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Tuesday, 28 November 2017


EU sugar-coats absolute monarchy’s bitter pill
Kenworthy News Media, 27 November 2017

European Union-support for Swaziland’s monarchy-controlled sugar industry undermines the fight for democracy, even though it nominally benefits smallholders, says a new report from a Danish solidarity organization, writes Kenworthy News Media.

A new report from Afrika Kontakt commends the EU for supporting Swaziland’s sugar industry, which benefits thousands of smallholder growers of sugar cane. The problem is, however, that the smallholder growers are also left vulnerable by sugar price fluctuations and transport costs, as well as by the corruption and undermining of the fight for democracy, that EU-support for Swaziland’s sugar industry, healthcare and education systems allows.

The report is based on extensive research in Swaziland, including field studies and interviews with most actors in Swaziland’s sugar industry.

Support ends up in king’s pocket

Despite Swaziland being a small country with a population of just under 1.3 million; it is nevertheless Africa’s fourth largest sugar producer. The sugar industry employs 16 percent of the adult population in a country where unemployment is close to 30 percent, and is thus the country’s most important industry.

Swaziland is not a democracy by any definition of the word, even though elections are held every five years, the report insists, but in fact an absolute monarchy. The country spends more money on security than health, and six percent of its budget goes towards maintenance of the king’s household. It is also the most unequal country in the world, with the highest HIV-prevalence and the lowest life expectancy in the world.

“There are strong political powers that have little or no interest in changing the undemocratic nature of Swaziland. Support to the sugar industry, in the way that it is currently conducted, will therefore unavoidably and primarily end up supporting the royal family and thus undermine the democratic forces in the country,” the report says.

Demand democratic reform

As one of Swaziland’s main trading partners, who spends millions of Euros every year on development aid to Swaziland, the EU is actually in a position to demand democratic change in Swaziland, however, one of the authors of the report, Klaus Stig Kristensen from Afrika Kontakt says.

“Swaziland is a de facto dictatorship and it is difficult to ensure that international support doesn’t end up lining the pockets of King Mswati and his family. Tough measures are needed to avoid this, including demands for democratic reform and monitoring of these demands.  And if these demands not met there should be consequences, such as suspending development aid to Swaziland,” says Kristensen.

His report recommends that the EU support the democratic movement fighting for change, including illegal political parties, unions and right-based groups.

The EU should also demand that Swaziland, as a country without external enemies, spends less on security and more on the welfare of its impoverished population, and condemn Swaziland’s lack of compliance with its international rights-based obligations.

Afrika Kontakt has run development projects with Swazi civil society organisations for a decade.   

Monday, 27 November 2017


Residents in Swaziland have been fined for not attending community meetings and paying ‘homage’ to their chief.

About 20 families have been affected in in the Southern Hhohho region, according to a newspaper report in Swaziland.

It happened at Mvutshini where 20 homesteads were fined E900 each (US$64) ‘for not attending community meetings and not paying homage to the Ezulwini chiefdom,’ the Observer on Saturday reported (25 November 2017).

In Swaziland seven in ten people live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

The newspaper added, ‘They were also given at least seven days to each settle the amount or they would face the wrath’ of the main chiefdom at Ezulwini where Sifiso Mashampu Khumalo is chief.

In Swaziland chiefs are appointed by King Mswati III, who rules the kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Chiefs are considered to be his direct representative and they have enormous power over their subjects. In June 2017 Chief Somtsewu Motsa of Lushishikishini threatened too banish all single mothers from the area he rules over to ease the burden to the community of children born out of wedlock.

The Observer on Saturday (17 June 2017) said Chief Somtsewu Motsa had called a meeting of all ‘single mothers, pastors and those known to have impregnated girls without marrying them’. The newspaper reported, ‘Reliable sources said the traditional authorities were threatening to evict anyone to be seen to defy the chief’s order.’

This was not an isolated incident. It is through chieftaincies that the King maintains control of his people and chiefs do his bidding at a local level. People know not to get on the wrong side of 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. 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 street in full view of the public because she was wearing trousers.

In November 2013, the newly-appointed Chief Ndlovula of Motshane threatened to evict nearly 1,000 of his subjects from grazing land if they did not pay him a E5,000 (about US$500 at the time) fine, the equivalent of more than six months income for many.

Chiefs are given stipends by the national treasury, but not salaries, and community members pay their allegiance to chiefs by weeding and harvesting their fields, and constructing the traditional mud and thatch huts usually found at chiefs’ homesteads.

 See also 



Sunday, 26 November 2017


The elderly in Swaziland have not been paid pensions because the government does not have the money.

This was revealed when about 4,000 people became eligible for the pensions (known as elderly grants) when they reached the age of 60 and many were turned away when they went to collect them.

Meanwhile, King Mswati III has had a budget increase that would pay for the new pensions ten times over.

A media report in Swaziland estimated that the government needed about an extra E20 million (US$1.4 million) to pay for the new pensioners and another E40 million to meet a shortfall to pay the existing 66,000 people already receiving the pensions.

The Government said it had no budget to pay the new pensions. It has a budget of E282 million for the elderly, but with the reviewed monthly grant, rising from E220 to E400 has meant that this budget became insufficient, the Observer on Saturday reported (18 November 2017).

The Deputy Prime Minister Paul Dlamini told the House of Assembly there was no money to pay the grants. The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported, ‘Dlamini said these new elderly had not been budgeted for by government nor was an allocation made by Parliament.’

The newspaper added, ‘He said government was not reneging on its commitment to support the welfare of the elderly, but was resource constrained.’

Although the government did not provide sufficiently for the elderly in its 2017 budget it did increase spending on the Swaziland Royal Household by E200 million (US$14 million) to E1.3 billion. King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

An independent monthly magazine in the kingdom the Nation reported (April 2017), ‘While the entire budget for King Mswati and the royal household continues to grow in hundreds of millions of emalangeni every year, social grants for elderly and the physically challenged showed a very insignificant increase.’

Seven in ten of the King’s 1.3 million subjects have incomes of less than US$2 per day.

The Nation reported the budget increase as ‘mouth-watering’. It said elderly grants had a ‘paltry’ increase. The Finance Minister Martin Dlamini announced in his February budget the grant would rise from E240 to E400 per month.

The Nation reported, ‘Even health institutions have seen cuts to their budget allocations this year while the army’s allocation continues to rise unabated even though the country is at peace. Money for agriculture has also been cut, despite that the country has just come out a devastating drought and farmers need help to find their feet.’

King Mswati has been criticised outside Swaziland for his lavish spending. He has 13 palaces, fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars and at least one Rolls-Royce. He is to receive a second private jet aircraft next year.

In the budget announced in February 2017, nearly E2.7 billion (US$216 million) was allocated to 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). 

This is more than the E2.2bn allocated to health in the coming financial year and E585 million more than allocated to security in 2016-2017.

Security now takes up 12.4 percent of Swaziland’s total budget of E21.7bn ($US1.66 bn), up 11 percent on last year.

In the calendar year 2014, Swaziland’s military spending was estimated to be US$80.6 million; about the equivalent of US$62 for every person in the kingdom.

See also


Saturday, 25 November 2017


Swaziland’s only independent newspaper group is predicting a national strike of public servants after the kingdom’s Industrial Court dismissed an application for a pay increase.

Unions involved include the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), Swaziland Association of Government Accounting Personnel (SNAGAP), Swaziland Nurses Association (SNA), and the National Public Services and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU).

The Swazi News, part of the Times of Swaziland, the only independent newspaper group in Swaziland where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported on Saturday (25 November 2017) a union leader saying a strike would be ‘devastating to the public’.

The unions grouped together as the Public Sector Associations (PSAs) asked for a 9.15 cost of living pay adjustment, but later reduced this to 7.85 percent after the government said it would not pay an increase because it could not afford to.

A dispute has been dragging on for weeks. On Friday the Industrial Court dismissed the PSAs’ application to determine the cost of living adjustment matter because deadlock had been reached in negotiations with the government. It said the court had no jurisdiction and it was up to the two parties to approach the Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration Commission.

The newspaper reported the court acknowledged that the PSAs believed strike action was an option.

The newspaper added, ‘SNAT Secretary General Zwelithini Mndzebele said since they were at a deadlock, the only option available under normal circumstances would be to strike, the effects of which would be devastating to the public.

‘Among other things, Mndzebele said if the associations were to strike, investors would have to consider the security of their loans and the investment they have made in the country.’

The unions held a one-day strike in October when they marched to the Ministry of Public Service and the Prime Minister’s Office.

Although ordinary public servants have been told there is no money for them, new salary scales for senior public servants have been announced. They were contained in ‘Establishment circular number 2 of 2017’, dated 6 August 2017. The Sunday Observer newspaper (29 October 2017) published details. It said 75 senior government officials within various ministries and cabinet offices got increases at a cost of E2.9 million (US$210,000). 

It reported, ‘Among the list are 13 ambassadors or high commissioners’ posts which are the highest paid in the list as they moved from grade F2 to F3 which is E569,646 annum followed by 27 undersecretaries and four regional secretaries who had been upgraded from F1 to F2. The position of undersecretaries and regional officers (RO) had been re-graded by the Ministry of Public Service from F1 scale which had been cited as an anomaly because it rendered them earning a similar amount as their subordinates or less in some cases. 

‘As of this month the basic salaries of the administration under-secretaries increased from the annual of E462,929 to E550,303 which translate to a monthly basic salary of E38,577 to E45,858 which is an increment E7,281, while that of the undersecretaries and schools manager in the Ministry of Education increases from E35,684 to E43,226. Those of regional officers is expected to increase from E17,690 to E38,067.’

See also


Thursday, 23 November 2017


King Mswati III, the absolute monarch in Swaziland, has been named in an global report on human trafficking for forcing children to work in his fields.

One organisation has called this modern day ‘slavery’.

It is not the first time the King has been criticised for using forced labour.

The annual Trafficking in Persons Report for 2017 from the United States State Department stated it had been reporting conditions in Swaziland for the past five years. It said, ‘Swazis are culturally expected to participate in the seasonal weeding and harvesting of the King’s fields and those who may refuse are subject to coercion through threats and intimidation by their chiefs.’

A report Child Labor and Forced Labor from the US Department of Labor looking at 2016 stated penalties imposed by chiefs included ‘evicting families from their village and confiscating livestock’.

King Mswati was at the centre of an international controversy in January 2015 when Swazi Media Commentary revealed that schools in Swaziland were forced to stay closed after Christmas so children could weed the King’s fields. As many as 30,000 children were thought to have missed schooling as a result. 

The Global Slavery Index for 2016 reported that the Swazi Government ‘attempted to backtrack on its intentions when its use of unpaid child labour was reported by international media’.

See also


Wednesday, 22 November 2017


Swaziland came 50th out of 54 African countries for participation and human rights in a survey just published. It has got worse over the past five years.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation reported its Index of African Governance on Monday (20 November 2017). Swaziland which is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, scored a total 48.9 out of 100 in a range of four areas of governance. Swaziland got a score of 24.6 out of 100 in participation and human rights.

The annual report did not detail the kinds of human rights abuses taking place in Swaziland but these have been well documented elsewhere.

The United States State Department in its annual report on human rights in Swaziland published in 2017 stated, ‘The principal human rights concerns are that citizens do not have the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot; police use of excessive force, including torture, beatings, and unlawful killings; restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; and discrimination against and abuse of women and children.’

It added, ‘Other human rights problems included arbitrary killings; arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community and persons with albinism; mob violence; harassment of labor leaders; child labor; and restrictions on worker rights.’

Human Rights Watch in its report on events in Swaziland in 2016 stated Swaziland, ‘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.’

In May 2017 the global charity Oxfam named Swaziland as the most unequal country in the world. The report called Starting With People, a human economy approach to inclusive growth in Africa detailed the differences in countries between the top most earners and those at the bottom.

In 2014 the United States withdrew trading privileges from Swaziland under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) because the kingdom had not fulfilled all the requirements of the programme, including respect for human rights.

The US wanted Swaziland to implement the full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to the STA; full passage of amendments to the Public Order Act; full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act relating to civil and criminal liability to union leaders during protest actions; and establishing a code of conduct for the police during public protests. 

Amnesty International in April 2015 renewed its criticism of Swaziland for the ‘continued persecution of peaceful political opponents and critics’ by the King and his authorities using the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act.

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.’

See also


Thursday, 16 November 2017


A new report that more than 11,000 children in Swaziland are forced to stay away from school to tend cattle is only the tip of an iceberg in child exploitation in the kingdom.

A draft Report on Child Labour In Herding In Rural Areas of Swaziland published in the Times of Swaziland on Thursday (16 November 2017) revealed 11,329 children between the ages of eight and 17 were not attending school because they were engaged in herding. Of these, 1,917 were aged between eight and 12 years. 

Children reported they were kept away from school because parents or guardians could not afford school fees or they had to work to help pay family debts.

But the report failed to uncover the full extent of forced child labour in Swaziland where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

A report on forced child labour in Swaziland from the United States Department of Labor covering 2016  identified what it called ‘categorical worst forms of child labour’ widespread in the kingdom as livestock herding, domestic work, farming and market vending.

It said Swaziland was ‘complicit in the use of forced child labour’. It concluded Swaziland made ‘no advancement’ because ‘local chiefs continued to force children to engage in agricultural and domestic work.

‘Penalties for refusing to perform this work included evicting families from their village and confiscating livestock.’

The Department of Labor said Swaziland had  signed a number of international conventions on child labour but they had not been enforced.

The report said children were being trafficked outside the kingdom to neighbouring countries such as South Africa, ‘for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in agriculture and domestic work’.

It also said some Mozambican boys migrate to Swaziland and become victims of human trafficking and are forced to conduct street work and herd livestock. Lubombo and Manzini were said to be the worst regions for forced child labour.

The report said, ‘Swazi children have become increasingly vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor due to the high prevalence of HIV, low economic growth, and high poverty levels.’

See also