.

The Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation, a public enterprise, had handed over its shares at MTN to the king on a silver platter. By giving the king 10%, the SPTC share was reduced to 41%.

By acquiring the shares, it was argued, the king had boldly and loudly announced his first move into business.

In 2009, Forbes Magazine listed King Mswati III as one of the 15 richest royals, worth about US$200 million.

In November 2018, he bought a fleet of about 12 Rolls Royces for himself and the royal family.

The purchase of these luxury vehicles was heavily criticised by among others the United States (US) embassy in Eswatini.

This purchase has intensified the criticism of King Mswati's lavish lifestyle, while 63% of his people live in abject poverty.

Since the open acquisition of shares at MTN, the king and the royal family have not looked back and have continued to expand their business interests.

In some businesses, it has been alleged, he is a sleeping shareholder.

Royal conglomerate

King Mswati's acquisition of businesses has been an addition to the royal 1968 conglomerate, Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, created by his father, King Sobhuza II, by a royal charter.

Tibiyo was established at independence by King Sobhuza, who stated the company was being set up to empower emaSwati, and to assist the government to develop the country.

However, as Tibiyo grew to become a significant player in business, its initial mandate changed significantly.

This change became more visible during the reign of King Mswati.

Tibiyo has turned into a behemoth that only serves the interests of the royal family.

Political formations in Eswatini are reported to have raised the matter of the royal family's wealth during the Southern African Development Community (SADC) troika's visit to the country on a fact-finding mission in July last year, following violent pro-democracy protests.

This was in the aftermath of the June 29 politically motivated unrest.

Boycotts and sabotage

In Eswatini, there are increasing public calls by pro-democracy campaigners to boycott business entities linked to King Mswati and the royal family, who are estimated to own about 50% of the country's economy.

Some of the businesses connected to the king, the royal family as well as others linked to the tinkhundla system of governance have also been sabotaged.

In March this year, for example, heavy machinery belonging to Inyatsi Construction, a company rumoured to be linked to the king, was burnt by unknown arsonists at Sicunusa where it was preparing to start construction of a road.

Inyatsi has been winning high-profile civil construction projects such as the construction of an international airport at Sikhuphe and the International Convention Centre and Five Star Hotel.

The royal family's control of the economy is done through Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, which holds significant shares in different companies, mainly in the agricultural sector, particularly the sugar and forestry industry.

Coming out

There are other business entities believed to be cash cows of the royal family.

Others have come out in public to declare their shareholding as not connected to royalty to avoid being targeted by a disgruntled population tired of the royal family's greed, such as Southern Star, a haulage company.

Lincoln Motsa, a co-director of Linac Investments running the OK chain of stores in the country, did the same.

The other director, he said, is his wife.

For Motsa, it was too late, because three of his shops had already been torched.

As of the end of its financial year, 30 April, 2018, Tibiyo had assets worth E2,13 billion, according to its annual report.

Tibiyo Taka Ngwane holds 100% shares or less in some of the sugar companies in the country and holds large tracts of land which are home to its commercial forests.

In the sugar industry, Tibiyo is a 50% shareholder at the Royal Eswatini Sugar (RES).

The RES is the largest sugar production company in the country.

Writing in The Bridge, an online publication, Mandla Hlatshwayo, who is chairman of Letfusonkhe living in exile in South Africa, said Tibiyo received E130 million in dividends from RES in 2021.

At the establishment of RES scores of emaSwati had to move to give way to the sugarcane-growing project.

At Ubombo Sugar, the country's second largest sugar production company, Tibiyo is a 40% shareholder.

Tibiyo has a 50% shareholding at Inyoni Yami Swaziland Irrigation Scheme, which is involved in sugar cane farming and livestock.

Shares everywhere

Early in the year, Inhlase reported that another royal company, Silulu Royal Holdings, has been freely acquiring tracts of land and some were set aside for commercial forests for the benefit of the royal family.

Other farms, many of them under Silulu Royal Holdings, are owned by the king and the royal household.

Tibiyo has over the years also invested largely in property, finance services and others.

Tibiyo is a 40% shareholder at Bhunu Mall in Manzini, and owns the Eswatini Observer newspaper.

It holds 30% shares at Eswatini Development Finance Corporation, 25% shares at Simuye Plaza and 100% shares at Tibiyo Properties.

It owns 41,25% at Tibiyo Insurance Brokers.

In mining, the royal company has 25% shares at Maloma Colliery, an anthracite coal mine. The rest of the shares were previously held by Chancellor House, the ANC's investment wing.

The 75% shares initially held by Chancellor House have since changed hands and a local investor has taken over.

In the manufacturing sector, Tibiyo is a 40% shareholder at Swazi Beverages, a company that was burnt during last year's political unrest, and holds 26% shares at Parmalat Swaziland.

The investment company is a 100% shareholder at Tibiyo Leisure and Resorts, a five-star resort at eZulwini.

It also held 39,69 shares at Swazi Spa Holdings, now under liquidation.

It used to own 76% shareholding at the Royal Swazi National Shipping Corporation, which has been dormant for years.

Additional to these are numerous farms held by Tibiyo, and some are held by the king in a trust for the Swazi nation, but they essentially benefit the king and the royal family.

This article is produced by Inhlase Centre for Investigative Journalism from Eswatini. The story is part of 'The Palpable Stirrings of Change in Eswatini' series, with the support of the Canon Collins Educational & Legal Assistance Trust under the Sylvester Stein Fellowship.

 

Union takes Zheng Yong garments to court over dismissal of 20 workers in Eswatini

Industriall, 4 August, 2022

SOURCE

Garment manufacturer Zheng Yong Swaziland has dismissed 20 workers for going on a strike for minimum living wages, and the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Swaziland (ATUSWA) is challenging the dismissals.

The five-week strike took place from April 5 to May 9 with the main demand being wage increases of at least E15 per hour or E2983 (US$179) per month. However, the employers awarded a paltry 7.25 per cent increase or E12 per hour.

The union says instead of engaging on the workers demand, the employers teamed up with the government and used strike breaking tactics and violence against the workers including teargassing them in their homes and threats of violence. According to the ITUC Global Rights Index for 2022, Eswatini is amongst the “10 worst countries for working people.”

Further, it’s been over three months since the garment manufacturer gave the dues that it is collecting from 1247 workers to the union. By not surrendering the dues as per the labour laws, Zheng Yong, which employs about 4000 workers, is flouting national labour laws, says ATUSWA which is affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union. The union says withholding the dues is a form of union busting as it violates Section 43 of the Industrial Relations Act which states that an employer “shall promptly remit” union dues after collection. ATUSWA argues that the employer’s actions can be construed as punishing workers for going on strike which is against the law.

To resist the push back, ATUSWA is taking Zheng Yong to the Industrial Court to challenge the dismissals and for violating workers freedom of association. Additionally, the union says the employer must respect trade union rights.

Wander Mkhonza, ATUSWA secretary general says: “Zheng Yong and other employers must improve working conditions in the garment and textile sector and not always resort to threats and legal action. Employers must engage with the union when there is a dispute instead of taking drastic action such as dismissing workers for striking for living wages.”

“Adopting an anti-union stance is detrimental to promoting industrial harmony between ATUSWA and Zheng Yong. The employer must pay living wages especially after recent increases in the cost of living. We recommend approaches that promote social dialogue and mediation and arbitration to resolve the dispute,” says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa.

 

eSwatini unrest: Solidarity forces invade Zakhele police camp, fire hail of bullets.

By Zweli Martin Dlamini, Swaziland News, 3 August 2022

SOURCE

 

MANZINI: Members of the pro-democracy Swaziland International Solidarity Forces (SISF) invaded Zakhele Police Camp on Wednesday evening and fired a hail of bullets.

The escalating political tension in eSwatini comes after Mswati refused to engage in a political dialogue and subsequently unleashed his security forces to kill dozens of civilians.

Reached for comments, the Spokesperson of the Solidarity Forces only confirmed that the forces were already inside eSwatini in preparation for operations.

“We will release a full report later, but the forces are already inside the country for operations,” said the Spokesperson of the Solidarity Forces.

Superintendent Phindile Vilakati had not responded at the time of compiling this report.

Eswatini is in the midst of a political unrest after King Mswati unleashed soldiers and the police to shoot and kill dozens of protesting civilians merely for demanding democratic reforms.

 

Dirco to call in eSwatini High Commission over spokesperson saying South Africa is infected with crime

By Nicole McCain, News 24 (South Africa), 3 August 2022

SOURCE

 

The [South African] Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) will be calling in representatives from the Eswatini High Commission to explain statements made by a government spokesperson, stating that South Africa has a “cancer of criminality from head to toe”.

Eswatini government spokesperson Alpheous Nxumalo was interviewed on SAfm on Tuesday, amid allegations that the foreign government is linked to the murder of Hillary Gardee, the daughter of former EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee.

Gardee had claimed in a series of tweets that the Eswatini king was involved in the murder because the EFF had closed border posts in Eswatini in April for six hours during a protest.

Gardee did not provide any evidence for his claims.

In the interview with SAfm presenter Sakina Kamwendo, Nxumalo said it was “unjournalistic and unethical” to insult Eswatini's head of state.

Nxumalo previously told News24 that Gardee’s claims were “wild and empty allegations”.

During the radio interview, Nxumalo said his government did not want to dignify the allegations with a response:

“Our [government] does not have a history of running after people [and] taking people down because they toyi-toyi at the border... I don't know why Gardee is valuing himself so highly.”

Nxumalo described the murder as an “unfortunate development” and said South Africa is “infected with the cancer of criminality from head to toe”.

He added Gardee should be working on bringing legislation to reduce the crime in South Africa, instead of trying to expose conspiracies.

Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela told News24 that the department would file a démarche with the kingdom’s high commissioner on Wednesday to seek an explanation.

“We certainly take a dim view of the comments made by Nxumalo. It was an unfortunate statement to make. We will seek to ascertain if this is the view of their government, or of an individual. We want to know what they are going to do about it. It was a wrong characterisation of South Africa. There is no country that is without crime,” he said.

On Friday, News24 reported that the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria had ordered the Hillary Gardee murder investigation to be handed over to the Hawks and for case to be treated with urgency.

This after the Gardee family said the police were not prioritising the case due to a lack of interest and media attention.

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