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Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Democratic movement must unite and involve rank and file to depose Swaziland’s absolute monarch
Stiffkitten blog November 28, 2012 

“A group of uncoordinated lions will fail to catch a limping buffalo,” says a member of the democratic movement in Roskilde University scholar Bo Karlsen’s newly published analysis of the democratic movement in Swaziland, Struggling to Achieve Mass Mobilisation and Unity.

Bo Karlsen collected empirical data during a five week field study in Swaziland, sponsored by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Here he interviewed leaders from all of the main organisations in the democratic movement in Swaziland – a country that absolute monarch Mswati III has more or less bankrupted and whose population has been devastated due to “poor policy choices” and “heavy exploitation.”

From these interviews, Karlsen concludes that unity and mass mobilisation in the democratic movement in Swaziland are the main goals, but that the main impediments for the movement as a whole in achieving these goals are leadership struggles and value differences between two fractions or wings of the democratic movement. If they united, “they would be able to overthrow the King and his government,” he claims.

However, as much as these two interrelated goals were shared broadly among the organizations in the democracy movement, the goals were only occasionally achieved, says Karlsen.

“There are some deeply rooted differences in values and ways to carry out activities between the two wings in the democracy movement,” writes Karlsen. And the “leaders of the two wings are hostile to each other and are reluctant to cooperate. In the neighbouring countries it has been possible to form broad coalitions. However, in Swaziland the actors continued to focus on what divides and not what unites.”

The two wings, says Karlsen, are made up of the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF), the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice (FSEJ) on the one hand, and the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO), the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) on the other – let us refer to them as the SUDF and the SCCCO-wing.

The main difference between the two wings, Karlsen says, is that the SUDF-wing is seen as being more activist, confrontational and prone to initiate and participate in demonstrations.

There are other differences, but these are not generally insurmountable, says Karlsen. “Concerns about the work of the democracy movement were shared [and] they were concerned with the same issues … Often the different organizations are able to meet and agree on the same goals.”

One way of solving the problem, he writes, is to involve the rank and file levels of the organisations that make up Swaziland’s democratic movement, as the rank and file is less prejudiced towards the opposing wing than the respective leaders, and by having an organisation that acts impartially.
This solution has already been successfully attempted by the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) and the International Research Academy for Labour and Education (IRALE).

The SDC owes its success to its flat and loose cooperation structure, not being involved in the party politics as other organisations allegedly are, “playing the middle ground” and thereby being able to get “both wings together in campaigns.” According to Karlsen, the SDC “has been the sole actor in the Swazi democracy movement that has achieved mobilization of almost all actors in the democracy movement as participants.”

IRALE owes its success to “capitalizing on the more positive approach” of the rank of file of Swaziland’s two trade federations towards the other, each of which belonged to different wings of the movement, and thus helping facilitate the merging of Swaziland’s trade unions into one trade federation, TUCOSWA. “IRALE has been what several sources call the key instigator in the merging between the two competing federations,” says Karlsen.

Whichever way it comes about, however, a more unified approach within the democratic movement is still necessary to make it legitimate and credible enough in the eyes of both the Swazi population – who risk being tortured, beaten up and forcefully evicted if they campaign for democracy – and the international community.

“A united Swazi democracy movement is important to gain legitimacy in the population and look like a viable alternative in the country,” writes Karlsen.  The present disunity, on the other hand, makes the leaders of Swaziland’s democratic movement look too much like the parties in nearby Lesotho, a small former monarchy whose democracy has ended in bickering between its respective parties, in the eyes of the general population.

As for the international community, “the reason [that they stick to vague criticism] is that South Africa [Swaziland’s neighbour and biggest trading partner] and the international society is unsure of the stability of the alternative to the King,” writes Karlsen. “This factor in itself is an important reason for achieving unity in the Swazi democracy movement in order to be recognized as a viable alternative.”

Bo Karlsen is the National Secretary of the Danish Central American Committee. He has Master’s Degree in International Development studies, and has done analytical and administrative work for the Danish Trade Union Council for International Development Co-operation and the Danish Development Research Network. During the last ten years he has worked, studied and travelled in Latin America, Africa and Nepal.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


A man has been found dead in a Swaziland police cell.

Sikhumbuzo Tfwala, aged 28, was reportedly naked and had used his jeans and a sweater to hang himself inside the toilet of the cell at Sigodvweni.

The Times ofSwaziland newspaper reported a source saying, ‘I heard that the deceased suspect climbed the toilet window bars in order to reach the rafters and hanged himself.’

Tfwala had been accused of housebreaking.

This is not the first death in custody at a Swazi police station. In June 2012 Sihle Bhembe, aged 26, died after allegedly repeatedly banging his head against a wall at the old Mbabane Police Station. He had a history of emotional problems and had been in a cell for three days. 

His family reportedly said at the time they suspect police involvement in the death.

Swazi police have also been accused of having a shoot-to-kill policy when dealing with suspects.

In June 2012, the Council of Swaziland Churches demanded an independent inquiry into the police killing of the alleged rapist Bhekinkhosi ‘Scarface’ Masina. 

Masina was reportedly shot while while resisting arrest. Police say they shot him in the thigh and he died of his injuries. Later a Swazi newspaper said its reporter had seen Masina’s body and it had a bullet wound to the head. 

See also



Tuesday, 20 November 2012


The Swaziland King, his Royal Family, the Swazi Government and local authority members, all snubbed the ordination of Africa’s first woman Anglican bishop.

Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya, aged 61, of Swaziland made headlines around the world this past weekend when she was ordained the first female Anglican bishop in Africa at a time when the Church of England was still undecided about allowing women to become bishops. The consecration took place in Manzini, Swaziland.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported that the programme director ‘called for the government representative more than twice but no one showed up and other speakers were then called to the podium.’

The newspaper reported that also not present were representatives from royalty, the regional administrator and the Manzini Municipal Council. It said they had received formal invitations.

‘There were, however, no immediate apologies for their no show but other well-wishers were later given a chance to greet the bishop,’ it reported.

Wamukoya told the Associated Press news agency that she represented a historic change for the Anglican church in Africa, where other denominations do not allow women to serve as bishops. 

Monday, 19 November 2012


Swaziland’s Minister of Economic Planning and Development Prince Hlangusemphi seriously misled people when he said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was forcing the government to sack workers.

Hlangusemphi said this as part of a larger attack on the IMF, which he claimed did not want to help Swaziland get out of its financial mess.

Hlangusemphi was speaking in an interview with the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, when he said the government would not downsize the Swazi civil service ‘as recommended by the IMF’. He went on to say that if the government sacked workers without consultation it would be in trouble with organizations such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

But where Hlangusemphi is wrong is that the IMF has not called for civil servants to be sacked, but it has suggested the government wage bill should be cut by 5 percent. It has never been the IMF’s case to cut jobs of ordinary workers: that suggestion came from the Swazi Government itself.

The IMF has been very public in its advice to the Swaziland Government. In November 2011, for example, Joannes Mongardini, Head of the IMF Mission to Swaziland, said there were other ways to reduce the public expenditure bill in Swaziland without cutting the jobs or wages of ordinary workers.

Mongardini told the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme the money could be saved from cutting spending on the army, the police and politicians’ allowances.

‘We are recommending for the government to reduce the wages bill by 5 percent. This is a relatively moderate amount compared to countries like Greece, Portugal and Ireland.’

Asked by the BBC about the position of public service workers who have complained about the possibility of retrenchments and wage cuts, Mongardini said, ‘We fully understand that this is a politically difficult decision to make.

‘Having said that, the government can find other ways to reduce the wage bill that will not require salary cuts. In particular, some of the largest increases in the wage bill in recent years are due to increased security forces and police personnel and they also are due to very generous allowances that the government has given to politicians and top civil servants.’

Hlangusemphi also misled the House of Assembly last week when he claimed that the IMF did not want to help Swaziland access funding to revive its economy. He said the IMF had prevented organisations such as the African Development Bank (AfDB) from giving loans to government. 

But Hlangusemphi knows (or should know) that the reason why Swaziland asked for the IMF’s assistance was so it could convince international financers that it could repay any loans it might receive. To do this the Swaziland Government drew up what it called a Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap (FAR) that set out a number of measures it would introduce to cut spending and increase income. But, the government failed to implement its own plan.

Because of this failure, the IMF said in April 2012 it could no longer support the government. It was up to the government to come up with a new plan that might help to save the economy.

The government has not done this. Earlier this month (November 2012) the IMF reported the government had failed to improve the economy in any appreciable way and could not pay its bills. This meant immediate public expenditure cuts were needed if the government was to meet the budget targets it set itself in February 2012.

In a statement following its visit, the IMF said the government would find it difficult to pay its bills this year, without increasing domestic borrowing. It also said that one reason for this was that the government had increased spending this year on security.

Since the IMF’s November statement, there have been a number of attempts from the Swazi Government to deflect attention away from its own failings and to claim the IMF did not know what it was talking about.

Immediately after the IMF reported, Finance Minister Majozi Sithole, described the IMF as biased, negative and unrealistic.  

This was after Mongardini had warned the government of bad times ahead, including a looming negative impact on sugar exports, a tourism sector that had declined by between eight and nine percent, low investor confidence, an envisaged decline in receipts from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and possible repatriation of money from local to South African banks.

See also


Friday, 16 November 2012


Swaziland is training police officers from Equatorial Guinea, one of the few countries in Africa with arguably a human rights record as bad as King Mswati III’s kingdom.

Thirty cadet officers are in Matsapha for the start of a course scheduled to last 12 months. Swaziland has signed an agreement with Equatorial Guinea to train police officers for five years.

Equatorial Guinea has an appalling human rights record committed by its police and other state security forces.

The US State Department, in a report on Equatorial Guineapublished in May 2012, revealed, ‘Corruption and impunity continued to be problems. Security forces extorted money from citizens and immigrants at police checkpoints. There was no internal investigation unit within the police, and mechanisms to investigate allegations of abuse were poorly developed.’

It added, ‘security forces sometimes committed abuses with impunity. The government did not maintain effective internal or external mechanisms to investigate security force abuses.’
Lawyers in the country report arbitrary arrests. ‘Lawyers did not have access to police stations and could not contact detainees while they were held there; police superintendents when interviewed stated they did not see the need for or advisability of such access.

‘Police raids on immigrant communities, local stores, and restaurants increased in the period preceding the African Union Summit in June [2011].

‘Reliable sources reported that many legal as well as irregular immigrants were abused, extorted, or detained during such raids. Police occasionally used excessive force to detain and deport detainees, and almost all foreign embassies in the country criticized the government during the year for its harassment, abuse, extortion, and detention without representation of foreign nationals. Many detainees complained about the bribes required for release from detention.’

‘Several members of the largest opposition political party, the Convergence Party for Social Democracy (CPDS), were arrested, briefly detained, and released.’

Swazi Commissioner of Police Isaac Magagula ‘expressedpleasure’ at an opening ceremony that Swaziland and Equatorial Guinean were working closely together. He said the two countries’ police forces needed to collaborate more.