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Monday, 31 October 2016


The United States is to provide US$6.35m in drought relief. That is just US$1m short of the US$7.3m the Swazi Government is paying as a deposit this year for a private jet for King Mswati III.

Swaziland declared a national emergency in February 2016 and called for international aid to help feed 300,000 people affected by a prolonged drought. 

In April 2016, the Swazi Government agreed to spend E96m (US$7.3m) on a deposit for an Airbus A340-300 that will eventually cost E200m to buy. There are also expected to be additional costs for upgrades to the interior. 

King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, already has a private jet, but he considers it too small. The King is continually criticised outside of Swaziland for his lavish spending. He has at least 13 palaces, a fleet of top-of-the-range Mercedes and BMW cars and at least one Rolls Royce. 

Meanwhile, this week it was reported by Swaziland Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs that 756,000 out of 1.2 million Swazis currently live below the international poverty line of US$1 or E13 a day. 

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide food, seeds, hay and potable water to more than 50,000 people across four regions in Swaziland.

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Friday, 28 October 2016


One in three females in Swaziland is at risk of sexual violence as a child, an NGO leader reported.

Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) Director Cebile Manzini told media, ‘The fact that one in three females are at risk of experiencing sexual violence before they turn 18 years old means that gender-based-violence (GBV) in Swaziland is a national disaster.’

Manzini said GBV in Swaziland had reached disaster proportions. 

Manzini told media on Tuesday (25 October 2016), ‘No human being should live their lives fearing they might be violated. The dignity, respect for integrity, assurance of safety, protection and justice must be upheld by the state.’

Manzini said without new legislation, GBV in the kingdom would persist and offenders continue to go unpunished. 

Sexual abuse of children in Swaziland is not new. Swazi police said there were nearly 1,000 cases of child sex abuse reported between January 2014 and May 2015.

Swazi culture condones sex abuse of children, especially young girls, and there is little evidence that this is going to change.
Child rapists often blame women for their action.
The State of the Swaziland Population report in 2009 revealed that women who ‘sexually starve’ their husbands were considered 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 dresses because their wives refused them sexual intercourse.
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Thursday, 27 October 2016


There’s nothing sweet about the Swazi sugar sector
by Jeff Vogt Equal Times, 26 October 2016

The government of Swaziland, the last absolute monarchy of Africa, is well known for its human rights violations, including the rights of workers. In recent years, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has admonished the government for its refusal to register trade unions, for prohibiting assemblies and demonstrations and jailing trade union activists and their lawyers, writes Jeff Vogt.

Workers’ rights violations are so serious and widespread that the United States suspended trade preferences to the country under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) in 2014. Despite minor steps taken to respond to the criticism, such as registering the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) after a three-year delay and releasing imprisoned activists a few weeks earlier than scheduled, the country remains a difficult place for workers. This is particularly true in the sugar sector.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), in cooperation with TUCOSWA, has released a new report – King Mswati’s Gold – which details serious labour violations in Swaziland’s sugar sector.

Sugar is one of the country’s most important exports, to the region and to the European market. However, as detailed in the report, sugar largely benefits one person – King Mswati III. The sector is largely controlled by a national development fund, Tibiyo, which is controlled by the king, his relatives and his cronies, even though it is meant to benefit all citizens.

The report explains that for many workers, long hours and very low wages are the norm. Most workers, especially those who are seasonal or casual, have no written contracts of employment. Some workers have to walk hours each day to and from work in the dark, and once they arrive they are forced to work in dangerous conditions with little to no protective equipment – when applying pesticides or cutting cane. Women are routinely subjected to pregnancy tests and are not hired if tests are positive.

Additionally, some of the land used for sugar production was confiscated by the government, with little to no compensation for the communities forcibly expelled from their land.

To our disappointment, we also found that labour violations were just as common on the Fairtrade certified farms in Swaziland. The ITUC has shared a copy of the report and Fairtrade has issued this reply.

We do note that informal communications have indicated that Fairtrade will conduct an investigation of their certified farms on the basis of this report. We hope and trust that Fairtrade will take the appropriate action to ensure that certified farms will comply with the labour obligations of the Small Producer Organisation (SPO) standard, which applies to these farms.

We would also call on Fairtrade to improve the SPO, which has a number of important deficiencies, including no language on working time except for minors


Nurses and support staff at a major hospital in Swaziland walked off work on Wednesday (26 October 2016) because they had not been paid.

It happened at Good Shepherd Hospital in Siteki.

Management blamed the Swazi Government which had not passed on money for salaries. 

Nurses and support staff resolved to stay away from wards pending payment. Senior staff, supervisors and doctors had to take care of patients. Last month (September 2016), salaries were also delayed and the workers were paid after taking similar strike action.

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More than four in ten Swazi youth are unemployed, new figures show.

That makes 280,000, or 42.6 percent, of the 668,000 people who are aged between 18 and 24.

The statistics also show that 756,000 out of 1.2 million Swazis currently live below the international poverty line of US$1 or E13 a day. 

The figures were contained in a report released by the Swaziland Ministry of Sports, Culture and youth affairs. Excerpts of the report were given at a workshop at Pigg’s Peak Hotel on Monday (24 October 2016).

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Wednesday, 26 October 2016


Traditional authorities in the Ngcina Chiefdom in Swaziland have ordered a man to close his business and leave the area because he is Asian.
The move is the latest in a number of’ ‘anti-Asian’ incidents in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as sub-Sharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The man started his grocery business in September 2016, when he leased a shop from a Swazi national on Swazi Nation Land.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Monday (24 October 2016) that the man was told by locals that ‘foreigners’ were not allowed to operate businesses on such land.

Moni Matsenjwa, a Swazi national who rented out the shop, told the newspaper that businesspeople of Asian origin were operating many shops in rural areas around the Lubombo region. He saw no reason not to lease the shop to an Asian person.

Matsenjwa said he was disappointed when the authorities unanimously objected to the deal and ordered the Asian man to shut down.

He said the authorities said they did not want Asians in the area. He said his attempts to explain himself were rejected.

Headman at Ngcina Chiefdom Abraham Magagula confirmed to the newspaper that traditional authorities in the area ordered the Asian businessman to shut down his business and leave the area.

Asian people have been in the spotlight since the Swazi Parliament suspended issuing entry permits to all Asian people to stop them from entering Swaziland in August 2016. 

Following that decision, a group of Asian people were evicted from their home at Mgazini and banished from the area simply because they were Asian. 

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More Swazi men are seeking help from a gender-based-violence NGO.

Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) reported that in August 2016, 60 men attended its clinics. This compared to 86 women during the same time.

Local media reported SWAGAA Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Mcolisi Dlamini, saying the number of men seeking help from the organisation was on the increase. 

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (25 October 2016) that 26 clients reported ‘non-abuse’ cases such as personal issues and were not relating to sexual or physical abuse. 

Dlamini told the newspaper that relatives were the main perpetrators of violence. These included parents, children, cousins, in-laws, uncles, aunts and step-parents.

He said, ‘Home continues to be the predominant place where most of the reported abuse cases took place. This could be the survivor’s or perpetrator’s home that shows most of the abuse is brought by people who stay with and are known to the survivor.’

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Friday, 21 October 2016


Nurses in Swaziland gave the Government a seven-day strike ultimatum on Wednesday (19 October 2016) as they protested for more jobs to be created.

The Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) said there was about one nurse for every 1,000 people in Swaziland when the World Health Organisation recommended the figure should be five.

SWADU delivered a petition to the Prime Minister’s Office. SWADNU President Bheki Mamba told local media that if government did not respond to the demands the association would shut down hospitals and clinics. 

The Times of Swaziland reported Mamba saying there was a gross shortage of nurses in the country and the nurses had to put up with long hours.

The petition read in part, ‘On shortage of nurses, the government of Swaziland must improve the number of skilled nurses from the 1:1000 ratio to at least 5:1000 as per the recommendation of the World Health Organisation. 

‘Government must immediately create posts for nurses to curb the shortage in the medium run. It should also reduce the vacancy rate of the established posts to zero by employing all nurses who have just qualified as we are of the view that there are no supplies constrains in nursing in the country.’

Last week, Environmental health officers in Swaziland threatened to strike if they did not get a salary review and increased overtime payments. 

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Wednesday, 19 October 2016


The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III, is running a campaign of misinformation against Asians in the kingdom. 

It has now claimed that 600,000 people in Swaziland are of Asian origin (14 October 2016). A website called countrymeters that constantly updates statistics recorded Swaziland’s total population on Wednesday (19 October 2016) as 1,312,881. 

That would mean that about 45 percent of the entire Swazi population were of Asian origin. In fact, every reputable source shows that 97 percent of Swazi people are African. The sources include the CIA factbook and indexmundi. 

The Observer reported on 14 October 2016 that a parliamentary committee set up to investigate Asians in the kingdom was told Asian people had occupied, ‘every available space in the urban areas’. 

The newspaper did not name the source of this statement. 

For more than a week, the Observer has been publishing stories denigrating Asian people. Most of them do not give facts to support accusations made and rarely are the accusers identified. 

In this way the Observer has reported as if fact that 90 percent of shops in the kingdom are owned by Asian people (14 October 2016). It said, in Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland, ‘almost the entire city is reportedly in the hands of the Indians’ (14 October 2016). 

An Asian landlord, who owns one-room flats in the outskirts of Siteki town, is alleged to have banned his tenants from bringing visitors to the flats (19 October 2016). 

Asian people are rushing to acquire Swazi Nation Land to open up small businesses (15 October 2016). 

Wealthy Asian businessmen are evicting Swazis in massive scales in the areas of Manzini (17 October 2016). 

Asians are associating themselves with the Swazi Royal Family because it would secure their investments (17 October 2016). 

On Monday (17 October 2016) the newspaper reported, ‘Efforts by Her Majesty the Indlovukazi [Queen Mother] to liberate women from the grinding poverty are allegedly being frustrated by the influx of Asians into the country.’ It said this was because Asian people were taking up business space ‘everywhere’. 

The constant trashing of Asian people runs against Swazi journalists’ own code of ethics. It amounts to hate speech. The Swaziland National Association of Journalists in Article 13 of its code states, ‘Hate speech. (Journalists shall avoid by all means the publication of speech that might promote hatred, spite and conflict amongst the Swazi or any other nation.)’ 

The National Union of Journalists (UK) goes further. In its guidelines on reporting race it states, ‘The NUJ believes the methods and lies of the racists should be publicly and vigorously exposed.

‘The NUJ believes that newspapers and magazines should not originate material which encourages discrimination on grounds of race or colour, as expressed in the NUJ's rule book and code of conduct.  

‘The NUJ believes that editors should ensure that coverage of race stories should be placed in a balanced context.’ 

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Tuesday, 18 October 2016


The university in Swaziland that King Mswati III says will host his new University of Transformation is to be investigated by members of parliament after students complained lecturers were unqualified and equipment was lacking.

Limkokwing University of Creative Technology will be investigated by a five-strong parliamentary select committee after students delivered a petition of grievances.

Students have been boycotting classes and last week police reportedly fired guns on protestors, injuring four people.

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper reported on Friday (14 October 2016) that one of the main complaints was the lack of experienced and qualified lecturers.

The newspaper quoted Zombodze Emuva MP Titus Thwala saying Limkokwing students had complained that some of their lecturers had only graduated last year and in the following academic year were hired by the university. 

The newspaper added, ‘Thwala also said the committee needed to investigate if it was true that some lectures were held outside the school campus, under a tree, because there was a shortage of classrooms. 

‘He also highlighted that some of the students did not have chairs or desks and computers. 

‘He said some students were forced to behave like bus conductors and had to take notes while standing.’

In August 2016, King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, became Chair of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). He announced that within a year he would create a University of Transformation and that it would be housed at Limkokwing.

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Monday, 17 October 2016


Only four in ten of the people entitled to vote in Swaziland’s national election did so. The percentage turnout was lower than the previous election in 2008.

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) has just released figures from the 2013 election, three years after the vote took place.

The ECB reported than 251,278 people voted from the 414,704 who registered. In 2013, the ECB reported that about 600,000 Swazis were entitled to register. That means that only 41.8 percent of those entitled to vote did so in 2013.

The low turnout casts doubts on claims by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, that his subjects support what he calls his kingdom’s ‘unique democracy’.

Political parties are not allowed to take part in elections and most of the political groupings in Swaziland that advocate for democracy have been banned under the King’s Suppression of Terrorism Act.

The Swazi people are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, the other 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swaziland Senate are elected by the people: the King appoints 20 members and the other 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly.

Neither the House of Assembly nor the Senate are independent of the King, who can, and does, overrule decisions he does not like.

The people do not elect the government; the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers are handpicked by the King.
Immediately before the national election in September 2013, King Mswati announced that the political system in Swaziland that had until then been called tinkhundla would in future be known as ‘Monarchical Democracy.’ He said this would be a partnership between himself and the people. 

The supporters of King Mswati saw the election as a way for the Swazi people to endorse the King’s version of democracy. At the same time prodemocracy groups urged people to boycott the election.

The 2013 vote compares to the 47.4 percent of people entitled to vote in the previous election in 2008 who actually did so. At that election 189,559 people of the 400,000 entitled to vote did so.

It is impossible to tell whether the low turnout in the 2013 election was in support of the boycott call by prodemocracy advocates. It could easily have been because ordinary Swazi people saw no point in voting as it would change nothing in their lives.

The power wielded by King Mswati was criticised by two independent international groups which observed the Swazi election in 2013. Both the African Union and the Commonwealth Observer Mission suggested the kingdom’s constitution should be reviewed to allow political parties to contest elections.

The Commonwealth Observer Mission added that, ‘The presence of the monarch in the structure of everyday political life inevitably associates the institution of the monarchy with politics, a situation that runs counter to the development that the re-establishment of the Parliament and the devolution of executive authority into the hands of elected officials.’

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Friday, 14 October 2016


Swaziland’s foremost media freedom pressure group has called on the Swazi Government to implement a Freedom of Information Act.

It came after a survey revealed that Swaziland’s Government and agencies did not give information transparently.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter has released its annual report on open and secretive public institutions in Swaziland.

MISA concluded, ‘Swaziland needs to accelerate the process of passing the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Draft Bill of 2007 into law.’

The report was based on field research and website analyses that considered how transparent government departments and agencies were.

MISA reported that the 2016 report, in a similar vein to previous editions, offered some good signs but overall the picture was ‘less than flattering’.

In recognition of its good practice, the Swaziland Communications Commission was awarded with the ‘golden key’ for being the most open institution from the eight institutions that were surveyed.
Coming in last place was the Central Statistics Office, which was awarded the ‘golden padlock’ for being the most secretive of the institutions that were looked at.

MISA recommended Swaziland should adopt a Freedom of Information Bill which provided for access to information, openness, transparency and accountability. It added the Official Secrets Act of 1968 should be repealed because it curtailed freedom of information.

Thursday, 13 October 2016


Police fired gunshots at protesting students at the university in Swaziland that is set to house King Mswati III’s proposed ‘SADC University of Transformation’.

At least four students had ‘serious injuries’, according to the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper.

It happened on Wednesday (12 October 2016) at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology at Sidwashini. Students had been protesting about the poor quality of teaching at the university and inferior facilities.

The Times reported, ‘According to eyewitnesses, about 200 students screamed and ran helter-skelter after police from the Operational Support Service Unit (OSSU) fired at least six shots in attempt to disperse the protesting students who were barred from coming within 100 metres of the university gate by the High Court.’

It added, ‘The protesting students ran like headless chickens at the first sound of gunshots. Some of them are said to have ran across the MR3 highway, forcing oncoming traffic to stop haphazardly.’

The Times reported, ‘The riot police are said to have fired the shots after the resilient students marched towards the university’s gate, while chanting political songs and slogans.

‘The students were armed with only one baton and several sticks.’

Limkokwing is at the centre of controversy as students have petitioned the Swazi Government saying that lecturers at the university are not qualified to teach

In August 2016, King Mswati, the absolute monarch in Swaziland, became Chair of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). He said within one year he would create a ‘University of Transformation’ and it would be housed at Limkokwing.

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More than four in ten Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) did not support Swaziland’s inclusion in a trade partnership deal.

European Union Ambassador to Swaziland Nicola Bellomo said many MEPs wanted Swaziland excluded because of human rights violations.

In a recent vote, 417 MEPs endorsed Swaziland’s inclusion in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – European Union (EU) Economic Partnership Agreement.  However, 216 MEPs voted against and a further 118 abstained from voting.

Bellomo told the Sunday Observer (9 October 2016), a newspaper in Swaziland in effect owned by King Mswati III, that those who wanted the kingdom to be excluded cited human rights violations. He gave the jailing of the Nation magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko on sedition charges as examples.

The Observer reported the EU ambassador said this should be ‘a wake-up call’ to Swaziland.  

The new trade agreement opens SADC goods to the European markets duty free.

In May 2015, the European Parliament voted for the release of all political prisoners in Swaziland and called for the kingdom, where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, to be monitored for its human rights record.

A statement issued by the European Parliament said, ‘Parliament considers the imprisonment of political activists and the banning of trade unions to be in clear contravention of commitments made by Swaziland under the Cotonou Agreement to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and also under the sustainable development chapter of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement, for which Parliament’s support will depend on respect for the commitments made.’

The resolution was passed by 579 votes to six, with 58 abstentions. 

In January 2015, the United States withdrew Swaziland’s trading benefits under the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) after the kingdom refused to accept democratic change.

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Wednesday, 12 October 2016


Environmental health officers in Swaziland are threatening to strike if they do not get a salary review and increased overtime payments.

About 20 officers from across Swaziland delivered a petition to the Ministry of Health demanding a salary review and 25 percent overtime. 

Secretary of the Swaziland Environmental Health Association (SEHA) Milton Lokothwayo listed the grievances for the workers, which included shortages of staff, accommodation and transport. The Observer on Saturday newspaper reported him saying officers often had to do the work of support staff.

The union gave the Swazi Government 14 days to address their concerns, failing which they would withhold their services.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


Students at the university in Swaziland where King Mswati III said he would set up a university of transformation for the whole SADC region have protested to the Swazi Government that its lecturers are not qualified to teach.

The students from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology delivered a petition to the Speaker of the House of Assembly. They also complained about lack of chairs and desks in classrooms.

Limkokwing has been under fire in the past about the quality of its courses and its teaching facilities. According to its website, Limkokwing in Swaziland only offers ‘associate degrees’ which are at a level below Bachelor degrees and in many institutions are known as diplomas.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Monday (10 October 2016) that each Swazi student pays E8,000 (US$577) a year for tuition. The government adds an additional E33,700 as accommodation and meal allowance and E9,000 as a book allowance. 

When King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, took over the chair of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) at the end of August 2016, he announced that within one year he would create a university of transformation. He said it would be housed at Limkokwing.

In June 2012, Bandile Mkhonta, Head of Human Resource for Limkokwing in Mbabane, Swaziland, told local media that of 53 professional staff at the university; only one had a Ph.D doctorate. A Ph.D is usually considered by universities to be the minimum qualification required to be given the rank of senior lecturer.
The Swazi Observer reported Mkhonta saying Limkokwing had fewer Ph.Ds because it was a ‘non-conventional’ university whose curriculum was mainly based on practice than theory.
Limkokwing in Swaziland had no staff at professor rank and no record of conducting scholarly research.

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Monday, 10 October 2016


The Swaziland High Court ruled parts of Suppression of Terrorism and the Sedition and Subversive Activities Acts unconstitutional, paving the way, prodemocracy activists hoped, for some form of democracy to be introduced to the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The un-banning of political parties was high on their agenda.

But it was not to be. At least not yet. The Swazi State appealed the decision and we must now await a Supreme Court ruling at a date yet to be set.

This was one of the highlights of the third quarter of 2016 and is featured in a compilation of posts to the Swazi Media Commentary website in the months July to September 2016. It is available free-of-charge at Scribd.

King Mswati became Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) amid some controversy, since he rules the only state in the community that bans political parties.

The Swazi Police once again were in the spotlight for their heavy-handed manner with striking plantation workers. Investigations into allegations of police torture are underway.

The King’s excessive spending was highlighted once again. As donor agencies across the world struggled to find funding to feed the one-third of the Swazi population in need of food aid, the King prepared to take delivery of a private jet aircraft, costing an estimated US$14 million.

Swazi Media Commentary website has no physical base and is completely independent of any political faction and receives no income from any individual or organisation. People who contribute ideas or write for it do so as volunteers and receive no payment. 

Swazi Media Commentary is published online – updated regularly.

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