A 12-year-old boy is serving one year in juvenile jail in Swaziland because he insulted his grandmother, it is revealed today (13 August 2010).
He is also locked up because he is poor.
But he is not the youngest Swazi child in prison in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. That dubious honour probably goes to a 10-year-old boy who is serving 10 years.
The case of the 12-year-old came to light yesterday when he was spotted by journalists during a Juvenile’s Family Day at the Mdutshane Correctional Facility, in Malkerns, Swaziland.
The Times of Swaziland reported that the boy, who it describes as an ‘inmate’, was convicted of insulting his grandmother. He was given a year’s sentence with the option of an E300 fine (about 40 US dollars).
The prison or fine option is common in Swaziland: people who can afford it pay the fine, the others go to jail.
The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was described by the Times as the ‘youngest convict’ in Swaziland, but this may not be true.
In April 2010 it was reported that a 10-year-old boy was serving ten years at the same correctional facility, sometimes known as Mdutshane Industrial School.
Commissioner of Correctional Services Isaiah Ntshangase said there were 183 youngsters at the facility. He would not confirm what the 10-year-old had done to be locked up, but the Swazi Observer said he hinted the boy had committed rape.
Ntshangase told the newspaper, ‘Some of the children we have are too young to be in prison.’