Search This Blog

Tuesday, 30 June 2009


It looks like the Swaziland Minister of Labour and Social Security has been exposed in the court of public opinion.

Magobetane Mamba went to appear before a committee of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, to defend Swaziland’s ‘reputation’ when it came to labour rights.

The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, reported that Mamba was ‘taken aback’ when representatives of Swaziland trade unions said ‘human rights were undermined in Swaziland, to the extent of refusing workers a right to protest’.

Mamba has a very short memory. You only have to think about how police fired teargas and rubber bullets at textile workers who were engaged in a perfectly lawful strike in March 2008 to see that Mamba is simply not telling the truth. (Click here for reports on the textile dispute).

Mamba told the Observer, ‘We made the committee on industrial matters aware that Swaziland allows industrial protest action to take place, but only if workers abide by the law.

‘We told the committee that labour organisation chiefs had never been arrested for labour related issues, but had been taken in for questioning for political statements they had made.

Mamba said most of the allegations by the labour organisations lacked evidence and were exaggerated.

But the ILO wasn’t born yesterday. In its official report of the meeting it ‘noted with concern’ (diplomatic-speak for ‘thoroughly condemns’) the acts of violence ‘carried out by the security forces and the detention of workers for exercising their right to strike’.

The ILO went on to forcefully remind the Swaziland Government of the importance of ‘the full respect of basic civil liberties such as freedom of expression, of assembly and of the press’.

The ILO told the Swaziland Government it was its responsibility ‘to ensure respect for the principle according to which the trade union movement can only develop in a climate free from violence, threat or fear’.

The ILO went n to demand that the Swazi Government release any people in the kingdom who have been detained ‘for having exercised their civil liberties’.

To read more on the ILO response to the Swaziland Government click here.


Swaziland human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, who is charged with sedition, is challenging the Swazi Government for acting unconstitutionally.

Maseko, who is alleged to have made public comments in support of two alleged bombers, has been charged under a 1938 sedition act. However, the 2005 Swazi Constitution guarantees (at least on paper) freedom of speech in the kingdom.

In papers filed at the Swazi High Court, Maseko states that the Constitution makes the 1938 act illegal.

In his statement Maseko said, ‘In a democracy the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act has no place, for it violates the guaranteed freedom of speech as stated in the country's constitution.

‘In terms of section two of the constitution, any law that is inconsistent with the constitution is null and void and of no force and effect and must be struck down.’

According to a report in the Swazi News, Maseko said his arrest and the arrest last November of Mario Masuku, President of the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) ‘was ‘meant to keep the nation in the bondage of fear’.

Sunday, 28 June 2009


Swaziland could become another Zimbabwe, unless the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) drags the kingdom into line.

Democracy is in jeopardy and the rule of law in Swaziland has broken down.

Sisonke Msimang, the executive director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, writing in the Mail and Guardian, South Africa, calls on SADC to act now to avoid another Zimbabwe.

‘In the past 10 years Swaziland has slid steadily into a political, economic and social morass. The ruling elite has plundered the national coffers to fund all manner of lavish celebrations, the HIV/Aids infection rate has skyrocketed to such an extent that Swaziland now enjoys the dubious distinction of having the highest HIV prevalence in the world, sham elections continue to take place, in which political parties are not allowed to contest, and a series of repressive laws to silence opposition and dissent have been enacted.

‘In the past six months Swaziland has taken a turn for the worse. Critics have become more fearful of voicing their concerns about the state of the nation. The draconian Suppression of Terrorism Act - which defines terrorism in impossibly broad terms - has had a particularly severe chilling effect. Fearing being arrested and charged with inciting terror, many activists have grown silent, refusing to issue even the meekest of criticisms.’

Msimang goes on, ‘At a time when this region is striving to set norms and standards of democratic practice, Swaziland is an outlier -- dragging the reputation and image of Southern Africa down.

‘The regional bloc would be wise to call for Swazi leaders to respect democratic principles and human rights, before the situation further deteriorates. The SADC is unlikely to do so. Swaziland is a small country with little in the way of economic power or natural resources and it is of little strategic importance - either to its neighbours or to Western powers.

‘Swaziland is well aware that it is flagrantly able to ignore the standards set by the SADC because it isn’t considered important enough to bother about.’

Msimang concludes, ‘The reality is that, without intervention, the plight of the one million inhabitants of the country will worsen as poverty deepens, restrictions on freedoms tighten, HIV soars and corruption explodes. Surely this is a crisis that the SADC can avert.’

To read the full article, click here.

Saturday, 27 June 2009


Only in Swaziland. News comes this week that the Swazi Government which likes to control every aspect of life in Swaziland is to interfere in the work of deejays.

Deejays (that’s people who play music in clubs and such like) are to be ‘regulated’ by the government.

Vusi Nkambule, acting chief executive of the National Council of Arts and Culture, said it was necessary to ‘supervise and regulate’ deejays because they are ‘too individualistic’.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009


The Swazi Government came under fierce criticism from International Labour over the lack of human rights in the kingdom.

The International Labour Organisation called (yet again) for the 1973 Royal Decree that, among other things, banned political parties in Swaziland and restricted civil liberties. It criticised the lack of rights in Swaziland to organize prison staff and domestic workers, the right of workers’ organizations to elect their officers freely and the right to organize their activities and programmes of action.

The ILO criticised the Swazi Government for ‘acts of violence carried out by the security forces and the detention of workers for exercising their right to strike’.

The ILO told the Swazi Government that it was obliged in international law to respect ‘basic civil liberties such as freedom of expression, of assembly and of the press’.

It also said that there should be respect for trade unions and they should be allowed to ‘develop in a climate free from violence, threat or fear’.

It called for all people jailed in Swaziland for exercising their civil liberties to be released.

The ILO criticised the Swazi Government for not making efforts to improve human rights in the kingdom and for ignoring ILO interventions in the past.

It called on the Swazi Government to repeal the 1973 Decree, to amend the 1963 Public Order Act, as well as the Industrial Relations Act, and hoped that the Swazi Constitution could be reviewed to progress human rights and civil liberties in the kingdom.

To see the full report click here.