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Friday, 29 September 2017


King Mswati III of Swaziland is trying to do a business deal with an American conglomerate that has been in bankruptcy protection for two years after owing US$18 billion.

He wants Caesars Palace, famous for its casinos, to run the proposed International Convention Centre (ICC) and hotel in Ezulwini.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported on Thursday (28 September 2017) that he and government ministers had discussed with Caesars Palace management at the hotel in Las Vegas a plan for the potential of the proposed ICC.

The Observer reported, ‘The meeting took place after an hour’s tour of the hotel yesterday where His Majesty the King was given a full display of what it has to offer by President of Caesars Palace Gary Selesner. The main attraction is the gaming at the Casinos. The hotel also has state of the art entertainment facilities and meeting halls.’

The newspaper devoted part of its front page to the visit and also published a story with four photographs of the meeting inside written by‘The King’s Office Correspondent.’ It said the Caesars Palace management had promised to submit a proposal on what it would cost to manage the ICC and hotel.

The report said Caesars had grown through development of new resorts, expansions and acquisitions, and now operates casinos on three continents.

What it did not report (but the information is freely available) was that Caesars Entertainment Operating Corp (Caesars Palace’s main operating unit) filed in the United States for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2015 to protect itself from creditors who were owed US$18 billion. In January 2017 Reuters news agency reported that a deal had been made with courts to shed US$10 billion of the debt. The company will be reorganised as part of the deal.

In a report on media freedom in Swaziland in 2013, the Media Institute of Southern Africa described the Swazi Observer as a  ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’.

Members of the Swazi Royal Family are no strangers to Las Vegas. In 2012 it was reported that three of the King’s wives (who at the time numbered 13) travelled to Las Vegas with an entourage of about 65 people on a multimillion-dollar spending spree and vacation.  They reportedly stayed in 10 separate villas – each costing E20,000 (US$2,400) per night.

The Queens on the trip were named by the Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa as LaNgangaza née Carol Dlamini, LaMagongo née Nontsetselo Magongo and LaNkambule née Phindile Nkambule. 

Reports said the trip would cost the Swazi taxpayers at least E36 million (US$4.6 million). Seven in ten of the King’s subjects live in abject poverty, with incomes of less than US$2 a day. Political parties are banned in the kingdom and all forms of prodemocracy protest are quashed by state forces.

The Mail and Guardian reported at the time that funding for the trip was supplemented by money from the national fund Tibiyo which is supposed to be held in trust for the nation. A ‘large sum of cash’ was understood to have been withdrawn, it said.

The plan for the E1 billion ICC that includes a five-star hotel is being led by the Government of Swaziland through the Millennium Projects Management Unit within the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development. Government has said it will fund the project.

It is proposed the centre will be able to accommodate 4,500 guests at any one time and include a secure chamber room to take 53 heads of state. Other features include a 3,500-seat banqueting hall and a 1,500-seat theatre. It is proposed the centre will be completed ahead of the African Union summit due to be held in Swaziland in 2020.
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Thursday, 28 September 2017


Armed police escorted students from a Swaziland college off the campus after they complained about the quality of their food.

Now, the Swaziland College of Technology (SCOT) has been closed indefinitely after a class boycott.

The Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (27 September 2017) that students vandalised property. The students had entered the kitchen at breakfast time as part of a protest.

The newspaper said the main grievance of the students was shrinking food portions at meal times and unpaid allowances. 

The Times of Swaziland reported, ‘According to students who spoke on condition of anonymity, it all started during breakfast when they were told that there was no more milk for their soft porridge.

‘Other reported irregularities are said to be that some students were served eggs as protein during lunch while others were dished meat. 

‘They said this had been going on for some time and when they enquired from the college authorities about the matter, they were told that the institution had no money.’

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Wednesday, 27 September 2017


Nurses in Swaziland intend to strike in protest against the shortage of drugs in the kingdom.

They will march the streets of the capital Mbabane on Friday (29 September 2017) to deliver a petition to the Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini.

Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) President Bheki Mamba said there were also a number of other grievances and health workers felt the government was ignoring them.

The Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland reported (24 September 2017) there were shortages of drugs for a range of illnesses and conditions including epilepsy, hypertension, diabetes, ulcers and treatments for HIV positive people.

It added, ‘Not only have the hospitals and clinics run out of drugs, they also do not have of alcohols and spirits used in disinfecting apparatus, bandages and gloves as supplies have also hit an all-time low.’

The Ministry of Health denied there were shortages.

The shortage of drugs has been ongoing in Swaziland for years. The government which is handpicked by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, often fails to pay its bills to suppliers.

In June 2017, Swazi Senator Prince Kekela told parliament that at least five people had died as a result of the shortage of medicines in Swaziland.

At the time it was reported that about US$18 million was owed to drug companies in May 2017 and they had suspended delivery of medicines until bills were paid. 

As ordinary people died in the health crisis Prime Minister Dlamini revealed that King Mswati and his mother paid for him to travel to Taiwan for his own medical treatment.  Dlamini was not elected PM by the people of Swaziland. He was personally appointed by the King, as were all other government ministers and top judges in the kingdom. None of Swaziland’s senators are elected by the people.

In 2014, at least 44 children died and many hundreds were hospitalised during an outbreak of diarrhoea. The Ministry of Health said it could not afford readily-available drugs. Then, the Government spent US$1.7 million on top of the range BMW cars for itself.

About 680,000 doses of life-saving rotavirus vaccine could have been purchased for the cost of the 20 new BMW X5 sports utility vehicles, which would be enough to treat every child in the kingdom. The cars were for government ministers and top officials.

The purchase was one of many example of irresponsible spending in the kingdom.

In March 2014, US$600,000 was spent on the opening ceremony for the Sikhuphe Airport which was renamed King Mswati III Airport. The airport has been widely criticised outside of Swaziland as a vanity project for the King.

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Tuesday, 26 September 2017


An 11-year-old boy in Swaziland lost an eye when a cane his schoolteacher was using to illegally beat other pupils broke and splintered. It is one of a long line of abuses against children in the kingdom in the name of corproral punishment.

The boy from Ekuphakameni Community Primary School in the outskirts of Hlatikhulu was sitting at his desk in a classroom when it happened. 

The Times of Swaziland reported on Tuesday (26 September 2017), ‘The youngster said he was not among the pupils who were being punished for urinating outside the school toilets. Instead, he said he got injured in the eye when the stick the teacher was using broke, with the broken piece flying straight into his eyeball.’

The schoolboy’s father said his son was first taken to Hlatikhulu Government Hospital where it was discovered that most of the vital parts of the eye were seriously damaged. He was transferred to the Mbabane Government Hospital where he was eventually operated on and the eye removed.

This is not the first time a child has been injured in this way. In 2011, a 10-year-old girl at kaLanga Nazarene Primary school was blinded for life in her left eye after a splinter from a teacher’s stick flew and struck it during punishment. She was injured when her teacher was hitting another pupil, with a stick which broke.  

Another pupil in Swaziland was thrashed so hard that he later collapsed unconscious and had to be rushed to a clinic. Six pupils at Mafucula High school were thrashed with 20 strokes of a ‘small log’ because they were singing in class. It was reported that the boy who became unconscious was not one of those misbehaving, but he was flogged nonetheless. 

In September 2015, the Times reported a 17-year-old school pupil died after allegedly being beaten at school. The pupil reportedly had a seizure.

In March 2015, a primary school teacher at the Florence Christian Academy was charged with causing grievous bodily harm after allegedly giving 200 strokes of the cane to a 12-year-old pupil on her buttocks and all over her body.

In 2011, it was reported girls at Mpofu High School were being flogged by teachers on their bare flesh and if they resisted they were chained down so the beating could continue. They were said to have been given up to 40 strokes at a time. The Swazi Observer newspaper reported at the time the children said ‘that when they are beaten, they are made to strip naked on the lower body so that the teachers can beat them on bare flesh’.

One girl told the newspaper, ‘The teachers make us lie on a bench whereby if you are a girl you lift your skirt so that they can beat you on bare flesh, if you resist you are chained to the bench.’

Also in 2011, Swaziland was told by the United Nations Human Rights Periodic Review held in Geneva it should stop using corporal punishment in schools, because it violated the rights of children. 

The United Nations Human Rights Periodic Review received a report jointly written by Save The Children and other groups that corporal punishment in Swazi schools was out of control. The report highlighted Mhlatane High School in northern Swaziland where it said pupils were ‘tortured’ in the name of punishment. 

The report stated, ‘Students at this school are also subjected to all forms of inhumane treatment in the name of punishment. The State has known about the torture of students that go on at Mhlatane High School for a long time, but has not done anything to address this violation of fundamental rights.’

In 2015, corporal punishment was banned in Swaziland’s schools, but the practice continues. As recently as August 2017 it was reported that boys at Salesian High, a Catholic school, were forced to take down their trousers and underwear to be beaten on the naked buttocks.

The Times of Swaziland reported in October 2015 that Phineas Magagula, Minister of Education and Training, warned that teachers who beat pupils should be reported to the ministry so that they could be disciplined.

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Monday, 25 September 2017


Police in Swaziland disguised as news reporters have been spying on prodemocracy activists, a newspaper reported.

It is only one incident in a long history of spying in the kingdom that includes members of parliament, pensioners and journalists as victims.

The Sunday Observer in Swaziland reported (24 September 2017) that plain-clothed undercover police were at a march of public servants in the Swazi capital Mbabane on Wednesday.

The newspaper called it ‘spying’ and said it had happened before at other public demonstrations, ‘They [police] are always plain clothed and carry traditional journalistic tools including cameras and notebooks,’ the newspaper reported.

It added police took video and still photographs of marchers. The newspaper speculated that these might be used to later track down and intimidate participants. The march was legal.

A police spokesman said they were not spying because the march took place in a public place.

Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has a long history of spying by police, Army and state forces. In Swaziland political parties are banned from taking part in elections and prodemocracy advocates are prosecuted under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

In June 2017, some senior politicians in Swaziland reported fears their phones were being tapped. One also thought his car might be bugged.
In July 2013 it was reported that police in Swaziland were spying on the kingdom’s members of parliament. One officer disguised in plain clothes was thrown out of a workshop for MPs and one MP reported his phone had been bugged. Ntondozi MP Peter Ngwenya told the House of Assembly at the time that MPs lived in fear because there was constant police presence, in particular from officers in the Intelligence Unit. 

The Times of Swaziland newspaper reported at the time that at the same sitting of the House Lobamba MP Majahodvwa Khumalo said his cellphone had been bugged ever since he started being ‘vocal against some people’. 

In May 2013, the Media Institute of Southern Africa reported that police spies had infiltrated journalism newsrooms in Swaziland, which had led to a heightened climate of fear. 

It is legal in certain circumstances to tap phones in Swaziland. The Suppression of Terrorism Act gives police the right to listen in on people’s conversations if they have the permission of the Attorney General.

When the Act came into law in 2008 Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini said that anyone who criticised the government could be considered a terrorist sympathiser.

In 2011, a journalist working in Swaziland for the AFP international news agency reported on her blog that her phone calls were being listened in to. 

In 2012, it came to light that the Swaziland Army had attempted to buy cameras and phone monitoring equipment worth US$1.25 million. The Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) – the formal name of the Swaziland Army – was sued  in the Swaziland High Court because it ordered the equipment, but did not pay for it.

The equipment was known as GSM Option: Voice Intercept or delivery and SMS (Short Message Service) Intercept or delivery, as well as spy cameras and alarm systems, the Times of Swaziland reported at the time.  

The equipment could be used against the civilian population in Swaziland. The Voice Intercept equipment is marketed as a tool to monitor and record live phone conversations, which, according to one supplier called SyTech Corporation, the equipment can be a valuable asset to any agency and investigation. It, ‘delivers the evidence that makes the case while protecting officers’ safety’.  

The GSM equipment is designed to monitor mobile phones. This type of equipment is widely available across the world. Another supplier listed the main use as, ‘following a person’s activities and staying undetected’.  

The equipment records all information on the phone as it happens and records ‘phone events’. It can spy on SMS text messages, on web browser activities and call logs (inbound and outbound). It can also track the phone’s location using GPS.

It was, one supplier said, ‘100 percent undetectable and you can spy on unlimited [number of] phones.’ 

The Swaziland Army ordered equipment worth about E10 million (US$1.25 million at the then exchange rate) from Naspoti J & M Security Solutions, in Nelspruit, South Africa, the Swazi High Court heard, but cancelled the order just as the company was ready to deliver.  No reason was given to the court for the cancellation but, then as today the Swazi Government was broke and struggling to pay its bills, including public sector salaries.

The revelation came at a time of growing activity in the kingdom to force King Mswati to democratise. All political parties and opposition groups are banned and the King controls the parliament and judiciary. 

This was not the first time that the Swazi ruling elite has been found trying to spy on the King’s subjects. In August 2011, Wikileaks published a cable from the US Embassy in Swaziland that revealed the Swazi Government had tried to get MTN, the only mobile phone provider in the kingdom, to use its network for ‘surveillance on political dissidents’. 

Tebogo Mogapi, the MTN chief executive officer (CEO) in Swaziland, refused to comply and later did not have his work permit renewed and so had to leave the kingdom.

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Saturday, 23 September 2017


Only days after it was learnt that people who criticise King Mswati of Swaziland face two years’ jail, the King misled the UN General Assembly saying that ‘all citizens’ have the opportunity to air their views.

King Mswati was speaking at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday (20 September 2017).

The King who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch in a kingdom where political parties are banned from contesting elections and prodemocracy campaigners are prosecuted under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, said, ‘The kingdom of eSwatini [Swaziland] is committed to peace and a decent life for all. We are also firm believers in the principle of consultative decision-making. This involves a transparent and all-inclusive undertaking that grants every citizen an opportunity to voice their views in order to constructively contribute to the social, economic, cultural and political development of the country.’

He did not say that his unelected government had just passed the Public Order Act. This allows for critics of the King or the Swazi Government to be fined E10,0000 (US$770), imprisoned for two years or both for inciting ‘hatred or contempt’ against cultural and traditional heritage. In Swaziland seven out of ten people have incomes less than US$2 a day.

The Act also targets gatherings of 50 or more people in a public place where policy actions or criticisms of any government or organisation are made.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom where reporting the activities of King Mswati and his family is severely restricted, reported, ‘These gatherings could be those which are convened or held to form pressure groups, to hand over petitions to any person or to mobilise or demonstrate support for or opposition to the views, principles, policy, actions or omissions of any person, organisation including any government administration or institution. 

‘The Act states that to avoid any doubt people who also speak ill or incite hatred against the cultural and traditional heritage of the country could be those who are involved in a picket or protest action. 

‘Other acts that carry a similar penalty also include a person who trashes, burns or otherwise destroys, defaces or defiles or damages any national insignia or emblem. The nation insignia or other emblem has been defined by the Act as any weaving, embroidery, sewing, drawing, picture, illustration and painting which represents His Majesty, the Indlovukati [King’s mother], national flag or Swaziland Coat of Arms.’

Swaziland has been criticised by many international groups for its lack of democracy. 

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.

In 2016, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre reported all opposition to the rule of the King Mswati is treated as ‘terrorism’.

In 2015, the United States withdrew trading benefits under the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) because of Swaziland’s poor record on human rights.

International human rights organisations Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2016, said ‘The Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA), the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act of 1938, and other similarly draconian legislation provided sweeping powers to the security services to halt meetings and protests and to curb criticism of the government, even though such rights are protected under Swaziland’s 2005 constitution.’

The STA was ‘regularly used’ by the police to interfere in trade union activities, Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) said in a submission to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in 2015.

Amnesty International has criticised of Swaziland for the ‘continued persecution of peaceful political opponents and critics’ by the King and his authorities. It said the Swazi authorities were using the Acts, ‘to intimidate activists, further entrench political exclusion and to restrict the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly’.

In September 2016 Swaziland’s High Court ruled that sections of the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act were unconstitutional. The Government is appealing the ruling.

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Friday, 22 September 2017


Confirmation that King Mswati III, aged 49, is to take a teenager as his latest wife shines the spotlight firmly on the King’s marital history.

His latest choice is Siphelele Mashwama, aged 19, who is the daughter of a Swaziland Cabinet minister, Jabulile Mashwama. In 2013 the King chose an 18-year-old ‘former beauty pageant contestant’ Sindiswa Dlamini as his wife. Both the teenagers are younger than some of the King’s own children.

There is some confusion as to whether King Mswati’s latest bride will be his 14th or 15th. The confusion is excusable since the number of wives the King has is considered a state secret in Swaziland and it is ‘un-Swazi’ to talk openly about the King’s polygamy.

The new bride is reported to be a graduate of Swaziland’s Waterford Kamhlaba World University College. She went with the King this week to the United Nations General Assembly meeting in the United States.

She was introduced at the annual Reed Dance where tens of thousands of women described as ‘virgins’ danced bare-breasted for the King.

King Mswati has been ridiculed outside of Swaziland for his likening of teenage women. Media in South Africa nicknamed Sindiswa Dlamini ‘naughty Sindie’.

The Sunday Sun newspaper in South Africa in 2014 reported she had affairs with two of King Mswati’s sons, Prince Majaha and Prince Bandzile, who were both in their early twenties. One unnamed source told the newspaper, ‘Sindi has dated both these boys. She’s a party girl used to having fun.’

Another informant told the Sunday Sun, ‘Sindi is no virgin. She drinks and smokes a lot and has tattoos on parts of her body I cannot mention.’
One source told the newspaper, ‘She is only doing it [marrying the King] because she comes from a poor background.’
The media in Swaziland never report about the King without his permission. This means people across the world are better informed than the King’s subjects, the Swazi people. Most media in the kingdom are under direct state control, opposition political parties are banned as ‘terrorist’ organisations and any political dissent is quickly crushed by police and the army.

In 2011, the Independent group of newspapers in South Africa reported that three of the King’s 13 queens had abandoned him since he took the throne in 1986. And more of his wives were trying to break out of the palace.

The Independent reported, ‘A royal source says some of the queens are frustrated as the King has allowed many months to pass without “visiting” them. They accuse him of seeking his pleasures outside the palace instead.’

The Independent added, ‘This comes after revelations about the recent unceremonious departure from the palace of LaDube, the King’s estranged 12th wife, after she had been accused of having a relationship with former minister of justice and constitutional affairs Ndumiso Mamba. To make matters worse, Mamba was the king’s business confidant and friend.

‘After the affair came to the King’s attention, he denied LaDube conjugal rights, according to insiders. They say he was trying to make palace life intolerable for her so that she would leave.

‘She is officially no longer part of the royal family and has been dumped at her maternal grandmother’s home in Hhohho.’

The newspaper reported, ‘LaDube was the third of Mswati’s wives to leave the palace. She followed LaMagwaza and LaHwala, who both now live in South Africa.

‘LaMagwaza was accused of having a steamy sexual relationship with a South African toy boy. Sources claimed that she was sex starved, as the King would not visit her.’

It added, ‘LaHwala was also neglected by the king who would deny her conjugal rights for six months at a time.’

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Thursday, 21 September 2017


A trade union drive is underway in Swaziland to recruit workers in the kingdom’s notorious textile industry.

The Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA) has visited several factories across the kingdom.

ATUSWA’s Bongani Ndzinisa told local media that workers in the textile industry had been neglected. The Swazi Observer reported (11 September 2017), ‘He disclosed that the union had already conducted an assessment which indicated that the workers were faced with numerous challenges which affected their livelihood.

‘Ndzinisa said they were in the process of encouraging workers to join the union, after which they will be writing to the various factories to demand recognition.’

The textile industry in Swaziland which is mainly owned by Taiwanese interests has a long history of exploitation.

In July 2014 a survey of the Swaziland textile industry undertaken by the Trades Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) revealed workers were subjected to harsh and sometimes abusive conditions, many of the kingdom’s labour laws were routinely violated by employers, and union activists were targeted by employers for punishment. 

More than 90 percent of workers surveyed reported being punished by management for making errors, not meeting quotas or missing shifts. More than 70 percent of survey respondents reported witnessing verbal and physical abuse in their workplace by supervisors.

Commenting on the survey, the American labour federation AFL-CIO said, ‘Some workers reported that supervisors slap or hit workers with impunity. In one example, a worker knocked to the ground by a line manager was suspended during an investigation of the incident while the line manager continued in her job.

‘Women reported instances of sexual harassment, as well. Several workers said they or other contract (temporary) workers were offered a permanent job in exchange for sex.’

Mistreatment of workers in the textile industry in Swaziland has been known for many years and workers have staged strikes and other protests to draw attention to the situation.

In its report on human rights in Swaziland in 2013, the US State Department said wage arrears, particularly in the garment industry, were a problem. It said, ‘workers complained that wages were low and that procedures for getting sick leave approved were cumbersome in some factories. The minimum monthly wage for a skilled employee in the industry - including sewing machinists and quality checkers - was E1,128 (US$113). Minimum wage laws did not apply to the informal sector, where many workers were employed.

‘The garment sector also has a standard 48-hour workweek, but workers alleged that working overtime was compulsory because they had to meet unattainable daily and monthly production quotas.’

A damning report on Swaziland’s textile industry called Footloose Investors, Investing in the Garment Industry in Africa, was published in 2007 by SOMO – Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

It said the Swaziland Government gave companies a large number of incentives such as tax exemptions and duty free importation of raw materials. The Government also allowed companies to take all profits and dividends outside of Swaziland, which in effect meant that there was little or no investment within Swaziland from the companies.

With a change of world trading conditions, Swaziland became less attractive to foreign companies. In order to maintain profits the companies began to lobby the Government for changes in the law. The companies especially wanted laws and regulations regarding labour loosened.

SOMO concluded, ‘It seems that the public spending on building shells and infrastructure aimed at attracting foreign investment in the garment industry has not brought about much economic benefit so far.’

The report stated, ‘Companies have been asking for certain “incentives” in exchange for their continued production in the country, implying that the country owes them something for their presence.

‘One of the companies in Swaziland, for example, Tex Ray, announced its willingness to set up a textile mill but asked in return for less stringent labour laws and laws on the environment, and for the prices of electricity and water to be halved. They also felt that government should subsidise the wages.’

In September 2014 hundreds of workers at Tex Ray were affected by poisonous chemical fumes at the factory in Matsapha. Many needed hospital treatment and the factory was closed for several days. The Swazi Observer newspaper reported allegations from workers that retrenchment was a way for the company to avoid liability. The newspaper reported that other textile factories, including Kartat Investments, Kasumi and Union Industrial Washing, continued to operate.

In May 2015, it was estimated 3,000 people in the textile industry lost their jobs when the United States withdrew trading benefits under the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) because of Swaziland’s poor record on human rights which included workers’ rights.

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