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Tuesday, 31 January 2017


Protests are growing against the Swaziland Government’s order that Christianity is to be the only religion taught in schools.

The decision was imposed by the Swazi Cabinet which is handpicked by King Mswati III, the autocratic monarch in Swaziland. The move came into force on 24 January 2017 at the start of the school year after only a few days’ notice.

The AFP international news agency reported,Officials said that old text books were being replaced with new ones that mention only the Bible, and that schools were required to submit a list of qualified religious studies teachers ahead of the start of term.’

It added, ‘“Other religions will not be offered at primary and high school level,” said Pat Muir, a top education ministry official, adding that the policy sought to avoid confusing pupils.’

Eyewitness News in South Africa reported, ‘Schools are obliged to submit their religious studies syllabi at the start of each term to show they contain no Islamic or Jewish references.’

The move could be against the spirit, if not the letter, of the Swazi Constitution. When the 2005 Constitution was being drafted, it was decided not to insist that Swaziland was a Christian country. This was to encourage freedom of religion. 

According to the CIA World factbook religion in Swaziland is broken down as Zionist (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship) 40 percent, Roman Catholic 20 percent, Muslim 10 percent, other (includes Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish) 30 percent.

Lucky Lukhele, the spokesperson of the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), an organisation banned in Swaziland because it campaigns for democracy in the kingdom, said, ‘This pits the authorities on a clash with the national Constitution adopted in 2005 which guarantees freedom of religion and declares Swaziland a multi-faith based society, thus barring anyone from imposing their own religious beliefs on others. The constitution and laws prohibit religious discrimination and provide for freedom of religion, including the right to worship and to change religion.’

The African Independent reported him saying, ‘We will be engaging all the democratic forces in Swaziland to challenge this unilateral and short-sighted decision by government whose effect will be to arrest the thought process, flourishing of ideas and intellectual growth of Swazi children.

‘For a long time the Swazi state has been abusing religion as a tool to exercise a firm grip on people’s freedoms and their right to demand respect for their rights. This is unacceptable and we will challenge it in the courts, in regional bodies, the African Union and even the United Nations. Not only is this decision unconstitutional, but also it is barbaric and contrary to world trends and advancement.’

AFP said, ‘The US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report said some schools have long sought to prevent Muslim pupils from leaving early for Friday prayers.

‘It also said some Christian groups “discriminated against non-Christian religious groups, especially in rural areas where people generally held negative views on Islam”’

Lawyers for Human Rights spokesperson Sabelo Masuku said although Swaziland was predominantly Christian, the Government had to consider the Swazi Constitution which made it clear there was freedom of religious choice. 

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported that Masuku said, ‘what government has done was very risky and some people might not take kindly to other religions being banned’.

Nkosingiphile Myeni, Communications Officer of The Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO) in Swaziland, a network of NGOs, ecumenical bodies and other faith-based organisations, said, ‘Firstly, government must not forget that in 2005, Swaziland entered a new era of constitutionalism. In Section 23 of the Constitution, liberties including human rights, freedom of conscience and religion are entrenched. The inclusion of all other religions must be in line with this constitutional provision to cater for all sectors of society.’

Myeni said Swaziland had to adhere to international standards such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration stated, ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.’

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) criticised the move saying the Swazi Government had made a decision based on ideology.

SNAT Secretary General Zwelithini Mndzebele in a statement said learning was about being exposed to diverse experiences that gave the young person the opportunity to use judgment and apply the learned skills.

Mndzebele said, ‘Learning about other religions helps everyone to better accommodate and understand others’ aspirations and ways of life. It is one of the best catalysts for the achievement of world peace.’

School principals said they feared other religions might take the Government to court over the ban because it might infringe the Swazi Constitution on freedom of religion. 

The Swazi Observer reported, ‘The principals said the schools that would be teaching Christianity only were government owned and such entities were governed by the constitution.’

The newspaper said. ‘Schools Manager Macanjana Motsa assured the principals that what was being introduced in the schools had been approved by government. Motsa said the constitution talked about freedom of religion and this was practised in churches, which are structures outside the schools. 

‘She added that there was nowhere where they banned other religions such as Islam from being practised in the country. Motsa said the different religions could be practised outside school boundaries as nothing has changed on that. 

‘She said the syllabus taught in public schools was regulated by government and she believes they have not strayed from that.’

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Monday, 30 January 2017


The Director of Public Prosecution’s office in Swaziland has told witchdoctors in the kingdom to stop murdering people for body parts.
The witchdoctors, also known as tinyanga, were advised to go to the Ministry of Health for body parts, such as bones.

There have been ongoing concerns in Swaziland that people, especially those with albinism, have been targeted. Witchdoctors use the body parts to make spells that they claim bring people good luck.  Their services are especially sought after by candidates contesting parliamentary and local elections. Sport teams have also been known to use spells to bring them good fortune during matches.

Macebo Nxumalo from the Director of Public Prosecutions told members of the Tinyanga Association, meeting in Manzini on Thursday (26 January 2017) witchdoctors who needed human bones must visit the ministry of health and see if they cannot get help there, the Swazi Observer newspaper reported.

During the national elections in Swaziland in 2013, people with albinism lived in fear that their body parts would be harvested by candidates seeking good luck. 

Independent Newspapers in South Africa reported at the time, ‘In the past albinos, who lack the skin pigment melanin, as well as epileptics have been specifically targeted, prompting the police to set up registries. 

‘In 2010, the killing and mutilation of albinos, including in one instance the decapitation of two children in Nhlangano, prompted panic.’

In August 2013, Independent Newspapers quoted an academic at the University of Swaziland, who did not want to be named, saying, ‘Ritual killings to achieve elected office are a natural outgrowth of a government based not on rationality or democratic principles but on superstitious beliefs. 

‘The Swazi king claims power through an annual Incwala festival where a bull is brutally sacrificed and mysterious rituals occur, and this sets the tone. No one knows how office-holders are appointed in Swaziland. It’s all done in secret, without recourse to merit or any rhyme or reason, so this fuels irrational beliefs. 

‘Ritual murder has long been part of Swazi life.’

See also


Wednesday, 25 January 2017


Acting is best way to show solidarity with suffering people

 Kenworthy News Media
24 January 2017
Introduce sanctions and boycotts against the repressive Swazi regime and help the democratic movement with everything from legal assistance to torture counselling, organizational skills and information dissemination, says a young Swazi activist, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Stories of incredible hardship, suffering and lack of democratic rights often overflow our social media feeds and are ever-present in our newspapers and on radio and TV.

But many of the articles, campaigns and reports we read, hear and see fail to pinpoint the reasons for these hardships. And even fewer offer credible solutions to how we can act to bring about positive and democratic change in the societies that they describe.

Young Swazi activist Bheki Dlamini wants to break this mould and present governments, organisations and individuals around the world with a set of concrete options for helping the democratic movement and the people of his native Swaziland attain democracy and socio-economic justice.

Torture, prison and exile
Bheki Dlamini is 33 years old. He was born in the tiny absolute monarchy of Swaziland where the King rules like a 17th century monarch.

A country that ranks amongst the most unequal in the world, where anyone can be charged with terrorism for wearing a political t-shirt or chanting a political slogan. And a country that is amongst the most unequal in the world, where two thirds of the population live in chronical poverty and over 20 percent have HIV/Aids.

Dlamini has himself suffered the hardships that are portrayed in many articles about the so-called developing countries. But as with many others like him who are dismayed with the lack of freedom and socio-economic justice in Swaziland and abroad, he has chosen to keep fighting back.

He grew up the rural areas, where the vast majority survives at the mercy of the King’s chiefs, many of food aid from the UN. He was tortured and spent nearly four years in prison awaiting trial for a crime he didn’t commit, because he is a member of banned political party PUDEMO. And he has had to flee his native country, fearing for his life, after he held a speech demanding democracy and social change in a Swaziland.

Expensive persecution
From his life in exile, on a scholarship programme at the University in Bergen, where he is completing a Master’s degree in Public Administration, Bheki Dlamini is keen to help keep the dream of a free and democratic Swaziland alive that is the main purpose of PUDEMO, the political party and movement he belongs to. Regardless of the increasing pressure that the state in putting on the movement.

– Since the famous Treason Trial of PUDEMO in 1990, our leaders and members have been subjected to all forms of persecution from the state, ranging from arrests, detentions, beatings and torture. The cost of legal fees is escalating and crippling the movement, which is often unable to cover all its arrested members, says Bheki Dlamini.

This means that many activists and potential activists become afraid to challenge the regime, not least because of the debilitating and increasing cost of legal fees, bail money, counselling for torture victims and lack of support for the families of imprisoned activists.

– The world can contribute towards the creation of a sustainable legal assistance structure for activists, ensure bail money for torture victims is available, and support the families of members arrested or killed by the regime. This would mean that activists had less to lose in fighting for democracy, says Bheki Dlamini.

The importance of organisation and education
Another problem, according to Dlamini, is that of the development of intellectual and organisational skills of members of the democratic movement, in a country where the King controls the education system and news outlets, and is reducing the number of scholarships given and dismissing activists from university.

– We need these skills now, in the struggle for democracy, and in a future democratic Swaziland. Students are forced out of high school or tertiary institutions because of their activism, he says.

He suggests that these students can receive scholarships to study abroad, like he is. He also suggests that exchange programmes can be put in place with organisations abroad that help activists learn basic organisational skills in regard to fundraising, campaigning, organisational strengthening and research on Swaziland, of which there is preciously little available.

Bypassing censorship
But to be able to develop intellectual and organisational capacity, as well as credible research, Swazis and people abroad need to get the full picture of what is happening in Swaziland. And they aren’t getting it at the moment, Swazis because of a censored and self-censoring press. People abroad because Swaziland is not at all extensively covered in the (mainstream) press.

One way of doing this is through culture and art. Both areas that have been appropriated as used politically by the King and his regime, to equate nationalism and “Swaziness” with the monarchy and keep the population in line.

– We need to strengthen our cultural activism, with theatre, poetry and music, and urge our international partners to host cultural events outside Swaziland. And we need to use online newspapers and radio broadcasts set up abroad, that can be disseminated unhindered, says Dlamini.

Another useful way of informing people abroad about the plight of people in Swaziland is by organising lectures, seminars or protests in front of Swazi embassies or consulates.

Or by organising film screenings abroad with films such as the one about Bheki or others that scratch beneath the surface of political Swaziland. The success of the Danish-produced documentary about Bheki, that has been shown on national television in Scandinavia and won and been nominated for several international awards, proves the effect of this.

– If Swazi activists could be provided with and trained in using video cameras or smartphones, as well as in making such films, the visual nature of a documentary is an effective way of marketing our struggle both at home and internationally. The media is deeply censored by the regime, so such initiatives provide an alternative platform to voice people’s suffering, says Bheki Dlamini.

Isolate the regime
Finally, Bheki Dlamini sees no way around actual boycotts and travel bans against the regime by governments, organisations and individuals around the world. This was after all what helped neighbouring South Africa’s democratic movement rid itself of the country’s apartheid regime.

– Travel bans on the King and his cohorts would have a huge impact on the regime, helping to undermine its legitimacy both inside and outside Swaziland, says Dlamini.

He also suggests that student councils, trade unions, churches or political parties could organise business, cultural or sports boycotts or campaigns. Or that tourists boycotted cultural events that are used to prop up the monarchy.

According to Dlamini, these include so-called cultural events such as the annual Umlanga (“Reed”) Dance and the Incwala ceremony.

Or companies where the King has invested what is nominally public money, but which is in effect used for his personal benefit, such as the Royal Swazi Sugar Corporation, the Royal Swazi Sun Group, the largest hotel group in Swaziland, a variety of shopping malls, Swazi SAB breweries, Parmalat Milk and Cheese Processors and telecommunications company Swazi MTN.

– So as you can see, there is plenty you can do, as a government, organisation or individual that will make a significant difference. Both for members of the movement fighting at great personal risk for democracy and socio-economic justice, but also for the many poor Swazis who dare not risk involving themselves in the struggle for fear of losing what little they have, Bheki Dlamini concludes.
Bheki Dlamini is the President of the Swaziland Youth Congress, the youth wing of the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO). 

“Swaziland – Africa’s last monarchy”, a documentary film about Bheki Dlamini by award-winning Danish investigative journalist Tom Heinemann, was shown on Danish, Swedish and Norwegian national television in 2016. It was nominated for several awards at international film festivals, and won the main prize and the prize for best short documentary at the ‘A Film for Peace’-festival in Italy.

Other documentaries about Swaziland, recommended by Bheki Dlamini, include “Without the King,” “The King and the people,” and “Special assignment: Swaziland and the Dlamini Dynasty.”

Friday, 20 January 2017


In a bizarre case in Swaziland an 18-year-old woman appeared in court for saying her friend had a big head.

Pigg’s Peak Magistrate’s Court was told Zandile Buthelezi, had an argument with a friend Simangele Dlamini about the supposed heavy weight of Buthelezi’s two-year-old child.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Thursday (19 January 2017) that Buthelezi told the court, ‘Her teases angered me, it hurt my feelings to the point that I ended up insulting her, however, I thought it was an innocent statement made between friends. I was shocked when I was arrested by the police a few hours later.’

The case was adjourned until 25 January 2017.

Thursday, 19 January 2017


Just as people in Swaziland are increasingly turning against Muslims, the Swazi Ministry of Education has said from Tuesday (24 January 2017) the only religion to be taught in public schools would be Christianity.

Until now, the Religious Education syllabus included Christianity, Islam, Baha’i faith and Swazi ancestors. The decision reportedly came from the Swazi Cabinet, which is handpicked by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Also, all pupils will be obliged to take Religious Education throughout their time at primary and high school.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Thursday (19 January 2017) that Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Pat Muir, said government was targeting the ability for school children to differentiate between morality and immorality and also to ensure that children were not confused. 

The Times reported, ‘He said they believed Christianity was the best way to achieve this.’

It quoted Muir saying, ‘When they reach university or go to college, they will then be able to make a decision on whether they want to learn about other religions because then they will be matured and will not be easily confused.’ 

In recent times there has been widespread criticism of ‘Asian’ people in general and Muslims in particular.

In November 2016, Swaziland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Nkosinathi Maseko told a parliamentary select committee set up to investigate what the Observer on Sunday newspaper called an ‘influx of illegal immigrants’ into the kingdom, ‘most nationals of Asian origin were associated with terrorist activities’.  

In the same month, Muslims in Swaziland reported they were ‘terrorised’ by local police. The Imam of Ezulwini Islamic Centre, Feroz Ismail, said guests had visited the kingdom from across Africa for a graduation and Jasla Ceremony.

The Times of Swaziland newspaper on 23 November 2016 reported him saying the guests, ‘were abused while in the country. They informed me that they were terrorised by the police while visiting some tourist attraction areas including the glass and candle factory.’ 

He said police demanded that the visitors produce their passports and other documents required for visitors to be in the country.

The Times reported Ismail saying, ‘They were ferried in police vehicles to their hotel rooms as the officers demanded that they immediately produce documents which proved that they were in the country legally.’

This was not the first time police have been heavy-handed with Muslims. In September 2016, it was reported undercover police were infiltrating Muslim mosques to attend Friday prayers.
The Times, the only independent daily newspaper in the overwhelmingly Christian kingdom, reported that police were suspected of monitoring the Muslim community.
In September 2016, hungry people in Swaziland defied Christian leaders and attended a Muslim ceremony, because free meat was being given away. As part of the Islamic Eid-ul-Adah ceremony Muslims slaughter meat and give one third of it away to needy people.

When it was announced that free meat would be available, Christian leaders condemned the move and ordered their flocks to stay away.

President of the League of Churches Bishop Simon Hlatjwako was reported by the Times of Swaziland saying true Christians would not participate in the event and would not eat the free meat offered by Muslims.

‘True Christians should not dare set foot at the Muslim slaughtering ceremony,’ he reportedly said. He added, ‘Personally, I would not even bother myself; I do not care about their meat and ceremonies. Muslims worship their own god and as Christians, we do not go along with their god.’

The newspaper also reported Bishop Steven Masilela, President of the Conference of Churches, saying as they were the body of Christ, they were not allowed to eat everything.

See also


Wednesday, 18 January 2017


Swaziland has once again been criticised for its poor record on human rights by an international organisation.

Human Rights Watch published its review of 2016 and stated, ‘Swaziland, ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III since 1986, continued to repress political dissent and disregard human rights and rule of law principles in 2016. Political parties remained banned, as they have been since 1973; the independence of the judiciary is severely compromised, and repressive laws continued to be used to target critics of the government and the king despite the 2005 Swaziland Constitution guaranteeing basic rights.’

Human Rights Watch is one of a number of international organisations, including Amnesty International and the United States State Department, that annually bring the shortcomings of Swaziland to the world’s attention.

Human Rights Watch reported, ‘Restrictions on freedom of association and assembly continued in 2016. The government took no action to revoke the King’s Proclamation of 1973, which prohibits political parties in the country. 

‘Police used the Urban Act, which requires protesters to give two weeks’ notice before a public protest, to stop protests and harass protesters. In February, police arrested Mcolisi Ngcamphalala and Mbongwa Dlamini, two leaders of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), when they participated in a protest action. Two days later, the police raided their homes.

The report added, ‘Political activists faced trial under security legislation and charges of treason under common law. The Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008 placed severe restrictions on civil society organizations, religious groups, and media. Under the legislation, a “terrorist act” includes a wide range of legitimate conduct such as criticism of the government. The legislation was used by state officials to target perceived opponents through abusive surveillance, and unlawful searches of homes and offices.’

The report continued, ‘The Sedition and Subversive Activities Act continued to restrict freedom of expression through criminalizing alleged seditious publications and use of alleged seditious words, such as those which “may excite disaffection” against the king. Published criticism of the ruling party is also banned. Many journalists practice self-censorship, especially with regards to reports involving the king, to avoid harassment by authorities.

‘On September 16, the High Court of Swaziland ruled that sections of the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Sedition and Subversive Act were unconstitutional and violated freedom of expression and association. The invalid provisions relate to the definition of the offences of sedition, subversion, and terrorism. Classification of organizations as terrorist, which the government had used to ban political parties like the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), was also ruled to be unconstitutional.’

See also


Tuesday, 17 January 2017


Workers in dispute at the university in Swaziland that has been chosen by King Mswati III to host his ‘University of Transformation’ have asked their counterparts in Botswana not to take their jobs while they are on strike.

About 100 non-academic staff at Limkokwing University in Mbabane started a strike on Monday 9 January 2017 protesting about working conditions and short-term contracts.

The Swaziland Union of Non-Academic Staff for Higher Education Institutions (SUNASHI) wrote to workers at Limkokwing in Botswana fearing that the Swaziland management would bring in workers from Botswana to do their jobs. 

The Sunday Standard newspaper in Botswana reported this week (15 January 2017) that four years ago when there was a dispute at Limkokwing in Lesotho, workers were sent from Botswana as ‘scab labour’.

Now, the newspaper reported, SUNASHI has written to workers at Limkokwing Botswana to say if they go to Mbabane they would undermine the strike.

The letter read in part, ‘Your coming to Swaziland might therefore be used to defeat the legitimate display of worker power of the planned strike.

‘Secondly, it might constitute an illegal entry into Swaziland to work when you have no legal status to work in this jurisdiction.

‘Thirdly, it might contribute to chaos and violence that may take place upon the striking workers learning about your presence on the Swaziland campus.’

Limkokwing University is a private university that was chosen by King Mswati to house a University of Transformation that would take students from across the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region. The Swazi King, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, became chair of SADC in August 2016. He pledged the university would be operating by August 2017.

The strike at Limkokwing Swaziland was suspended on 12 January 2017, pending further talks between management and workers.

See also


Monday, 16 January 2017


Police in Swaziland forced a 13-year-old boy to remove his trousers and flogged him with a sjambok, in what one local newspaper called ‘one of the worst cases of brutality’ in the kingdom.

The boy, who has not been named by media, was reportedly whipped at Ngwenya police station after he was accused of stealing a mobile phone, worth less than E1,000 (US$70).

The Swazi News reported on Saturday (14 January 2017) the boy was taken alone into a room by two police officers.

The News reported, ‘He said he was accused of having stolen the phone and would be lashed until he revealed where it was.

‘The teenager said he told the officers that he did not know where it was or how it got lost but instead the officers instructed him to strip off his trousers and lie on the floor.’

The newspaper reported the boy saying, ‘One officer put his foot on the back of my neck while the other one lashed me twice with the sjambok.’

The boy told police he did not know where the phone was. The newspaper reported, ‘Tears and screams did not help as he was told to say where the phone was. 

‘He said he maintained his position that he had no idea where it was and the officers allegedly said they would not release him until he spoke the truth. The confused and hurt young boy did not know what else to say since what was truth to him was not accepted by the police.’

The boy was forced to lie down on the cold stone floor and he was whipped once more, while a police officer’s foot pinned him down.

The News described the incident as ‘one of the worst cases of brutality’.

Police in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, routinely use torture.

In September 2016, women were reportedly ambushed by armed police and ‘brutally attacked’ by police during a strike at the Plantation Forest Company, near Pigg’s Peak.

The Observer on Saturday newspaper on 17 September 2016 reported what it called a ‘horror’ attack. It said a private security company called Siyavutsa assisted police.

The newspaper reported the attack happened at 4.45pm on Friday 9 September. A group of workers left the plantation premises and walked along a main road to their compound, Goedgegun, about 5 km away. ‘When all of a sudden a Siyavutsa vehicle swerved and came to an abrupt stop in front of the first group of about five workers and a swarm of armed police officers and dog handlers alighted.’

The newspaper added, ‘The different groups of about 15 workers allege that they all ran in different directions while the officers were in pursuit striking indiscriminately at anyone falling down. The women claim that the police officers alighted with rifles and batons while Siyavutsa dog handlers followed suit with the dogs. Shots were fired in the air while other officers bridged their service weapons.’

The newspaper added, ‘Vice Secretary of the Workers Union Wendy Simelane said she was struck with a baton by an officer identified as Manqoba Vilakati on the shin before she was dragged and thrown into a police van that had arrived to beef up the contingent on the scene.’

The Observer on Saturday reported, ‘It was then they, together with a handful of others, were driven deep into one of the forests. On the way the vehicle swerved to its sides making its cargo bang on the sides with their heads. By then all their mobile telephones were confiscated. At the swamp inside the forest the beatings continued with their assailants stomping on their arms and legs, including Simelane’s fractured leg. 

The newspaper reported Simelane saying, ‘“All this time we pleaded with them why we were being assaulted but to deaf ears. By then my lower part of the leg was dangling signalling that the shin was shattered. At the same time, we were forced to do press-ups but I could not because my leg could not hold any longer,”’ 

The Observer reported that the police used wood stumps and branches from around the swamp to inflict more injury to the workers. They were then dragged and thrown into the police van, driven back to Mhlatane station where they found Siyavutsa guards waiting for their turn. 

Later, they were taken to Pigg’s Peak police station ‘for another bout of torturing’. The newspaper reported that Simelane was tortured by being suffocated with a plastic bag until she vomited. She was forced into signing a confession that she had started fires in the forest.

This was one in a long series of torture cases involving police or security forces in Swaziland.

In June 2016, a United Nations review panel looking into human rights in Swaziland was told in a joint report by four organisations working to improve human rights, ‘In Mbabane [the Swazi capital], police tortured a 15-year-old boy after his mother had reported him for stealing E85.00 (US$6). The boy alleges that he was beaten with a slasher (metal blade tool for cutting grass) and knobkerrie (club) for five hours. While enduring the pain, he alleges that he was made to count the strokes aloud for the police to hear. Instead of being charged, the boy was physically assaulted and made to sit in a chair for thirty minutes before he was sent back home.’

The report was submitted to the United Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland by the Swaziland Multi-Media Community Network, Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and Constituent Assembly – Swaziland.

They also reported the case of Phumelela Mkhweli, a political activist who died after an alleged assault by police after they arrested him. 

The report also stated, ‘In April 2011, a 66-year-old woman was confronted by three police officers regarding the wording on her t-shirt and headscarf. The police allegedly pulled off her T-shirt, throttled her, banged her head against the wall, sexually molested her, kicked her and threw her against a police truck.  

‘The US Department of State reported on many allegations of torture and ill-treatment by police; including beatings and temporary suffocation using rubber tube tied around the face, nose, and mouth, or plastic bags over the head,’ the report stated.  

In addition to those cases reported to the United Nations review panel, there have been numerous reports of torture by police and military personnel in Swaziland over the past few years.

In July 2015, Swazi MP Titus Thwala reported that Swaziland soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows. He said that elderly women were among the local residents who were regularly beaten by soldiers at informal crossing points between Swaziland and South Africa. Thwala said the soldiers made people do push ups and other exercises.

In 2011, a man was reportedly beaten with guns and tortured for three hours by soldiers who accused him of showing them disrespect. He was ordered to do press ups, frog jumps and told to run across a very busy road and was beaten with guns every time he tried to resist. His crime was that he tried to talk to a man whose vehicle was being searched by soldiers at Maphiveni.

The Army in Swaziland, in effect, has a shoot-to-kill policy. In May 2011, three unarmed South African men were shot dead by Swazi soldiers when they were caught trying to smuggle four cows from Swaziland into the Republic.

In July 2011, three armed soldiers left a man for dead after he tried to help a woman they were beating up. And in a separate incident, a woman was beaten by two soldiers after she tried to stop them talking to her sister.

In January 2010 soldiers were warned that their attacks on civilians amounted to a ‘shoot to kill’ policy and this was unconstitutional. 

There have been many accounts of soldiers killing or beating up civilians, including a cold-blooded murder of two women accused of smuggling a car across the border with South Africa; a man who had five bullets pumped into his body after being beaten to a pulp; an attack on sex workers after three soldiers refused to pay them for their services; an attack by a bus load of soldiers on a security guard after he asked them to move their vehicle; and five drunk soldiers who terrorised two boys, smashing one of them to a pulp

See also


Friday, 13 January 2017


The editor of one of Swaziland’s independent newspapers and a senior reporter have received death threats because of a story they are working on involving the kingdom’s security forces.

The editor of the Times Sunday Innocent Maphalala and senior reporter on the paper Mfanukhona Nkambule have reportedly received threats of grievous bodily harm, ‘possibly even leading to death’, according to the Times of Swaziland newspaper.

It reported on Friday (13 January 2017), ‘The threats emanate from a story the publication is pursuing regarding one of the country’s security forces which has engaged in an action that has compromised this country internationally.’

The Times, which is a companion paper to the Times Sunday, gave no further details of the nature of the story.

It reported, ‘Further attempts to engage the Times Managing Editor, Martin Dlamini, and the Publisher, Paul Loffler, also failed to convince this publication to drop the story.  Even though the people who issued the threats remain faceless, they threatened that should the story see the light of day, the duo risked being eliminated.’

It added, ‘The warning was conveyed directly to the Times Sunday editor by a concerned citizen, who is a highly-placed government official and has insight to what could be going on behind the scenes. This citizen, who will not be named, pleaded with the editor to drop the story if he wanted to live.’


The democratisation of Swaziland: inside or outside job?
Kenworthy News Media, 12 January 2017
The small absolute monarchy of Swaziland is best known for its tourism, “unique” culture tied to its monarchy, and the cultural and spending exploits of playboy-king Mswati III, not for its repressive regime and ongoing struggle for democracy, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Swaziland is nominally a middle-income country that is seldom condemned by world leaders and rarely mentioned in the international media, even though it is one of the most unequal, poverty-stricken and unfree countries in the world, and even though King Mswati spends millions of dollars on prestige projects and personal jets while his subjects starve.

For this to change, the democratic movement in Swaziland need to present a common and credible alternative to the present regime, and together with the international community start truly pressurising Mswati’s regime.

A modern feudal state
Swaziland was a British protectorate from 1903 to 1968. The colonization of Swaziland was similar to that of other African nations. Hut taxes, cruel treatment of colonial “subjects” and a traditional structure that was kept more or less in place enabled the colonialists to rule Swaziland on the cheap and the Swazi king and his chiefs to run much of the daily administration while increasing their power.

In 1973, after elections that saw the opposition NNLC gain three seats in parliament as opposed to the 21 seats of King Sobhuza’s Imbokodvo National Movement, the king suspended the constitution, proclaimed a state of emergency, banned political parties and began ruling by decree.

The reason given for the dismantling of Swazi democracy was, the King claimed, that “the constitution has permitted the importation into our country of highly undesirable political practices alien to and incompatible with the way of life in our society.”

But even though elections are still held every five years in Swaziland, Sobhuza’s son King Mswati III chooses the Prime Minister, the Government and controls Parliament and the Senate through his chiefs. He also controls the courts, Swazi national land and the economy and thus rules more or less as a feudal lord.

Repressed dissatisfaction
Swaziland might have got a new constitution in 2005, which nominally guarantees Swazis freedom of speech and association. But if anyone dares to question the regime, the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) from 2008 (that Amnesty International calls an “inherently repressive act” that defines terrorism in sweeping terms) allows the courts to charge activists with terrorism for trivial matters such as wearing a political t-shirt or shouting a political slogan. Even the Swazi press employ a great deal of self-censorship, especially when reporting about King Mswati.

The Swazi democratic movement has fought for democracy since the king started ruling by decree in 1973. And regardless of the severely decreasing political space since the passing of the STA (Swaziland is one of the least free countries in the world in regard to political rights, on par with countries such as Saudi Arabia and worse than Iraq and Afghanistan, according to independent watchdog organization Freedom House), and a generation gap in the leadership and disagreements within the factions of the movement (not least pro-democracy political parties such as PUDEMO, SWADEPA and the NNLC whose leaders perhaps disagree more on a strategical and personal level than on a political), a growing number of Swazis are seemingly dissatisfied with the current political system.

When a committee visited all Swaziland’s Tinkundla administrative districts in 1991, Swaziland’s “democracy” was given “an overwhelming vote of no confidence by the majority of the people who attended the meetings,” according to author, sociologist and professor at the University of Witwatersrand, Richard Levin.

More recently, a poll from 2015 by independent research institute Afrobarometer showed that only a third of the population saw their political system as being democratic. Another poll from 2016 revealed Swaziland to be one of the countries of the 36 African countries polled that have seen the biggest positive change in favour of democracy in the last 5 years.

Knowing is not acting
Despite an educational system that seems to intentionally use a rigid “banking model” of teaching to keep them docile, where scholarships and land allocation are tied to submissiveness to Mswati’s chiefs, and where a repressive set of values that is sold as “traditional” culture, Swazis are beginning to question Mswati’s absolute rule, and linking their own poverty, misfortune and lack of freedom to Mswati and his regime. This is probably in no small part due to decade-long programmes of civic education in the rural areas.

The problem is, however, that ordinary Swazis, of which over two thirds live in the rural areas, many as impoverished subsistence farmers, have to think twice before criticizing the king and acting on this criticism.

They have to determine whether the democratic movement is strong enough to take the risk and if the alternative to Mswati’s rule that they represent is realistic or plausible and worth the risk of being charged with terrorism, tortured by police, imprisoned or losing one’s land, job, house or even life, as many activists fighting for democracy in Swaziland have experienced.

Like William Mkhaliphi, an 82-year-old sugar cane farmer, who has been evicted from his land and who suddenly faced threats and several charges of theft after he criticised Mswati to his face at the so-called Sibaya people’s parliament last year. An event that, according to Swaziland’s constitution, is the “highest policy and advisory council” in Swaziland and according to the monarch an important part of what he refers to as “Swazi democracy,” but in effect a futile royal showcase.

Or teacher and veteran PUDEMO activist Mphandlana ‘Victim’ Shongwe, who has been beaten, imprisoned and is still to find employment as a teacher due to his activism. He is, like many other activists, still officially out on bail and has had to report to the police station every Friday since 2006.

Or SWAYOCO President Bheki Dlamini, who was tortured, charged with arson and spent nearly four years in a tiny cell waiting for a trail that acquitted him. Like many other Swazi activists, he has subsequently had to flee Swaziland, due to a speech that he made in 2014.

An unsustainable state
Even though Swaziland is often seen abroad and by tourists, who only see the well-kept roads, game parks and shopping malls, as a peaceful and stable country, such stability is a mirage.

Many casual labourers in Swaziland’s sugar industry earn around 5 dollars a day, unemployment is at 40 percent, a third of the population is undernourished and two thirds of the population survive on less than a dollar a day – many on food aid from the UN.

Swaziland was nearly bankrupt in 2011, where the IMF reported that “the debt dynamic [in Swaziland] is becoming unsustainable,” and where the government barely managed to pay the salaries of its over 30.000 civil servants.

Given that Swaziland has recently lost valuable income from the AGOA trade-deal with the USA, and could lose other similar sources of income, this could easily happen again.

Swaziland, a landlocked and allegedly peaceful country with no external enemies, also spends more on defence and security than on health, in a country with the highest HIV/Aids prevalence in the world.

The silent international community
Neighbouring South Africa is Swaziland most important trading partner with 90 percent of Swaziland’s imports and 60 percent of exports going to and from South Africa. The Swazi currency is also tied to the South African Rand.

It was a combination of a (more or less) united South African movement that was supported by both state and not-state actors outside the country, and a boycott of South African products, sportsmen et al that helped bring about an economic implosion of the white regime that led to the downfall of apartheid.

The problem for Swaziland is that the South African-inspired democratic movement, non-state organisations around the world, and not least the international community, are not putting enough pressure on Mswati’s regime or the companies that help keep it is place. Not least Coca-Cola, whose huge concentration plant in Swaziland contributes about 40 percent of the country’s GDP.

There are many reasons for this relative inaction on the part of the international community, apart from the fact that Swaziland has no real strategic importance and is a small country with limited buying power.

Neighbouring South Africa is led by the Mswati-friendly Jacob Zuma, who is married to one of Mswati’s nieces, and whose party the ANC have investments in Swaziland with Mswati. Even though South Africa is to a large degree an important key to democratisation is Swaziland, the country has been conspicuously silent on Swaziland in recent years, even though the ANC have strong links to PUDEMO and though ANC-tripartite alliance partners SACP and COSATU and local organisations are much more vocal and act-prone in regard to Swaziland.

The Southern African Development Community, which Mswati was appointed chair of in August, is also more or less silent in regard to democratisation in Swaziland.

And by supporting Swaziland through its sugar market, the EU and other countries are in effect propping up Mswati’s regime, although various EU-institutions criticise Swaziland lack of freedom from time to time. EU-demands in regard to democratic reforms to keep its important free trade status for sugar to the EU-market could nevertheless be effective.

In fact Denmark and the UK are the only two countries who are significantly pressurising Mswati’s regime, probably in some part due to the fact that organisations in the two countries (ACTSA and Afrika Kontakt, as well as the Danish trade union movement and political parties the Red-Green Alliance and the Social Democrats) have partner projects in Swaziland and are some of the most vocal in supporting the democratic movement and calling for democratisation and socio-economic justice.

What can the international community do?
Because properly pressuring the Swazi regime does actually seem to work, however slow the process might seem to be and however reluctant to actual change Mswati’s regime is, even when pressured.

When the USA annulled the AGOA free trade agreement with Swaziland in early 2015, because Swaziland would not agree to American demands in regard to repressive legislation such as the Suppression of Terrorism Act, workers’ rights and democratisation, Swaziland started amending its legislation and releasing political prisoners such as PUDEMO President Mario Masuku.

When the European Parliament, Amnesty International and journalists and lawyers from around the world put pressure on the Swazi regime to release human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and magazine Editor Bheki Makhubu, they were eventually released – although only two weeks before they had served their prison terms for criticising the chief justice.

And when the International Labour Organisation (ILO), together with solidarity movements and political parties such as Afrika Kontakt and the Red-Green Alliance, pressurised Swaziland in regard to the banning of the country’s trade union confederation TUCOSWA, the ban was eventually lifted in mid-2015.

Part of the democratic movement, especially PUDEMO, have also suggested that targeted sanctions that restrict the travelling of key members of the Swazi government and the royal family is a way of pressurising, ostracising and eroding the legitimacy of Mswati’s regime that can complement other means of pressure.

Change must be wholesale
But whatever the international community do, pressure for democratic change and a credible set of alternatives (such as implementable policies on concrete matters such as land-, educational and financial policies) to Mswati’s rule have to come primarily from Swazis themselves – also to show the international community that the Swazi democratic movement is serious about democracy and worth supporting.

For such pressure is cyclical, and starts with the democratic movement in Swaziland, whose activism in turn can activate partner organisations and others sympathetic to their cause, who in turn can help pressurise international governments, companies and the Swazi regime itself.

But any true, meaningful and successful opposition to a regime such as Mswati’s, and any true implementation of a democracy after he has acceded to this pressure, will also have to be a personal, educational and cultural revolution for Swazis as well as a political one.

Not least in a country that ranks 155th out of 180 on the World Press Index, where livelihood and education are linked to cultural submission, and where trivial statements are seen as acts of terrorism by an Orwellian terror act.

This paper forms the basis of a presentation given by Peter Kenworthy at the University of Bergen, Norway, on 12/1-2017.