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Thursday, 30 August 2012


A ‘Top Secret’ document allegedly found in the pocket of convicted bomber Amos Mbedzi was at the centre of evidence leading to his conviction on sedition, murder, and other charges at the Swaziland High Court this week.

Media in the kingdom told us that it helped to show that Mbedzi and fellow conspirators were intent on advocating a violent revolution. They had, the court heard, wanted to blow up a bridge near the Lozitha royal residence, but the bomb they had in their car detonated prematurely.

But, the media did not tell us what the document actually said. Why not? It was another case of media self-censorship. The document told the story of how King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, came to the throne. Unlike in other monarchies, his was not a clear succession from father to son. He came to power after deadly infighting at the palace and the ‘Top Secret’ document said so.

Here’s what High Court judge Bheki Maphalala said in his judgement.  ‘The document portrays a bitter political rivalry, division and deadly infighting within the Royal Household over the succession to King Sobhuza II, the Royal factions that emerged leading to the removal of Queen Regent Dzeliwe and the appointment of Queen Regent Ntombi, the emergence of PUDEMO [the now banned People’s United Democratic Movement] and its relationship with disgruntled Princes who were ambitious for the throne, the ongoing clandestine remnants of political maneouvers within the Royal House and a detailed critique of the country’s political dispensation as lacking in democratic governance. 

He went on, ‘The Top Secret Document was authored by PUDEMO and it exposed its relationship with the South African Communist Party and certain elements of the Royal House. The document concludes by calling for a violent revolution to remove the leadership from political power.’

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Swaziland: A Kingdom in Crisis: public meeting
Wednesday, 5 September, 2012, 6.00-7.30pm
Committee Room 7, Houses of Parliament, London, UK, SW1A 0AA
Admission free
Nearest tube Westminster, enter via Cromwell Green Visitor Entrance

The 6 September is Swaziland’s Independence Day. It should be a day for celebration but for most Swazis it is a time of crisis.

Swaziland is Africa’s only absolute monarchy. Two thirds of the population live in absolute poverty, hit hard by massive cuts to jobs, education and health; worsened by the highest HIV and TB rates in the world. The King and his friends live in immense luxury, protected by a vast military might.

Political parties and the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland have been banned and protestors beaten with batons and teargas. The growing movement for democracy, rights and decent pay is being met with brutal repression.

Hear about the deepening crisis in Swaziland, the campaign for democracy and rights and what unions, NGOs and parliamentarians are doing and what we can do, in solidarity with the people of Swaziland.

Ivan Lewis, Shadow Secretary of State for International

Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON (invited)

Thobile Gwebu, Swaziland Vigil

Tony Dykes, Director, Action for Southern Africa

For further info and to register contact ACTSA
Tel 020 3263 2001 Email:


News media are reporting on the Swaziland High Court case in which Amos Mbulaheni Mbedzi was convicted of a number of offences relating to an attempt to blow up a bridge near the Lozitha royal residence in September 2008. Some people are concerned that the news reports might not be giving adequate details of what was said in court.

To read the full 82-page judgement yourself click here


The Government of Swaziland has buckled under pressure from King Mswati III and reinstated teachers it sacked for striking for more pay.

Two weeks ago King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, ordered teachers to return to work after a six-week strike. He also ordered the Swazi Government, which he handpicks, to negotiate a settlement with teachers. The teachers immediately returned to work, but the government refused to reinstate about 200 teachers who had been sacked for taking part in the strike.

This led to a crisis in Swaziland because once the king pronounces on a subject no one - not even his government ministers – is allowed to discuss the matter further. In this case the Swazi cabinet of ministers met and decided that the king had not meant to allow the sacked teachers back to class.

Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, who is known in the kingdom as the ‘traditional prime minister’ and who speaks for the king, publicly criticised the government for defying the king’s wishes. It was even said that the Minister of Education Wilson Ntshangase might be forced to pay a fine for disobeying the king.

The government responded by claiming its actions had been misinterpreted by the media.

Now, the King, through his advisors, has made it known that he wants the sacked teachers reinstated and meekly the government has followed his instructions.

The Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku told a press conference, ‘The government has decided that all the sacked teachers should report back to work with immediate effect.’

Masuku, who is acting PM, added there had been, ‘regrettable misinterpretation of the government’s actions’ towards implementing the ‘Royal Command’.

He said, ‘We are all grateful as a nation to have a revered monarch who listens to his people and continues to display unique leadership qualities.’

He went on to say pronouncements made by the king were beyond reproach. He said government embraced this custom and was, therefore, collectively obligated to observe and implement each and every pronouncement.

This is an embarrassing climb-down for the government, but it is trying to pretend it was always going to reinstate the sacked teachers.  It has been blaming news media for misinterpreting its actions.

The about-turn by the government also puts to rest the claim from supporters of King Mswati that he is not an absolute monarch. The teachers demonstrate clearly that the king is willing and able to overturn any government decision as he chooses. It also shows that no one dares to contradict the king once the ‘Royal Command’ has been made.

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Wednesday, 29 August 2012


Tributes are coming in for the Swaziland Catholic Bishop and human rights activists Ncamiso Louis Ndlovu who died this week.

Ndlovu had a long history of helping activists in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Even the Swazi Observer newspaper, which is a mouthpiece for King Mswati, called Ndlovu ‘a staunch advocate for human rights [who] was loved by all’. 

It said he would be remembered for the part he played in a historic hunger strike by University of Swaziland students in the early 1990s. The students, who were then weak from hunger, were given shelter at the Bishop’s House in Manzini and he prevented police from entering to arrest them.

Musa Hlophe, of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations, said, ‘Bishop Louis was highly respected by the broader civil society movement in the country not only for his passionate commitment to the mission of the church and dedication to the plight of the poor through his many programmes ranging from schools, training centres, clinics, homes for the sick and the dying, support for poor communities among many others.  He was also admired for his courageous  and unshakable campaigns for peace, democracy and human rights.’

The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), which is banned in Swaziland, said in an official statement, ‘Bishop Ndlovu was a father figure to us as can best be attest[ed] by many of our young activists whom he protected when they were hunted down like ruthless criminals by the Tinkhundla regime. True to his outstanding humanity, the Bishop housed and fed the activists making them feel at home away from home. More than anything he provided them with safe refuge away from the charging police officers who wanted to arrest these activists for daring to question the dictatorial leadership of the government.’

The Swaziland Solidarity Network, also banned in Swaziland, said in a statement, ‘The Bishop was able to present a strong and dedicated voice which spoke truth to power. This obviously made him unpopular with the Royal family such that an attempt to silence him was once made in the nineties as armed men kidnapped him, only to release him.’

Phakama Shili of the Centre for Human Rights, Swaziland, said, ‘As an organisation we acknowledge the role that he has played for human rights advocacy in the country. The church under his leadership has been able to introduce initiatives aimed at promoting social justice.’

Ntombi Nkosi.  Chair of the Manzini Council of Catholic Women, said, ‘As women in the church we are heartbroken as he was our father and leader.’

Bishop Absalom Mnisi, of the Lutheran Church and Chairman of the Council of Churches, said, ‘He is remembered for his contribution during the evictions at Ka-Mkhweli area where he provided counselling for those that had been affected as well as food and tents for shelter. As a founding member of the Council of Churches, Bishop Ndlovu always reminded the council to provide for the spirit and also the body as many people living in the rural communities were doing so in abject poverty.

‘The council thus established 48 emadladla where these communities would be fed by the church.’

 Ndlovu died of heart failure in the intensive care unit at Mkhiwa Clinic, aged 67.