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Friday, 29 November 2013


Swaziland police broke up a screening of a documentary critical of King Mswati III and detained the owner of the studio.

Swazi police, acting without a warrant or court order, broke up the screening of The King and the People at a studio at the Christian Media Centre in Manzini.

The screening had been organised by the Swaziland United Democratic Front, an organisation campaigning for democracy in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

About 50 people had gathered to watch the documentary when police arrived and closed down the screening. They detained the owner of the studio and questioned him for about three hours, according to reports from Swaziland.

The King and the People, made by Simon Bright, is a recently-released documentary that investigates the present situation in Swaziland. It has been shown across the world.

In a preview of the movie, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) said, ‘The film shines a light on a crisis forgotten or misunderstood by many and unravels the reality of the existence, in the 21st century, of a governing system that is based on royal supremacy, greed, power and zero tolerance to fundamental human rights.’

Percy Zvomuya, who reviewed the documentary for OSISA, said, ‘In the movie, there are gritty, frenetic close-up shots of activists on strikes and state thugs beating them up. The grit is placed side by side with the rather drowsy shots of talking heads: an academic, a teacher, an activist and a politician deconstructing the crisis.’

He added, ‘But connecting all of this is a sad story of a country (or half a country?) presided over by an elite that controls the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, business and the media. A scene in which the king is seen having 'consultations' with his subjects gives new meaning to the phrase “bootlicking”.’

The breaking up of the public gathering is not the first of its kind in Swaziland. In April 2013 armed police physically stopped people from entering a public meeting at a restaurant that was called to discuss the undemocratic nature of the impending national election. Police said it ‘presented a threat to national security’.

In March 2013, riot police with batons halted a prayer meeting in Manzini because it had been organised by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), an unregistered organisation in the kingdom.  

In February 2013 about 60 armed police broke up another prayer meeting, this time at the Our Lady of Assumption Catholic cathedral in Manzini.  Police said the prayer was a political meeting, organised to disrupt the election that was later held in September.

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Wednesday, 27 November 2013


Swazi parliamentarians have been instructed not to get divorced during the next five years as this would embarrass King Mswati III.

Gelane Zwane, the president of the Swazi Senate, also told them not to have sexual affairs with Parliament staff.

Zwane gave her instructions during a two-day workshop to orientate members of parliament and senators on their role. This follows the recent national election.

Zwane told the members of parliament and senators on Monday (25 November 2013) to forget about divorce now that they were in parliament as it was embarrassing not only to themselves but to the King as well, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati reported.

Zwane directed most of her comments to women parliamentarians, the newspaper reported.
The Observer reported, ‘Speaking during the orientation workshop of the parliamentarians yesterday, Zwane said if they had problems with their spouses, they should find alternative ways of avoiding embarrassing situations such as divorce. 

‘She said if anyone of them was already in the middle of a divorce process, they should just stall and wait until their term of office was over.’

She added it was bad to associate the King with people who are seen to be leaving their spouses once they get into leadership positions such as those in parliament.

She added, ‘Such things are embarrassing to come from parliamentarians. Do it for the King at least for the next five years, then sort your personal issues after the end of your term.’

King Mswati himself has at least 14 wives (the exact number is a state secret). One had a very public affair with a serving cabinet minister before being expelled from the Royal Household. Another two of his wives reportedly fled the King and are now in exile. 

Zwane also warned MPs not to have ‘intimate relationships’ with parliamentary staff.

The Observer reported her saying, ‘You are going to find very beautiful ladies in parliament offices. Don’t you dare get intimate with them, no matter how tempting.

‘We would have to discipline these people because once they get intimate with honourables, they feel important and it becomes very difficult to work with them. We would have to discipline them, or even fire them, and this could cause problems for parliament.’

See also


Tuesday, 26 November 2013


Swaziland’s Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini told parliamentarians their duty was to the king above all else.

This is the latest twist in the national election that took place in Swaziland in September 2013. King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and political parties were banned from taking part in the election.

Dlamini, who was directly appointed Prime Minister by the King, gave his instructions to parliamentarians at a workshop on their role on Monday (25 November 2013).

He told them, ‘We are here working on the instruction of the King and the nation.’ He said that Swaziland had a ‘unique democracy.’

He added, ‘This is because we were voted into power through the various methods permitted by our exclusive Constitution.’

However, in fact few parliamentarians were elected. Swaziland’s political system is known as tinkhundla, or a monarchical democracy. Under this system only 55 members of the 65- strong House of Assembly are elected by the people. The King directly appoints 10 members.

No members of the 30-stong Senate are elected by the people. The King appoints 20 senators and the other 10 are elected by members of the House of Assembly.

All cabinet ministers were appointed by King Mswati. Following the election he appointed nine princes and princesses to the House of Assembly and the Senate. He also appointed another 16 members of his Royal Family to top political jobs; effectively carving up public life in the kingdom in his favour.

Shortly before the election, King Mswati announced he had received a vision during a thunderstorm which told him that henceforth the political system in his kingdom should be known as a ‘monarchical democracy’. He said this would be ‘a system formed by merging the will of the people with the monarch’.

He went on to say in this system, people cast votes on a ballot box to decide leaders from community level. These leaders then work with the monarch in governing the country.

However, the appointments after the election were overwhelmingly of people who did not stand for election.

The power wielded by King Mswati was criticised by two independent international groups which observed the Swazi election. Both the African Union and the Commonwealth Observer Mission suggested the kingdom’s constitution should be reviewed to allow political parties to contest elections.

The Commonwealth Observer Mission added that, ‘The presence of the monarch in the structure of everyday political life inevitably associates the institution of the monarchy with politics, a situation that runs counter to the development that the re-establishment of the Parliament and the devolution of executive authority into the hands of elected officials.’

See also


Monday, 25 November 2013


PUDEMO follows Danish municipal elections
Kenworthy News Media, 22 November 2013
“I am surprised that Danish political parties are always looking for consensus. The ownership and respect for the process by the Danish people shows – why can’t we learn from that. We come from the old British political system where we are always contesting.” The President of Swaziland’s largest political party, the People’s United Democratic Movement, Mario Masuku, is speaking from a polling station in Gladsaxe, a suburb of Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Together with PUDEMO’s Organising Secretary, Wonder Mkhonta, he visited Denmark this week to follow the municipal elections. The two Swazis were invited by the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy and the Danish political party the Red-Green Alliance.

They come from Swaziland, a corrupt and poverty-stricken absolute monarchy, where King Mswati III rules with an iron-fist, and where everyone who questions his rule is deemed to be a terrorist. Something that Masuku and Mkhonta have personally experienced on several occasions, where they have been harassed and brutalised by police or locked up for as long as a year on spurious charges of terrorism or possession of political pamphlets, only to be released after farcical court sessions.

During their stay Masuku and Mkhonta met with several Danish politicians, including Copenhagen deputy Mayor for Social Issues Mikkel Warming, Gladsaxe Mayor Karin Søjberg Holst, and Danish MP for the Red Green Alliance Nikolaj Villumsen, and followed the election process from the opening of the polls to the counting of ballots.

And the two Swazis were impressed with what they saw. “The life of the Danish people is rooted at the local political level, says Masuku. “The elections are well-organised, transparent, accountable, without animosity towards other people’s parties, and there is no corruption or very little, because all the political parties are committed to working together.”

“In Swaziland, on the other hand, the local authorities do not have the capacity to implement their own policies because the king is in control of everything,” he continues. “It is impossible to implement anything even at the local level.”

But as Masuku discussed with the Danish politicians, transplanting a democratic system and tradition from one country, such as Denmark, to another, such as Swaziland, is not a straightforward process. “The problem of comparing Denmark and Swaziland is that Denmark is a democracy and Swaziland is a dictatorship. We cannot copy-paste all from the Danish system,” he insisted.

“One of the things that have made the Danish system and political environment strong is the social welfare system,” Mario Masuku concludes.  “The people in Denmark believe in this system they live it, and it is part and parcel of Denmark. I believe we need something like this in Swaziland.”

Friday, 22 November 2013


Freedom House, the international human rights group, has condemned ‘the unlawful arrests and detentions’ of students carried out by police at the University of Swaziland.

This follows a week of disruption at the university which saw armed police raid student dormitories using teargas and arresting student leaders. The students report they were badly beaten at police stations.

Freedom House has also criticised police for arresting farmers in Swaziland’s Vuvulane area, who were resisting unlawful evictions from land.

In a statement Freedom House said, ‘The government of Swaziland should immediately end these violations of Swazi citizens’ basic freedoms.’

It said, ‘On Sunday, November 17, 2013, university students protested against what they perceived as an unfair change to the exam calendar. Police officers responded by forcefully entering students’ housing, allegedly beating and then arresting students. On another campus, six students were detained and later released without being formally charged.

‘In Vuvulane, the police are increasing pressure on farmers resisting their unlawful evictions from land that they have occupied for generations. In a clear attempt to intimidate the community, police this week arrested and detained a group of five farmers four times. Each time they were released before the 24 hour deadline for a charge to be brought, only to be immediately rearrested.

‘The Swazi government should compel police to refrain from using unlawful, violent means to prevent constitutionally protected free speech and protests.’

A recent Freedom House
report on Swaziland reveals the extent of King Mswati’s control over all levers of power in Swaziland. The king has ruled Swaziland for 27 years and is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Freedom House said his rule ‘has led to the near collapse of the Swazi economy, increasingly desperate poverty and lack of respect for the rule of law and the political rights of citizens. Political parties remain banned in Swaziland, which is rated ‘Not Free’ in Freedom in the World 2013.’

See also



Swaziland has received an E1 million (US$ 100,000) gift from Kazakhstan, a country with one of the worst human rights records in the world.

As in Swaziland, the Kazakhstan government sets security forces to attack its own citizens.

In December 2011 government troops opened fire and killed 12 people and wounded dozens more during a protest supporting striking oil workers who had gathered in Zhanaozen’s central square.

Human Rights Watch reported no officers were held accountable for the killings. It also reported that in December 2011, police detained hundreds of people in Zhanaozen, several of whom stated that police kicked and beat detainees with truncheons, stripped them naked, walked on them, and subjected them to freezing temperatures.

Human Rights Watch reported, ‘In March, defendants at one of the trials following the Zhanaozen events testified that guards and investigators subjected them to physical and psychological abuse, including beatings, suffocation, and threats of rape or harm to family members. The prosecutor’s office declined to open a criminal investigation.’

Like Swaziland, Kazakhstan, a country in Asia formed after the Soviet Union broke up, has recently held elections. And, also like Swaziland international observers declared they were not free and fair.
Swaziland has received its E1 million grant as a thank you for supporting the Kazakhstan Government in bidding and eventually winning the right to host the expo 2017 world fair.

Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has a long history of dealing with countries that abuse human rights.

At present it has a deal with Equatorial Guinea to train its police officers.

The US State Department, in a report on Equatorial Guinea published in May 2012, revealed, corruption and impunity continued to be big human rights problems in Equatorial Guinea.  

‘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.

Swaziland is also busy developing ties with Iran. In May 2013, it was announced that ties between the two nations would be expanded. Ministers from the Swazi Government regularly visit the dictators in Iran.

Swaziland has a murky relationship with the dictators in Iran. In February 2011, the Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that Britain had blocked a $60m sale of helicopters, armoured cars and machine guns to Swaziland, fearing the weapons could end up in Iran. The report was based on cables between US diplomats that had been published by Wikileaks.

See also



Students at the University of Swaziland (Uniswa) are to go to the High Court to get the examinations taking place this week declared void.

Armed police have been guarding examinations halls after students protested that the examinations should be postponed. 

Police also raided students’ dormitory rooms using teargas and arrested student leaders. Students report they were later beaten up at police stations.

Students have been protesting about slow payment of allowances and poor conditions at the university. Teaching was disrupted during the semester just ending and students say classes should have continued until courses were completed before exams took place.

Maxwell Dlamini, Presidents of the Uniswa Students representative Council, said, ‘We are preparing a mother of all court battles that will seek to render the examination null and void on the basis that they were held under an unconducive and unenabling environment and outside the rules and regulations governing examinations. 

‘Not only were students harassed, tortured, beaten, piled up at Block S [dormitories], but they were stopped from studying by police officers who kicked them out of their rooms and classes where they were studying. 

‘This led to students to be emotionally, psychologically, physically and physiologically traumatised.’

In an appeal to students published on Facebook, Dlamini said, ‘Students are urged to remain calm, cool and collected and must assist us with pictures and videos of what was happening before the exams to build a strong case. 

‘We also request students to open up cases of harassment against the cops to help strengthen our case.’
He added, ‘We will do all we can and possible to protect and promote the interests and rights of each and every students, hence we will make sure that even those who didn’t write the exams are given a chance to do so.’

See also



We are not victims, says Swaziland’s gay movement
Kenworthy News Media, November 21, 2013 
“When we are talking about gay issues in Swaziland, people are uneasy. They know we are there but they deny it,” says Sibusiso Masango, Secretary General of Swazi Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) organization, House of Our Pride (HOOP). “There is discrimination and we struggle when for instance applying for jobs,” writes Kenworthy News Media.

“In Swaziland, LGBT acts are seen as ungodly, unacceptable, and illegal and there are no laws against discrimination against LGBT,” a report published earlier in the year by HOOP’s partner organization, SWAPOL, said.

Swaziland’s Prime Minister, Barnabas Dlamini, has called homosexuality “an abnormality and a sickness,” and LGBT people “who are open about their sexual orientation and relationships face censure and exclusion from the chiefdom-based patronage system, which could result in eviction from one’s home,” according to a 2012 report from the United States Department of State. In fact, the Times of Swaziland recently published a story of two young gay boys who were beaten and evicted because they were gay.

According to the SWAPOL report, 40% of respondents to a survey claimed that they felt like “outsiders where they live,” and less than 10% had discussed their sexual preferences with anyone beyond their immediate family. And the true numbers are probably even less encouraging as those who accepted to take part in the survey were mainly people integrated within Swaziland’s LGBT community.

But Sibusiso certainly doesn’t want to be seen as a victim. He wasn’t really interested in talking about the discrimination of LGBT persons in Swaziland when I interviewed him, as much as he wanted to speak about the role and successes of HOOP in challenging and eradicating this discrimination.

“We see that there are some changes and we do push. We see ourselves as a strong organization and we have tried to introduce the issue with the Minister of Health”, he says. “The ministry appreciated this and we are working together.”

HOOP was started in 2009 and has approximately 300 members. Amongst other things they have trained peer educators who have campaigned on the rights and provided support for LGBT people, started reporting on LGBT issues, distributed condoms and lubricants, and improved the access of LGBT people to health services.

But the clandestine nature of LGBT activities in Swaziland “may increase risk taking,” as they “feel they have no recourse to bring incidents of abuse to the authorities,” the SWAPOL report says whilst also pointing to the obvious fact that this is an additional health risk in a country where over a quarter of the population are HIV-positive.

This is why LGBT-organisations such as HOOP are so vital, both in attempting to stop the spread of HIV, in ensuring equal rights for LGBT people in undemocratic countries such as Swaziland, but also in ensuring day-to-day care and survival, medical and otherwise, for LGBT people who in many cases are discriminated against at by government-controlled institutions such as Swaziland’s underfunded medical clinics.

But a general lack of support stifles the work of HOOP and other LGBT organisations. Little support is given and almost no money is spent on programmes for LGBT people by national governments, amongst other things because there is a “lack of robust engagement by donors, implementers, and governments,” according to a recent report by Aids-research organization, amfAR.

So civil society needs to increasingly align itself with HOOP and organisations like them to ensure that everyone in Swaziland and elsewhere are allowed their own identity and to fall in love with whomever they choose without being treated as outcasts.

Because intolerance in one area allows for intolerance to spread to other areas, so when human rights organisations and civil society in both the South and the North remain silent about human rights violations against LGBT people, they are in effect undermining their own cause.

See also


Wednesday, 20 November 2013


A student leader in Swaziland has described police violence at the kingdom’s main university as a ‘war’.

Maxwell Dlamini, President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) at the University of Swaziland (Uniswa), was commenting after police raided dormitories and dragged students from their rooms. Later they beat up the students at local police stations.

Students had wanted examinations due to start on Monday (18 November 2013) postponed. They said a long-running dispute between students and the university that had closed the campus earlier in the semester meant that teaching could not be completed before the exams started.

Armed police stood guard outside examination halls on Monday as the Uniswa Administration attempted to hold the exams.

Dlamini was reported in the students’ own on-line newspaper Uniswa Today saying, ‘The university together with the police who, instead of engaging us in a dialogue but resorted to bringing heavily armed police, actually raged the war.’

He added, ‘One must condemn the violence perpetrated by the university administration in collaboration with the police. If you do not want to engage in critical dialogue with the hope that you will use the police to silence people who want to raise issues, there is bound to be conflict.’

Dlamini said things would have turned out differently if the university had not brought in state security.

‘I do not want to believe that the students were perpetrating any violence. When you come into the institution of higher learning armed with [teargas] canisters it means you are preparing for war – you are actually instigating violence. I believe that had there been no police officers at the university things would have turned out very differently.’

See also


Tuesday, 19 November 2013


Armed police guarded the entrances to examination halls at the University of Swaziland to stop students disrupting exams.

This followed a series of attacks by police, using teargas, on student dormitories. Security forces arrested student leaders and beat them at local police stations.

The police action described in local media as ‘unprecedented’ was a reaction to student protests that the examinations should not go ahead because lecturers at the university had not finished teaching their courses following a series of disruptions during the present semester. The university’s Kwaluseni campus had been closed for part of the semester.

Students failed to get a High Court order to postpone the start of the exams.

Monday (18 November 2013) was the first day of examinations at the university. In the hours before exams started armed police using teargas raided dormitories, searching for leaders of the university’s Student Representative Council (SRC). An unidentified number of students were taken to police stations in the early hours of Monday.

Uniswa Today, an online newspaper, reported SRC Vice President Anthony Mthembu, was taken from his dorm room to Malkerns police station with other students, where they were forced to confess to arson and vandalism at the university.

Uniswa Today reported him saying, ‘They isolated me to a cell with the Station Commander and about seven cops forced me to identify students who set the Info Centre on fire and vandalized the exam rooms.’

He added, ‘They said they wanted names but [I] told them it was dark and couldn’t identify them. One grabbed me by the neck, the other put my head in between his knees and another grabbed me by the arms and twisted them.

‘The remaining ones sjombocked me, from head to toe, while the Station Commander uttered insults which I had long forgotten existed. They said they will beat me to pulp and can even shoot me because I'm pretending to be Jesus and dying for other's sins. They said as Vice President, I should know every student of the university.

‘They asked me once again and I mentioned no names but “the students”. They tortured me again, this lasted for about an hour. They then took me to another room wherein they said I should write a statement in which I narrated the ordeal as in above.’

Mthembu and other students were released at 5.30 am to return back to the university.

Police Public Relations Officer Superintendent Wendy Hleta denied police assaulted Mthembu. The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported her saying, ‘Mthembu was questioned alone because the police wanted to reason with him’.

See also

Monday, 18 November 2013


Students at the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) have been urged to leave their dormitory rooms for fear of being victims of police violence. One student leader had teargas thrown into his room by state security police.

Student leaders made the plea today (18 November 2013) after police raided campuses of the university and attacked students in their rooms.

Student representative Council President Maxwell Dlamini said police had raided a residence block at the UNISWA Kwaluseni Campus and were trying to force students out of their rooms. Students have been protesting about examinations and wanted them postponed.

Dozens of armed police were reported to be at the university during the past weekend.

A report published today in UNISWA Today, a student on-line newspaper site, said, ‘Three hours from now students were supposed to sit for their first examination paper. As this report is written, the S-block has become a jail since students can’t leave the residence. Anyone who is leaving his dormitory is being captured. Police have even started raiding the dormitories, the intention is unknown.’

In a separate report UNISWA Today said a university warden at the UNISWA Luyengo Campus allowed officers of the Swaziland state security force OSSU to raid all dormitory rooms  and to sjambock ‘all students who are found having squatted in other’s rooms’.

SRC Vice President Anthony Mthembu, writing on UNISWA Today said, ‘The operation started at 2330hrs and ended at about 3am. He also ordered that all SRC members be arrested as they are “ring leaders”. To ensure that he gave them our room numbers and a master key.

‘They arrived at my room at around 01.30 and tried opening my door but couldn't since I had inserted my key inside and fully twisted it. They threatened to camp outside my room and asked me where Max [Maxwell Dlamini, SRC President] is.

‘I resisted to which they threw teargas in my room, that I resisted too, but they tried to break in and my roomate opened. The squabble lasted for about 45 minutes. Upon opening they clapped me and alleged that there are petrol bombs in my room.

‘They searched all my suitcases, CPU and monitor cartons, cabinets, washing basket and anything you can think of. They even came to an extent of mistaking a wireless mouse for a “bomb”’

Students were then taken to police stations for questioning.

Friday, 15 November 2013


Children in Swaziland are being used as forced labour to tend the fields of King Mswati III, an international report on human trafficking says.

Chiefs in rural areas who represent the monarch, ‘may coerce children and adults—through threats and intimidation—to work for the king,’ the report from the US State Department reveals.

The report also says, ‘Swazi girls, particularly orphans, are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude in the cities of Mbabane and Manzini, as well as in South Africa, Mozambique, and the United States.’

The Trafficking in Persons Report 2013 also reveals, ‘Swazi men in border communities are also recruited for forced labor in South Africa’s timber industry.

‘Some Swazi women are forced into prostitution in South Africa and Mozambique after voluntarily migrating in search of work. Traffickers reportedly force Mozambican women into prostitution in Swaziland, or transit Swaziland with their victims en route to South Africa.

‘Mozambican boys migrate to Swaziland for work washing cars, herding livestock, and portering; some of these boys subsequently become victims of forced labor.’

The report says, ‘Swazi boys and foreign children are forced to labor in commercial agriculture and market vending within the country.’

The report says, The Government of Swaziland does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.’

It adds, ‘Moreover, the government failed to train any of its officials, including law enforcement personnel, on existing legislation and indicators for victim identification, which stymied investigations and prosecutions.’

It says, ‘For a second consecutive year, the government did not increase its protection efforts as it failed to ensure adequate assistance to and secure accommodation for trafficking victims.’

The report shows little has changed in Swaziland in human trafficking. In 2009 the US State Department reported that women and children in the kingdom were bought and sold for sex, domestic servitude and forced labour. 

Mbabane and Manzini were again identified as the centres of trafficking of girls, particularly orphans, for sex. Swazi boys were trafficked for forced labour in commercial agriculture and market vending. Some Swazi women were forced into prostitution in South Africa and Mozambique after voluntarily travelling to these countries in search of work. 

In 2009, the The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported that a form of serfdom existed in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The report said Swazis were forced to work without pay on projects determined by local chiefs (who are appointed by the king). These included agricultural work, soil erosion and construction and maintenance.

Swazis, seven in ten who live in abject poverty and earn less than two US dollars a day, are forced to work under the Swazi Administration Order, No. 6 of 1998, which makes it a duty of Swazis to obey orders and participate in compulsory works; participation is enforceable with severe penalties for those who refuse.

Last month (October 2013) it was reported there were an estimated 1,302 people living in slavery in Swaziland.

The report called the Global Slavery Index 2013 and published by the Walk Free Foundation stated, ‘Modern slavery includes slavery, slavery-like practices (such as debt bondage, forced marriage, and sale or exploitation of children), human trafficking and forced labour.’

See also



Coca-Cola promises to protect land rights of farmers, also in Swaziland
Kenworthy News Media, November 15, 2013
“The Coca-Cola Company commits to zero tolerance for land grabbing,” Coca-Cola said in a statement last week, the company promising to stop all business dealings with subsidiaries that are involved in land grabs, where land is taken from poor people in developing countries without their consent, writes Kenworthy News Media.

The move comes after 250,000 people had signed a petition in connection with international NGO Oxfam’s campaign for food and beverage companies such as Coca-Cola to respect the land rights of local communities, and Oxfam had “found evidence of land grabs and disputes by companies that supply sugar for Coca-Cola” – the world’s largest buyer of sugar.

Coca-Cola further promised to “protect the land rights of farmers and communities in the world’s top sugarcane-producing regions, advancing its ongoing efforts to drive transparency and accountability across its global supply chain,” in a statement published on their website last week, also promising “a commitment to sustainably source … sugar cane” by 2020.

A very necessary move, since the harvesting of sugar cane is “the most hazardous” of all forms of agricultural work, according to Human Rights Watch, and since sugar “has been driving large-scale land acquisitions and land conflicts at the expense of small-scale food producers and their families,” according to a recently published report from Oxfam.

According to Communications Director for Coca-Cola Nordic, Mikael Bonde Nielsen, these promises of protection of rights and sustainability also apply to Swaziland. “Our expectations of our suppliers are the same no matter where they operate. This also applies to Swaziland,” he tells Africa Contact.

Coca-Cola has a huge concentrate-manufacturing plant in Swaziland that supplies the growing African market for Coca-Cola. A subsidiary of Coca-Cola, Conco, buys Swazi sugar for the production of Coca-Cola concentrate, a major export for Swaziland that makes up as much as 40 per cent of Swaziland’s GDP.

In Swaziland, the problem of land grabbing is exacerbated by the fact that Swaziland’s absolute monarch, King Mswati III, controls all publically owned land, and that his chiefs do his bidding in ejecting people from the land they live on and cultivate if they disobey him or them in any way.

So it is urgent that Coca-Cola acts on their promises. For instance that they investigate and reveal how the land on which the sugar for the products that are produced in Swaziland has been acquired, and how the sugar production on this land effects the subsistence farmers who live nearby.

The problem is that the issues of land usage and the effects of the sugar production of Coca-Cola’s suppliers cannot be separated from the autocratic political system in Swaziland.

But Mikael Bonde Nielsen says that Coca-Cola is not about to change their approach in regard to the political situation in the countries in which they operate. “Coca-Cola does not interfere in to the political affairs of sovereign states.”

Indeed, Coca-Cola is on good terms with Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III, with whom Coca-Cola’ says they have a “solid relationship” that they sincerely appreciate.

The UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights stipulates that businesses have responsibilities across their entire supply chain. “Business enterprises should respect human rights … [the principles exist] independently of States’ abilities and/or willingness to fulfill their own human rights obligations … The responsibility to respect human rights requires that business enterprises … seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.”

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