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Thursday, 13 January 2011

ARMY BULLIES ANTI-CORRUPTION TEAM

Swaziland’s top military officer Lieutenant General Sobantu Dlamini threatened members of the kingdom’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) with violence if they went ahead with a corruption investigation into defence forces personnel.


In a letter to the ACC Commissioner Michael Mtegha he wrote that he would not be responsible should soldiers harm ACC officers.


Rightly, the ACC took this as a thinly-veiled threat and Dlamini has been reported to the authorities.


Dlamini wrote the letter to try to stop the ACC investigating five members of the defence forces Air Wing on charges of corruption.


They are said to have repeatedly defrauded government, to the tune of E310 000 (about US$45,000).


Charges of corruption were made in September 2010 and in the days leading up to them, the ACC had received a lot of pressure not to make the arrests, according to a report in the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper.


The Times reports an anonymous source, saying, ‘You would not believe the names of some of the people who felt that the military should not be put under a microscope as most of their activities border on matters of national security. The message was loud and clear; leave the military alone.’


The source said the military went so far as to claim that the arrests put the very safety of Swaziland at stake. Why? Because with the arrested men out of circulation, no one would know how to fly Swaziland’s one-and-only military helicopter.


The source hinted there might be a major corruption scandal in the military that is not yet uncovered. The Times reports the source saying there was a concern that if this case against members of the military was allowed to proceed, it would open the door for more cases against soldiers to be investigated.


And the source is almost certainly telling the truth. In an unrelated Army corruption probe, last week, the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned and edited by King Mswati III, reported that Major General Manyosi Simelane, who ranks third in the Army hierarchy, quit the service on advice from lawyers before he was arrested on a corruption charge. Lawyers said if he was not a serving officer at the time of his arrest he could retain some of his long-term service benefits.


The Observer reported that the corruption allegations against Simelane include among others, abusing the name of royalty within the army, army supplies procurement irregularities and taking bribes for army jobs.


The Swazi News subsequently reported that Simelane had confessed to a magistrate that he took bribes from people seeking jobs in the Army. The Swazi News reported that Simelane might have received as much as E300,000 in bribes, from up to 100 different people.

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