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Wednesday, 27 March 2013


A 17-year-old Swaziland schoolgirl was thrashed with 22 lashes of the cane by a male teacher because her mother is too poor to pay her school fees.

Save the Children Fund Director Dumsani Mnisi called the action ‘inhumane’ and ‘a crime’.

Local media in Swaziland say the girl from Emtfonjeni High School was one of a group of school students who had been told to stay away from school until their school fees had been paid. When they nonetheless turned up for classes they were beaten.

The severity of the punishment breaks regulations in Swaziland that state students can only be given a maximum of six lashes with the cane and male teachers should not beat female students.

Save the Children Fund Director Dumsani Mnisi told the Swazi Observer newspaper, ‘This is really inhumane. Beating a child for the fact that he/she hasn’t paid school fees is a crime on its own.’

Mnisi added, ‘How can you beat someone for something beyond his/her control? This is very worrying. There are clear guidelines for corporal punishment.’

He said the teacher who did this should be arrested and relieved of his duties.

The schoolgirl told the Observer, ‘What is very painful is that my mother is unable to pay my school fees because she is unemployed.’

Minister of Education and Training Wilson Ntshangase told the newspaper he not believe there was a teacher who could treat a child this way.

‘First of all no teacher is supposed to punish pupils. The guidelines for corporal punishment state that only the headteacher is responsible for punishing pupils,’ he said.

This is not the first time children at Emtfonjeni High School have been whipped because their parents could not afford to pay school fees. In July 2011 media in Swaziland reported children were given up to 10 lashes each. The school principal at the time Themba Shongwe confirmed to the newspaper that the pupils were being beaten for coming to school without the fees. 

‘We have been telling them over and over not to come to school without the money but they still come. We had no option but to give them punishment for not obeying the instruction to stay at home,’ the newspaper reported him saying.

When asked how true it was that the pupils were being given as many as 10 strokes he said, ‘If a pupil is told to stay at home but defies the instruction on the first day, you give that pupil a certain number of strokes. But if the same pupil comes to school again the following day, you have no choice but to increase the number of strokes.’

These are not the only examples of children being abused by their schools.  In October 2011, Swaziland was told by the United Nations Human Rights Periodic Review it must stop flogging children at school because it violated their human rights. But the fact that the practice of whippings is so ingrained in Swazi schools was demonstrated by Sibongile Mazibuko, President of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), who said at the time he was surprised that inflicting corporal punishment was against a child’s rights. 
Save the Children told the United Nations the treatment of children in Swaziland schools amounted to ‘torture’.

There are countless examples of extreme and often perverted use of corporal punishment in schools. At Mpofu High School girls are flogged by teachers on their bare flesh and if they resist they are chained down so the beating can continue. They get up to 40 strokes at a time.  

At Phonjwane primary school teachers lined up to whip 20 children. Each child received 27 lashes as nine teachers took it in turn to give each one three cuts. The children’s crime? They had been watching two boys fighting. 

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The Swaziland Government has been forced into making a public statement for the first time after news that it sold maize donated as food aid for hungry children in the kingdom on the open market and deposited the US$3 million takings in a special bank account.

News of the scandal has circulated in media across the world over the past two weeks and the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, has been criticised for taking food from the mouths of the hungry.

In Swaziland one in three people are officially classified as malnourished and they rely on donated food from foreign donor agencies to stop from starving. In particular, the maize was intended to feed people in drought stricken areas of the kingdom.

But, instead of feeding King Mswati’s hungry subjects, the government decided to sell the maize on the open market to raise E25 million (US$3 million). This money has been deposited in a special account at the Central Bank of Swaziland.

The sale of nearly 12,000 tonnes of maize raised concerns in the international donor community because donations are expected to be used for their intended purpose. In the past large donor agencies, such as the European Union, have stopped giving money as ‘budget support’ to Swaziland: money that the government would be allowed to spend as it saw fit, because it could not be trusted to spend the money appropriately.

Instead, donor agencies will now only fund specific projects where it is clear how the money, or goods donated, will be used.

In the case of the Japanese food aid, the maize was clearly intended to be used to feed the hungry.

Now, Government Spokesman Percy Simelane has issued a press release claiming that the sale of the maize was not illegal. 

He said the donors, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), were aware of the arrangement. This has not been confirmed by Japan.
Simelane stated that it was not the first time government had sold donated items: a consignment of fertilizer donated by the Japanese government had also been sold.

He said the money raised was put aside to assist in developing pro-poor programmes in agriculture. He did not say how the hungry people of Swaziland had been fed in the absence of the maize.

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Tuesday, 26 March 2013


Swaziland taxpayers are being forced to spend E2.2 million (US$240,000) on a guardhouse to protect one of King Mswati III’s 13 palaces.

The guardhouse at Lozitha Palace.will house more than eight soldiers around the clock and it will connect to an underground bunker.

The cost of the building will come from the Ministry of National Defence and Security budget.

Principal Secretary in the ministry, Andrias Mathabela, said the guardhouse would accommodate male and female soldiers and would allow them to be on duty and on standby.

At present, the gate to Lozitha Palace has a guardhouse which is a basic room where two or three security personnel are stationed, but do not sleep there.

Mathabela refused to disclose the purpose of the underground bunker. 

In Swaziland, seven in ten people live in abject poverty earning less than $US2 a day.

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Swaziland police shot a man dead in front of his 11-year-old child as he held his hands up in an attempt to surrender to them.

Thokozani Mngometulu, aged 31, was killed as he got out of his car at his homestead in Dlakadla, in the Shiselweni region of Swaziland.

Thokozani’s family, who also witnessed the killing, say he was shot in the pelvis at close range by a police officer.

Thokozani’s sister Buyisile told local media they were at a homestead talking to some who were waiting for him.

They later discovered the men were police officers.

‘While we were talking, a bottle green car entered the yard. After parking, Thokozani stepped out of the car. One of the men ran towards him and pointed a gun at him. Thokozani raised his arms to show that he wasn’t armed. The officer then shot him twice in the pelvis without saying anything,’ the Swazi News reported her saying. 
The Swazi News reported, ‘As Thokozani, a father of four lay on the ground, one of the officers rushed to search him and found a gun tucked in his pants at the back.

‘“One of the men tried to fire a shot using the gun, but nothing happened. I think there were no bullets. He then tried to place it in his hands but we asked why he was doing that and the others threatened to assault us. 

‘“Fortunately, Thokozani, who I believe was already dead, could not grasp the gun. They then threw it about a metre or two away from his body,” she alleged.

‘While all the events unfolded, Buyisile said one of the deceased’s children (11 years old) and his grandmother watched.’

Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Inspector Khulani Mamba confirmed the shooting incident and said the police would hold an internal investigation into what happened.

This was not an isolated incident in Swaziland where police have a deserved reputation for shooting dead suspects in what appears to be a ‘Shoot-to-Kill’ policy.

In June 2012, a serial rapist suspect Bhekinkhosi Masina, popularly known as Scarface, was shot by police as they cornered him for arrest. Police say they only shot him in the thigh and he unexpectedly died of his injuries. The Times of Swaziland newspaper later revealed he had been shot six times, including in the head and back.

Since then it has been revealed that in a separate incident, a mentally ill man, Mduduzi Mngometulu, aged 34, was shot seven times by police and died of his injuries. He had four holes in his stomach, one in the leg and two bullet wounds on the left side of his chest.

These are not isolated incidents in Swaziland where police have a growing record of killing or maiming suspects before arrest. The cases have largely gone unreported outside of the kingdom itself.

In one example, police executed a suspect, Thabani Mafutha Dlamini, at Nkwalini in Hlatikulu in the presence of his colleagues and home boys in what local media called “cowboy style”. The Swazi Observer newspaper reported the incident in December 2011 saying: “Police had previously warned the mother of the dead man to ‘budget for funeral expenses’ as they intended to remove him. He was said to be on a police ‘wanted list’”. Dlamini was unarmed.

In a separate case in February 2011, a Swazi policeman shot Mbongeni Masuku, described in media as a Form IV pupil, in the head in what was later described as “an execution-style killing”.

The killing happened outside a bar in Matsapha, an industrial town in Swaziland.

Masuku’s uncle Sigayoyo Maphanga said Mbongeni had been dragged out of his car by police. He told the Swazi Observer, a policeman whom he named, “shot my nephew at the back of the left ear and he fell on the ground with blood oozing from his mouth and ears. We were all shocked and angered by such brutality from police officers.”

In a separate case in May 2011, Mathende Matfonsi was shot dead by police while he was attending a field of dagga, inside the remote forests of Lomahasha near the border with Mozambique.

His family accused the police of “cold-blooded murder”. Matfonsi was shot dead at Ebhandeni, the same area where Nkosinathi Khathwane had previously been shot dead by soldiers at night.

The police told residents that Matfonsi fired at them and they shot back. The family said he was unarmed.

In March 2010, police shot a man as he was trying to surrender to them. This time the victim, Mncedisi Mamba, did not die. His mother, Thoko Gamedze, said Mamba had his hands up and was surrendering to police, but they shot him anyway.

It is not only crime suspects who get shot. Legitimate protestors are also targets. In February 2012, a woman at a protest march in Siteki, called by vendors and transport operators over plans by the town hall to move the local bus rank, was shot in the hand as she walked away from police. Reports said she was only 2m away from police when they fired.

Police in Swaziland also shoot innocent bystanders. In May 2012, a student was shot in the leg by police as they tried to break up a protest at the Limkokwing private university in Mbabane. The 23-year-old was not part of the protest and was caught in crossfire, according to human rights activists in the kingdom.

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