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Monday, 29 July 2013


As Swaziland gets ready for the annual Umhlanga or Reed Dance Festival media across the world are falling for King Mswati III’s propaganda.

At the forefront are the travel media which report the Reed Dance as a colourful spectacle with a tradition going back centuries.

A typical example of the gushing hyperbole was published on the website Travel Video News on 24 July 2013. It reported, ‘[Y]oung women from all over Swaziland and beyond her borders converge on the royal residence in Ludzidzini for this momentous occasion’. They carry newly-cut reeds to protect the Queen Mother’s residence.

‘Residents of this tiny mountainous Kingdom are intensely proud of their deep culture and taking part in the Festival is a proud and privileged moment for all the family.’

It went on, ‘The Umhlanga Festival is a visual spectacle that bonds this small but perfectly formed nation. Its ever- increasing popularity defies the apparent decline of traditional cultures elsewhere in Africa. Witnessing this festival is a truly unique experience.’

The report was wrong in almost every detail, except for the undeniable fact that the Reed Dance takes place (it will be held in August or September: at the king’s pleasure.) The ceremony is not centuries old (it started under the present king’s reign) and the festival is far from a privileged moment for all the family.

The sinister nature of the Reed Dance was revealed last year (2012) when about 500 children were ordered to sing a song vilifying political parties. This was part of a clampdown on dissent in the kingdom, where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

This children were taught a song to sing at the dance which had lyrics that when translated into English said political parties ‘set people against each other’ and said that if political parties were allowed to exist in the kingdom the king’s people ‘could start fighting each other’.

Political parties are banned in Swaziland, but ahead of this year’s national election there is increasing pressure from pro-democrats for this to change. Some traditional authorities also believe that support for the present system that puts them in control is on the wane. In Swaziland pro-democracy demonstrations have been attacked by police and state security forces.

Last year about 500 children were chosen from all 350 chiefdoms in Swaziland to attend rehearsals at Ludzidzini Royal Residence and the Correctional Services Institution in Matsapha to learn the song. They were then ordered to return to their homes and teach the words to other girls in their chiefdoms.

Lobayeni Dlamini, who worked with the girls (usually referred to as ‘maidens’) on the song told the Times of Swaziland, there were fewer people who stood up to defend the present political system in Swaziland and therefore there was a strong need to send a message.

This was not the only year in which children were compelled to sing the king’s praises. In 2009, the South Africa Press Association reported, ‘During the four-hour event, children sang songs which glorified Mswati and condemned his enemies.

‘“This land is your land our king, your enemies want to destroy you,” they sang.

Observers inside Swaziland also doubt that the girls who are expected to dance half-naked in front of the king do not choose to attend of their own free will. The chiefs in the rural areas where they live require them to attend and the girls’ families can be victimised if they do not go.

Musa Hlophe, a regular columnist for the Times of Swaziland, one of the few newspapers in the kingdom not owned by King Mswati, commented after one Reed Dance that many of the girls who attended went because it was their only chance to get a decent meal.

Hlophe wrote, ‘Judging from the appearances of these dancing girls, one may be fooled into thinking all is well in the kingdom of Eswatini [Swaziland].

‘What will be hidden to the unsuspecting outsider is that most of these girls will have had a balanced meal while at the Reed Dance. That most of these girls (about 80 per cent of them) come from families who are among the 500,000 people who survive on food aid [out of a population of about 1.3 million]. After all the glamour of this week’s events, these girls return to grinding poverty by Tuesday or Wednesday or whenever their masters feel they are now disposable, having fulfilled their responsibilities to our rulers and their visitors.

‘What the unsuspecting visitors do not know is that Swaziland is a country in serious crisis. It is said we are still number one in the world, with the highest HIV prevalence rates, notwithstanding the slight reduction, We are a country with diminishing opportunities for foreign direct investments, with 70 per cent of the country’s population living on less than one dollar a day.

‘Further compounded by one of the severest drought in living memory, Swaziland would not be expected to be celebrating the way it seems to be just now. The hundreds of trucks ferrying the thousands of girls to Ludzidzini could have been used to deliver the much needed water and foodstuff to the starving population.

‘But who counts in Swaziland are the people among the ruling elite. In Swaziland, the poor have no rights or needs of their own. The ruling elite will now and again run charities for the poor and elderly and the poor take these as some form of generosity by their masters.’

In 2009, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the king, reported that special security squads had to be formed to ensure that the girls attended the Reed Dance ceremony. It transpired that they took the trip from their villages, but instead of dancing before the king they chose to spend their time in other pursuits.

Nothando Nhlengethwa, one of the people in charge of the maidens, told the newspaper, security forces checked up on the maidens. Each chiefdom had been told to supply a list of the names of those who leave the villages to attend. This list was then checked on a daily basis to ensure that the girls did in fact arrive at the reed dance and participated fully.

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Several of the wives of King Mswati III who rules the impoverished kingdom of Swaziland are presently on a vacation trip to Japan and Australia that will cost an estimated US$10 million, a prodemocracy group has reported.

In total, about 100 people will be on the trip, the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) said. 
The group will be travelling variously on commercial aircraft and the wives will travel on royal state aircraft.

In a statement SSN, quoting ‘sources within the royal family’, said, ‘The sole purpose of this trip is vacation. It is rumoured that the trip will cost R20 million (about US$10 million) in accommodation, travel allowances, air tickets, visas and other necessities.’

The trip which is said to have begun on 20 July is shrouded in secrecy. No official confirmation of the trip has been made by King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, or his hand-picked government.

It is not clear how many of King Mswati’s are on the trip. He is widely believed to have 13 wives in total, but this cannot be confirmed as the information is considered to be a state secret.

A group of King Mswati’s wives take expensive vacations each year. Last year (2012) they went on vacation to the gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas in the United States. On that occasion three of the wives were accompanied by an entourage of 55 people. Prodemocracy activists reported they stayed in 10 villas at the cost of US$2,400 per villa per night.

In 2010, a group of the king’s wives went on what was described at the time as ‘another multi-million dollar international shopping spree’ to Brussels in Belgium and London, UK.

About 80 other people went on the trip to tend to the needs of the queens.

In August 2009, five of King Mswati’s wives went on a shopping trip through Europe and the Middle East that cost an estimated US$6 million.

At the time media in Swaziland were warned not to report on the trip because it would harm the king’s reputation. Media houses were told they would face sanctions, including possible closure, if word got out. But newspapers and websites across the world followed the story.

The Times of London, for example, reported how the queens went on a shopping spree while the subjects of King Mswati went hungry. Seven in ten of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day.

The Australian newspaper said the king ignored the Swazi poor and the newspaper reminded readers that Swaziland relied on international aid from the European Union and the United States.

The previous year in August 2008 when a group of the king’s wives went on a similar shopping spree ordinary Swazi women were so outraged that they took to the streets of Swaziland in protest.

King Mswati does not accompany his wives on these trips. However, he is known to spend lavishly on himself and his wives when he does make trips. A typical example was in April 2011 when he went to London to attend the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. The cost of the plane alone to take him to the UK cost the Swazi people US$700,000.

The following year he was back in London to attend a lunch to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. He took with him his first wife Inkhosikati LaMbikiza. She wore to the lunch shoes trimmed with jewels that cost £995 (US$1,559). It would take seven-out-of-ten Swazis at least three years to earn the price of the shoes.

The cost of the King’s five-day trip to the UK for the Diamond Jubilee was estimated to be at least US$794,500.

The extravagant spending came just as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) criticised Swaziland for diverting money that should have been used on education and health to other spending.

As a result of this spending the IMF withdrew its team that was advising the government on economic recovery from Swaziland.

The King is regularly criticised in media across the globe for his extravagant lifestyle, but media in Swaziland dare not criticise him. At the time of the visit to the Diamond Jubilee the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, featured a report about LaMbikiza’s shoes, gushing that she had received ‘rave reviews’ from a UK newspaper for her dress sense.

It did not, however, say that the same newspaper reported, ‘Guests from controversial regimes include Swaziland’s King Mswati III, who has been accused of living an obscenely lavish lifestyle while many of his people starve.’

While more than half of the Swazi population rely on some form of food aid to keep them from hunger, King Mswati has 13 palaces in Swaziland, one for each of his wives; fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars and at least one Rolls Royce.

Last year, for his 44th birthday he received a private jet worth US$17 million as a gift. He refused to reveal who bought it for him, leading to speculation that it was paid for out of public funds.

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Prince Hlangusemphi, Swaziland’s Minister of Economic Planning and Development, was wide of the mark when he told the World Food Programme (WFP) that eradicating hunger in the kingdom was a ‘tangible goal’ that the government was committed to achieving.

He was responding to a report that said Swaziland lost US$92 million per year in the economy because people were too hungry to work properly. 

But, the real evidence is that it is the Swaziland Government, hand-picked by absolute monarch King Mswati III, which is the major cause of the hunger.

In 2012, three separate reports from the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the Institute for Security Studies all concluded the Swazi government was largely to blame for the economic recession and subsequent increasing number of Swazis who had to skip meals.

The reports placed the blame at the financial mismanagement of the Swazi government.

The reports listed low growth levels, government wastefulness and corruption, and lack of democracy and accountability as some of the main reasons for the economic downturn that has led to an increasing number of starving Swazis.

The Swazi Government was also accused earlier this year of deliberately withholding food donated from overseas as aid from hungry people as a policy to induce them to become disaffected with their members of parliament and blame them for the situation. Newspapers in Swaziland and abroad reported the government wanted to punish the kingdom’s MPs for passing a vote of no confidence against it.

Earlier this year it was revealed that the Swaziland Government had sold maize donated as food aid by Japan for hungry children in the kingdom on the open market and deposited the US$3 million takings in a special bank account. 

The latest report called the Cost of Hunger in Africa was prepared by the government of Swaziland working together with WFP. It found that around 270,000 adults in Swaziland, or more than 40 percent of its workers, suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. As a result, they were more likely to get sick, do poorly in school, be less productive at work and have shorter lives.

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Sunday, 28 July 2013


The number of people who have registered to vote in Swaziland’s upcoming election has been ‘grossly distorted’, the kingdom’s Communist Party has said.

In a statement, the Communist party of Swaziland (CPS) said King Mswati III and his regime were pushing ahead with the election which starts in August and continues in September ‘in the face of widespread voter apathy and crippling corruption’.

Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) announced 411,084 people had registered to vote out of the 600,000 people in the kingdom eligible to vote.

Kenneth Kunene, general secretary of the CPS, said, ‘Our cadres have been closely monitoring the situation. There is no evidence that anything like that number of people have registered. Quite the opposite. We have seen much apathy, resistance and passive opposition to Mswati's elections.’

The CPS said it had been running ‘a clandestine campaign’ to urge a boycott of the elections. It had circulated 10,000 anti-election leaflets in the kingdom, and is organizing ‘below-radar meetings and door-to-door campaigning’ to inform about the anti-democratic nature of the elections.

In Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last remaining absolute monarch, political parties are banned from contesting the election. Most opposition groups in Swaziland are banned as ‘terrorists’.

The election is for 55 members of the 65-seat House of Assembly. The king appoints the other 10 members. No members of the 30-strong Swazi Senate are elected by the people: 20 senators are appointed by the king and the other 10 are selected by members of the House of Assembly.

The CPS said that what registration that had taken place was largely enforced by local chiefs, who are key officials in the feudal Tinkhundla system that is the administrative framework of Swaziland.

Kunene said that the election system is corrupt from start to finish, and that the pre-election process had ‘been fraught with scandal and fraud’.

The CPS said it had evidence that chiefs had threatened to confiscate land and deny privileges to potential voters unless they turned up to vote.

Kunene said, ‘The police have also been threatening people to make them register. Very few people have been voluntarily going along to register. Everyone knows that these elections are not about equality, rights or representation.’

Kunene added, ‘The regime is planning to hold what it calls “voter education”. This will be a chaotic mess, as the police are planning to enforce participation, as they tried with the registration process. All this is simply reinforcing the people's opposition to the elections. They are realizing that the polls have nothing to do with improving their conditions.’

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Saturday, 27 July 2013


Claims by King Mswati III and his government that the economic crisis in his kingdom is largely due to world economic conditions have been undermined by two new reports.

One shows  Swaziland has again underperformed compared to other countries in the region.

And, a separate report says that political instability in Swaziland, where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, stops firms investing in his kingdom.

African Economic Outlook reported there falls in production in agriculture, mining, manufacturing over the past year.

The report stated, ‘[M]anufacturing contracted by 0.6 percent, making it the only sector that has contracted for four consecutive years, with a cumulative decline of almost 8 percent. 

‘The services sector, which had grown by more than 5 percent in 2009 and 2010, has experienced a significant slowdown in economic activity. In 2012, the services sector recorded a mere 0.4 percent growth.’

African Economic Outlook said the freezing of public sector salaries for the past two years, ‘has limited the purchasing power of about 10 percent of the labour force and further reduced consumer confidence and domestic demand’.

It said the slow implementation of the government’s ‘Economic Recovery Strategy’ has ‘prolonged the negative impacts of the fiscal crisis’. 

It went on, ‘Subsequently, public and private investments have remained low, even by regional standards. Therefore addressing the structural weaknesses characterising Swaziland’s slow growth remains critical – the business environment and management of public resources need to be improved to build confidence in the economy and encourage private investment. Further actions are also required to address skills shortages.’

A separate report by consultancy DNA Economics in Pretoria, found that fewer than 10 percent of 400 firms questioned in South Africa would consider investing in Swaziland, but more said they would consider trading with the kingdom.

The survey also interviewed 25 Swazi firms, which agreed that the country’s political situation was detrimental to the stable foundations desired by foreign investors, particularly when investors could do business in economically robust Mozambique or other regional economies, all of which are faring better than Swaziland. 

‘Swaziland has fallen behind in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of growth. The global crisis has affected every country but why is it that others have managed to do better? This could be attributed to domestic issues,’ Matthew Stern of DNA Economics told Business Report newspaper in South Africa. 

One banker told the newspaper, ‘We can’t openly discuss what is keeping Swaziland down, because it is governance. People are terrified to talk for fear of being labelled traitors and terrorists, which is what this government does with its critics, no matter how well meaning.’

He added that until it could be open to honest discussion, the root problems hindering its economy would fester. 

‘Swaziland is different from other sub-Saharan African countries, and until that changes investors will remain nervous about coming here. In fact, they’ve stopped.’

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


Swazi diplomats lived the ‘high life’ on a visit to New York, while people in Swaziland struggled to survive, a US television channel revealed.

NBC Channel 4 in New York monitored members of a Swazi delegation who were in New York for a UN General Assembly meeting last year. The channel’s I-Team reported they were found to be ‘spending extravagantly in New York City while their homelands struggle’.

Alastair Smith, a politics professor from New York University, told the TV show, ‘The lavish spending is just endemic of autocratic politics as a whole.’

Prof Smith said the UN’s Manhattan address was a distraction from the intended work of the General Assembly. ‘They are here for the shopping, the food the wine, the dining. If it was in a less attractive place, I’m sure fewer people would want to come as hangers-on.’

The I-Team cameras found several visitors, including family members, with the UN delegation from Swaziland walking out of high-end retailer Bergdorf Goodman. One women had Bergdorf Goodman shopping bags, though they said the items inside were just gifts.

The TV show reported that according to UN data, nearly 70 percent of Swazi people survive on less than US$2 a day.

‘Despite those struggles back home, numerous members of the Swaziland UN entourage [stayed] at the luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel,’ the I-Team reported.

The five-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel describes itself as ‘New York’s most breathtaking luxury hotel’.

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel website says, ‘Stunning floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the Hudson River, Central Park and Manhattan’s glittering skyline, while our sumptuous rooms and spacious suites offer the ultimate blend of style, comfort and luxury.’

It goes on, ‘With acclaimed cuisine, tempting cocktails and chic surroundings, our bars and restaurants are among the best in Manhattan.’

The cheapest room is US$595 (E6,000) per night. In Swaziland 70 percent of the population would have to work for about 10 months to earn the cost of one room for one night.


Democrats in Swaziland are calling on SADC to press King Mswati III to allow democracy in his kingdom.

The call comes in a new report – the latest in a long line – on the lack of human rights in Swaziland.

AfriMAP, a group that monitors and promotes compliance by African states with the requirements of good governance, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, in a report recently published, said the kingdom is ‘an island of autocratic rule’ in the SADC [Southern African Development Community] region.

King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned and campaigners for democracy are labelled ‘terrorists’ by the king and his supporters.

Swaziland is set to hold parliamentary elections in September 2013.

Ozias Tungwara, director of AfriMAP, said in a statement launching the report, ‘The current form of governance in Swaziland is a complete anathema to the conventional wisdom that prevails in almost all AU [African Union] member states, and certainly in SADC; the issue of dictatorships, absolutism and total state control of the citizenry is a forgotten and unacceptable notion; which is why Swaziland government must realize that it cannot delay political reforms, since it will only undermine its credibility, delay progress, economic and social development of the very people it is supposed to uplift and protect.’

The AfriMAP report, which has the support of civil society groups in the kingdom, concluded that Swaziland does not have minimum polling and democratic standards, because the right of assembly and the formation of political parties are forbidden. The report says that the political system in the country is ‘chronically deficient, and without any democratic culture or values of good governance’.

The AfriMAP report is the latest in a string of reports critical of Swaziland’s human right record.

A report published earlier this year by the US State Department revealed, ‘The three main human rights abuses [in 2012] were police use of excessive force, including use of torture, beatings, and unlawful killings; restrictions on freedoms of association, assembly, and speech; and discrimination and abuse of women and children.

‘Other human rights problems included arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and persons with albinism; harassment of labor leaders; child labor; mob violence; and restrictions on worker rights.

‘In general perpetrators acted with impunity, and the government took few or no steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses.’

In May 2013, in its annual report on Swaziland, Amnesty International reported, rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly continued to be violated in the kingdom. There were also ‘arbitrary arrests and excessive force used to crush political protests,’ the report stated, and ‘torture and other ill-treatment remained a persistent concern’ in Swaziland.

Amnesty noted that in May 2012 the African Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution ‘expressing alarm’ at the Swazi Government’s failure to implement previous decisions and recommendations of the Commission relating to the rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly.

These violations included the use by police of, ‘rubber bullets, tear gas and batons to break up demonstrations and gatherings viewed as illegal’.

In April 2013, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported that recently Swaziland police and state security forces had shown ‘increasingly violent and abusive behaviour’ that was leading to the ‘militarization’ of the kingdom.

OSISA told the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia, ‘There are also reliable reports of a general militarization of the country through the deployment of the Swazi army, police and correctional services to clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country’s undemocratic elections.’

In April 2013, the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), two organiastions campaigning for democracy in the kingdom, in a joint statement said police in Swaziland were now a ‘private militia’ with the sole purpose of serving the Royal regime. This was after about 80 armed officers broke up a public meeting to discuss the lack of democracy in the kingdom.

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Sunday, 7 July 2013


The Sikhuphe Airport, dubbed King Mswati’s vanity project, will definitely be ready to open before the end of 2013, according to Solomon Dube, Director of the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA).

But, he made it clear that it was up to King Mswati III to decide the opening date.

Dube’s assertion was accepted at face value by media in Swaziland, but observers of the continuing Sikhuphe debacle will be sceptical. A number of ‘opening dates’ have been announced and quietly forgotten in the past. King Mswati had himself confidently announced planes would be flying into Sikhuphe in time for the FIFA World Cup, held in neighbouring South Africa. That was in June 2010: but the tournament came and went, but Sikhuphe remained unfinished.

Bertram Stewart, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development told us it would be ready to open before the start of 2013. It wasn’t and it didn’t.

Stewart has for years been making claims about the opening date of the airport. In October 2010, Stewart said the airport would be open by the end of that year. It wasn’t.

Stewart was at it again in February 2011, when he confidently told media the airport would be completed by June 2011. It wasn’t. He also said a number of top world airlines (that he declined to name) were negotiating to use Sikhuphe. Nothing happened.

He returned to the theme two months later in April 2011 when this time he said the airport would be open by December 2011. But still no airport.

To date no international airline has announced it will use Sikhuphe when it eventually does open.  This will mean that even if the airport is ready to receive planes it could be up to three years before any actually start to land.

In June 2012, SWACAA Marketing and Corporate Affairs Director Sabelo Dlamini told Swazi media that at least three airlines from different countries had ‘shown interest’ in using Sikhuphe, but declined to name them. He remained optimistic about the prospects for Sikhuphe and said SWACAA was talking to airlines in other countries as well. 

But, he also revealed that it could take three years for an airline to actually start using the airport once it had decided to do so. ‘Normally, airline operators need about three years to prepare for such an exercise and we are nursing hopes that those we have approached will consider our proposals,’ he said.

Nothing has changed since he made that statement.

More recently, allegations were made in the Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa of major structural defects in the airport’s concrete apron and ‘that it is unfit for use by large commercial aircraft’.

Separately, official figures released by Deris Hlophe, SWACAA’s Air Transport Economist, showed that on average only 822 passengers a day were expected to use the airport.

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Swaziland’s controversial Limkokwing University has awarded King Mswati III an honorary doctorate.
In return, he has granted Limkokwing land for the institution to build a permanent site in his kingdom.

At a ceremony last week Limkokwing announced the King would receive his Ph.D doctorate in ‘human capital development’ in recognition of the king’s ‘commitment to improving the lives of the Swazi people’.

The announcement was greeted by ‘rapturous applause’ that lasted ‘several minutes’, according to a report in the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the king himself. 

Unfortunately, nobody has pointed out that Limkokwing does not award doctorates to students in the usual course of events because it is not really a university. Limkokwing, which is based in Malaysia, has set up branches in Africa in Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland. They have all been attacked for the poor quality of their staff and the inferior courses they offer.

In Swaziland, Limkokwing offers ‘associate degrees’, a term invented to disguise the fact that they are courses inferior to a bachelor degree. Associate degrees are better known in other educational institutions as ‘diplomas’.

In June 2012, after one year of operation Bandile Mkhonta, Head of Human Resource for Limkokwing in Mbabane, told local media that of 53 professional staff at the university; only one had a Ph.D doctorate. A Ph.D is usually considered by universities to be the minimum qualification required to be given the rank of senior lecturer.

The Swazi Observer reported Mkhonta saying Limkokwing had fewer Ph.Ds because it was a ‘non-conventional’ university whose curriculum was mainly based on practice than theory.

Limkokwing in Swaziland has no staff at professor rank and no record of conducting scholarly research.

Educational standards at Limkokwing are lower than those at other universities, including the University of Swaziland. It does not require students to have qualifications in the English language. 

Despite these shortcomings, King Mswati told an audience at Limkokwing the university was providing the kind of degrees that empower Swazi youths and said he strongly believed the future of Swaziland was effectively being transformed by it.

He did not give details on exactly how this was being achieved.

Nor, did Limkokwing explain what it meant when it spoke of the king’s ‘commitment to improving the lives of the Swazi people’.

King Mswati, who has a personal wealth estimated at US$200 million, is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. He rules over a population of about 1.3 million people and 70 percent of his subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than US$1 per day. The kingdom has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world.

King Mswati allows no opposition to his rule and all political parties are banned. The Swazi parliament is widely considered by democrats to be a sham that only exists to follow King Mswati’s wishes.

The king has total control over national land in his kingdom and it is expected that some of this will be given to Limkokwing. No announcement of precisely where Limkokwing will move to was made.

Limkokwing has been controversial ever since it opened in Swaziland in May 2011. It struggled for many years to be allowed to open until King Mswati personally gave his blessing. 

In June 2011, it emerged that the university’s founder Tan Sri Dato Lim Kok Wing had a meeting with King Mswati and ‘persuaded’ him that Swaziland needed a new university – and Limkokwing should be it. He fooled the king into believing that low level courses in such subjects as Graphic Designing, TV & Film Production, Architectural Technology, Advertising, Creative Multimedia, Information Technology, Event Management, Business Information Technology, Journalism and Media, Public Relations and Business Management, would help Swaziland – a mainly agricultural society - to prosper. 

Once the king gave his support nobody in his kingdom stood in its way. Limkokwing is in Swaziland illegally because an Act of Parliament is needed to set up a university, but Limkokwing was allowed to start without parliament’s approval. 

The cash-strapped government that was seeking ways to save money on higher education at the kingdom’s established University of Swaziland offered Limkokwing US$2 million a year it did not have for scholarships for up to 800 students.

Soon after Limkokwing opened, students began protesting that they were not getting their allowances and there were no text books and too few laptops. There were at least 20 protests, class boycotts and closures during the first year after it opened. Police used teargas and rubber bullets against protesting students. One student was shot in the leg.
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Saturday, 6 July 2013


Kenworthy News Media July 6, 2013
Maxwell out on bail … again

Swazi youth leader Maxwell Dlamini was given bail yesterday after a second lengthy detention and several delays in his bail hearing. Maxwell was arrested in April by no less than 23 police officers, charged with sedition and participating in an unlawful activity, writes Kenworthy News Media. 

His “crime” was to organize and participate in a campaign that advocates the boycott of Swaziland’s sham elections later in the year.

As is the case with other political prisoners, Maxwell has been ill treated by both the police and by prison officers whilst in custody. According to Maxwell, he has been beaten whilst in prison and in 2011, prior to his ongoing trial where he is charged with offences under the Explosives Act, he was tortured, as both Maxwell and Amnesty International’s 2012 Annual Report have stated.

According to Mcolisi Ngcamphalala from the Swaziland Youth Congress, where Maxwell is Secretary General, they are happy that Maxwell is out, as they believe the state has no case against him, but angry at the continuous imprisonment and harassing of  those who peacefully advocate democracy in Swaziland.

“News that the Secretary General of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) have been granted bail, is not only welcome but vindicating our long held conviction that there is no case against Maxwell,” says Ngcamphalala. “We condemn the state for having delayed the finalisation of the bail application thus frustrated Maxwell, academically, personally and morally. We also reiterate our call for the unconditional release of SWAYOCO president Bheki Dlamini and all political prisoners, languishing inside and those outside on bail, including comrade Maxwell.”

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July 5, 2013 Kenworthy News Media
Danish congratulations to PUDEMO on anniversary

In the last 30 years, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) has been “the main force in fighting for democracy,” Danish solidarity organisation Africa Contact wrote in a press release in connection with PUDEMO’s 30th Anniversary, writes Kenworthy News Media.

PUDEMO has been the main proponent of “a broadly socialist and pro-poor political programme, and for ensuring the inclusion of the population at large in the political process,” Danish democratic socialist party and PUDEMO project partner the Red Green Alliance wrote in another press release.

Africa Contact and the Red Green Alliance are two of the main supporters of the democratic movement in Swaziland. Africa Contact has worked with several of the important organisations in the democratic movement for many years now and the Red Green Alliance is presently engaged in a partnership project with PUDEMO.

The Red Green Alliance commends PUDEMO the organisations’ involvement in “mass campaigning and civic education of the masses” in a country where there is virtually no political space due to the ban on political parties and the “brutal suppression” of the democratic movement in general, and PUDEMO in particular.

And Africa Contact goes on to commend PUDEMO’s resolution and success in pressurizing the regime, regardless of the difficulties that the organisation faces. “PUDEMO’s success can be seen in the increasingly desperate measures of the regime, not least in the increasing level of repression that PUDEMO and other organisations fighting for multi-party democracy have to endure,” says Africa Contact.

Thursday, 4 July 2013


Kenworthy News Media July 4, 2013
COSATU and Africa Contact campaign demands unbanning of TUCOSWA

Today (4 July 2013), Africa Contact launched an ACT NOW campaign to unban Swazi trade union federation, TUCOSWA, together with the Congress of South African Trade Unions and TUCOSWA, writes Kenoworthy News Media.

“With this campaign, we wish to send a clear message to Swaziland’s government in general, and its Minister of Labour in particular, that the Swazi trade unions have the support of people throughout the world, who will not stand idly by and let the rights of workers in Swaziland be trampled underfoot,” says Africa Contact’s Chairperson, Mads Barbesgaard.

“Together with the ILO we demand that TUCOSWA is unbanned. TUCOSWA’s struggle is essential and epoch-making in ensuring that leaders in other countries are not inspired by Swaziland to undermine their countries’ labour rights.”

After years of negotiations, Swaziland’s trade unions federations had decided to merge into one organisation, the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA). But the Swazi government, after initially registering TUCOSWA, chose to deregister the federation in violation of the rules of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that Swaziland has ratified.

During its International Labour Conference in June, the ILO demanded that “the [Swazi] government should immediately proceed to the registration of TUCOSWA.” Until Swaziland’s government chooses to do so – something that won’t happen without pressure from within and outside Swaziland – the trade union movement in Swaziland, and thus Swazi workers, are left without a voice.

And Swaziland’s population need the voice of a trade union congress to demand their rights in a country where all that question the rule of absolute monarch King Mswati III are met with threats, violence, torture and imprisonment. In a country that is nominally a middle-income country but where two thirds of the population survive on less than a dollar a day, many without having a meal every day. And in a country where the government routinely and often violently breaks up any demonstration, protest or union event.

Sign the petition here

Support TUCOSWA through Africa Contact’s Mandela Foundation here

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Kenworthy News Media July 3, 2013
Unban TUCOSWA, says ILO, unions, NGOs

After years of negotiations, Swaziland’s trade unions federations decided to merge into one organisation, the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA). The Swazi government chose not to recognise TUCOSWA, in violation of the rules of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that Swaziland has ratified, writes Kenworthy News Media.

During its International Labour Conference in June, the ILO demanded that “the [Swazi] government should immediately proceed to the registration of TUCOSWA.” Until Swaziland’s government chooses to do so – something that won’t happen without pressure from within and outside Swaziland – the trade union movement in Swaziland, and thus Swazi workers, are left without a voice.

And Swaziland’s population need the voice of a trade union congress to demand their rights in a country where all that question the rule of absolute monarch King Mswati III are met with threats, violence, torture and imprisonment. In a country that is nominally a middle-income country but where two thirds of the population survive on less than a dollar a day, many without having a meal every day. And in a country where the government routinely and often violently breaks up any demonstration, protest or union event.

TUCOSWA has over 50.000 members through the two trade union federations that formed it – the SFTU and SFL. Several other trade unions are affiliated to TUCOSWA, including the teacher’s union SNAT, the public sector employees union NAPSAWU, and the plantation workers union SAPWU.

TUCOSWA was initially registered in January 2012, although this registration was withdrawn in April after TUCOSWA had called for a boycott of the 2013 elections. TUCOSWA is therefore in effect an illegal organisation (and treated as such by the Swazi police), and as the SFTU and SFL were disbanded after the creation of TUCOSWA, Swaziland is effectively without a trade union federation.

Examples of the police’s treatment of TUCOSWA was when police officers stopped a sermon at the Catholic Centre in Manzini that was arranged by TUCOSWA in March 2013, claiming that the meeting constituted an illegal gathering, or when the police arrested a teacher for carrying a bag with a TUCOSWA-logo and a worker for possessing a TUCOSWA-banner.

Swaziland’s Industrial Court also banned TUCOSWA from organising activities during May Day, raiding TUCOSWA’s head office, and arresting President Barnes Dlamini and Vice Secretary General Mduduzi Gina. Several other TUCOSWA-members were kept under house arrest. According to Mduduzi Gina, “even in other repressive regimes workers are allowed to celebrate may Day. Only in Swaziland were the festivities stopped.”

According to the constitution of TUCOSWA, the organisation works to “promote, encourage and assist in strengthening the democratic rights of workers in the Kingdom of Swaziland,” and it also “affirms its commitment to the establishment of a democratic society anchored on social justice.”

TUCOSWA has complained about its deregistering to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) – a UN agency dealing with labour issues and standards – and the International Trade Union Confederation over the repeated violation of ILO Convention 87, that deals with freedom of association and the right to organise and amongst other things recognises the right to unionisation and to start trade union federations such as TUCOSWA. Swaziland has signed all of the ILO’s core conventions, including Convention 87.

Trade Unions all over the world have condemned the Swazi government’s treatement of TUCOSWA. 

Education International (representing over 30 million teachers in over 170 countries) wrote a letter to Swaziland’s Prime Minister demanding that TUCOSWA is recognised. The British national trade union centre, TUC (representing 6,5 million Britons), last year stated that Swaziland should ensure the “full respect of trade union rights,” including the unbanning of TUCOSWA. UNISON (representing 1 ½ million British civil servants) condemned the deregistering of TUCOSWA, and the beatings and harassment of its members, in a letter of support. And South African COSATU “is deeply appalled by the continued onslaught and harassment against the leadership and members of the Swaziland trade union federation, TUCOSWA.”

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which is the largest trade union federation in the world, representing over 175 million members in 155 countries, brought Swaziland before the ILO congress in June. In a report from June 2013, the ITUC also described organisational rights in Swaziland as severely limited, not least the right to strike.

NGO’s have also condemned Swaziland’s attacks on TUCOSWA. The American research and advocacy NGO, Freedom House, has urged “Swaziland to end these attacks on the constitutional rights of its citizens and to allow civil society groups to associate and assemble peacefully   … [as this is] a clear violation of its commitments under International Labor Organization (ILO) treaties.” And Amnesty International describes how this de-registration has been seen by the police as a reason to arrest, assault and threaten union officials and activists who in any way display affinity to TUCOSWA in their latest annual report.

And the Southern African Development Community, an organisation that works to improve economic development in the Southern African region, can act on Swaziland’s non-compliance to its treaties. According to the SADC-treaty, that Swaziland signed in 1980, Swaziland has committed itself to respect human rights, democratic principles, and the principles of the rule of law. Failure to comply with the treaty may result in SADC imposing sanctions against Swaziland.

Swaziland has also been reprimanded by the ILO again and again for repeatedly violating ILO Convention 87. The ILO have sent two so called “high level missions” to Swaziland, in 2006 and 2010 respectively, and have announced that they will be sending another in the near future.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013


Police in Swaziland are spying on the kingdom’s members of parliament.

One officer disguised in plain clothes was thrown out of a workshop for MPs and one MP reported his phone has been bugged.

The revelations come as international organsations have begun to criticise the way police and security services are used by the ruling elite in Swaziland to undermine opposition to the regime headed by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

On Monday (1 July 2013), Ntondozi MP Peter Ngwenya told the House of Assembly that MPs lived in fear because there was constant police presence, in particular from officers in the Intelligence Unit.

The Times of Swaziland newspaper reported that at the same sitting of the House Lobamba MP Majahodvwa Khumalo said his cellphone had been bugged ever since he started being ‘vocal against some people’.

The House was told that MPs were attending a workshop on the Elections Expenses Bill when they discovered a plain-clothed police officer taking notes of the MPs’ comments. He was ejected from the meeting.

The Times reported that Ngwenya said as MPs they were now afraid to do anything because there was too much police presence in their midst. ‘We know of the police who ensure our safety and they are normally in uniform, we do not know what is happening now,’ he said.

This is not the first example of police spying. In May 2013, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) reported that police spies had infiltrated journalism newsrooms in Swaziland, which had led to a heightened climate of fear.

MISA reported that police interrogated one of the reporters at one of the media houses after common and casual newsroom talk with colleagues.

In April 2013, the US Embassy in Swaziland said it had ‘deep concern’ about the way police engage in ‘acts of intimidation and fear’ against people seeking their political rights. The statement came after armed police, acting without a court order, barricaded a restaurant in Manzini to stop people attending a public meeting to discuss the forthcoming election in Swaziland.

In the same month, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported that recently Swaziland police and state security forces had shown ‘increasingly violent and abusive behaviour’ that was leading to the ‘militarization’ of the kingdom.

OSISA told the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia, ‘There are also reliable reports of a general militarization of the country through the deployment of the Swazi army, police and correctional services to clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country’s undemocratic elections.’

In April 2013, the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), two organiastions campaigning for democracy in the kingdom, in a joint statement said police in Swaziland were now a ‘private militia’ with the sole purpose of serving the Royal regime. This was after about 80 armed officers broke up a public meeting to discuss the lack of democracy in the kingdom.

Elections are to be held in Swaziland in September. The regime, headed by King Mswati, has refused to allow any discussion about the election or the political system in the kingdom to take place.

On 12 April, democrats wanted to mark the 40th anniversary of King Sobhuza’s Royal Decree that in 1973 turned Swaziland from a democracy to a kingdom ruled by an autocratic monarch, by holding a public meeting to discuss the forthcoming national election in Swaziland. All political parties are banned from taking part and the meeting was to discuss why this was so.  

Armed police and riot troops, acting without a court order, physically blocked the restaurant in Manzini where the meeting was to take place. The police said the meeting was a threat to state security.

A week later, on 19 April, the 45th birthday of King Mswati III, the banned youth group SWAYOCO tried to hold a rally at Msunduza Township in Mbabane to discuss the election. Again, police forced the meeting to close. Organisers of the meeting have been charged with sedition.

Following these events, raids on the homes of democracy activists in Swaziland took place. Wonder Mkhonza, the National Organizing Secretary of the banned political party the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) was allegedly found in possession of 5,000 pamphlets belonging to PUDEMO. He has been charged with sedition.

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Monday, 1 July 2013


The election process has started in Swaziland – but it has hardly reached fever pitch.

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), the group charged with organising the poll, due to take place on two dates in August and September has struggles to get Swazi people to register. Despite taking the registration process to the people in their workplaces and villages, the EBC struggled to generate interest. In some areas local chiefs announced their subjects would be compelled to register.

King Mswati III extended the dates for registration for a week in an attempt to encourage more people to participate. By the time the registration process is over the EBC expects to have signed up about 70 percent of the people eligible in Swaziland to vote. This compares to 88 percent of eligible voters who registered for the last election in 2008.

A campaign to boycott the election by prodemocracy groups has been running and it is likely this has had some effect on the registration process.

Elsewhere this month, fresh doubts have been raised about the completion of Sikhuphe Airport, dubbed by many as King Mswati’s vanity project. One report said the runway was incapable of holding heavy aircraft and another said only 800 passengers per day on average were forecast to use the airport.

Swaziland: Striving For Freedom, now available free of charge on scribd dot com, is the sixth volume of information, commentary and analysis on human rights taken from articles first published on the Swazi Media Commentary blogsite in June 2013. Each month throughout this 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.

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