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Tuesday, 30 June 2015


Swaziland’s Supreme Court on Tuesday (30 June 2015) ordered the release of magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer, who had been jailed for two years for writing and publishing magazine articles critical of the Swazi judiciary.

The Supreme Court said the jailing by the Swazi High Court was unsupportable. The pair had been in jail since March 2014.

The decision follows a massive international campaign to have Makhubu and Maseko released that included the United Nations and the European Parliament. Amnesty International had named the two men prisoners of conscience.
The Supreme Court upheld their appeal against their convictions in the High Court last year on two charges of contempt of court and their two-year prison sentences, and ordered their immediate release from prison. The two had written and published articles that appeared in the Nation magazine, a tiny-circulation monthly magazine that circulates in Swaziland.

Media are mostly state-controlled or in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The articles had been critical of the Swazi judiciary in particular and the then Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.

Ramodibedi was sacked from his post on 17 June 2015 after a Judicial Service Commission hearing found him guilty of abuse of power.  Ramodibedi left Swaziland for his home country of Lesotho. A warrant for his arrest has been issued in Swaziland.

The two men’s criminal trial in the Swazi High Court was presided over by Judge Mpendulo Simelane, who has since been charged with corruption and defeating the ends of justice. 

South Africa’s Independent on Line reported that at the Swazi Supreme Court the State had indicated that it was not opposing the appeal against conviction and sentence as the Directorate of Public Prosecutions believed that the convictions were unsupportable and that Judge Simelane should have recused himself from the case at the start of the trial. 

Caroline James, a freedom of expression lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which has been supporting Makhubu and Maseko’s legal fight, said, ‘The Crown’s concession that grave errors were made during the trial is a vindication for Maseko and Makhubu. The recognition by the prosecution and the court that the role of the prosecution is to prosecute and not persecute is extremely welcome in Swaziland where the law has been applied at the whim of individuals in the recent past.’

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which was one of the organisations from across the world that protested the sentences, welcomed the release and said the prosecutions had been ‘vindictive from the start’.

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Swaziland police reported there were nearly 1,000 cases of child sex abuse reported between January 2014 and May 2015.

But this nothing new. Swazi culture condones sex abuse of children, especially young girls, and there is little evidence that this is going to change.

In the twisted culture that is Swaziland, child rapists often blame women for their action.

The State of the Swaziland Population report revealed that women who ‘sexually starve’ their husbands are responsible for the growing sexual abuse of children.

Men who were interviewed during the making of the report said they ‘salivate’ over children wearing skimpy dress codes because their wives refused them sexual intercourse.

In Swaziland it is estimated that one in three girls suffer sexual abuse, but it is thought that fewer than half of sexual assaults and other abusive crimes are reported to the authorities. 

The State of the Swaziland Population report went on to say that Swazi men also blame ‘modernisation’ for giving women and girls the idea that they do not need to obey their menfolk.

The report stated, ‘They blamed the current generation of children for their inquisitorial minds, saying they always ask why? and why not? They were not content with counselling words from adults. They concluded that these were the negative impacts of education on behaviour.’

In Swaziland rape is against the law but there is no specific law about rape within marriage.

The United States Department of State report on human rights in Swaziland looking at 2014 stated, ‘Rape was common, and the government did not always enforce the law effectively. 

‘According to the Swaziland Action Group against Abuse (SWAGAA), one in three girls and women between the ages of 13 and 24 had been the victim of sexual violence. Although legally defined as a crime, many men regarded rape as a minor offense. According to the 2013 RSPS [Royal Swaziland Police Service] annual report, 495 rape cases were reported that year. There were no data available on the number of prosecutions, convictions, or punishments. 

‘The number of reported cases was likely far lower than the actual number of cases, as many cases were dealt with at the family level. A sense of shame and helplessness often inhibited women from reporting such crimes, particularly when incest was involved. 

‘The maximum sentence for aggravated rape is 15 years in prison, but the acquittal rate for rape was high, and sentences were generally lenient.

‘Prosecutors reported difficulty obtaining the evidence required to bring rape and domestic violence cases to trial because witnesses feared testifying against accused rapists. There were few social workers or other intermediaries to work with victims and witnesses in order to obtain evidence.’

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Monday, 29 June 2015


A raft of appointments of judges to Swaziland’s Supreme Court has raised questions about nepotism in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch, King Mswati III.

Even one of the newspapers in Swaziland that he in effect owns has raised doubts about the wisdom of appointing judges who are related to one another.

And, the Swazi Attorney-General Majahenkhaba Dlamini has been appointed a temporary Supreme Court judge for the month of July 2015, raising questions about the independence from government of the judiciary.

On Friday (26 June 2015), seven acting judges to the Supreme Court were announced, which the Sunday Observer newspaper reported, ‘resulted in the kingdom’s judiciary turning into a close knit family affair of spouses and siblings’.

The newspaper reported, ‘Newly-appointed Judge of the Supreme Court Majahenkhaba Dlamini joins his wife High Court Judge Mumcy Dlamini as members of the judiciary.

‘Former High Court Judge Qinisile Mabuza and her brother Sipho Nkosi have both been appointed Judges of the Supreme Court – the latter’s appointment is on an acting basis while the former’s is permanent.

‘There is also High Court Judge Nkululeko Hlophe whose wife is Supreme Court Registrar and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Secretary Lorraine Hlophe.

‘With Majahenkhaba and his wife Judge Mumcy, questions have been raised on what would happen should the former, in his capacity as acting Supreme Court Judge, find himself having to review cases that were decided by the latter at the High Court.

‘There are suggestions that there are strong possibilities of this scenario coming true.’

There are also concerns that some of the new judges might not be suitably qualified.

The Observer reported, ‘A senior judicial expert who spoke to the Sunday Observer, though stating clearly not being opposed to the appointments, was worried that Acting Judges Nkosi and Cloete were appointed straight to the Supreme Court without any experience of presiding in the lower courts, especially the High Court.

‘“There is a lot that they need to learn, which they can do by presiding at the High Court before they are elevated to the Supreme Court,” said the expert.’

 The appointment of Attorney-General Majahenkhaba Dlamini to the Supreme Court for one month has raised doubts about King Mswati’s commitment to the separation of powers between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. 

Dlamini is a member of the Swazi Government that was hand-picked by King Mswati, an ex-official member of the House of Assembly and now a judge. That gives him a place in all three branches of government.

The full list of Supreme Court Judges:

• Acting Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala
• Dr. Ben Odoki JA
• Justice Stanley Maphalala JA
• Justice Jacobus Annandale JA
• Justice Qinisile Mabuza JA
• Justice Mbutfo Mamba JA
• AG Majahenkhaba Dlamini JA
• Lawyer Robert Cloete AJA
• Lawyer Sipho Nkosi AJA

Sunday, 28 June 2015


A new report shows Swaziland spent US$259.8 million on its military in the past three years. 

In 2014 military spending amounted to 5.9 percent of all government, spending in Swaziland, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in its Military Expenditure Database for 2015.

The military spending amounted to 2.2 percent of Swaziland’s entire gross domestic product (GDP).

Swaziland has a population of nearly 1.3 million people. Seven in ten of them live in abject poverty, with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

In the calendar year 2014, Swaziland’s military spending was estimated to be US$80.6 million; about the equivalent of US$62 for every person in the kingdom.

King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and the government he handpicks, refuse to publicly discuss military spending citing ‘national security’ issues as an excuse.

Swaziland is a tiny landlocked kingdom and is not at war and there are no potential enemies at the borders ready to invade. Swaziland’s international obligations in the military arena are few, and Swazi troops are not expected to be deployed abroad anytime soon.

Despite the reluctance of the King and Government to discuss military spending it is possible to piece together a picture of what might be behind the large spending.

In 2011, the Swazi Government set aside more than E1 billion (US$100 million) for spending on the army and police force and the then Finance Minister Majozi Sithole admitted that the army was prepared for an uprising by the population in Swaziland.

This followed a series of prodemocracy uprisings in North Africa, leading to what became known as the ‘Arab Spring’. King Mswati was fearful something similar could happen in his kingdom.  A Facebook group calling itself the April 12 Uprising had already called for an overthrow of the King.

In February 2011, Sithole told an open stakeholder dialogue on the 2011-2012 budget and Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap, ‘Yes, we are spending a lot on the army but we are not anticipating what is happening in North Africa to come here,’ he said.

He added, ‘However, the army is there to avoid such situations.’ 

In 2009, the Swazi Government was revealed to be engaged in arms dealing by the United States. A diplomatic cable written by Maurice Parker, the then US Ambassador to Swaziland, and later published by WikiLeaks revealed that the UK Government had blocked an arms deal between a UK company Unionlet and the Swaziland Government because it feared their ‘possible use for internal repression’. 

The Swazi Government wanted to buy equipment worth US$60 million.

Among items listed for purchase were, ‘3 Bell Model UH-1H helicopters, FN Herstal 7.6251mm Minimi light machine guns, blank and tracer ammunition, armored personnel carriers, command and control vehicles including one fitted with a 12.7x99mm M2 Browning heavy machine gun and others fitted with the FN Herstal light machine guns, military ambulances, armored repair and recovery vehicles, weapon sights, military image intensifier equipment, optical target surveillance equipment, 620 Heckler & Koch G36E assault rifles, 240 Heckler & Koch G36K assault rifles, 65 Heckler & Koch G36E rifles, 75 Heckler & Koch UMP submachine guns 9x19mm, and 35 Heckler & Koch USP semi-automatic pistols’.

The Swaziland Government said it wanted the items to fulfil its United Nations ‘peacekeeping’ obligations in Africa.

The UK Government did not believe it and thought either the weapons would be used against the Swazi civilian population, or they were being bought in order to sell on to another country, possibly Iran. The UK Government blocked the deal.

In his diplomatic cable, Parker said, ‘The array of weapons requested would not be needed for the first phases of peacekeeping, although it is possible someone tried to convince the Swazi government they were required. The GKOS [Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland] may have been attempting to build up domestic capability to deal with unrest, or was possibly acting as an intermediary for a third party such as Zimbabwe or a Middle Eastern country that had cash, diamonds or goods to trade.’

The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom, which first broke the story, reported at the time, Swaziland had a poor human rights record which was criticised by the US state department in its 2009 report (the year the deal was to have taken place).

‘Government agents continued to commit or condone serious abuses, and the human rights situation in the country deteriorated. Human rights problems included inability of citizens to change their government; extrajudicial killings by security forces; mob killings; police use of torture, beatings, and excessive force on detainees,’ the report said.

In the months before the attempted arms sale, Swaziland’s government declared the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) the main opposition political party a terrorist organisation and arrested its leader, Mario Masuku.

Once the cable became public in 2011, John Kunene, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, who signed the original deal in 2008, said the kingdom had never given up trying to buy the weapons.

The Swazi News, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, reported (26 February 2011) that Kunene was still trying to broker a deal. 

In March 2011 Lutfo Dlamini, who was then Minister of Defence, denied the Wikileaks report and, according to a report in the Times of Swaziland, told the Swazi Senate there was at no stage where the country spoke of purchasing guns.  

The Swazi Observer reported him saying, ‘We never bought any guns anywhere and never spent E429 million. The information leaked was misleading, it was written by someone who had his own agendas.’

Clearly, Lutfo Dlamini was not telling the truth since Kunene had already confirmed that he was still trying to broker the deal.

In March 2011 Kunene was sacked from his job after a disclosure that the Umbutfu Swaziland Defence Force (the army) had run out of food to feed its soldiers. 

A month after the Wikleaks revelation about possible arms sales to the Middle East, the AFP news agency reported Swaziland was importing two containers of firearms through a Mozambican port. 

AFP quoted Mozambican state daily newspaper Noticias as its source. It reported the arms arrived in Maputo, the Mozambican capital, on a Panamanian vessel on 28 February 2011 from an unspecified country.

Swaziland is in effect broke and has been struggling for the past four years to come up with a recovery package that could revive the economy. It has ignored advice from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cut its public service wage bill and to increase the amount of money it collects in taxation. The IMF wants moneys to be transferred from capital expenditure projects to help poor and disadvantaged people.

In March 2013 it was revealed that the Swazi government had sold US$3 million worth of maize donated by Japan as humanitarian aid to feed malnourished people, including children. It put the money raised in a special account at the Central Bank of Swaziland.  

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Friday, 26 June 2015


During the height of the Apartheid era, Swaziland lobbied the US and UK Governments not to support economic sanctions on South Africa, a confidential communication from 1978 has revealed.

The then Swazi Prime Minister Maphevu Harry Dlamini said the sanctions would be ‘disastrous’ for the Swaziland economy.

The information contradicts the present-day belief that King Sobuza II and his Swazi Governments were stanch supporters of the struggle for freedom in South Africa during the Apartheid era.

Dlamini was said to have ‘pleaded strongly’ with the US and UK not to support sanctions.

This was revealed in a confidential electronic telegram sent from the United States State Department on 7 November 1978. It was distributed to the UK, Zambia, Mozambique and France.

The electronic telegram said, ‘During 30-minute meeting in his office November 2, Prime Minister pleaded strongly with UK and US reps to urge our governments to prevent adoption of UN sanctions against South Africa, especially on oil, on ground that sanctions would be not only suicidal for Swaziland but also extremely detrimental to blacks.’

The writer of the cable, who was not named, but was likely to be the US Ambassador to Swaziland said the US and UK representatives at the meeting agreed to seek clarification of positions from their governments ‘soonest’.

The confidential message added, ‘In unprecedented move, Prime Minister Maphevu summoned British High Commissioner and me jointly to his office November 2 for urgent approach on issue of UN sanctions against South Africa. 

‘Prime Minister said that from series of telexes and telecons from Swazi UN representative Malinga, he understood that United Nations was on brink of voting on sanctions issue and that Western powers, possibly reflecting disenchantment with South Africa’s posture on Namibian election question, were leaving impression in New York that they might not repeat not veto a sanctions resolution. 

‘Although worried about effect that any kind of sanctions would have on Swaziland’s economy, Prime Minister was principally concerned about oil sanctions. 

‘Prime Minister said he did not have to remind UK and US reps in Mbabane, who saw situation first-hand, how dependent Swaziland economy is on South African economy. 

‘Oil sanctions would be “disastrous” for Swaziland. 

‘He added that one could be sure that not only Swaziland’s population, but also blacks in South Africa itself, would be the first to feel the pinch if sanctions were imposed; he gave the example of black entrepreneurs in South Africa, who he said would certainly be treated far less favorably by South African authorities when rationing began. 

‘Several times in his forceful half-hour presentation the Prime Minister talked as spokesman for blacks in all of Southern Africa and not merely for Swazis. 

‘He said sanctions would be “indirect killing of black people in Southern Africa”.

‘For Swaziland to vote for sanctions would be “suicidal.”

‘Prime Minister asked rhetorically which black leaders in South Africa itself would support sanctions. He hoped that Western policy-makers were not taking advice from “blacks who left South Africa ten to twenty years ago and who are now living comfortably in Europe and America.”

‘He downplayed any hard-line advice that might be given by front-line leaders, who continue their own economic dealings with South Africa (as Swaziland does) because there is no alternative to such cooperation; he cited Zambian railroad move as one recent example.’

Maphevu Harry Dlamini was Prime Minister of Swaziland from 31 March 1976 until his death on 25 October 1979.

The telegram was classified confidential when it was written in 1978, and was declassified in 2014. It is now publicly available through the Wikileaks’ Public Library of US Diplomacy.

Thursday, 25 June 2015


The Swaziland High Court has re-issued a warrant for the arrest of sacked Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.

Ramodibedi, a Lesotho national, was sacked on 17 June 2015 by King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland.

Ramodibedi left Swaziland and is reported to have returned to Lesotho.

The original warrant for arrest was issued on 17 April 2015 on 23 charges relating to alleged abuse of power. 

The warrant was rescinded by Judge Jacobus Annandale during the nearly two months that Ramodibedi was suspended from office and under self-imposed house arrest. 

A Judicial Service Commission hearing found Ramodibedi guilty of misconduct. Ramodibedi did not attend the hearing, citing ill health.

Following the hearing, King Mswati sacked Ramodibedi.

The warrant was re-issued by High Court Judge Nkululeko Hlophe on Wednesday (24 June 2015).

See also 



Swaziland’s Speaker of the House of Assembly Themba Msibi was suspended from office for seven days after an allegation that he conspired to oust the Prime Minister from office.

It was one of four allegations that have surfaced in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported that Msibi was suspended on 17 June 2015 and a parliamentary investigation started against him for four allegations.

The newspaper listed them as follows:

‘A newspaper article that implicates Msibi in interfering in the personnel recruitment process in Parliament. 

‘Misrepresentation he made in Cameroon during the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, that he had been nominated into the local chapter of CPA.

‘He was responsible for the dissolution of the Parliamentary joint house committee.

‘That he was one of the conspirators to oust the Prime Minister [Barnabas Dlamini] from office.’

Msibi then went to the Swazi High Court to seek a ruling that the House of Assembly did not have the power to suspend a Speaker.

On Wednesday (24 June 2015) the High Court ruled that the House of assembly investigation should be halted pending further deliberation by the court.

Msibi was a controversial choice as Speaker of the House of Assembly. He was elected unopposed after all other candidates withdrew from the election. Msibi was considered to be the choice of King Mswati.

In October 2013, following the national election, in which political parties were banned from taking part, the House of Assembly was ready to elect a Speaker but it was adjourned for three days to allow Msibi time to get his nomination papers entered.

The adjournment was forced by Clerk of Parliament Ndvuna Dlamini. The adjournment caused confusion in the Swazi Parliament because the kingdom’s Constitution suggests the election of Speaker had to take place at the first sitting of Parliament following a national election.

Once news that King Mswati wanted Msibi in place, other candidates withdrew.

Among those withdrawing was Prince Guduza, the Speaker of the previous Parliament. He was widely thought of as the first choice of Parliamentarians and until the King’s intervention, was expected to be elected. 

King Mswati III had a week earlier appointed Msibi to the House of Assembly. Msibi did not stand as a candidate in the national election held on 20 September 2013. The king appoints 10 members of the House.

At the time, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, ran a story recalling Msibi’s past life.  Msibi had at one time complained that there were ‘too many foreigners’ in Swaziland. The newspaper also reported that Msibi was once photographed by journalists with his trousers down in a car with a woman who was not his wife. Msibi later apologised to King Mswati for embarrassment caused.

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Spectators will be charged E250 (US$25) to attend matches at the tournament set up to honour King Mswati III of Swaziland – at least two weeks’ income for seven in ten of his subjects.

The controversial tournament called the King’s Super Cup includes the two giant South African teams Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

Pro-democracy campaigners have urged the two clubs not to attend the tournament scheduled for 18 July 2015 because it would be seen as supporting the King who has been criticised globally for the poor human rights in his kingdom.

Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, choses the government and top judges. Groups advocating democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and people advocating for reform are jailed.

The tournament’s organising committee chairman Zakhele Lukhele said that a special dinner would be arranged on the eve of the tournament and the price to attend would be E15,000 per table.

In Swaziland, seven in ten people have incomes of less than US$2 per day.

The announcement was made at the Royal Swazi Spa Convention Centre, Mbabane, on Wednesday (24 June 2015).

The Supersport website, based in South Africa, reported, ‘The King’s Super Cup is an initiative of Swaziland’s King Mswati III. “The number one football supporter in this country,” as one guest said it.’

A campaign started by pro-democracy activists in Swaziland has been reported by news organisations globally.

Campaigners say if the two South African football clubs took part in the tournament it would be a ‘mockery to the many activists that have died at the hands of the government and those who are presently languishing in jail for having dared to talk against the atrocities obtaining in Swaziland’.

The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), in a statement said, ‘Almost 70 percent of Swazi citizens live under the poverty line of less than a dollar a day, while Mswati III’s preoccupation is buying private jets, luxury cars and touring the world with his throng of wives at the expense of the Swazi people.’

The statement added, ‘PUDEMO implores the two soccer giants to reconsider their decision to be involved in a tournament that seeks to put a human face on a government that has made it its prime occupation to govern the people with fear and dispossession. 

‘The fact that the tournament’s namesake is to honour an individual who uses fear and corruption to accumulate riches which he then uses to further suppress freedoms and curtail human rights, should be an indicator enough that the good game of soccer is being taken to the sewers, and this tournament will forever taint the good name of these two soccer giants for having dared to give credibility to a king who sits executive over cold blooded murder and the incarceration of innocent citizens.’

The Communist Party of Swaziland in a statement said the participation of the two football giants in the tournament undermined the efforts of democrats to isolate the King.

In an open letter to Irvin Khoza, Chairman of Orlando Pirates Football Club and Kaizer Motaung, Executive Director, Kaizer Chiefs Foodball Club, the Swaziland Solidarity Network said, ‘It is clear from the name of the event that this is not just a sporting event meant to promote goodwill but rather a political event meant to legitimise a despot who has lost credibility in the eyes of the world and the country that he rules with an iron fist.’

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The lack of democracy in Swaziland is a substantial risk to the kingdom’s growth, according to a World Bank report. 

And, Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, the conglomerate owned by the royal family, deters private companies from operating and thereby boosting the kingdom’s economy.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati as an absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King chooses the government and top judges. Groups advocating for democracy in Swaziland are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and dissenters are jailed.
The King also controls large parts of the Swazi economy through Tibiyo and holds most of the land in Swaziland ‘in trust for the Swazi nation’.

The World Bank report, called the Country Partnership Strategy for the kingdom of Swaziland 2015 – 2018, said, ‘Perceptions about lack of voice and accountability and weak rule of law hamper growth and development. The limitations on the rights to participate and form political parties deprives the citizenry of political competition and electoral feedback to prioritize policy choices.

‘The regular arrest of pro-democracy activists contributes to pushing Swaziland low on the political freedoms scale and high in the rankings for perceptions of corruption. Transparency International ranks Swaziland 82 among 177 countries on its Corruption Perception Index.’

The World Bank added, ‘The political and governance risks are expected to be substantial’ during the coming years.

It said, ‘The governance system in Swaziland leaves room for political interference, policy reversals, vested interests, nepotism and corruption which can adversely affect the selection and prioritization of sectoral investments, as well as the effective implementation of programs.’

It added that programs that the World Bank would support, including those to alleviate poverty and stimulate economic growth, ‘can be particularly vulnerable to such risks, if the project beneficiaries become direct competitors to established vested interest’.

The World Bank consulted various groups within Swaziland, including ‘the donor community, civil society and the private sector’ in compiling its report.

The World Bank concluded, ‘All parties consulted agree on limitations in state capacity which undermines implementation of policies and service delivery. Some stakeholders identified the lack of political will to review the current system of Governance and the separation of powers. Cases of imprisonment of media representatives and unionists demonstrate that the Swazi public has no mechanism through which to voice their concerns.

The World Bank report also criticised King Mswati’s conglomerate, popularly known as Tibiyo.

It said, ‘Direct intervention by the state in economic sectors also seems to be a deterrent. The state is invested in key economic sectors through state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and the company owned by the royal family – Tibiyo Taka Ngwane. These institutions operate in multiple economic sectors including agriculture, transport, finance, tourism and housing, which put them in direct competition with private players, creating conflicts of interest in several sectors. 

‘Furthermore, some SOEs function as regulators in their sectors, and are responsible for charging levies on imports by private enterprises of products that they themselves are selling.

‘This creates another set of conflicts of interest and potential opportunities for corruption. The overall result is further uncertainty among investors.’

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Tuesday, 23 June 2015


The trade sanctions imposed by the United States because of King Mswati III’s poor record on human rights will contribute to a slump in the kingdom’s economy, a senior Central Bank of Swaziland (CBS) official said.

On 1 January 2015, the US withdrew Swaziland’s trading benefits under the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) after the kingdom ruled by King Mswati as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch refused to accept democratic change.

Swaziland had previously been able to export to the United States without having to pay tariffs. In June 2015 it was reported that in the six months since the loss of AGOA benefits, at least 3,000 jobs had been lost in the textile industry, dominated by Taiwanese companies.

CBS General Manager: Economic Policy Research and Statistics Bhadala Mamba told a pensions funds investment forum in Swaziland, ‘Going forward, economic growth will continue to slump and pickup around 2017, this is because of shocks in the local economy because of AGOA.’

The US had wanted Swaziland to implement the full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to the Suppression of Terrorism Act; 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, announcing the withdrawal of AGOA, a White House spokesperson said, ‘The decision to withdraw Swaziland’s AGOA eligibility comes after years of engaging with the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland on concerns about its implementation of the AGOA eligibility criteria related to worker rights.’

In Swaziland political parties are banned from taking part in elections and King Mswati choses the government and top judges. Groups advocating for democracy are outlawed as terrorists under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Mr Mamba told the forum that another factor to affect the Swazi economy badly was the closure of the Ngwenya iron mine.

He did not reveal that this mine was closed after King Mswati, who owned 25 percent of the mine withdrew US$10 million from the company to purchase a private jet for himself. Sihle Dlamini, the King’s representative on the board of directors then stopped the mine from trading. 

Eventually it had debts of US$4 million when it was legally wound up in December 2014and more than 700 jobs were lost. King Mswati took the US$10 million loan from the company less than six months after it started trading which he refused to pay back when it hit difficulties. 

A compensation claim for at least US$141 million has been prepared by Southern Africa Resources Ltd (SARL), the company that owned half the mine, against the Kingdom of Swaziland at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The Swazi Government owned 25 percent of the mine and King Mswati also had 25 percent which he held ‘in trust for the Swazi nation’.

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