Search This Blog

Monday, 29 September 2014


Homes have been demolished against residents’ wishes to make way for another of King Mswati III’s ‘vanity projects’.

The King wants to build a Royal Science and Innovation Park/ Biotechnology Park at Nokwane.

Residents of ten homesteads tried to get a court order to stop their homes being demolished but were told by the Attorney-General the courts were powerless and only the King himself could stop the destruction.

King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The homesteads, which were mostly stick-and-mud houses, were bulldozed on Thursday (25 September 2014). Local media reported that residents were traumatised when about 20 armed police officers forced them out and at least three residents needed hospital treatment. Some people had lived at Nokwane for at least 20 years, the Swazi Observer newspaper reported.

The newspaper reported, ‘The [police] officers, who were armed with pistols, rifles and batons moved from one homestead to another as the sheriff informed the residents of the demolitions which were to be effected in a matter of time.’

The clearance was to make way for the building of a Royal Science and Innovation Park/ Biotechnology Park. When the project was first announced in 2010 it was criticised by observers as another ‘vanity project’ for the King. It runs alongside the Sikhuphe International Airport (now renamed King Mswati III Airport) which was officially opened in March 2014 after costing at least E3 billion (US$300 million) to build. No commercial airlines have used the airport, but Swaziland Airlink, a company controlled by the Swazi Government, has been forced to abandon using Matsapha Airport and will move to Sikhuphe in October 2014.

In 2010, Moses Zungu, the Project Manager for the Royal Science and Innovation Park/ Biotechnology Park, said the first phase of the project, which would involve basic infrastructure such as roads, drainage, landscaping and other works, would cost E850 million (US$85 million). He said the first phase would start in April 2011 – more than three years ago.

No needs analysis for the development has been published, but Zungu said in 2010 the science park was the initiative of the King.

In July 2011 it was revealed that the Swazi Government had taken out a US$20 million loan to part-finance the science park. The loan, in the form of a line of credit, was from the Export-Import Bank of India. 

More than seven in ten of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day. The kingdom has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world and earlier this year the Swazi Minister of Health Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane said there was not enough money to pay for drugs to prevent the death of children from diarrhoea in the kingdom.

See also



More than 50 trade unions and civil society organisations from across the world have joined to nominate two jailed Swaziland journalists for a human-rights award.

Bheki Makhubu, editor of The Nation magazine, and Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer and writer, are serving two-year jail sentences after writing and publishing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary.

They have been nominated for the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Award which honours exceptional individuals who peacefully promote and protect universally recognised rights.

A statement announcing the nomination said. ‘Thulani is a human rights lawyer and a pro-democracy activist who repeatedly defended political activists and trade unions in and outside the courts. He represented Mario Masuku, president of the banned opposition party, the People’s United Democratic Movement, and Sipho Jele on their pro-democracy struggles, which the state had termed treasonable. 

‘Recently, he challenged the constitutionality of the de-registration of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland at the High Court. 

‘Bheki is the editor of The Nation magazine, a monthly periodical that is one of the few independent voices in the country calling for government accountability and democratic change.’ Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The statement continued, ‘Thulani and Bheki were arrested and detained on 17 March 2014 and 18 March 2014 respectively for writing articles about the circumstances surrounding the arrest of government vehicle inspector, Bhantshana Gwebu, and the lack of integrity, impartiality and independence of the Swaziland judiciary. After a trial with numerous flaws and irregularities demonstrating a bias against them, both of them were convicted of contempt of court on 17 July 2014. However, instead of the ordinary 30-day sentence, they were sentenced to two years imprisonment on 25 July 2014, underscoring the political (and jaundiced) nature of their trial and sentence.’

The winners of the 2014 Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Award will be selected by an independent jury and announced at the occasion of the ordinary session of the Africa Commission on Human and People’s Rights in Niamey in October 2014.

Among those organisations making the nomination are: Action for Southern Africa; African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation; Afrika Kontakt Denmark; American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations; Botswana Federation of Trade Unions; Canadian Labour Congress; Central Organisation of Trade Unions Kenya; Congress of South African Trade Unions; Danish Confederation of Trade Unions; Federation Of Somali Trade Unions; International Trade Union Confederation; International Transport Workers’ Federation; Nigeria Labour Congress; Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions; Sierra Leone Labour Congress; Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations; Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders; Swaziland Lawyers for Human Rights; Trades Union Congress (GB); UNI Global Union Africa; Unifor Canada; Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.

Sunday, 28 September 2014


Just months after the Swaziland Government said it could not afford to buy life-saving drugs to prevent Swazi children dying from diarrhoea, it has spent US$1.7 million on top of the range BMW cars for itself.

At least 40 children have died and hundreds have been hospitalised in a diarrhoea outbreak in which more than 3,000 cases have been recorded. About 680,000 doses of life-saving rotavirus vaccine could be purchased for the cost of the BMW cars, which would be enough to treat every child in the kingdom.

It was revealed at a media conference on Monday (22 September 2014) that the Swazi Government has bought 20 new BMW X5 sports utility vehicles which are to be used by government ministers and top officials.

The purchase is just another example of irresponsible spending in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

In March 2014, US$600,000 was spent on the opening ceremony for the Sikhuphe Airport which was renamed King Mswati III Airport. No commercial flights have ever flown in or out of the airport. It has been widely criticised outside of Swaziland as a vanity project for the King.

Earlier this year, the Swazi Minister of Health Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane told the Swazi Observer newspaper that distributing the vaccine was not the top priority. 

The newspaper reported, ‘The minister said the rotavirus, vaccine was expensive; therefore rolling out the immunisation programme cannot not be done overnight since “it is a process and a strong budget is needed”.’

In August 2014, Swazi Media Commentary revealed that if money were diverted from the Airport opening ceremony the Swazi Government could afford to save the lives of the kingdom’s dying children.
According to the website of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a 10-pack of one dose vials of rotavirus vaccine costs US63.96 at commercial rates. That means US$600,000 could buy 93,750 doses of vaccine. However, a World Health Organization Bulletin stated that GlaxoSmithKline has offered to provide its vaccine at US$2.50 per dose. 

At that price 680,000 doses could be purchased for the cost of the BMW cars. Typically, a child would need two doses for protection against diarrhoea.

See also



More than 30 girls were thrashed because they did not dance half naked in front of Swaziland’s King Mswati III. They were beaten so badly some needed treatment from paramedics.
The girls, described in local media as ‘maidens’, were expected to take part in a ‘Reed Dance’ at Mbangweni Royal Residence in the Shiselweni region of the kingdom.

The Shiselweni Reed Dance is a regional version of a national Reed Dance that takes place each year near the beginning of September. Girls, who are expected to be virgins, from all over the kingdom are required to take part in the event where they dance topless in front of King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Swazi media reported that at Shiselweni more than 30 girls disappeared from a camp where they were staying and did not attend the dance.

The Times of Swaziland reported, ‘Most of the girls, who were caned by their headmen, were beaten for not participating in the main event, while they left their respective homes under the pretext that they were going to the Reed Dance Ceremony.’

The newspaper added, ‘It was discovered that while the girls were being punished by the headmen, some got seriously injured as they tried to run away. Most of them were treated by paramedics, who attended to their case overnight (21 September 2014).’

The newspaper also reported that the police took one girl away who was suspected of being with a boy.

The Times reported, ‘Police officers arrived at the campsite and took the girl away to hospital for tests. Assistant Superintendent Khulani Mamba, Deputy Police Information and Communications Officer, confirmed the incident.

‘He said the girl was taken to a health facility in order to find out whether there was any penetration that happened over the night.

‘Mamba said medical personnel ruled out the possibility of penetration.’

See also


Thursday, 18 September 2014


Mystery brown shoe box keeps Musa in court

Kenworthy News Media, 17 September 2014

Swazi student leader Musa Ngubeni insists that the charges of possession of explosives against him are fabricated and political, and that the state has more or less deliberately stalled his case for over three years due to lack of evidence, writes Kenworthy News Media.

“The brown shoe box was never produced in court, so I am not really sure what I have to answer for in this case,” Musa Ngubeni tells me. He is speaking of a box full of wires, explosives and detonators that the Swazi state claims was found near his home in Mbikwakhe in 2011, but which the prosecution has failed to produce.

Ngubeni was subsequently detained, tortured, and charged with possession of explosives during a spate of democracy demonstrations in the absolute monarchy of Swaziland in April 2011 together with fellow Swazi student leader Maxwell Dlamini.

Initially one of the prosecution witnesses had claimed that the explosives were too dangerous to bring to court. Then the explosives had apparently exploded after a South African bomb expert had allegedly tried to assemble it.

When Musa’s attorney requested to have the remnants of the explosives presented in court, the prosecution asked to use undated photographs apparently taken by the South African bomb expert of what they claimed was the remnants of the explosives as evidence. The judge refused.

According to Musa Ngubeni, other claims by the prosecution that he had shown them the box of explosives are also unfounded. “The prosecution alleged that I led them to a pointing out exercise but the prosecution witness who claimed to have taken photos of the pointing out exercise has failed to produce any photos showing me pointing out anything,” he says.

“A pointing exercise requires that after it has taken place it must be reduced to writing by the pointing out officer and later be submitted to court as admission. But no admission note to pointing was produced in court.”

The fact that the state has not produced any evidence against Musa Ngubeni ought to have resulted in him being acquitted. But while Maxwell Dlamini was finally cleared of the same charges against him last week (although he is still in prison due to other equally questionable charges), Ngubeni will have to contend with further months or years of strenuous bail conditions and an expensive court case.

“The bail conditions require me to report to Mbabane Police Headquarters which is 40 kilometres from my home, which means I have to spend 1400 dollars per year on transport,” Musa Ngubeni explains. “I also need financial assistance for my legal fees. This is all financially draining to me.”

That Ngubeni’s passport is confiscated, as part of his tough bail conditions, also means that he can’t register for his final year at law-school at the South African University UNISA.

He got his Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Swaziland in 2010 before he was arrested, and did his first year of his Master’s degree at the University of South Africa in 2013. In his final year he is expected to meet with his project supervisor in South Africa, however, which will prove challenging as his passport was confiscated as part of his bail conditions.

As Wandile Dludlu, Coordinator at the Swaziland United Democratic Front, explained in a debate about lengthy trials such as Musa’s on the South African eNews Channel Africa earlier in the month, “the judicial system [in Swaziland] is used as a weapon by his majesty’s government to deal with those who disagree with the system. But also as a warning and as a message to would-be activists or proponents of democracy.”

But Musa, who was a very active student representative council chairperson during a series of student protests when he studied at the University of Swaziland in 2008/09, says he will not be intimidated. “I will remain unshaken and climb every branch of this tree to the very last, where justice will finally prevail.”

Monday, 15 September 2014


The Swazi Observer newspaper has been forced to make a ‘humble’ apology to the kingdom’s King and Queen Mother after publishing a report without their permission on what clothes a Princess had worn.

In Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, media are strictly controlled. The Observer itself is in effect owned by the King. Most broadcast media are state censored and Bheki Makhubu, the editor of the Nation, Swaziland’s only independent comment magazine, is presently in jail alongside writer Thulani Maseko for criticising the kingdom’s judiciary.

The latest attack on press freedom comes after the Observer published a report on 2 September 2014 about the Reed Dance ceremony at which tens of thousands of virgins dance half-naked in front of the King.

The newspaper reported that Princess Temaswati, one of King Mswati’s daughters, ‘wore different traditional attire from the rest of the Imbali [dancers]’. 

The newspaper continued, ‘The princess was spotted wearing tidvwashi underneath, while many of the maidens wore indlamu. In the past, the princess would also wear indlamu along with the thousands of the maidens. Questioned what this symbolised, Acting Imbali Overseer Hlangabeza Mdluli said this meant that the princess had reached a certain stage of a girl child’s life.

The Observer quoted Mdluli saying, ‘A girl undergoes different stages when she grows up. She starts off as litjitji, to being intfombi, ingudlela and then ingcugce. For the first two stages, a girl wears indlamu at events like these but after some time she moves on to being iZungela and that is when she may start wearing tidvwashi in the opposite direction.’

According to the newspaper, ‘Mdluli said the princess’ attire could also mean that there were now people that the princess respected, or that he has seen a potential spouse (sowubukiwe). 

‘The attire that the princess wore is similar to the one that was worn by Inkhosikati LaFogiyane at the Shiswelweni Reed Dance where she was unveiled as His Majesty King Mswati III’s fiancé (Liphovela). At the previous reed dance, she was clad in indlamu along with the Miss Cultural Heritage contestants as she was also a contestant.’

This report so inflamed the King that the Observer was forced to make an unreserved apology.

On Monday (15 September 2014) the newspaper published this retraction, ‘APOLOGY TO THEIR MAJESTIES.’

‘In our recent articles on the Reed Dance, we made particular reference to the dress / attire of Princess Temaswati. While the articles quoted Imbali Overseer, we wish to apologise for not seeking comment from the relevant authorities who are best placed to comment on issues of royalty. We humbly apologise and retract these articles unreservedly.’

This is not the first time the Observer has been forced to publicly apologise to the King. In March 2012 it carried an abject apology to King Mswati III relating to an article that was said to have ‘brought the institution of the Monarchy into disrepute’.

It went on to say restate that it remained ‘committed to its mission statement which is to protect the institution of the Monarchy in particular His Majesty King Mswati III and the Queen Mother and to promote the image and the interests of the Kingdom of Swaziland without prejudice to the people of Swaziland’.

The article was an obituary for Inkhosikati LaMasuku and included information about the love life of King Sobhuza II, King Mswati’s father.

It is not only the Observer that fears the King. The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper group, also apologies to the King when told to. The most startling example of this was in 2007, when the King threatened to close down the newspaper group after it published part of an article sourced from Afrol news agency in Norway.

The report included these words, ‘Swaziland is increasingly paralysed by poor governance, corruption and the private spending of authoritarian King Mswati III and his large royal family.’

The article went on to say, ‘The growing social crisis in the country and the lessening interest of donors to support King Mswati’s regime has also created escalating needs for social services beyond the scale of national budgets.’

After the report appeared in March 2007, King Mswati threatened to close down the whole Times of Swaziland newspaper group, to which the Times Sunday belongs, unless an abject apology was published.

He also demanded the sacking of the Times Sunday features editor for allowing the report to appear in the newspaper.

King Mswati got what he asked for.

On the Thursday (22 March 2007) following publication an ‘unreserved apology’ to the king was published on the front page of the Times of Swaziland (repeated in the following week’s Times Sunday).

The apology signed by both the publisher and managing editor of the Times Group said the article ‘was disparaging to the person of His Majesty in its content, greatly embarrassed him and should not have passed editorial scrutiny.’

It went on, ‘Our newspapers take great care with matters regarding the monarch, being conscious always of the unbreakable link of the King with the Nation. What occurred is reprehensible and we will renew our vigilance in editorial matters with the utmost vigour.’

To make absolutely certain that there was no doubt of the newspaper group’s subservience to the King, it finished the apology, ‘Once again your Majesty, our sincere and humble apologies.’

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


A legal challenge is to be made in Swaziland to declare the kingdom’s Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) unconstitutional.

People who have protested for democratic change in Swaziland have been arrested and charged under the act for ‘sedition’. No political Party is allowed to contest elections in Swaziland and all organisations that call for democratic change have been branded ‘terrorists’ under the STA.

People have been charged under the STA for a number of alleged crimes, including carrying banners displaying the names of banned organisations, wearing berets or T-shirts with slogans written on them, and praising individuals who have stood up for democracy.

The STA was introduced in November 2008 following an attempted bombing of the Lozitha Bridge, near one of the King’s 13 palaces in September that year.  

Shortly after the STA came into force Amnesty International and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBA-HRI) called for its immediate repeal or amendment.

More recently in June 2014, the United States withdrew preferential trade rights from Swaziland because, among other things, it had not amended the STA.

In 2009, Amnesty and IBA-HRI said a number of provisions in this Act were ‘sweeping and imprecise’.

They said in a statement that the Swazi Government warned of heavy penalties for ‘associating’ with certain groups, which had been declared to be terrorist ‘entities’ under the law. They said this was ‘contributing to an atmosphere of uncertainty and of intimidation amongst a wide range of civil society organizations’.  

The statement read, ‘Amnesty International and the IBA-HRI are gravely concerned that key provisions in this anti-terrorism law are inherently repressive, breach Swaziland’s obligations under international and regional human rights law and are already leading to the violation of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.’

The statement also said the offences under the STA were ‘defined with such over-breadth and imprecision that they place excessive restrictions on a wide range of human rights – such as freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly – without adhering to the requirements of demonstrable proportionality and necessity.’

In June 2014, the United States withdrew a preferential trade agreement from Swaziland under the Africa African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) after the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, failed to make reforms on political and workers’ rights, which included amendments to the STA.

The legal challenge which is spearheaded by the People’s United Democratic Party (PUDEMO) is expected to be heard at the Swaziland High Court on 1 December 2014.

See also


Monday, 8 September 2014


Kenworthy News Media, 5 September 2014
According to the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice and PUDEMO, Swaziland Youth Congress Secretary General Maxwell Dlamini has been acquitted of the 2011 charges of contravening Swaziland’s Explosives Act, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Maxwell Dlamini’s co-accused in the 2011 case, Musa Ngubeni, was found guilty on circumstantial evidence and will appear before the magistrate again on September 10.

Maxwell Dlamini is still charged under section 4 and 11 of the Suppression of Terrorism Act for criticising the Swazi regime on May Day 2014, where he could face 15 years in prison if convicted.

He is also charged with sedition and participating in an unlawful activity for allegedly organising and participating in a campaign that advocated the boycott of Swaziland’s 2013 elections, that the Commonwealth Observer Mission referred to as being “not credible”.

Maxwell Dlamini was tortured during questioning in 2011, a fact mentioned in Amnesty International’s 2012 annual report, and subsequently received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

See also



Hospitals in Swaziland refused to treat poverty-stricken workers affected by poisonous fumes at a textile factory because they could not afford to pay.

Meanwhile, the Swaziland Government said the number of workers exposed to the fumes was 1,600 – more than treble the number previously reported by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA). 

Hospitals were inundated with sick people after the incident at the Taiwanese-owned Tex-Ray factory in Matsapha, near Manzini, on Friday (5 September 2104).

Jim Wang, a spokesperson for Tex-Ray was quoted by the Observer on Sunday newspaper in Swaziland saying that the doctors had refused to give medical attention to some of the workers because they did not have money. 

Wang said ‘I told them we would give them the cash after they had attended to the employees.’ 

Minister of Labour and Social Security Winnie Magagula was quoted in local media saying, ‘We have received a report on the catastrophe at the factory. A total of 1,600 employees were exposed to the fumes from a spilled chemical.’ 

She added, ‘Currently we do not have more information on the deadly substance, we are yet to conduct thorough research on its effects and the cause of its spill.’ 

Magagula also told the newspaper the chemical was spilled in the clothing mixture room and that a full report that would disclose its name, effects and the extent of damage it had caused was awaited. 

See also 


Saturday, 6 September 2014


About 500 workers at a textile factory in Swaziland needed medical treatment after inhaling poisonous chemicals, according to the kingdom’s trade union federation.

The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) said the incident happened at the Taiwanese-owned Tex-Ray factory in Manzini, the kingdom’s main commercial city on Friday (5 September 2014).

According to a TUCOSWA press statement doors at the factory were locked making it difficult for workers to escape the fumes. It said, ‘close to 500 workers collapsed and had to be treated in various medical institutions’.

Mduduzi C. Gina, TUCOSWA First Deputy Secretary General, said, ‘It is more disturbing to learn that the management of the company locked the exit points of the factory shell when workers wanted to escape from inhaling the lethal substance.’

Gina said the incident happened at the same time that TUCOSWA had announced it wanted to address Tex-Ray workers on workers’ rights and the lack of political freedom in Swaziland.

Last week, police prevented TUCOSWA and the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) from holding a prayer meeting outside Tex-Ray. Swazi media reported at the time that 1,500 workers had gathered.

The workers are concerned for their jobs after the United States dropped Swaziland from the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) which allowed the kingdom to export goods at preferential rates. The US made the move because Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has a poor record on political and workers’ rights.

Media in Swaziland have predicted that as many as 20,000 jobs in the kingdom’s textile industry could be lost as a result of the withdrawal of AGOA benefits that comes into force on 1 January 2015.

There are about 25 Taiwanese-owned factories operating in Swaziland, mostly textile and garment manufacturers, paying salaries described by workers as close to slave wages. There have been numerous strikes by workers trying to get decent wages, where the pay is so poor that many women workers are unable to feed themselves properly and have to resort to prostitution

Wages in textile factories in Swaziland are so low that companies in South Africa threatened to move their factories to the kingdom to avoid paying the minimum wage in that country. 

A report in 2010 stated that employees in Matsanjeni typically earned E160 a month and were forced to turn to prostitution to survive.

Some women textile workers reported they earned E5.50 per hour (about 85 US cents) and had to live six to a room and three to a bed to get by. They tried to share food as the cheapest meal for one person costs E10 and a piece of fruit costs E1. 

But, wages in Swaziland were still too high, according to Mason Ma, director and vice president of Tex-Ray. He told reporters in 2010 that recent increases had pushed ‘wage levels higher than in some Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia’.

In August 2010, Lutfo Dlamini, who was then Swazi Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, told Taiwan journalists that all profits made in the textile factories for Taiwan-owned companies could be taken out of the kingdom. He said that this made Swaziland a better place to set up factories than anywhere else in Africa.

And, the then Taiwanese ambassador to Swaziland Peter Tsai told reporters a distinguishing feature of Swaziland in terms of investment ‘is that it allows full repatriation of profits and dividends of enterprises operating in the country’. 

Dlamini said in Swaziland, ‘We believe in this country. You invest your money. You make profits and you are able to take the profits away.’

See also