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Thursday, 22 January 2015


There is no stopping the media in Swaziland as they continue to bang on about how close the kingdom is to achieving King Mswati III’s aspiration to be the ruler of a ‘First World’ nation by 2022.

One cannot entirely blame them since the King rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch and in effect owns the Swazi Observer newspaper group, one of only two newspaper groups in the kingdom.

The King can and will close down media houses if it suits him and there are plenty of reasons for journalists and owners to be afraid of him.

But that should not stop independent observers from discussing the King’s claim that his kingdom is on track to be a ‘First World’ nation.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Swaziland issued a report in February 2014 that received no publicity in the kingdom, that said if Swaziland were to achieve ‘First World’ status it would have to be ‘among high human development countries like Norway, Australia, United States, Netherlands and Germany to name a few’.

UNDP went on to give these statistics comparing present-day Swaziland with Norway, the United States and Germany.

Life expectancy: Swaziland (48.9 years); Norway (81.3); United States (78.7); Germany (80.6).
Mean average years of schooling: Swaziland (7.1); Norway (12.6); United States (13.3); Germany (12.2).
Percentage of population with at least secondary school education: Swaziland (48); Norway (95.2); United States (94.5); Germany (96.6).

The UNDP in Swaziland did not comment on the likelihood of Swaziland reaching ‘First World’ status by 2022; it did not have to. Any independent observer can see from these statistics that Swaziland is not even close to reaching the King’s target.

The UNDP is not alone in this. In 2012 a report published by 24/7 Wall St in the United States, and based on data from the World Bank, identified Swaziland as the fifth poorest country in the entire world.

It said 69 percent of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects lived in poverty.

Its report stated, ‘[T]he country’s workforce is largely concentrated in subsistence agriculture, even though the country faces serious concerns about overgrazing and soil depletion. While these factors harm the nation’s economy, health concerns are likely one of the major factors preventing Swaziland’s population from escaping poverty.’

Despite these obvious facts the media in Swaziland will continue to claim that the kingdom is on-track to 2022 and any alternative view will be suppressed. This is because it was King Mswati himself who decreed that the kingdom should achieve ‘First World’ status and the media are terrified of contradicting him.

Here’s an example of how far the media will go in its sycophancy to the King. In October 2013, the Observer on Saturday, part of a newspaper group described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on press freedom in the kingdom, as ‘a pure propaganda machine for the royal family’ reported that King Mswati told an admiring audience in Swaziland that Americans ‘have travelled to the moon and stayed there for about six to eight months’ and he hoped Swazi people would one day do the same. 
-          Richard Rooney

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015


Danish political support for Mario Masuku

Kenworthy News Media, 20 January 2015

Former Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of the Danish Parliament, Mogens Lykketoft, has signed a petition that demands the release of imprisoned Swazi political leader Mario Masuku, writes Kenworthy News Media.

“I support the appeal for the immediate release of Mario Masuku and his colleague [student leader Maxwell Dlamini]. I have met with Mario Masuku in Copenhagen as President of the Danish Parliament. He is fighting for democracy and human rights in Swaziland. I urge Denmark and the EU, together with South Africa, to ensure their immediate release so that they can resume their political work”, Mogens Lykketoft said in a statement.

Hundreds of other organisations and individuals, including the South African ruling ANC party, the International Trade Union Confederation and Britain’s largest trade union UNISON, have supported the campaign instigated by Danish solidarity organization Africa Contact and signed the appeal.

The Danish ambassador to South Africa and Swaziland last year raised the question of the trial of Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini with Swaziland’s government and absolute monarch King Mswati III.

Mario Masuku is the president of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a political party that fights for democracy in Africa’s last absolute monarchy. He is charged under an anti-terrorism bill that Amnesty International has called “inherently repressive” for having shouted “viva PUDEMO” and criticized the government in a speech on Mayday last year. If convicted he could serve up to 15 years in prison.

Masuku suffers from arthritis and diabetes. Whilst in prison, he has contracted pneumonia and a life-threatening infection in his left foot. He has been denied bail on two separate occasions.

Mogens Lykketoft has met with Mario Masuku on two occasions; in the Danish parliament and in Johannesburg. He has also awarded Masuku a democracy prize in the Danish Parliament in 2010.

Mogens Lykketoft was the leader of the Danish Social Democratic Party between 2002 and 2005 and has served as Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Finance Minister and Taxation Minister.. He is the current President of the Danish parliament, and will be formally appointed as the next President of the United Nations General Assembly on 15. September 2015.

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The Swaziland Government, embarrassed at international news reports that King Mswati III decreed that schools should close so children could weed his fields, is now misleading the public over the matter.

Last week Minister of Education and Training Phineas Magagula announced that the opening of all public and private schools would be delayed by a week. He said in a statement sent to media houses the postponement was due to ‘ongoing national duties’, a vague reference to the Incwala ceremony, considered by traditionalists to be the Swazi national prayer. It was also a reference to the annual weeding of the King’s fields that takes place annually at about this time of year.

Social media, trade unions, and international news agencies picked up on the story and reported that children were compelled to weed the fields and this amounted to child slave labour.

In South Africa, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) said they would organise a protest march.

SADTU general secretary Mugwena Maluleke told South African media that regional unions met under the Southern African Teachers Organisation umbrella to discuss the King’s order. 

‘The body has decided to mobilise SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) governments to change the practice of child labour. As the SADC body, we will write to SAC protocol to have these practices outlawed,’ Mr Maluleke said.

The Swazi Government was embarrassed by the outrage and now the Swaziland Foreign Affairs Minister Mgwagwa Gamedze has said the date of school opening was moved to allow parents to find spaces for their children in the system.  ‘It has nothing to do with the weeding of the King’s fields,’ he told international media.

This directly contradicts the Minister of Education and Training who said in a written statement the postponement was due to ‘ongoing national duties’. It also contradicts the Government’s demand that private schools that had already opened for the new term should close until 27 January 2015.

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

A report on people trafficking in Swaziland published in 2014 said the King used forced child labour to work in his fields. ‘Swazi chiefs may coerce children and adults - through threats and intimidation - to work for the King,’ the report from the United States State Department said.  

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Churches in Swaziland have agreed to back male circumcision as a way to prevent the spread of HIV even though there in no concrete proof that the procedure works and attempts to get people to have the operation in the past have failed.

In 2010 the Accelerated Saturation Initiative (ASI) was introduced into the kingdom with the target to circumcise 80 percent of Swazi males between ages 15 and 49 within a year.

programme, a partnership between the Swazi Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the US-based Futures Group, was then extended to March 2012 when initial efforts failed to achieve the targeted results and only about 20 percent - or 32,000 - people were circumcised through the programme.  
US$15.5 million was spent on the programme, or US$484 per circumcised male.

Now, the deadline to reach the target has been extended to 2018. 

The male medical circumcision programme which has been introduced in a number of countries in Africa, but not in developed countries such as the United States or in Europe, is based on a claim that removing the foreskin helps to prevent the spread of HIV. However, evidence does not support this. 

A report called Levels and spread of HIV seroprevalence and associated factors: evidence from national household surveys published by USAID, for example, which studied 22 developing countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, found, ‘There appears no clear pattern of association between male circumcision and HIV prevalence - in 8 of 18 countries with data, HIV prevalence is lower among circumcised men, while in the remaining 10 countries it is higher.
In Swaziland, even before the ASI was started in 2010, the Government of Swaziland knew circumcision had no effect on the rate of HIV in the kingdom. The Swaziland Demographic and Health Survey (SDHS) of 2007 reported the infection rate for circumcised males was 22 percent while for those uncircumcised it was 20 percent, which suggested that circumcision did not prevent HIV spreading. 

The Church Forum, which is formed by the Swaziland Conference of Churches, League of Churches, Council of Swaziland Churches, Swaziland Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist and International Tabernacle Ministries, issued an official statement welcoming the procedure for medical purposes last week (15 January 2015). Churches had been reluctant to join the campaign because there were issues for them about whether God approved of circumcision. 

The Swaziland Government has signed up for circumcision in a big way since 2010, even announcing that newly born babies, who have no say in the matter, were expected to be cut. 

People in Swaziland are being misled into believing that circumcision can help, when the international medical community continues to debate whether there is any evidence that it can. An internationally-based organisation called Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC) published a lengthy report in which it urged that ‘Both the public and the medical community must guard against being overwhelmed by the hyperbolic promotion of male circumcision.’

DOC reported that there is no clear evidence as to the effects of circumcision.

‘One study found that male circumcision had no protective effect for women and another study found that male circumcision increased risk for women.

‘[A different study] found more HIV infection in circumcised men.

‘[Yet another study] found no evidence that lack of circumcision is a risk factor for HIV infection.

‘A study from India found little difference between circumcised and non-circumcised men.

‘A study carried out in South Africa found that male circumcision offered only a slight protective effect.

‘A study carried out among American naval personnel found no difference in the incidence of HIV infection between non-circumcised and circumcised men.'

This led DOC to conclude, ‘Instituting a program of male circumcision is of dubious value. It will divert resources from proven methods of epidemic control and it may generate a false sense of security in males who have been circumcised. The desensitization of the penis that frequently results from male circumcision is likely to make men less willing to use condoms. A program of male circumcision very likely may worsen the epidemic.’

The group had its own idea on why places like Swaziland might have higher rates of HIV infection than elsewhere, ‘The epidemic in Africa may have little to do with lack of circumcision and everything to do with the percentage of the female population engaged in female sex work. One study found a definite link between the number of female sex workers in the population and the level of HIV infection.’

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Monday, 19 January 2015


King Mswati’s newspaper is once again misleading people about the reasons why the undemocratic kingdom has lost preferential trading rights with the United States.

Swaziland lost its right to export goods tariff free to the US under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) on 1 January 2015.  The trade privilege was withdrawn because the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch, has not met five benchmarks on workers’ and political rights.

The Observer on Sunday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported former army Brigadier Commander and Border Restoration Committee member Fonono Dube saying ‘that in actual fact, AGOA is not yet gone’.

The newspaper reported, ‘He has claimed that the reason why Swaziland was being removed from AGOA was because the country was now not following the constitution that was used when we registered to AGOA in 2005. 

‘“That is the reason the US resolved to remove us from AGOA because we are now not following the constitution of the country. Swaziland is a Monarchy so the head of state is the king not the prime minister,” he emphasised. 

‘Were the country to correct this and re-submit our request to the US to be re-admitted into AGOA, “we will be re-admitted into AGOA”’. 

‘However, the former army commander believes that our loss of AGOA has nothing to do with the five benchmarks.’

The newspaper which is part of the Swazi Observer group and was described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a 2013 report on press freedom in the kingdom as ‘a pure propaganda machine for the royal family’ reported Dube’s comments even though it knew he was not telling the truth. 

The newspaper along with others in the Swazi Observer stable and the independent newspaper group Times of Swaziland have reported many times in the past six months the real reasoning behind the removal of AGOA.

The US withdrew Swaziland’s AGOA privileges after the kingdom ignored an ultimatum to implement the full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA); full passage of amendments to the Public Order Act; full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act relating to civil and criminal liability to union leaders during protest actions; and establishing a code of conduct for the police during public protests.

In June 2014 the US Trade Representative Michael Froman said, ‘The withdrawal of AGOA benefits is not a decision that is taken lightly.

‘We have made our concerns very clear to Swaziland over the last several years and we engaged extensively on concrete steps that Swaziland could take to address the concerns.’

The report on Dube seems to be part of a campaign by the Observer to misrepresent the scale of the AGOA disaster. Earlier in January 2015 The Observer Sunday, Chief Editor Mbongeni Mbingo, quoted Prime Minister Dlamini saying, ‘there is no need for Swazis to behave like a major catastrophe has happened following the loss of Swaziland’s eligibility status under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Besides, AGOA did not benefit Swazis or the country’s economy much.’ 

This also was not true as independent reports from economists predicted that without AGOA privileges the textile industry in Swaziland, which is mostly owned by Taiwanese companies, would collapse with the loss of at least 9,000 jobs. Already more than 2,400 people have lost jobs in the textile industry as a direct result of the withdrawal of AGOA. 

In its report on Dube the Observer on Sunday also said, ‘Dube says in the bible there are no presidents nor democracy but kings. “It then means Swazis are on the right track because we have a King and we should appreciate that as Swazis.”

‘“In Swaziland, Dube added, “there is freedom not democracy.”’

See also


Friday, 16 January 2015


The opening of schools in Swaziland has been postponed for a week so children can weed the fields of King Mswati III.

The postponement was decreed by the King and announced by Minister of Education and Training Phineas Magagula.

Magagula said the schools would not open due to ‘ongoing national duties’, a vague reference to the Incwala ceremony, considered by traditionalists to be the Swazi national prayer, that is coming to a close and the weeding of the royal fields that is ongoing.

This is not the first time that schools have been closed so children can weed the fields of King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. As many as 30,000 children may miss schooling as a result.

A report on people trafficking in Swaziland published in 2014 said the King used forced child labour to work in his fields. ‘Swazi chiefs may coerce children and adults - through threats and intimidation - to work for the King,’ the report from the United States State Department said.

In Swaziland chiefs do the King’s bidding at a local level. People know they must obey the chief because their livelihood depends on his goodwill. In some parts of Swaziland the chiefs are given the power to decide who gets food that has been donated by international agencies and then the chiefs quite literally have power of life and death in such cases with about a third of the population of Swaziland receiving food aid each year.

Private schools in Swaziland were told they must obey the King’s directive, but many did not, prompting Minister Magagula to demand they close. If they did not, local media reported him saying, ‘they are pushing the country into a state of lawlessness’.

See also


Tuesday, 13 January 2015


Campaign to free Mario gathers pace

Kenworthy News Media, 13 January, 2015 

Hundreds of unions, parties, politicians and individuals from all over the world have signed a petition to demand the release of Swazi political activists Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini, including the International Trade Union Confederation, British trade union federation UNISON and the African National Congress, writes Kenworthy News Media.

The ANC has issued a statement, calling “for the release of comrade Mario Masuku and all other political prisoners in Swaziland”, and last year the Danish ambassador raised the matter of Mario Masuku’s trial with Swaziland’s king Mswati III.

Mario Masuku is the president of the People’s United Democratic Movement, or PUDEMO, a party or movement fighting for democracy and socioeconomic justice in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, Swaziland, where over two thirds of the population survive on under a dollar a day.
A cold prison floor
But even though the support warms the heart of Mario Masuku, he still has had to sleep on a cold prison floor at the Zakhele Remand Centre in Manzini since he was charged with sedition for having shouted “viva PUDEMO” on Mayday last year. He is charged under the Swazi terrorism act, an act that Amnesty International has called “inherently repressive”.  If convicted he could serve 15 years in prison.

Mario Masuku is 63 years old and suffers from arthritis and diabetes. According to PUDEMO’s Secretary General, Mlungisi Makhanya, who is himself charged with terrorism for having worn a PUDEMO t-shirt, Masuku has ”developed a life-threatening infection on his left foot which needs an operation”.

Last week, when Mario Masuku was visited by Lawyers for Human Rights, he complained that the conditions are “deplorable”. He has therefore applied for bail on two occasions to be able to seek treatment for his ailments in neighbouring South Africa.

Both applications for bail were turned down because the judge claimed “the security of the country would be threatened” if he was to be released, even though Mario Masuku has always campaigned peacefully for democracy and never advocated violence.

“My second home”
Mario Masuku been imprisoned many times, as well as harassed and charged for all manner of things, by Swaziland’s police forces and legal system since he helped form PUDEMO in 1983. So many times, that he often refers to prison as “his second home”.

When Mario Masuku was imprisoned for 340 days awaiting trial on similar charges of terrorism in 2009, the case was laughed out of court in a matter of hours and Masuku released when he was eventually brought before a judge.

Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini’s case is set to continue on February 5.

The campaign to free Mario Masuku and his co-accused, the Secretary General of PUDEMO’s Youth League, SWAYOCO, Maxwell Dlamini, was initiated by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung – Southern Africa, The Red Green Alliance – Denmark, Action for Southern Africa – United Kingdom, Africa Contact – Denmark, and the Swaziland United Democratic Front.

You can sign the petition to demand the release of Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini here:

Monday, 12 January 2015


We should be sceptical of a report that the Swaziland Government is about to privatise all state-controlled broadcasting in the kingdom and open up the presently-restricted airways to the people.

This promise has been made on and off for the past twenty years. Now, Dumisani Ndlangamandla, Minister of Information Communication and Technology, has reportedly said a new entity called the Swaziland Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) will be formed, possibly by the end of 2015.

The Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, reported, ‘Ndlangamandla said it was expected that the operation would provide maximum availability of broadcasting to the people through the three-tier system of public, commercial and community broadcasting services.’

The newspaper reported SBC would provide public, commercial and community radio or television services.

It is unlikely that any new broadcasting entity, if it is ever created, will be any different to the present situation where nearly all broadcasting in Swaziland is state-controlled. 

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from contesting elections and the King picks the government.

At present Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS) oversees state radio stations. The only independent radio is Voice of the Church, a Christian station that does not carry news.

There are only two TV stations in the kingdom, the state-controlled Swazi TV and the independent Channel S, which has a publicly-stated policy of supporting King Mswati.

Despite many promises in the past the Government still does not allow community radio to operate in the kingdom.

Most people in Swaziland get their news and information from radio. Newspapers hardly penetrate rural areas where more than 70 percent of the population lives and television is too expensive for most people.

Under this situation, currently broadcasters in Swaziland serve the interests of the ruling elites and not those of the people. Broadcasting is state-controlled, that means no criticism is allowed on the airwaves of the status quo in Swaziland. Any criticism of the ruling elite is seen as ‘non-Swazi’. The Prime Minister is editor-in-chief of the Swazi broadcasting and can decide what goes on the air and what does not.

As recently as August 2012, the Swazi Government issued guidelines for state broadcasters that barred all coverage of events, ‘except those authorised by relevant authorities’.

The guidelines also prohibited ‘public service announcements’ unless they were ‘in line with government policy’ or had been authorised ‘by the chiefs through the regional administrators’ or deputy prime minister’s office.

There is a long history of censorship on SBIS. Strikes and anti-government demonstrations are usually ignored by the radio. Sometimes live programmes are censored on air. In July 2011, the plug was pulled on a phone-in programme when listeners started criticising the government for its handling of the economy. Percy Simelane, who was then the boss of SBIS, and is now the Government’s official spokesperson, personally stormed the radio studio and cut the programme. 

In April 1 2011, Welile Dlamini, a long-time news editor at SBIS, challenged Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini at an editors’ forum meeting on why the state radio station was told by the Government what and what not to broadcast. Dlamini said that at the station they were instructed to spike certain stories such as those about demonstrations by progressives and strike action by workers. The PM responded by saying editors should resign if they were not happy with the editorial policies they were expected to work with.

In March 2011, SBIS stopped broadcasting the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme after it carried reports critical of King Mswati III. In the same month, SBIS failed to cover the march by nurses that forced the Swazi Government into paying them overdue allowances. 

In 2010, Swazi police told SBIS it must stop allowing people to broadcast information about future meetings unless the police had given permission. Jerome Dlamini, Deputy Director of SBIS, said this was to stop the radio station airing an announcement for a meeting that was prohibited. 

He said, ‘It’s the station’s policy not to make announcements without police permission.’ The police directive came to light when the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) tried to get an announcement aired about one of its meetings.

In 2006, the Minister for Public Service and Information, Themba Msibi, warned the Swazi broadcasters against criticising the King.

MISA reported at the time, ‘The minister’s threats followed a live radio programme of news and current affairs in which a human rights lawyer criticised the King’s sweeping constitutional powers.’

Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, had been asked to comment on a visit by an African Union (AU) human rights team which was on a fact-finding mission to Swaziland.

‘In response, Maseko said that, as human rights activists, they had concerns about the king’s sweeping constitutional powers and the fact that he the King was wrongfully placed above the Constitution. He said they were going to bring this and other human rights violations to the attention of the AU delegation.
‘Not pleased with the broadcast, the government was quick to respond. Msibi spoke on air the following day to sternly warn the media against criticising the King. He said the media should exercise respect and avoid issues that seek to question the king or his powers. 

‘The minister said his message was not directed only to radio but to all media, both private and government-owned. He said that in government they had noticed that there was growing trend in the media to criticise the King when he should be above criticism and public scrutiny,’ MISA reported.