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Thursday, 31 March 2016


There have been 4,556 cases of ‘severe corporal punishment’ of children in Swaziland’s schools over the past four years, an international news organisation reported.

Star Africa quoted Zanele Thabede from youth group Super Buddies, who leads a team looking into youth and child issues, who in an interview said the number of whippings dated from 2012.

Star Africa reported Thabede saying, ‘Corporal punishment by teachers and principals is legal and routinely practiced and there is a growing trend of incarcerating of children and youth in the Malkerns Industrial School for Rehabilitation because of “unruly” behaviour.’

There is confusion in Swaziland as to whether corporal punishment has been banned in schools. It is believed that a directive was issued to schools in 2012 not to use corporal punishment but few teachers appear to know it had been made.
The Times of Swaziland reported in October 2015 that Phineas Magagula, Minister of Education and Training, warned that teachers who beat pupils should be reported to the ministry so that they could be disciplined.
Swaziland has a long history of atrocities committed by teachers against their pupils in the name of ‘discipline’. Although there were rules about how corporal punishment could be administered, these were largely ignored.
As recently as September 2015, the Times reported a 17-year-old school pupil died after allegedly being beaten at school. The pupil reportedly had a seizure.
In March 2015, a primary school teacher at the Florence Christian Academy was charged with causing grievous bodily harm after allegedly giving 200 strokes of the cane to a 12-year-old pupil on her buttocks and all over her body.
In February 2015, the headteacher of Mayiwane High School Anderson Mkhonta reportedly admitted giving 15 strokes to a form 1 pupil for not wearing a neck tie properly.
In April 2015, parents reportedly complained to the Ndlalane Primary School after a teacher beat pupils for not following his instruction and shaving their hair. 
In October 2014, 20 pupils were thrashed before they sat an examination because they had been absent from school studying for the exam the previous day.
In October 2015, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III and the voice of the traditionalists in Swaziland published an article against the abolition of corporal punishment. 
Observer journalist Fanyana Mabuza wrote that if corporal punishment was abolished, ‘[T]he future could be bleak, especially for the children who for their own good need a bit of spanking to bring them to order.’
The article in the Observer, a newspaper that believes Swaziland will be a ‘First World’ nation by 2022 added, ‘We just do not see the future clearly without the cane in our schools.’
See also

Wednesday, 30 March 2016


King Mswati III, the absolute monarch in Swaziland, is to get a 9 percent increase for his spending from the taxpayer, while elderly pensions are frozen because there is not enough money to pay for increases.

The news about King Mswati’s budget increase has not been reported in Swaziland, where media routinely censor news about the King.

King Mswati’s ‘Civil List’, the money given to him to run the Royal household, will increase by E30m (US$1.9m) in the coming financial year to E370m (US$24m).

The King also receives income from a variety of businesses in the kingdom. For example, he holds 25 percent of all mineral wealth ‘in trust for the Swazi nation.’ In reality he uses this money to fund his lavish lifestyle, which includes 13 palaces, a private jet, fleets of Mercedes and BMW cars and at least one Rolls Royce.

Earlier this month (March 2016), it was revealed the King’s share of the just-reopened Lufafa Gold Mine at Hhelehhele in the Hhohho region of Swaziland could be worth up to US$149 million. 

Meanwhile, seven in ten of his 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

The increase in the King’s budget was contained in the annual budget estimates in February 2016. Although the Swazi media covered aspects of the budget, the news about the King was not published.

Meanwhile, the same budget pegged the elderly grant (pensions), which are for people aged 60 and over, at E240 per month. A total of E170,765,454 (about US$11m) was paid in elderly grants in the 2015 – 2016 financial year. This was about half the E340 million that the King received as ‘Civil List’ to fund the Royal household.

The budget also revealed that about US$9 million would be spent on a private jet for the King. Also US$12 million will reportedly be spent on décor at the Royal Terminal Building at King Mswati III (KMIII) Airport. 

See also


Tuesday, 29 March 2016


As the Swaziland Government goes cap-in-hand to the international community to seek money to stop people starving as a result of drought, news has emerged that US$12 million is to be spent on decorating the Royal Terminal Building at King Mswati III (KMIII) Airport.

KMIII, formerly known as Sikhuphe, is an airport built in the wilderness in Swaziland. It has been widely criticised outside the kingdom where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch as a vanity project for the King.

Despite efforts by the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority and others to disguise the fact, the airport has not attracted the international flights the airport’s supporters promised. The airport officially opened in March 2014 but flights did not start until the following October. The only route served is with OR Tambo in Johannesburg, South Africa, which is a flying time of less than an hour. Fewer than 100 passengers a day on average fly from the airport.

The cost of building the airport is unknown, but estimates widely reported by the media suggest it could have been as much as US$250 - 300 million. It took at least 10 years to build and was opened at least four years behind schedule.

In October 2013 a report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the airport was widely perceived as a ‘vanity project’ because of its scale and opulence compared with the size and nature of the market it sought to serve.

On 21 March 2016 The Star Africa news site reported that more than US$12 million would be spent on ‘the interior decorations’ at the terminal.

It reported, ‘The money for the project termed VVPI Royal Terminal, according to government estimates, will be sourced locally for the procurement of ground handling equipment.’

It added, ‘Solomon Dube, Director of the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA) says the airport is a commercial airlines facility and therefore needs to accommodate important guests who require detailed welcoming protocol separately.’

At present 70 percent of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty, with incomes less than US$2 a day. Swaziland also has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. In 2003, the International Monetary Fund said the airport should not be built because it would divert funds away from much needed projects to fight poverty in Swaziland.

There is no obvious need for the new airport which is being built in the Swazi wilderness 80 kilometres east of the Swazi capital Mbabane. Major airports already exist less than an hour’s flying time away in South Africa with connecting routes to Swaziland.

There has never been a needs analysis undertaken on the airport, and Swaziland’s airport at Matsapha which closed to make way for KMIII only carried about 70,000 passengers a year.

Today, Swaziland is in the grip of a drought crisis. In February 2016, the Swazi Government announced it did not have enough money to give drought relief. It asked for immediate emergency donations amounting to US$16 million. Since then it has been revealed that the Swazi Government intends to spend at least US$9 million on a private jet plane for the King.

See also


Thursday, 10 March 2016


Four supporters of the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) have been arrested and charged following an alleged arson attack on rondavels in a-Ngcamphalala Chiefdom in Siphofaneni under the leadership of Chief Mshikashika II. 

The Party said in a statement they were arrested during a continuing campaign against the ‘feudal’ rule of King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The CPS said, ‘CPS activists are playing a prominent role in mobilizing communities to stop feudal leaders from barring boys from schooling and attending university because of their non-attendance at the King’s annual ritualistic events.

‘Such protests have cantered in amongst other many communities, on Siphofaneni, Ka-Ngcamphalala Chiefdom as well as on Siyandle, in Shiselweni Region. Community members held a meeting at Siphofaneni to tell the chief that the abuse of people in the name of culture must end.’

It added, ‘The Communist Party of Swaziland is calling for robust solidarity with the local communities under feudal rule in our country who have been protesting efforts to punish young boys for not taking part in King Mswati’s “traditional” ceremonies.’

The statement added, ‘The CPS is confronting the Mswati regime on its manipulation of traditional cultural practices for dubious purposes, mainly to intimidate Swazis into reverence for the monarchy.’

The CPS said it had been leafleting rural areas, ‘to mobilise opposition to royal rule and its obsequious implementation by local chiefs. This is being done in a tense situation of surveillance and intimidation by undercover police and military intelligence.’

The four men arrested will appear at Siteki Magistrate court on charges of arson.  

Wednesday, 9 March 2016


Swaziland is to spend US$150 million on security in the coming year, the kingdom’s annual budget reveals.

It amounts to 11 percent of the tiny kingdom’s total budget.

The money will be spent on the army (USDF), police and correctional services. It continues a trend of massive military spending by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The security budget of E2.3bn is more than the E2.0bn set aside for health. The total budget is E20.6bn.

In his budget speech Finance Minister Martin Dlamini, said, ‘Government has, over the past years, actively enhanced the capacity of the USDF and the Police in order to safeguard peace and security of Swazis and their property.’

He added, ‘Government will therefore ensure that the USDF and Police continue to have what they need to ensure Swazis are secure.’

He said, ‘These resources will be utilized to further strengthen the USDF, Correctional Services and the Police. Specific emphasis will be placed on strengthening intelligence capability, training and welfare.’

Swaziland is a tiny landlocked kingdom with a population of about 1.4 million people. Seven in ten live in abject poverty, with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and groups advocating multi-party democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Swaziland spent US$259.8 million on its military in the years 2011 to 2014. 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).
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.
In 2011, the Swazi Government set aside more than 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.’
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 Kunene was sacked from his job after a disclosure that the army had run out of food to feed its soldiers. 
See also


Tuesday, 8 March 2016


Kenworthy News Media, 4 March 2016
“I am a victim of circumstances”, says activist Mphandlana ‘Victim’ Shongwe of the nickname he is known by because of the decades of state harassment he has endured in his homeland, Swaziland. “But what has kept me going is the desire to be free”, writes Kenworthy News Media.

“Victim” is the name that Mphandlana Shongwe – a founding member of Swaziland’s democratic movement, PUDEMO – is commonly known by in the small absolute monarchy of Swaziland. He was given his nickname, after reflecting on his life in Matsapha Central Prison, while awaiting trial for treason in 1990. 

It was here he started counting the many setbacks he had experienced. He has been expelled from college, been denied a living by the government because of his activism, been arrested on many occasions for trivial “offences” such as shouting “viva PUDEMO” and wearing a PUDEMO-t-shirt, and been held in solitary confinement, beaten up and tortured by the police on several occasions.

More sadness than joy
As with most other ordinary Swazis, Victim had to choose at an early age whether or not to accept the enforced poverty and cultural control that is a fundamental part of King Mswati’s Swaziland.

“My introduction to poverty and oppression at a tender age had prepared me for a life of activism”, Victim says of his childhood. “My life has seen more sadness than joy, more funerals than weddings, and more visits to police cells than parties”.

And he has had a life of struggle for justice and democracy that neither his daughter, his daughter’s mother nor his own mother have been able to understand.

Uneasy beginnings
Victim, who was born on the 27th of September 1960, did not have an easy childhood. When he was six, his father was arrested and charged with murder and died a few years later in prison. His mother suffered from a stroke that left her temporarily paralysed and meant she had to return to her parents’ homestead.

Victim ended up in a mission school, where he got his first introduction to oppression and the struggle to end it. Firstly, by being on the receiving end of whippings by his teachers, and secondly by hearing about the 1976 Soweto uprising in neighbouring South Africa in history lessons.

Victim and his classmate Richard, who were two of the top students, both listened attentively. Later in life, they would put the learnings of these lessons to very different use when they met on the streets of Manzini and Mbabane, Victim as a political activist, Richard as a police officer.

No independent thinking
It was in high school that Victim first started to reflect on the influence of the unreflective “banking model” of teaching that was, and is still, employed as the manner of teaching in many schools in Swaziland.

“As students, we lacked independent thinking. We were treated as if we were empty containers which needed to be filled up with knowledge. I would later discover that this was intentional in order to keep the Swazi student docile. The school curriculum was designed, as it is still designed, to produce a student who accepts things as they are without question”, Victim says of his high school days.

He began to link the problem of Swaziland’s educational system with the broader lack of democracy, leadership and direction in Swaziland, and as a result of these reflections, Victim ended up taking a teacher’s degree after having finishing high school.

No sleep ‘till justice
It was at teacher’s training college, that Victim truly became aware of the injustices of the Tinkundla-system of Swaziland’s absolute monarchy. And it was at here that he started his “career” as a more-or-less full time activist.

“When people went to sleep, we went to distribute pamphlets”, he says of this period of his life.

It was as a result of Victim’s involvement in a seemingly endless row of door-to-door campaigns, pamphlet distributions and political meetings that the he ended up facing a long prison sentence for the first, but by no means the last, time.

Treason trial
Along with eleven other activists, including PUDEMO President Mario Masuku, Victim was arrested and charged with treason in 1990.

Amongst the charges was conspiring to form a political party with a military wing with the intention of overthrowing King Mswati’s hand-picked government, organising trade unions and holding political meetings where overthrowing this government was discussed.

But as several prosecution witnesses claimed that their statements had been made under threats, and other prosecution witnesses’ statements seemed rehearsed, the judge ruled that any treasonable or subversive activities had not been proved.

A public face
Victim was given a six month-sentence, for a couple of minor charges, instead of the yearlong sentences that the prosecutor had called for. And instead of crushing the movement, the trial had given PUDEMO and Victim a public face both in Swaziland and beyond.

The High Court had also proved that there was no armed insurrection being planned by PUDEMO, but that the organisation was simply concerned with bringing true democracy to Swaziland.

As he had already been in jail for this duration, Victim was released immediately.

“It was that trial that registered the people’s movement, and from thereon we have been in and out of courts but never looked back”, Victim says of the importance of the trial.

The usual suspect
Another effect of the trial was that the state increased the victimisation of PUDEMO leaders. President Mario Masuku was dismissed in the local bank he had worked in for 18 years, Victim was expelled from college, and many others suffered a similar fate.

In fact it only took a couple of weeks for the police to detain Victim again, this time on consecutive detention orders without him and his two co-detainees being told what the charges against them were.

The trio went on a hunger strike that only ended after several weeks of agony, a royal pardon, and after Victim had suffered from heart failure and was told by a doctor that he could easily die.

A bright future?
Since the hunger strike, Victim has been in and out of prison and has been constantly harassed and on occasion beaten up and tortured by the police. He has also remained unemployed because of his PUDEMO activism.

In 1994 he was arrested for demonstrating peacefully against the government, and became an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience. In 2006 he was beaten unconscious by police under interrogation and dumped in a hospital bleeding profusely. In 2009 he was arrested for shouting slogans wearing a PUDEMO t-shirt, and charged with terrorism. And the list goes on.
“Long prison terms are a risk that anyone who stands up against the system face”, says Victim. “But every time I face danger, I recall the words of ANC member Solomon Mahlangu, who, when leaving the court to be hanged by the apartheid regime in 1979, said: ‘Mama, tell my people that I love them and my blood shall nourish the tree of freedom’”.

No personal agenda
And regardless of the setbacks and endless victimisation, Victim is today a free man in an unfree country (although out on bail since 2006, and having to report to the police station every Friday).

He is optimistic about the future of Swaziland and believes that it is a matter of years, not decades, before it will become a democracy.

But Victim also warns of the dangers of the struggle for democracy and freedom, the closer victory seems at hand.

“The hour before dawn is a period where some people start pushing personal agendas at the expense of progress. And any agenda which excludes group representation is bound to keep the status quo intact”, he says, alluding to the fact that the struggle is not about personal gain but a constant fight for a better future for everyone.

Not on a silver plate
He also insists that it is obvious that democracy will not be delivered on a silver plate or necessarily or automatically follow a collapse of King Mswati’s Tinkundla-regime.

“There is no scenario in history where the ruling class voluntarily handed over power to the oppressed”, Victim emphasises.

“The country is where it is today because people were quiet when they were supposed to speak. But change will only come when the people of Swaziland choose to die on the streets, so to speak, if necessary. There has never been a time when I thought of giving up the struggle and I have never looked back with despair, although I have nothing in material form except the willpower to hold, even when there is nothing to hold on to”.

This article is based on Mphandlana “Victim” Shongwes book “The Last Mile”, as well as on conversations and correspondence between the author and Shongwe.

Swaziland has been an absolute monarchy since 1973, where the King Sobhuza declared a State of Emergency that banned all political parties and centralised all power within the monarchy. 

The 2005 constitution reinforces this by leaving freedom of speech and control of virtually all aspects of government and the judiciary at the mercy of the king, as does the Suppression of Terrorism Act, an “inherently repressive act” according to Amnesty International, which defines terrorism in very sweeping terms. 

Swazi legislation thus leaves almost no political space for the population but gives the police and security forces almost unlimited powers to clamp down heavily on peaceful demonstrations and meetings deemed to be “political”.

Monday, 7 March 2016


Only weeks after it was announced Swaziland would seek E143 million (US$9 million) from the international community because it could not pay for drought relief, the Swazi Finance Minister announced the Government would buy the kingdom’s autocratic monarch King Mswati III a jet plane costing at least E96 million.

The Observer on Saturday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported the money was set aside as part of the annual budget announced by the Swazi Finance Minister Martin Dlamini on Friday (4 March 2016).

About 300,000 of the kingdom’s 1.4 million population are reportedly facing a food crisis caused by the drought presently crippling Swaziland. Rural people are in danger of severe malnutrition and it has been reported that there is only enough water to supply the Swazi capital Mbabane for between one and three weeks.

On 18 February 2016, Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini declared a state of emergency and said Swaziland would need E248 million over the coming two months for drought relief. 

EU Ambassador to Swaziland Nicola Bellomo said the kingdom immediately would seek E143 million from the ‘donor community’ to help Swaziland meet its needs.

The Observer reported the E96 million was set aside for a jet for the King after members of the parliament, many of them appointed by the King, urged the Swazi Government to consider buying the King a plane to replace the DC-9 jet (also known as an MD-87) which he already has. It has been the subject of legal disputes in both Canada and the British Virgin Islands. 

Earlier this month (March 2016), it was reported that King Mswati’s share of the just-reopened Lufafa Gold Mine at Hhelehhele in the Hhohho region of Swaziland could be worth up to US$149 million. 

See also


Wednesday, 2 March 2016


The drought in Swaziland that its absolute monarch King Mswati III declared was over has devastated the kingdom, a United Nations report revealed.

About 300,000 people, one in four of King Mswati’s subjects, have been targeted for assistance because of the drought. Rural people are in danger of severe malnutrition and there is only enough water to supply the Swazi capital Mbabane for between one and three weeks.

The report that covers February 2016 stated that, ‘maize production fell by 31 percent in 2015, and is expected to be lower in the 2016 crop season, placing at least 300,000 people in dire need of assistance, specifically for food and water.’

The report issued by the Office of the Resident Coordinator of the UN Country Team in Swaziland said, ‘Nearly one-third of the rural population has a high expenditure on food, thus having little capacity to cope with the combined effects of production shortfalls and increased market prices, and can quickly fall further into food insecurity. Swaziland has seen an increase of food insecurity in the country with many households unable to eat three meals a day.’

It added, ‘Acute malnutrition rates have increased by 2.5 per cent from the average of 3 to 5.5 percent [of the population].’

The report stated, ‘The Hawane Dam, which feeds the capital, Mbabane, stands at 17 percent, enough from one to three weeks only. The city has started water rationing for the first time in its history.’

The Swazi Government declared a national emergency on 18 February 2016, only weeks after King Mswati preached to his subjects that God had saved Swaziland from the drought.

Now, the Swazi Government is asking for international assistance to pay for drought relief. The United Nations estimated donors would have to raise US$64 million for Swaziland.

The irony is that the bulk of this money will come from countries that are multi-party democracies. King Mswati rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch and political parties are banned from taking part in elections. Groups advocating for multi-party democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The King and the Government he hand-picks often decry multi-party democracies and advocate their own ‘monarchical democracy’ as a preferred model of governance.

The UN report stated, ‘Ninety percent of Swaziland’s sugar cash crop relies on irrigation, which has significantly been hampered by the rationing of water. Sugarcane harvests, which accounts for a staggering 21 percent of Swaziland’s GDP, has been hit hard, spelling trouble for government finances and possible service delivery.’

The report added, ‘The reduction of water has impacted the education of children as (especially urban) schools depend on flushing toilet systems; but even in the rural areas, existing boreholes are running dry. In all 189,000 learners and 8,157 teachers and support staff has been affected nationally of which 23,633 learners and 1,654 teachers and support staff are from around Mbabane, according to recent assessments. 

‘The situation also puts almost 197,157 students, teachers and workers nationally, at risk of water borne diseases and malnutrition, due to the water, sanitation/hygiene conditions. Another main concern is the contamination of water which can increase the number of water-borne diseases in the country. 

‘The country has one of the highest prevalence of HIV-infected adults (26 percent of people aged 15-49). Food insecurity in the country affects anti-retroviral (ARV) intake as ARVs are meant to be taken with food and water. It also affects access to medical facilities as some people are unable to make the journey to the facilities due to illness, weakness or lack of finances.’

See also