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Thursday, 28 February 2013


Media Institute of Southern Africa, Swaziland chapter
Media Alert, 28 February 2013

Suspended newspaper executive said to have misused funds

Media reports say Alpheous Nxumalo, the suspended managing director of the Swazi Observer Group of Newspapers, allegedly misused funds during his tenure. Chairperson of the Swazi Observer, Sthofeni Ginindza, suspended Nxumalo on 19 February 2013.

On Monday, 25 February 2013 the Times of Swaziland, a privately-owned daily newspaper, reported that Nxumalo allegedly partook in “fraudulent practices and other acts of misconduct”. The newspaper quoted Ginindza as saying “the allegations [against Nxumalo] pertained to financial mismanagement”.

Nxumalo successfully obtained an interdict allowing him to return to work despite the board insisting that he would not be welcome at the newspaper group.

However, the Times of Swaziland reports that since the suspension, the managing director “was further required to hand over all company items, including all keys, computers, laptops, documents and any other item in his possession that belongs to the Swazi Observer”. It would also appear as if he is being denied access to company premises.

Nxumalo is accusing what he describes as a “politically-controlled” board of interference in his work, saying this is what has led to his suspension.

Earlier this year, Nxumalo attracted much criticism after publishing a column in the Swazi Observer in which he accused the media and non-governmental organisations of undermining the authority of the Swazi government and the royal family.

“It is absolutely true that most of the so-called democracy activists find it ‘democratic’ to insult the heads of state and government in the media as a strategy of democratising Swaziland. It is preposterous and fallacious,” he wrote, going on to declare that he “will not submit to a mandate in contradiction with the mandate of the Swazi monarchy and its subsidiary institutions.”

The Swaziland Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Swaziland) wrote a letter to the newspaper at the time, calling on Nxumalo to substantiate his claims.

The Swazi Observer Group of Newspapers publishes the Swazi Observer (daily) and Weekend Observer (weekly). Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, a royal conglomerate owned by King Mswati III in trust of the Swazi nation, owns the newspaper group.

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Swaziland: Striving For Freedom, Vol 2. February 2013

The second of Swazi Media Commentary’s monthly round-up of events in Swaziland, aimed at giving information and analysis to those who support the struggle for freedom in the kingdom, has been published.

Swaziland’s forthcoming undemocratic national election dominates this month.  King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, in an extraordinary speech at the opening of parliament, quoting a report from the Pan-African Parliament, claimed that the international community thought the Swazi system of governance was so good it should be followed by other countries in Africa. But, in fact, the report said no such thing: it said the opposite, stating that the banning of political parties from elections did not meet ‘regional and international standards and principles for democratic elections’.

Elsewhere, calls for the election to be boycotted by voters is growing and the main opposition party PUDEMO (outlawed in Swaziland) is asking the international community not to go to Swaziland as election observers.

The king has yet to announce the date of the election, but that has not stopped armed state police from stopping people talking about it. About 60 officers invaded a prayer meeting at a cathedral church in Manzini calling it ‘political’. Police had no court order or warrant to take the action, but claimed they did not need these: all that mattered was that they suspected a crime would take place. Worshippers had gathered to seek spiritual reflection and guidance from the Bible prior to launching a discussion about the credibility of the election.

Elsewhere, Swaziland’s economy continues to deteriorate, but the government refuses to acknowledge this. In the annual budget delivered this month, Finance Minister Majozi Sithole announced increases in the public sector salaries bill and a cut in taxes.  These measures were the opposite of those recommended by the International Monetary Fund, which is seeking to help Swaziland recover from its economic mess so that it becomes eligible for international loans that could support the economy.

Swaziland: Striving For Freedom, Vol 2. February 2013, is available free-of-charge on scribd dot com is the second volume of information, commentary and analysis on human rights taken from articles first published on the Swazi Media Commentary blogsite in 2013. Each month throughout the coming year a digest of articles will be published bringing together in one place material that is rarely found elsewhere.

Swazi Media Commentary has no physical base and is completely independent of any political faction and receives no income from any individual or organisation. People who contribute ideas or write for it do so as volunteers and receive no payment.

Monday, 25 February 2013


Swaziland’s three national security chiefs are to join a growing number of ruling elite in the undemocratic kingdom to receive bullet-proof cars.

Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) Commander Lieutenant Sobantu Dlamini, Royal Swaziland Police (RSP) Commissioner Isaac Magagula and His Majesty’s Correctional Services (HMCS) Commissioner Isaiah Mzuthini Ntshangase are each to receive BMW 2013 X5 cars at a total cost of E4 million.

They join about 20 members of the Swazi Royal family, headed by King Mswati III, who already have top-of-the-range Mercedes S600 Pullman Guard cars that can withstand an armoured missile assault.

Local media in Swaziland have been reporting that the latest three cars are ready to be delivered from Germany next month (March 2013).

But, nobody is saying why the security chiefs need bullet proof cars.

Ntshangase did however tell the Times of Swaziland that being a security force boss required a special car owing to the nature of the position. Magagula told the newspaper he did not mind if government saw it fit to buy them the BMW X5s. He said certain positions needed certain cars for their status.

When the BMW X5 Security plus was launched in 2009 it was described by the manufacturers as being capable of withstanding an attack from the AK 47, the world’s most widely-used assault gun.

It also has an amoured passenger cabin, bullet-resistant glass and an intercom system allowing communication with persons outside the vehicle without having to open doors or windows.

The BMW X5s are small beer compared to the 20 armoured ‘military style’ Mercedes Benz S600 Pullman Guard cars King Mswati got in 2009 … to be used by his wives.

They were each valued at valued at E2.5 million (about US$ 250,000) each and said to be capable of resisting an attack with small arms projectiles, a grenade or other explosive.

One website described the car as ‘The car of choice for up-and-coming dictators.’

At the time of the purchase the king was furious that his subjects had dared to discuss how much the cars might have cost.

The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, quoted an unnamed ‘source’ saying the purchase price was ‘far less’ than reported. The source did not reveal how much the king did pay.

The Observer did not care how much the cars cost.  It said, ‘Moreover, the status of our Royalty and the pride and value we attach to the institution of the Monarchy dictates that they project the correct image that inspires confidence. The cars and their safety features befit that status. So there is really nothing wrong with the purchase.’

The ‘source’ told the Observer that the money to buy the cars was not from the government.

‘This was not abuse of taxpayers’ money and the money was not transferred from a government ministry, but these were private Royal funds. Remember that there is a budget for Royalty in Swaziland as is the case elsewhere in the world. Even the biggest democracies have such budgets,’ the ‘source’ said.

King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Seven in ten of his 1.1 million subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day. The king, whom Forbes magazine in 2009 estimated had a personal fortune of US$200 million, has 13 palaces, a private jet, a Rolls Royce car and a fleet of BMW cars, in addition to the Mercedes.

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Sunday, 24 February 2013


About 60 armed Swazi police broke up a prayer meeting before it had even started, claiming that the law had been broken.

This happened last week (16 February 2013) in a school hall at Salesian in Manzini. Police claimed the people attending were not present for prayers, but had gathered together to plot against national elections due to be held in Swaziland sometime later this year (2013). 

This, police said, allowed them to break up the meeting without a court order or a warrant.

Police spokesperson Inspector Khulani Mamba, said they were acting on information that the prayers were a meeting to plan to disturb forthcoming national elections.

‘When we see a crime happening, we don’t need a court order,’ Mamba told local media last week. 

But, Musa Hlophe, the coordinator of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisation (SCCCO), one of the best known NGOs in the kingdom, says, nothing had happened at the meeting to give police cause to stop it.

Writing in his regular column in the Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland, Hlophe gave details of what happened when the police arrived. 

He wrote, ‘In a school hall at Salesian in Manzini (not a church) a meeting was organised by the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign. They called it a “Prayer for Multiparty”.

‘It was publicly advertised as open to all. The Royal Swaziland Police obviously saw the advertisement and decided to please their political masters by not allowing it.

‘They claimed the meeting was called to plan how to disrupt the upcoming national elections. What law did the police say these people broke?

‘Even more importantly, where is the police evidence to even suspect a crime?

‘Dissent and even peaceful disruption or defiance are not crimes. Therefore, planning them cannot be a crime either.

‘Either way, the police charged in and demanded that the private meeting be broken up. Faced with such a show of force, the organisers reluctantly agreed to these demands. They then thought that by moving to a church, they would be protected. They did so.

‘The Swazi Police reacted by finding the new meeting and invading it again, this time forcing the people out within “seven minutes”.

‘Did the police not see that this would lead to a bigger problem for their masters?

‘The Highest Authorities in the land including, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), Minister of Justice and those above them, have all spoken very clearly in international meetings like the United Nations and the African Union, that protest meetings are allowed in Swaziland.

‘They often say they can ban certain public rallies because they think they are a danger to the public. That cannot be the case here since the meeting was of a small number of people in a private area. So the Swazi Police now raid a church to stop a few people protesting against a system they see as being undemocratic?

‘I was going to say the “protesters” were forced to leave the hall but I would be wrong. They had not even started to protest or even to plan their protest.

‘They had merely gathered together and were yet to speak. The Police found them guilty of crimes before they had opened their mouths.

‘I have talked to the people who were there. They were certainly intending to open debates on whether the national elections that we expect in August 2013 should be contested or boycotted but I am yet to see a crime in that. They wanted to get their campaign off on the right foot by seeking spiritual reflection and guidance from the Bible.

‘There is not yet a declared law in Swaziland against having a different opinion, yet our police treat it as a crime.

‘Officially, there is no reason to stop anyone organising a protest but the Swazi police greet peaceful dissidents with brute force, rubber bullets and batons.’

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