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Friday, 31 March 2017


Elected members of parliament in Swaziland have been told they are not above chiefs, because chiefs are appointed by the King.

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

The MPs were put in their place by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported on Wednesday (29 March 2017), ‘The EBC told residents that it was not acceptable have elected politicians to behave as if they were above community leaders.’

It added, ‘Chiefs remain superior to any other person in communities as they are the administrative arm of His Majesty King Mswati III.’

This was said by the EBC during a voter education exercise at Engwenyameni Umphakatsi. 

Swaziland is due to hold its national elections in 2018. Political parties are banned from taking part and King Mswati’s subjects are only allowed to pick 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 Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the King appoints 20 members and the other 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly.

The King choses the Prime Minister and cabinet members. Only a man with the surname Dlamini can, by tradition, be appointed as Prime Minister. The King is a Dlamini.  

He also choses senior civil servants and top judges. 

Khethiwe Vilakati, one of the educators reportedly told residents of Engwenyameni, ‘Chiefs represent the King, so people must make that distinction. For someone to feel superior to the chief is very wrong and we don’t encourage it.’

In Swaziland chiefs do the King’s bidding at a local level. People know not to upset the chief because their livelihood depends on his goodwill. In some parts of Swaziland the chiefs are given the power to decide who gets food that has been donated by international agencies and then the chiefs quite literally have power of life and death in such cases with about a third of the population of Swaziland receiving food aid each year. 

Chiefs can and do take revenge on their subjects who disobey them. There is a catalogue of cases in Swaziland. For example, Chief Dambuza Lukhele of Ngobelweni in the Shiselweni region banned his subjects from ploughing their fields because some of them defied his order to build a hut for one of his wives.

Nhlonipho Nkamane Mkhatswa, chief of Lwandle in Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland, reportedly stripped a woman of her clothing in the middle of a Swazi street in full view of the public because she was wearing trousers against his orders.

See also


Thursday, 30 March 2017


Socialist Youth call for democracy in Swaziland now
Kenworthy News Media, 29 March 2017 

The International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) is calling for governments, regional bodies and multilaterals to pressurize the Swazi regime to introduce multiparty elections in the absolute monarchy of Swaziland, writes Kenworthy News Media.

“We are appealing to democratic governments, regional bodies, and multilateral institutions to raise the issue of Swaziland and hold the authoritarian regime accountable. We call for political and economic pressure on the regime … [and] a peaceful transition to democracy,” the IUSY wrote in a resolution passed at the IUSY World Council held in Rosario, Argentina last week.

The IUSY is an international youth organisation with UN ECOSOC consultative status. It has 134 member organisations in over 80 countries, including the youth league of banned pro-democracy party PUDEMO, the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO).

Denied freedom
The IUSY, amongst other things, urged international bodies to apply smart sanctions on Swaziland’s royal family until multiparty democracy was implemented. It also demanded the unbanning of political parties, removal of repressive legislation towards political parties and labour unions, an end to systematic harassment of political activists, and the unconditional release of political prisoners and the return of exiles.

“Swaziland remains the only African state that is ruled by an absolute monarchy … The people of Swaziland have been denied their freedom … since political parties were banned in 1973 by the monarchy,” who control the government, courts and economy, the resolution stated.

“The authoritarian rule has failed to transform the lives of the ordinary citizenry, as we witness that more than 60 percent of Swazis live below the poverty datum line whilst the royal family lives lavishly … The youth is faced with the reality of grinding poverty, HIV/AIDS pandemic and a very high unemployment rate.”

More pressure on regime
The world must put more pressure on Mswati’s regime, says IUSY Vice President Bheki Dlamini, who is also President of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO).

“Mswati must remember that there is no hiding place for his dictatorship. Young people from Swaziland and across the globe are demanding democracy and respect for human rights, and we shall not rest until Swaziland is politically free.”

The International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) was formed in 1907 as the youth organization of the Second International. It is the biggest political youth organization in the world, working to help promote strategies on issues such as poverty, gender equality and youth education and unemployment.

Several former IUSY leaders have gone on to hold office in their respective countries, including former IUSY Secretary General Per Hækkerup, who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in Denmark in the sixties; former IUSY President Fikile Mbalula, who is the current Minister of Sport and Recreation in South Africa; and former President Jacinda Ardern, who is an MP and member of the Shadow Cabinet in New Zealand.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017


Barnabas Dlamini, the unelected Prime Minister of Swaziland, who has a history as an enemy of human rights in his kingdom, will receive 80 percent of his salary for life when he retires.

He will also get a newly-built house and a top-of-the-range car. Deputy Prime Minister Paul Dlamini will get a similar pension.

This is the first time such a retirement package has been sanctioned for the top Swazi politicians.

Barnabas Dlamini made this public on Friday (25 March 2017) in response to members of parliament who stalled a move to spend E5.5 million (US$72,000) toward building him a new house for his retirement. In Swaziland, seven in ten people live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 a day.

The Observer on Saturday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, the autocratic ruler who appointed Dlamini Prime Minister, reported the payment had been approved in the Finance Circular No. 2 of 2013. 

A week earlier members of the House of Assembly had frozen a budget item of E5.5 million to build the PM a retirement house. They said the kingdom faced a dire financial situation and could not afford it.

Barnabas Dlamini was appointed PM by the King following the 2008 election. The King disregarded the constitution he had signed in 2005 that clearly states that the Prime Minister must be a member of the House of Assembly. Dlamini has sat in six parliaments, but has never been elected by anybody. 

When introducing Dlamini as the new PM, King Mwsati told him publicly to get the terrorists and all who supported them. 

Dlamini set about his task with zeal. He banned four organisations, branding them terrorists. 

His Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini told Swazis affiliated with the political formations to resign with immediate effect or feel the full force of the law. Under the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA), enacted the same year Dlamini came to power, anyone who disagrees with the ruling elite faces being branded a terrorist supporter and a maximum prison sentence of 25 years.

This happened at a time when the call for democracy in Swaziland was being heard loudly both inside the kingdom and in the international community. 

The Dlamini-led Government immediately clamped down on dissent. In 2011, Amnesty International reported the ill-treatment, house searches and surveillance of communications and meetings of civil society and political activists. Armed police conducted raids and prolonged searches in the homes of dozens of high profile human rights defenders, trade unionists and political activists while investigating a spate of petrol bombings. Some of the searches, particularly of political activists, were done without search warrants.

In 2010, Dlamini publicly threatened to use torture against dissidents and foreigners who campaigned for democracy in his kingdom. He said the use of ‘bastinado’, the flogging of the bare soles of the feet, was his preferred method.

Dlamini told the Times of Swaziland newspaper he wanted ‘to punish dissidents and foreigners who come to the country and disturb the peace’.

Dlamini’s abuse of human rights did not start with his appointment in 2008. He was a former PM and held office for seven and a half years until 2003. While in office he gained a reputation as someone who ignored the rule of law. 

In 2003, he refused to recognise two court judgements that challenged the King’s right to rule by decree. This led to the resignation of all six judges in the Appeal Court. The court had ruled that the King had no constitutional mandate to override parliament by issuing his own decrees.

In a report running for more than 50,000 words, Amnesty International  looked back to the years 2002 and 2003 and identified activities of Dlamini that ‘included the repeated ignoring of court rulings, interference in court proceedings, intimidating judicial officers, manipulating terms and conditions of employment to undermine the independence of the judiciary, the effective replacement of the Judicial Services Commission with an unaccountable and secretive body (officially known as the Special Committee on Justice but popularly called the Thursday Committee), and the harassment of individuals whose rights had been upheld by the courts.’ 

See also


Tuesday, 28 March 2017


King Mswati III has failed in his bid to have a new SADC-wide university up and running in Swaziland by August 2017.

Now, his supporters are saying that only a concept note will be submitted to a Heads of State Summit in August.

King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, announced in August 2016 after assuming the chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that a university of transformation taking students from all over the SADC region would open by the time he stood down as chair.

Both the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, and the Swazi Observer, which is in effect owned by the King, reported on 31 August 2016 that King Mswati told the SADC heads of state summit held at Lozitha, ‘This initiative will give new hope and opportunity to our youth and our women. The intention is to have the first intake of students prior to the 37th SADC summit in 2017.’

Later, he announced that the new university would be hosted by Limkokwing University, a private institution which has come under fire for its poor standards.

Now, the Sunday Observer (19 March 2017) has reported that a concept note ‘stipulating the governance, legal requirements and programmes [at the proposed university] would be submitted to the 37th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State in August.’ No revised date has been set for the university’s opening.

The Observer, which was called a  ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’ in a report on press freedom by the Media Institute of Southern Africa, said this move showed, ‘that the plan to establish the university was well thought out’.

See also


Monday, 27 March 2017


Swaziland wants to annexe large parts of South Africa and Mozambique on behalf of the kingdom’s autocratic ruler, King Mswati III.

The territory it seeks includes the administrative capital Pretoria.

The Border Determination Special Committee (BDSC) said Friday (24 March 2017) large areas of South Africa belonged to the Swazi nation and had been taken during the time the region was under British rule.

The Observer on Saturday, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute ruler, reported the committee, ‘revealed that its mandate as directed by the King is to recover all the Swazi land lost during the colonial era, both on the east, west, south and north which goes as far as Pretoria and the Limpopo province.’

The newspaper reported the BDSC told a meeting of editors that the presently landlocked kingdom should stretch to the Indian Ocean and include parts of modern-day Mozambique.

The BDSC is promoting what it calls ‘Pan-Swazism’, the newspaper reported. This was ‘to instil a sense of belonging to all Swazis even outside the current borders of Swaziland’.

It added, ‘The Pan-Swazism is of the assertion that it is globally accepted that Swazis have King Mswati III as their king and that this is true even to Swazis that are living in the Republic of South Africa.’

Lutfo Dlamini, a member of the committee, reportedly said the Swazi King was rightly accepted as the leader of all Swazis.

Thabiso Masina, the committee’s ex-officio member from the Attorney General’s office, said land was lost to the Swazis as a result of concessions to the white settlers around the 1840s. He said no Swazi king had in fact signed the land away.

The Observer reported him saying the Swazis were never defeated in war to warrant for the nation to relinquish any of its land. 

The BDSC said there was already a draft agreement between Swaziland and South Africa that they would solve the land dispute amicably.

Friday, 24 March 2017


Free primary school education in Swaziland is a thing of the past as schools are to be allowed to charge parents ‘top-up’ fees.

This goes against S29 of the Swaziland Constitution.

The Swazi Government pays E580 per child but this is supported by the European Union. The cost to European taxpayers since 2011 has been US$8 million.

School principals have complained that the money given to them was inadequate. Local media reported that some schools had declared bankruptcy.

Dr Phineas Magagula, Minister of Education, told a budget debate in parliament that top-up fees had been authorised.

Now, parents will be sent a bill for their children’s’ education. No additional money will be given by the Government.

Up until December 2016, the EU had spent a total amount of E110 million (US$8 million) to fund the Free Primary Education Programme in Swaziland. In 2015, it reportedly sponsored 34,012 learners in 591 schools. The EU plans to continue paying for the school fees until the end of 2018.

The EU started funding FPE for first grade pupils in the whole country in 2011.

The decision to charge fees contravenes S29 of the Swaziland Constitution which states, ‘Every Swazi child shall within three years of the commencement of this Constitution [2005] have the right to free education in public schools at least up to the end of primary school, beginning with the first grade.’ 

In February 2017, nearly E2.7 billion (US$216 million) was allocated in the national budget for the kingdom’s security forces that comprise the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF), Royal Swaziland Police Service (RSPS) and His Majesty’s Correctional Services (HMCS). 

Security will take up 12.4 percent of Swaziland’s total budget of E21.7 bn ($US1.66 bn), up 11 percent from last year.

Education was allocated E3.5 billion.

See also


Thursday, 23 March 2017


The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) in Swaziland has warned people it is illegal to campaign for the national election until they have been given permission.

That means until King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, sets the date for the poll. It will be sometime in 2018.

The warning came from EBC officer Siboniso Nhleko at a voters’ education workshop at Khuphuka. 

Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and King Mswati’s subjects are only allowed to pick 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 Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the King appoints 20 members and the other 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly.

The King choses the Prime Minister and cabinet members. Only a man with the surname Dlamini can, by tradition, be appointed as Prime Minister. The King is a Dlamini.  

He also choses senior civil servants and top judges. 

International observers regularly declare elections in Swaziland to be not free and fair. 

After Swaziland’s previous election in 2013, the Commonwealth Observer Mission called for a review of the kingdom’s constitution. It said members of parliament ‘continue to have severely limited powers’.

The Commonwealth observers said there was ‘considerable room for improving the democratic system’.

They called for King Mswati’s powers to be reduced. ‘The presence of the monarch in everyday political life inevitably associates the institution of 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.’

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported on Tuesday (21 March 2017) Nhleko stated that campaigning at this point in time was illegal. 

The newspaper reported, ‘In fact, Nhleko said there was a specific period where elections candidates are allowed to lobby for votes from the public. This is usually after the nomination stage. Nhleko said anyone who would be found campaigning before this stage would, therefore, be hauled before court and face a criminal offence.’

See also


Wednesday, 22 March 2017


Security forces in Swaziland are not kept under proper control, a new report on human rights in the kingdom has revealed. And, about 35 percent of the entire Swazi Government workforce was assigned to security-related functions.

The annual report on human rights in Swaziland just published by the United States Department of State stated King Mswati III ruled as an absolute monarch and he and his mother exercised ultimate authority over the cabinet, legislature, and judiciary.  

The report stated, ‘The King is the commander in chief of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF), holds the position of Minister of Defence, and is the commander of the Royal Swaziland Police Service (RSPS)and the His Majesty’s Correctional Services (HMCS).  He presides over a civilian Principal Secretary of Defence and a commanding general.  Approximately 35 percent of the government workforce was assigned to security-related functions.’

The report added, ‘The RSPS is responsible for maintaining internal security as well as migration and border crossing enforcement.  The USDF is responsible for external security but also has domestic security responsibilities, including protecting members of the royal family.  

‘The Prime Minister oversees the RSPS, and the Principal Secretary of Defence and the army commander are responsible for day-to-day USDF oversight.  The HMCS is responsible for the protection, incarceration, and rehabilitation of convicted persons and keeping order within HMCS institutions.  HMCS personnel, however, routinely worked alongside police during protests and demonstrations.  While the conduct of the RSPS, USDF, and HMCS was generally professional, members of all three forces were susceptible to political pressure and corruption.’

The 33-page report concluded, ‘Impunity was a problem.  Although there were mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, there were few prosecutions or disciplinary actions taken against security officers accused of abuses.  

‘The internal RSPS complaints and discipline unit investigated reports of police abuse and corruption but did not release its findings to the public.  In most cases the RSPS transferred police officers found responsible for violations to other offices or departments within the police system.’

It added, ‘Civilian authorities failed at times to maintain effective control over the security forces.’

See also


Tuesday, 21 March 2017


King Mswati III is encouraging Indian investors to reopen the Ngwenya iron ore mine in Swaziland that was forced to close in 2014 after he looted US$10 million from it.

The King stands to take 25 percent of the shares in any company that takes up his offer.

The King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, made his offer during a trip to India earlier in March 2017.

The King and his personal representative Sihle Dlamini were at the very heart of events that led to the collapse of the mining company SG Iron at the Ngwenya Iron Ore Mine in 2014. It had debts of US$4 million when it closed and more than 700 jobs were lost. King Mswati took a US$10 million loan from the company less than six months after it started trading which he refused to pay back when it hit difficulties. 

A compensation claim for at least US$141 million was later prepared by Southern Africa Resources Ltd (SARL), against the Kingdom of Swaziland at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

SARL held a 50 percent stake in SG Iron Ore Mining (PTY) Ltd (SG Iron), which had formerly been known as Salgaocar Swaziland (PTY) Ltd. The Swaziland Government held 25 percent of the shares and the King personally held 25 percent ‘in trust for the nation.’ 

The mine was forced to cease trading in August 2014 after a series of events orchestrated by Sihle Dlamini, who is Director Administration at the King’s Office and Assistant Private Secretary to the King. He was also the King’s personal representative on the SG Iron board of directors.

Here is a step by step guide to what happened.

30 September 2010
SG Iron Ore Mining (PTY) Ltd. (when it was still called Salgaocar Swaziland (PTY) Ltd), was registered in accordance with the laws of Swaziland on 30 September 2010 under Certificate of Incorporation No.1196, with its principal business of operations at the Old Ngwenya Mine, Ngwenya, in the Hhohho district of Swaziland.

SG Iron’s stated goal was to reprocess iron ore dumps left over by the Anglo American Mining Company in the late 1970’s, when it ceased mining operations in the area, and to secure the main mine lease for 30 years once the iron ore dumps had been cleared. 

Due to advancements in technology, it had become scientifically possible to process the dumps and upgrade them into sellable grade ore. This project would create new jobs in Swaziland, while creating a new source of wealth for Swaziland, as well as clearing Swaziland of the dumps left by the Anglo American Mining Corporation and restarting mining activities.

30 June 2011
King Mswati, who as absolute monarch in Swaziland has sole control over mining rights in the kingdom, granted SG Iron a Mining Lease for seven years. The company agreed to pay the King ‘in trust for the Swazi Nation’ a royalty of 3 percent. It also gave the King 25 percent of the total company issued share capital at no cost. It also gave a further 25 percent of the issued share capital to the Swaziland Government, again at no cost. The remaining 50 percent of issued share capital went to SARL.

The King holds shares ‘in trust for the Swazi Nation’, but it is widely reported outside of Swaziland that in fact he has received millions of dollars from international companies such as phone giant MTN; sugar conglomerates Illovo and Remgro; Sun International hotels and beverages firm SAB Millerto, which he spends on himself and his family. 

The King, who rules over an impoverished kingdom of only about 1.3 million people, has 13 palaces, a fleet of top-of-the range BMS and Mercedes cars and a private jet airplane. He is soon to take delivery of a second private jet. Meanwhile, seven in ten of his subjects exist on incomes of less than US$2 per day.

As a general undertaking, the Mining Lease provided that each party should ‘act in such manner as shall be necessary in order to give effect to [the] Mining lease’. That mean they should all have worked to make sure the company was a success. 

It was agreed SARL, being the 50 percent shareholder of SG Iron, had management control of SG Iron, which was in charge of, and responsible for, day-to-day running of SG Iron. SARL was to provide all financial support and technical expertise necessary for SG Iron to succeed.

Article 6.8 of the Mining Lease provided that the Chairman in addition to having his own vote on the Board of Directors should have a casting vote. Shanmuga Rethenam was appointed as the Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of SG Iron, and Sivarama Petla was appointed as its Chief Executive Officer. Both Executive Chairman and CEO were nominee and representatives of SARL.

Mbuso Dlamini was appointed as the Director for and on behalf of the Swaziland Government and Sihle Dlamini was appointed as the Director for and on behalf of the King.

SG Iron put up approximately US$50 million to start the mining operations and added further capital. The King and the Swaziland Government made no financial contributions.

21 October 2011
The official inauguration of operations was on 21 October 2011 with the dispatch of ore to Maputo Port in Mozambique. On 21 December 2011, the first shipment was carried out from Maputo Port and on 9 March 2012, a rail services from Mpaka to Maputo Port, Mozambique, started.

16 April 2012
Less than six months after operations began, King Mswati, through his representative Sihle Dlamini, asked for and received an advanced payment / loan of US$10 million on the King’s future dividend. This was at a meeting of the Board of Directors of Salgaocar Swaziland held in Mbabane, Swaziland, on 16 April 2012. The money was to be repaid from future dividends payable to the King. 

There was no public announcement made that the King received the money which he held ‘in trust for the nation’ and it is not known how he spent it. This later fuelled speculation that he had used the money to fund his own personal lavish lifestyle. 

26 April 2012
Reports began to appear on the Internet and later in newspapers in Swaziland that King Mswati had taken delivery of a private Douglas DC-9 jet and that it had been given to him as a gift by Salgaocar. The company has denied it gave the jet to the King, but the Swazi Government was lukewarm in its denial. The Times of Swaziland reported, ‘Dismissing the rumours, government Press Secretary Percy Simelane said “That is pure speculation.  The donor has asked to remain anonymous and it will be like that.”’  

Barnabas Dlamini, the Swazi Prime Minister, claimed to the media that the jet had been donated by ‘development partners’ of Swaziland.  

21August 2014
Sihle Dlamini, representing the King at SG Iron wrote to the CEO of SG Iron, Sivarama Petla, instructing him not to sell any more cargo on 21 August 2014. He did this without consulting the major shareholder, SARL. Since that day all attempts by SG Iron to sell cargo were blocked.

Contrary to the terms of the Mining Lease, the Board of Directors was not consulted about the decision to stop sales of iron ore. The Chairman, who was to chair all board meetings under Article 6.7 of the Mining Lease, and who also possessed a right of veto, was not even informed of the King’s decision.

In October 2014, in a founding affidavit at the Swaziland High Court to have the company placed under Judicial Management, Sihle Dlamini would state that a shareholders’ dispute at SARL in Singapore had made it impossible for management decisions to be taken at SG Iron. He also stated that the fall in the world price of iron ore had made production at the mine uneconomical.

After 21 August 2014
Blocking the sale of iron ore meant no trade could take place and SG Iron’s operations were brought to an abrupt standstill. Since no money was coming into the company from the sale of cargoes there was a cash-flow crisis. 

Sales could have resumed at any time because more than 100,000 tonnes of iron ore remained at Maputo Port, Mpaka Railway Siding and at the Mine Stockyard. In his High Court affidavit in October 2014, Sihle Dlamini revealed he had given instructions for ore to be stockpiled until the price of iron ore recovered.

SARL also requested that the King repay the full or part of the US$10 million loan / advance dividend to allow SG Iron to continue operating. The King refused to do this, instead the King’s representative Sihle Dlamini demanded that SARL inject more capital into the business, something it would not do while shipment of cargoes remained blocked.

SARL would say in January 2015 that it felt it had been held hostage by the King’s representative’s decision to unilaterally stop all shipments of cargo.

22 September 2014
At a board meeting of SG Iron held in Mbanane, Sihle Dlamini representing the King and Mbuso Dlamini, representing the Swazi Government, expressed dissatisfaction at the status of the company, saying that a shareholder dispute at SARL was impacting on SG Iron, something which was disputed by SG Iron.

The two men gave an ultimatum that fresh funds should be injected into the project no later than 26 September 2014. The Chairman of SG Iron, appointed by SARL, was present at this board meeting, and he requested that management allow the sale of the cargo, which would release sufficient funds to keep the company operating.

SARL again requested that the King should, ‘for the good of the company’s workers, its shareholders and the kingdom of Swaziland’, repay the full or part of the US$10 million loan / advance dividend to allow the continued operation of SG Iron. Sihle Dlamini, the King’s representative, refused.

Subsequent to the meeting, Sihle Dlamini, representing the King, asked SARL to wipe out the US$10 million loan.

29 September 2014
In a letter dated 29 September 2014, SARL refused to write off the King’s debt. SARL said in January 2015 that in response to this, Sihle Dlamini took a unilateral decision to stop operations and place the company into Judicial Management and then liquidation. This decision was taken without discussions with the major shareholder or considering the voting rights in place at SG Iron.

3 October 2014
Sihle Dlamini representing the King and Mbuso Dlamini, representing the Swaziland Government, called for a meeting of the Board of Directors and despite being told by the Chairman of the Board Shanmuga Rethenam that he could not attend, they went ahead with the meeting without him.

This was the first Board Meeting that had been held without the Chairman’s presence in the history of SG Iron. Sihle Dlamini, the King’s representative, served as the Chairman of the meeting, although he represented only 25 percent of the company’s share capital and SARL, the 50 percent shareholder, was supposed to have control of the board.

Sihle Dlamini and Mbuso Dlamani both resolved to place SG Iron under Judicial Management, without seeking the Chairman’s consent, rather than permitting operations and cargo sale to continue.

10 October 2014
SG Iron was placed under provisional Judicial Management by an Order of the High Court of Swaziland dated 10 October 2014. This order was based on the founding affidavit of Sihle Dlamini, the King’s representative. The Judicial Manager was able to immediately take control and assess the affairs, assets and liabilities of SG Iron.

In his statement, Dlamini said the company, ‘commenced operations on the 21st of October 2011 and it has been extremely successful to date and has been a major income earner for the Kingdom of Swaziland.

‘[It] has also provided a number of investment opportunities to local transport contractors, construction companies and heavy plant and machinery contractors who carry out the bulk of its mining operations at Ngwenya.’

He added the company, ‘is not in an insolvent position in that its assets exceed its liabilities’. He said, however, the Board of Directors had ‘become hamstrung’ and was unable to take effective decisions on the operations of the company.

He said, ‘During or about December 2013, a serious shareholder dispute arose between the shareholders of the investor SARL, which dispute has resulted in arbitration proceedings being instituted between themselves in Singapore.’

He said he was not, ‘fully apprised of the nature of the dispute’, but nonetheless believed it meant that SARL representatives on the Board of SG Iron were unable to take decisions.

Sihle Dlamini also said that the falling price of iron ore had impacted the company. He said the price fell from E1,360 (about US$136) per tonne in January / February 2014 to E550 (US$55) per tonne. This was a new six-year low of the price of iron ore. 

‘It also effectively meant that the cost of processing the ore now at the present moment exceeds the price that [SG Iron] is able to obtain for the ore on the international market. In other words, it has become financially impossible to continue to mine.’

He stated, ‘Currently, as at 30 September 2014 [SG Iron’s] total indebtedness to its creditors amounted to approximately E42 million (US$4.2 million at the then exchange rate). Although that amount seems large, [SG Iron] would very easily be able to pay these creditors if it were in a position to sell the product that it currently has and more so if the price of iron ore recovers.’

However, he did not report that even at the lowest price of US$55 per tonne, if he himself, as the King’s representative, were to permit the 100,000 tonnes of ore stockpiled to be sold it would raise US$5.5 million, more than the US$4.2 million SG Iron owed its creditors.

In his statement, Sihle Dlamini made no reference to the US$10 million loan that had been made to the King that he subsequently refused to pay back.

16 December 2014
On the request of the Judicial Manager appointed by the Court, the Court ordered the provisional liquidation, or winding up, of SG Iron by an Order dated 16 December 2014.

22 January 2015
A Notice of Investment Dispute from SARL prepared for the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on 22 January 2015 stated the Judicial Manager, who it said was controlled by the King through Sihle Dlamini and Mbuso Dlamini, informed all creditors / vendors of SG Iron of its provisional liquidation, but failed to inform its largest creditor and primary shareholder, SARL, in writing of the event. He also failed to inform Eltina Limited, a major creditor of SG Iron, who bought the cargo of SG Iron and had provided US$10 million as a loan to SG Iron.

SARL reported. ‘The Judicial Manager met with [Sihle Dlamini and Mbuso Dlamini] the Director representing the King and Government almost every day and took instructions only from them’, not the SARL directors, or Eltina Limited. 

SARL reported, ‘[SARL] should have been given the opportunity to put forward their case before the Judicial Manager, since there were numerous alternatives to revive the company, in a violation of their due process rights they have not been allowed to do so by [the Swaziland directors].’

SARL added the Judicial Manager, ‘acting solely on the instructions of [the King’s] representatives, wholly failed his duty’, and when SARL and Rethenam, as Chairman of SG Iron, asked to sell cargo at a higher price even to its own competitor, the Judicial Manager ignored this request. 

‘The only possible explanation for his refusal was that [the Swaziland representatives] knew that, if a cargo was sold, the company would receive cash flow and SG Iron could not be liquidated.’

The closure of the mining project cost 700 people their jobs in Swaziland and it was estimated that several hundred jobs were also lost at the Port of Maputo, Mozambique.

SARL also reported that it had ‘direct evidence’ that the mine was being guarded by the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force. 

‘[King Mswati III] is the Commander-in-Chief of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force, providing further evidence of the wholesale expropriation of [SARL’s] investment by state organs of [Swaziland] including the King’s Office, [Swaziland’s] judiciary and [Swaziland’s] military,’ it stated.

SARL added that as a result of SARL’s closure its ‘investment has been expropriated’, and the King’s US$10 million dividend / loan ‘has been written off by judicial decree’.

SARL added, ‘Having expropriated [SARL’s] investments and avoided the repayment of US$56 million in loans to finance the investment, it is understood that the Judicial Manager is now attempting to sell SG Iron to third parties for a song.’

The notice stated it had ‘suffered direct harm in the amount of no less than US$141,147,440.17, for the direct financial consequences of the behaviour of the King and his representatives.

In addition, it is claiming US$57,186,022.53 for its advance and loan owed by SG Iron to SARL. SARL also stated that Eltina Limited was owed US$5,426,954.66.

In its notice of investment dispute, SARL said the order from Sihle Dlamini issued in August 2014 that no more iron ore should be sold was ‘a deliberate attempt to create an artificial cash crisis’ at SG Iron in order to gain control of the company and expropriate the company of its investments.
SARL linked the move to destroy the company to 6 April 2012 when the request was made by King Mswati III, for the US$10 million loan.

‘It appears to be the desire to avoid the repayment of this advance dividend / loan to HMK [His Majesty the King] that lies at the root of the expropriation of [SARL’s] investments in Swaziland,’ SARL stated.

1 February 2015
The Observer on Sunday, a newspaper in Swaziland, in effect owned by King Mswati, attacked SARL and its Notice of Investment Dispute. It quoted Sihle Dlamini, who called the notice ‘a smear campaign’. He also likened SARL to ‘terrorist’ organisations.

Following publication of this article, William Kirtley, attorney to SARL, wrote to the Observer, to say, ‘The only person who stood to gain anything from this was HMK [the King], since the joint venture had provided an advance payment / loan of US$10 million and, indeed, during one of the final board meetings it was repeatedly requested that this be written off SG Iron’s books.’

8 February 2015
The Observer on Sunday, part of the Swazi Observer group of newspapers, in effect owned by King Mswati and described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a 2013 report on press freedom in the kingdom as ‘a pure propaganda machine for the royal family’, attacked SARL and said it was, ‘lying by claiming to have filed a notice of arbitration with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) against the Kingdom of Swaziland’. It said it had proof that no such notice had been lodged.

In fact, SARL had never claimed to have ‘filed a notice of arbitration.’ In a media release dated 29 January 2015, it was announced SARL had submitted ‘a notice of investment dispute’.  A notice of investment dispute is first filed to see if the amicable resolution of a dispute is possible. Only when it is clear that the amicable resolution of a dispute is not possible is the ‘Notice for Arbitration’ filed. 

·         This is a revised version of an article first published on the Swazi Media Commentary website on 9 February 2015.

See also