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Thursday, 31 December 2015


The secretive annual Incwala ceremony in which Swaziland’s King Mswati III is alleged to engage in unnatural sexual practices, took place on Monday (28 December 2015).

The annual event is called a “sacred event” by traditionalists, but has been dubbed “un-Christian” and “Pagan” by others.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has been running numerous reports supporting Incwala. It quoted Swazi Deputy Prime Minister Paul Dlamini on Tuesday (29 December 2015) saying, ‘Incwala just unites us as Swazis where we get to be together in one place and dance. This is also a way in which children are taught about life. 

‘So this must be preserved as it has helped so many people. For those who have disowned culture, they are facing different problems in their lives where some get pregnant before getting married; some dump children because they are not able to take care of them. So we need to go back to our own ways of doing things and respect culture.’

In 2014, the Observer reported, ‘The ceremony, which also marks the fresh fruits of the season, has a spiritual power that is largely lost on outsiders, and indeed many of its inner workings remain shrouded in secrecy.’

Journalists who try to report the event are harassed and in 2011 a street vendor who sold pirated DVDs of Incwala was hauled in by the police and handed over to traditional authorities for a grilling. He was ordered to reclaim all the copies of the DVD he had sold.

Failure to do so might have seen him banished from his homeland, local media reported at the time. 
A first-hand account of alleged activities at Incwala has been circulating on social media outlets for years.

In 2011the Southern Africa Report and Africa is a Country website, reported the eyewitness testimony of Incwala. Africa is a Country said, ‘The ceremony is cloaked in secrecy and marks the king’s return to public life after a period of withdrawal and spiritual contemplation.

‘Among its highlights is a symbolic demonstration by the King of his power and dominance in a process involving his penetration of a black bull, beaten into semi-conscious immobility to ensure its compliant acceptance of the royal touch. The royal semen is then collected by a courtier and stored, for subsequent inclusion in food to be served at Sibaya – traditional councils – and other national forums.’

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Wednesday, 30 December 2015


A court has confirmed that King Mswati III of Swaziland cannot sell or dispose of his private jet until a dispute over his alleged failure to pay a US$3.5 million debt is resolved.

The ruling was made in the British Virgin Islands on 23 December 2015after the East Caribbean High Court was told that there might be plans to lease the plane and then lease a second plane for King Mswati’s use.

There has been a long-running dispute between Shanmuga Rethenam, who owns a company called SG Air, and the King.

Rethenam, popularly known as Shan, succeeded in getting a freezing order from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in September 2015. 

SG Air claims that King Mswati owes it the money for repairs and modifications undertaken to his private McDonnell Douglas DC-9-87 aircraft in 2012. The case was heard in the Superior Court in Ontario, Canada, in June 2015, when the King won on a legal technicality.
However, pending possible appeals, King Mswati, through a company he owns called Inchatsavane, was forced to lodge a letter of credit for US$3.5 million with Canadian lawyers, in case he lost the appeal. The money was due to be released on 15 September 2015.

Since the Canadian court case, the Swazi Government announced it intended to try to lease out the aircraft, valued at about US$14.5 million, and in turn lease the King a larger, more luxurious jet, with the possibility of buying it at a later date.

The BVI Commercial Court was told the DC-9-87 was flown from Swaziland to South Africa and back again since September 2015. There was a dispute that this might violate the freezing order. The plane is presently at Matsapha Airport in Swaziland.

The freezing order means the King cannot dispose of the aircraft or its engines until the court case over the alleged debt is resolved.

The court order was made in the BVI because that is where SG Air is incorporated. 

The judgment of the BVI Commercial Court, delivered by Judge Gerald St. C. Farara, was that the freezing order on the aircraft’s movement should continue pending the outcome of the financial dispute.

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Monday, 14 December 2015


The dialogue that disappeared
Kenworthy News Media
11 December 11 2015 

In September [2015], there were high hopes in some parts of Swaziland’s civil society and democratic movement that a dialogue with the county’s absolute monarch King Mswati III was on the table. Not least because of pressure from the Commonwealth, the USA and the EU. Three months later no such meeting has taken place and that hope seems all but shattered, writes Kenworthy News Media.

The meeting was to have taken place between king Mswati III, who has ruled Swaziland almost single-handedly for 30 years, and the so-called G15 group, made up of representatives from Swaziland’s civil society, trade unions and political parties SWADEPA, PUDEMO, Sibahle Sinje and the NNLC.

Room for improvement
Former President of Malawi Bakili Muluzi was to have brokered the dialogue, as he had both held meetings with Swaziland’s civil society groups and allegedly formed a personal relationship with the king. Muluzi had been appointed Special Envoy to Swaziland last year by the Commonwealth due to his heading of a Commonwealth team that had monitored the 2013 Swazi elections.

Here his observer team had concluded that the elections were not credible and that there was “considerable room for improving the democratic system”, and that “legislation [should] be put in place to allow for political parties” who are presently not allowed to take part in elections in Swaziland.

Talks, dialogue or royal lecture?
Negotiations with Mswati were always going to be difficult, as he is an absolute monarch. Any Swazi meeting him is literally on his or her knees when having an audience with him. He or she is only meant to listen, not question what the king says.

On top of this, everyone seems to have a different perception of what the dialogue between the king and Swaziland’s civil society and political parties encompassed.

The EU seemed to believe that there was to be a dialogue about democracy between the king and civil society and Swaziland’s political parties, and subsequently attempted to help capacitate the G15.

The Americans believed that it was too early to discuss such matters and saw it as merely an icebreaker where the king was to meet with a G15 that was made up of representatives of civil society, not political parties.

And PUDEMO President Mario Masuku says he also saw the prospect of a meeting as merely an icebreaker, as this was what he had been told by Muluzi, as did the NNLC.

Level the playing field
PUDEMO, who say that they have been prepared to talk with the king and the Swazi government for decades, made several demands for a meeting to take place to level the playing field if there were to be meaningful discussions about the democratisation of Swaziland. They communicated these demands in the press amongst other things to quell rumours that they were “selling out”.

Amongst the demands was that all political parties must be unbanned, multiparty elections must be held, a new constitution must be implemented and the 1973 proclamation, where the king’s father assumed supreme power for the monarchy, must be annulled.

Several princes, governors and court presidents have expressed shock at the fact that PUDEMO dared make any demands to meeting the king at all, as “no Swazi could ever set conditions for meeting the king”, as one traditionalist put it.

This coupled with the fact that the meeting has still not taken place would seem to indicate that the king was never really intent on having a meeting with Swaziland’s civil society and political parties that might actually have produced any meaningful changes.

King must lead
Looking at a draft presentation, prepared for the meeting by one of the members of the G15, one cannot really blame him.

Amongst other things the document starts by thanking the king for his “willingness and openness in leading the nation”, acknowledges his concern “with the development of the country and of its people”, and commends him on his leadership and vision for matters such as the “desire to attain first world status” by 2022.

And even though the document requests the king to “engage in a process of national political discussion on our system of governance towards opening up of political space and the establishment of a system that also enables citizens to have the choice of participating through their chosen political parties during elections by the next elections in 2018” through a “genuine national and inclusive process of political dialogue and negotiation”, such a “change process”, it is stated, must “be led by the king”.

No real pressure
So what does the future hold for the G15-talks that are on the one hand muddled by strategic disagreements on whether to suck up to the king or make demands, and on the other hand seemingly breaking up?

Sibahle Sinje pulled out of the G15 team in November and rumours have it that others might follow, and an advisor to the king, Prince Masitsela, has stated publically that any chances of a meeting between the G15 and the king are now slim.

But an absolute monarch such as Mswati was never going to accept any challenge to his power as long as there is no real pressure on him, and for the moment there isn’t really any such pressure inside Swaziland.

And this is regardless of the fact that the USA have recently annulled the AGOA free trade agreement with Swaziland and the EU look set to exclude Swaziland from the EU duty free markets, and that this, combined with the loss in revenue from the Southern African Customs Union, could lead to a collapse in Swaziland’s economy.

Bridging the gap
Some members of the G15 still believe that enough pressure can be put on Mswati by the population as well as the G15 organisations to force him to the negotiating table, however. The goal is democracy, but also to ensure that the lower-middle-income country that is Swaziland will provide basic services for the two thirds of the population who survive on less than a dollar a day.

“Through initiating dialogue we seek to bridge a gap between the oppressed and the oppressor. An all-embracing open and democratic Swaziland is being built daily by true Swazi patriots who join hands in putting pressure on Mswati to listen. It is dialogue time your majesty, today”, says Wandile Dludlu, who represents the Swaziland United Democratic Front in the G15.

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Thursday, 10 December 2015


The unelected government in Swaziland is being blamed for a pending humanitarian crisis in the kingdom where at least one in six of the entire population are predicted to be without food by March 2016. 

The Deputy Prime Minister Paul Dlamini was reported by one local newspaper saying 200,000 people would be ‘starving’ by then.

That amounts to about one sixth of the 1.2 million population of Swaziland.

A different newspaper reported Dlamini giving a higher figure of ‘about 300,000 people’ in need of food aid by April 2016.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties cannot contest elections and the King chooses the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers.

Media in Swaziland reported that members of the Swaziland House of Assembly gave the Deputy Prime Minister 24 hours to report on where he would find money to tackle the crisis.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported on Thursday (10 December 2015) that the ultimatum came after the Swazi Government ‘confirmed that it does not have a budget to feed the thousands of people affected by the drought brought about by El Nino’.  

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported Dlamini saying the figure requiring food aid would rise to 200,000 by March 2015. The Observer added, ‘Dlamini stated that statistics had revealed that next year 200,000 people would be starving.’

The Times reported, ‘Dlamini said their predictions showed that by March and April, about ‘300,000 people would be in need of food aid’.

The Observer reported, ‘The deputy prime minister stated that unfortunately government would not be able to help the affected people due to financial constraints.’

Tuesday, 8 December 2015


A survey in Swaziland suggested four in 10 women believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife because he is the head of the household. 

This is not the first time that so-called ‘Swazi culture’ has been investigated.

The APA news agency said a demographic health survey called the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Comparative Report gave a number reasons for wife-beating which included; ‘if she refused to have sex with him, if she argued with him, if she went out without telling him, if she neglected the children and if she had sex with other men’.

APA reported, ‘Silindelo Nkosi, the Communication and Advocacy Officer for Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) said, “These beliefs of justifying abuse have increased to the worst rate resulting in more young women dying in the hands of their lovers or husbands.”’

It added, ‘Clinical Psychologist Ndo Mdlalose describes this as an abusive mentality where men also tend to claim they are correcting their women by beating them.’

The report told us nothing new about Swazi culture and its abuse of women and girls.

The world famous medical journal, the Lancet in 2009 reported that one in three girls in Swaziland had experienced sexual violence by the age of 18, according to a study.

Sexual violence was defined as forced intercourse; coerced intercourse; attempted unwanted intercourse; unwanted touching; and forced touching. 

The most common perpetrators of the first incident of sexual violence were men or boys from the girl’s neighbourhood or boyfriends or husbands. Over a quarter of all incidents of sexual violence occurred in the respondent’s own home, with a fifth occurring at the home of a friend, relative or neighbour. 

In June 2008 it was reported that the National Democratic and Health Survey found that 40 percent of men in Swaziland said it is all right to beat women. The same year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that the status of some women in Swaziland is so low that they are practically starved at meal times, because men folk eat first and if there is not enough food for everyone, the women must go without.

Women, who under traditional Swazi law are treated as children and are in effect owned by their husbands or fathers, were expected to live lives devoted to their men and families. A report on the State of the Population in Swaziland said that Swazi women were responsible for childbirth, raising the children and taking care of the entire family.

Women are expected to give their husbands sex on demand and those who refuse have been blamed for men who rape children. 

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Wednesday, 2 December 2015


News that spread internationally that in Swaziland only King Mswati III should be afforded the honour of a red carpet at special events reminds us of another time the King wanted to assert his superiority over his subjects.

That time, according to a cable from the US Embassy in Swaziland, the King made his advisors sweat in 40-degree heat in a basement to demonstrate his power over them.

The issue of the red carpet emerged when it was reported that the red carpet at the Business Woman of the Year Awards ceremony this year (2015) was rolled away. The same happened at the Swaziland Inter Municipal Games Association (SIGA). The Times of Swaziland, the only independent newspaper in the kingdom, reported that the Swazi Police had ordered SIGA to remove the red carpet. Barnabas Dlamini, the Swazi Prime Minister, was at the event to give a speech.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a prodemocracy group banned in the kingdom, then reported the police ordered the ban on the instructions of King Mswati.

Later, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported the Swazi Police spokesperson Superintendent Khulani Mamba saying no police action was ordered. However, he said the red carpet might have been removed as is might be, ‘misconstrued in other quarters as equating himself to the Head of State [King]’.

He added, ‘A well-intended gesture may have unintended consequences and be read totally out of context.’

The Observer reported Mamba saying, ‘[N]o specific individual instructed the cops to remove the red carpet but was feeling of those who were waiting to welcome him that such good gesture may be lost in interpretation, hence the decision to remove it. 

“The Prime Minister had not ordered it, nor ordered its removal, but given his stature it was felt that such a gesture may be seen as setting him up against authorities.’

It is not surprising that the Prime Minister or any other of the King’s subjects would not want to upset him.

A cable from the US Embassy in Swaziland, made public by Wikileaks, gave a startling example of how the King behaves.

The US Embassy said King Mswati III was ‘not intellectually well developed’ and ‘is not a reader’. It also called him ‘imbalanced’.

The comments about the Swazi King came from Earl Irvine, the then US Ambassador to Swaziland, in February 2010. 

In a confidential cable to Washington released by Wikileaks, Irvine said King Mswati had a ‘lack of wisdom’.

Quoting an informant, Irvine wrote the king was ‘not a reader, and will not review documents left for him’.  [The informant] called the king ‘not intellectually well-developed,’ and contrasted the current sovereign’s scant educational background with Sobhuza II, who was educated at Lovedale College in South Africa alongside future leaders of South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC).  

‘Essentially a bastard outsider to the royal family, King Mswati III was plucked from relative obscurity when members of the royal family could not come to an agreement on a successor to King Sobhuza II,’ the cable said.

‘After Mswati III was selected to be the next king, a posthumous marriage of Sobhuza II to Ntombi [the Queen Mother] was quickly arranged, according to our interlocutor.’

Irvine wrote, ‘Unlike in his early years, the King now identifies and pushes specific projects, and will look to replace ministers or employees who are unable to provide progress on those projects.’

Irvine quoted his informant calling King Mswati ‘imbalanced’. He gave an anecdote to illustrate this.   ‘The King, [the informant] said, invited about forty officials and advisors to a basement in one of his palaces, where they all sat on the floor to attend to him.  King Mswati III turned up the heater, which warmed the floor first, until the temperature in the room reached about 40 degrees Celsius, and told inconsequential stories to those gathered while they sweated, merely to show them he was in power.’

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