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Friday, 14 December 2018

Swaziland soldiers on military training in Russia say they face ‘racism’ – want to return home

Soldiers from Swaziland / eSwatini who are receiving military training in Russia want to go home because they are ill-treated and suffer racism.

Also, they say, the Swazi Government is slow in sending them their allowances and this makes it difficult for them to live.

The Swazi Observer reported on Monday (10 December 2018) the soldiers from the Army, officially known as the Eswatini Umbutfo Defence Force (UEDF), were threatening to leave Russia and return to Swaziland. It reported the soldiers were ‘ill-treated in Russia because of the colour of their skin.  Russia is one of the countries in the world that records high cases associated with racism.’

It added, ‘According to sources closer to the matter the Swazi government is not making things better for them. Amongst other things, it is said that their allowances take a significant time to be deposited into their accounts.’

It quoted an unnamed source saying, ‘Imagine living in a foreign country without money, with no relatives to help you. Russia is not just a country next door of which you can just take a bus home.’
The number of Swazi soldiers in Russia was not disclosed for security reasons.

The Observer reported soldiers were afraid to voice their concerns because they feared they would be sacked.

The source said, ‘The last time one newspaper reported such information, those who communicated with the newspaper were brought back home and were also fired.’

UEDF Communications and Information Officer Lieutenant Officer Tengetile Khumalo denied the claim.

The Observer reported on Wednesday a ‘concerned UEDF member’ said, ‘It is a pity that our grievances are “censored” by those in senior positions in the army. Last year alone, two soldiers returned to Eswatini but they are afraid to talk about it in fear of losing their jobs.’

It quoted Khumalo confirming three soldiers returned without completing the course in Russia, ‘because of their personal problems’. Khumalo added soldiers faced no ill-treatment and hardship.

In 2010, a contract was signed between the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Swaziland Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation providing Swazi military personnel to be educated in Russia on a number of military disciplines that include medicine, artillery and engineering.

See also

Why so much military training?

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Church in Swaziland welcoming LGBTIQ people reopens, but no let-up on discrimination in the kingdom

A church in Swaziland / eSwatini that welcomes and supports LGBTIQ people has reopened.

Homosexual acts are illegal in the kingdom and LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer) people face daily discrimination.

The branch of the Ark of Joy International Ministry was relaunched in Coates Valley. The Sunday edition of the Swazi Observer reported the church in Swaziland had closed some years ago after ‘membership tapered off’.

The news of the relaunch was welcomed by the Rock of Hope which campaigns for LGBTI equality in Swaziland. Spokesperson Melusi Simelane said, ‘It is worth noting that many in the religious circles, continue to spew hate speech and show utter disregard for the deeds of the Lord, by being judgmental and expelling some of the LGBTI community from their places of worship. It is for that reason, we welcome the opening of such churches as those that show the love of God, and preach the spirit of oneness and togetherness.’

Meanwhile, Gender Links, an advocacy group based in Johannesburg, South Africa, reported LGBTI people in Swaziland expressed concern about the lack of respect shown to them because of their sexual orientation.

Sifiso Nhlabatsi, writing on the Gender Links website, said LGBTI people had tried to engage churches to sensitize them about their rights but had little success.

Nhlabatsi wrote about a meeting held between pastors and members of the LGBTI community in August 2018. ‘During the meeting which was attended by over 20 pastors and I was also part of, pastors made it clear that they cannot allow gay people to “flaunt” their behaviour in front of congregants. Pastors said what is being done by LGBTI community  is “demonic” and through prayer maybe can be healed.’

Nhlabatsi added, ‘The meeting which started off on a good note ended on a sour note as the two parties had a clash of opinions. Senior Pastors in the country did not even bother to attend the dialogue.’

Swaziland held its first LGBTI Pride parade on 30 June 2018. Swaziland police went on record to state it did not support the march. Separately, Superintendent Khulani Mamba, the official spokesperson for the police and a self-proclaimed prophet, preached from the pulpit, ‘We say no to homosexuality, this country will not tolerate the LGBTI community.’ 

One of the kingdom’s best-known NGO rights activist groups the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) snubbed the Pride festival saying it was against Biblical teaching. 

Swaziland is a tiny landlocked kingdom with a population of about 1.1 million people, mostly living in rural communities. It is ruled by King Mswati III who is one of the world’s last absolute monarchs who reportedly described homosexuality as being ‘satanic’.

In the run up to the event, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, ran three articles calling LGBTI people ‘a curse’ and ‘evil’ and likening them to child sex molesters and people who had sex with animals.

There is a great deal of prejudice against LGBTI people in Swaziland. In May 2016, Rock of Hope, which organised the Pride event, reported to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review on Swaziland that laws, social stigma and prejudice prevented LGBTI organisations from operating freely.

The report, presented jointly with three South African-based organisations, stated, ‘In Swaziland sexual health rights of LGBT[I] are not protected. There is inequality in the access to general health care, gender affirming health care as opposed to sex affirming health care and sexual reproductive health care and rights of these persons. HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care services continue to be hetero-normative in nature only providing for specific care for men born as male and women born as female, thereby leaving out trans men and women as an unprotected population which continues to render the state’s efforts at addressing the spread and incidence of HIV within general society futile.’

The report added, ‘LGBT[I]s are discriminated and condemned openly by society. This is manifest in negative statements uttered by influential people in society e.g., religious, traditional and political leaders. Traditionalists and conservative Christians view LGBT[I]s as against Swazi tradition and religion. There have been several incidents where traditionalists and religious leaders have issued negative statements about lesbians.  

‘Human rights abuses and violations against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex population continue to go undocumented, unreported, unprosecuted and not addressed.’ 

It added, ‘There is no legislation recognizing LGBT[I]s or protecting the right to a non-heterosexual orientation and gender identity and as a result LGBT[I] cannot be open about their orientation or gender identity for fear of rejection and discrimination. For example, the Marriage Act, only recognizes a marriage or a union between a man and a woman. Because of the absence of a law allowing homosexuals to conclude neither marriage nor civil unions, same-sex partners cannot adopt children in Swaziland.’

See also

LGBT Pride film shows what it’s like to live with prejudice and ignorance in Swaziland
LGBTI Pride gets global attention
‘Observer’ steps up LGBTI hate campaign

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Education Ministry reminds Swaziland schools beating of children is banned - but it is still widespread

Teachers in Swaziland / eSwatini have been reminded in a new government policy statement that corporal punishment of children in schools is outlawed.

It was banned in 2015, but children continue to be beaten, sometimes brutally.

The reminder comes in the National Education and Training Sector Policy from the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) which comes into force in January 2019. It said children should be taught self-discipline and respect for others without fear. All forms of corporal punishment should be replaced by non-violent ‘positive discipline’.

Despite the ban beating is rife in Swaziland schools. As recently as November 2018 it was reported police were investigating St Theresa’s Primary School, Manzini, following an allegation that teachers whipped children to make them do better in their exams. In June 2018 teachers reportedly caned every pupil at Mbuluzi High School for poor performance. 

In August 2017 it was reported boys Salesian High, a Catholic school, were forced to take down their trousers and underpants to allow teachers to beat them on the bare buttocks.

In 2011, Save the Children made a submission on corporal punishment in schools to the United Nations review on human rights in Swaziland. It said punishments at Mhlatane High School in northern Swaziland amounted to ‘torture’. 

In an overview of the situation in Swaziland schools Save the Children reported ‘The hitting of students by teachers in schools is not limited to strokes of the cane, but includes such methods as a slap with the open hand, kicks and fists. 

‘In one case in a school in the south of Swaziland, a young girl was kicked in the groin by her teacher after she refused to lift up her leg during physical education classes. She had told the teacher she cannot lift her leg up because she was wearing nothing underneath. This angered the teacher and earned the girl a kick in the groin. 

‘The damage occasioned led to paralysis as the girl walks with difficulty today, and her menstrual cycle was disturbed since then. Although initially protected by the principal and other Ministry of Education officials in Nhlangano, the teacher was eventually arrested after intervention by the girl’s elder sister.’

In a debate in the Swazi Parliament in March 2017 members called for the cane to be brought back into schools. The MPs said the positive discipline adopted in schools was causing problems for teachers because they no longer knew how to deal with wayward pupils. 

See also

Swaziland police investigate report children illegally beaten to encourage them to do well in exams
Children chained and flogged bare
Children fear beatings, miss school

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Poverty in Swaziland getting worse, new survey suggests. More than half forced to go without food

Poverty in Swaziland / eSwatini got worse over the past three years, according to a survey just published.

More than half the people interviewed reported going without enough food and without needed medical care.

The numbers going without food was 56 percent (up from 51 percent from a similar survey taken in 2015). Those going without medical care was 53 percent (up from 33 percent).

The survey of people in Swaziland was undertaken by Afrobarometer and published on 4 December 2018. Interviews took place in March 2018.

Afrobarometer, a pan-African non-partisan research network that works in 37 African countries, identified what it called ‘lived poverty’ (a lack of basic life necessities).

It reported, ‘Afrobarometer assesses the prevalence of “lived poverty” by asking respondents how often, over the previous year, they or their family members went without enough food, enough clean water, needed medicine or medical care, enough cooking fuel, and a cash income.’

It added, ‘While lived poverty had been declining in eSwatini between the years 2013 and 2015, there has been an increase since then. The share of citizens who went without enough to eat at least once during the previous 12 months increased by 5 percentage points between 2015 and 2018, from 51 percent to 56 percent, while those who experienced a lack of clean water grew by 7 points, from 47 per cent to 54 percent.

‘The largest increases were observed among those who experienced shortages of medical care (from 33 percent to 53 percent) and cooking fuel (from 30 percent to 49 percent). 

‘More than seven in 10 respondents (71 percent) say they went without a cash income at least once during the previous year, up from 68 percent in 2015.  

‘High lived poverty (or frequently going without basic necessities) was experienced by one in four citizens and is twice as common in rural areas as in cities (27 percent vs. 14 percent). It declines steeply as respondents’ education level increases: 62 percent of people without formal education experienced high lived poverty, compared to 34 percent of those with primary education, 20 percent of those with secondary schooling, and 11 percent of those with post-secondary qualifications. 

‘And lived poverty increases with age, ranging from 16 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds to 39 percent of those who are 56 or older.’

Afrobarometer gave figures from a 2018 World Bank report on Swaziland. Afrobarometer said, ‘Six in 10 citizens (60.3 percent) live in poverty, including 38 percent in extreme poverty, which disproportionately affects children, the elderly, the unemployed, as well as female-headed and single-headed households.’

Afrobarometer is not the first organisation to identify the state of poverty in Swaziland where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. In 2017, the global charity Oxfam named Swaziland as the most unequal country in the world in a report called Starting With People, a human economy approach to inclusive growth in Africa detailing the differences in countries between the top most earners and those at the bottom. The Oxfam report stated the government, which is handpicked by King Mswati, ‘failed to put measures in place to tackle inequality, with poor scores for social spending and progressive taxation, and a poor record on labour rights’.

Despite the extreme poverty, the Swazi Government still found US$30 million to buy the King a private jet plane in 2018. King Mswati now has two private planes, 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars. He wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds weighing 6 kg, at his 50th birthday party in April 2018. He received E15 million (US$1.2 million) in cheques, a gold dining room suite and a gold lounge suite among his birthday gifts. 

Meanwhile, the World Food Program has said it cannot raise the US$1.1 million it needs to feed starving children in the kingdom.

Last week it was reported that elderly people in Swaziland had not been receiving their state pensions (known as elderly grants) for the past six months because the Swazi Government did not have the money to pay them. 

See also

New drive against corruption in Swaziland leaves out King Mswati, the biggest drain on the public purse
Seven in ten Swazis go hungry

Monday, 10 December 2018

COSATU to help evicted Swaziland sugar cane farmers regain control of land from King

Kenworthy News Media, 8 December 2018
The President of South African trade federation COSATU met with Swazi sugar cane farmers. She promised to help them regain control of their land from Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III, writes Kenworthy News Media.

COSATU President Zingiswa Losi met with sugar cane farmers from Vuvulane, Mafucula and Shewula in Manzini, Swaziland on Tuesday (4 December 2018). Here she got first-hand information on the ongoing evictions and harassment of the farmers by the Royal Swaziland Sugar Company and the Swaziland Sugar Association, both organisations controlled by King Mswati III.

According to Secretary General of the Media Workers Union of Swaziland, Sicelo Vilane, who was at the meeting, the COSATU President promised the farmers that her organisation will meet with the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland to look at how the farmers could be helped.

“She expressed and offered the solidarity of COSATU and the Southern African Trade Union Co-ordination Council to all the communities who are being subjected to such inhuman treatment”, Vilane says.

Democracy or sanctions
In September, Zingiswa Losi became COSATU’s first ever woman President unopposed. She serves on the ANC national executive committee, but lost out to Jessie Duarte in her bid to become the ANC’s deputy secretary-general last year.

She has advocated for democracy in Swaziland on several occasions as well as calling for economic sanctions against the small landlocked country. In 2012, she told South African newspapers that COSATU “shall be with you [Swaziland] however long it takes, wherever you are and however painful it feels”.

In 2011, Losi was arrested and deported from Swaziland during pro-democracy protests. At the time, COSATU condemned “in the strongest possible terms the brutal crackdown on peaceful protests in Swaziland”.

Given land in 1963
Mpisi Dlamini, a leading member of the Vuvulane Farmers Association, told the COSATU President how he and hundreds of other farmers had been given their land in Vuvulane in 1963 by the Colonial (now Commonwealth) Development Corporation (CDC), says Sicelo Vilane.

“They had produced sugar cane which was milled by the Mhlume Sugar Mill until 1981 when CDC resolved to transfer the land ownership to them. CDC approached [King Mswati III’s father] King Sobhuza II to hand over the title deeds to the farmers, but unfortunately the king passed away before the process was finalised”, according to VIlane.

A few years later, the government had forced the farmers to sign a document that effectively handed over the rights to the land to a company controlled by the royal family. Swaziland’s High Court had ruled in their favour, Dlamini told Losi, but they didn’t get their land back because “the king has taken sides in the matter”.

Losi was also told about forceful evictions and forceful relocations of farmers in Vuvulane, Mafucula and Shewula.

Regular evictions
The Swazi government and Swaziland’s sugar corporations have been harassing, evicting and forcefully relocating sugar cane farmers for many years without compensation to make way for sugar-cane fields controlled by King Mswati.

In 2013 for example, Freedom House reported several “unlawful arrests and detentions carried out by the police” against sugar cane farmers in the Vuvulane area. “Police are increasing pressure on farmers resisting their unlawful evictions from land that they have occupied for generations”, Freedom House stated.

In February 2016, 22 Vuvulane farmers were evicted from lands that they and their families had tended since 1963 by Vuvulane Irrigated Farms and the Swaziland Sugar Corporation.

And an Amnesty International report from September described two cases of forced and unlawful evictions without warning: One in the Malkers, where 60 people were evicted in April, and one in Nokwane, where 180 people were evicted in October 2014.

According to the report, the government “failed to provide essential services to those affected by the forced eviction: food, potable water and sanitation, basic shelter and housing, appropriate clothing or means of livelihood”. The forced evictions were a symptom of “a deeper, underlying problem” that violates international and regional human rights law, Amnesty said.

The more recent evictions have happened amongst other things because the king and his mother wish to use land in Vuvulane to construct a new town,  the sugar cane famers say.

‘Swazi gold’
Sugar – known in Swaziland as ‘Swazi gold’ – is Swaziland’s main export commodity. With a population of only 1.3 million people, Swaziland is the 4th largest sugar producer in Africa. Sugar production accounts for over half of Swaziland’s agricultural output and nearly one fifth of Swaziland’s GDP.

According to a 2016 report from the International Trade Union Confederation, Mswati uses sugar profits to sweeten his own life, leaving sugar-cane farmers and the majority of the population bitterly impoverished.

And a 2017 report by Danish solidarity organisation Afrika Kontakt revealed how 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.

See also

EU money pays for lavish Swazi king
Human suffering and Swazi sugar
King exploits sugar workers

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Man close to death following ‘assault’ by officers at Swaziland police station

A man is reportedly fighting for life in hospital after being allegedly assaulted by two officers at a police station in Swaziland/ Eswatini.

He is suffering from severe internal bleeding, heart seizures, the swelling of his kidneys and nerve damage on both his arms and legs.

The Swazi Observer reported on Thursday (29 November 2018) that the man whom it did not name was from Mangwaneni. It said police accused him of having stolen items from a house, which he denied.

It reported him saying, ‘[Police] assaulted me by first tying a piece of cloth around my mouth so that I cannot scream. They then hit me multiple times with fists and kicks in the stomach. I fell to the floor and the police stood on my stomach while laughing. They then put a plastic bag over may face and thereafter sank my head into water until I passed out.’

It reportedly happened on Saturday. Since then the alleged victim has been in hospital.
The Observer reported, ‘Currently, the assault victim is still in critical condition with medical practitioners saying he might lose his life due to the multiple internal injuries he allegedly suffered during the assault.’

Police said they were investigating the alleged incident.

There are numerous reports in Swaziland of assault and brutality at police stations. In September 2018, four women were reportedly beaten with sjamboks [whips] and pipes and scalded with boiling water at Siteki police station. Two of them needed hospital treatment for burns and blisters. They were accused of stealing from shops.

In March 2017, a man accused of multiple murders told a court he was tortured by police for 11 days to force him to confess. He said he was suffocated with a tube and assaulted all over his body, resulting in many serious injuries. The alleged attack was said to have taken place at Lobamba Police Station, the Manzini Magistrates’ Court was told.

In January 2017, local media reported police forced a 13-year-old boy to remove his trousers and flogged him at Ngwenya police station with a sjambok, to make him confess to stealing a mobile phone. 

In June 2016, a United Nations review panel looking into human rights in Swaziland was told in a joint report by four organisations, ‘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.

See also

Police must not beat suspects: Court

Monday, 26 November 2018

Swaziland students sell themselves for sex because scholarships have not been paid

Students in Swaziland / Eswatini are selling themselves for sex to raise cash for food because the government has not paid their allowances.
A trade in young women has developed with businessmen ‘pimping’ students to affluent tourists from neighbouring South Africa, the Sunday edition of the Swazi Observer reported (5 November 2018).

According to the newspaper the students are taken from the Kwaluseni campus of the University of Eswatini (formerly UNISWA), ‘for purposes of pimping them to affluent tourists flooding a popular hangout spot in Matsapha’.

The Observer reported, ‘These businessmen take advantage of  the girls’ financial situation on campus and select “top of the grade” individuals for purposes of promoting their business into hosting upmarket guests. They also take advantage of the girl’s academic statuses to market them to guests who arrive solely for purposes of whetting their sexual appetites.’

The newspaper reported, ‘delayed payments of allowances which themselves are meagre force girl students into availing themselves for sexual favours in exchange for food, drinks and other goodies’.

It said the businessmen target the youngest first-year students.

It quoted one student saying, ‘They become virtual call girls.’ The student added the men spend fortunes on them and then demand sex.

There is an ongoing dispute between students and the government over the payment of scholarships and allowances that cover fees, living expenses and items such as books. In May 2017, the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) launched a campaign for scholarships for all. They want the Swazi Government to reverse a decision taken eight years ago to prioritise courses and cut scholarships by 60 percent. Students want all students admitted to higher learning institutions to have scholarships, regardless of the programme they are doing or the institution they are in.

Meanwhile, the outgoing President of SNUS Brian Sangweni told its 11th National General Congress that thousands of high school graduates with good grades remained idle at home because the government would not pay them scholarships to study.

He said, ‘Those who are lucky to make it and enrol into the institutions are also not off the hook of suffering due to lack of living allowances to enable them to live a healthy and dignified period of study and to realise their optimal potential.’

He added students were finding it hard to concentrate to their studies and some dropped out or committed suicide because of the pressure.

See also

In full public view, on hand and knees student begs Swaziland King for scholarship

Friday, 23 November 2018

Swaziland has no cash to pay elderly pensions, Prime Minister says he will fly business class to save money

Swaziland / Eswatini is so broke that pensions for the elderly are not being paid.  State-controlled radio has been broadcasting the news over the past few days.

It is another example of how the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III has been mismanaged. The pensions for people aged 60 and over, known locally as elderly grants, are for E400 (US$30) per month. 

About 70,000 people receive the grants which often are the only income a family has.

A year ago it was reported  more than 80 percent of women aged 60 and over and 70 percent of men in Swaziland lived in poverty. The figures were contained in the National Strategy and Action Plan to End Violence in Swaziland: 2017 to 2022.

About seven in ten of Swaziland’s 1.1 million population live in abject poverty defined as having incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. The report said poverty among people aged 60 or over was highest compared to other age groups.

News that elderly grants cannot be paid comes as the new government in Swaziland announced ‘cost-saving’ measures. At a press conference on Thursday (22 November 2018) Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced that senior government officials would no longer fly first class when they travelled abroad on official business. In future they would go by business class.

He also shelved a plan to buy new top-of-the-range vehicles for himself and the Deputy Prime Minister. Cars recently rented for the use of Cabinet ministers will be returned.

Swaziland is broke and as of 30 June 2018 owed a total of E12.9 billion, the equivalent of 20.8 percent of the kingdom’s GDP. Of that nearly E3 billion is owed to suppliers of goods and services.

Hospitals and health centres across Swaziland have run out of medicines, including  vaccines against polio and tuberculosis, because drug suppliers had not been paid.

In June 2018 it was reported that children collapsed with hunger in their school because the government had not paid for food for them. The kingdom had previously been warned to expect children to starve because the government had not paid its suppliers for the food that is distributed free of charge at schools. The shortage was reported to be widespread across the kingdom.

Meanwhile, King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as one of the world’s last absolute monarchs, wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds weighing 6 kg, at his 50th birthday party in April. Days earlier he took delivery of his second private jet, a A340 Airbus, that after VIP upgrades reportedly cost US$30 million. He received E15 million (US$1.2 million) in cheques, a gold dining room suite and a gold lounge suite among his birthday gifts. He now has two private planes, 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars.

See also

Swazi Govt fails to pay elderly grants

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Campaign growing for arrest of Swaziland Prince over kidnapping and rape allegation

A campaign is gaining momentum in Swaziland / Eswatini to have a member of the Royal Family arrested on a rape charge.

One newspaper reported the prince whose name has been widely circulated on social media tried to bribe the victim to drop the allegation by offering her a scholarship to leave the kingdom and study abroad.

It reported the prince and a friend allegedly kidnapped, drugged and raped a university student at a guest house on the outskirts of Manzini.

The Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland (18 November 2018) said police had been informed of the alleged rape in early September 2018 but had made no arrest. The alleged rapist is a prince in the Royal Family that has King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of the kingdom, at its head.

Later, an online petition was launched calling on the chief of police to arrest the prince. More than 2,100 people had signed as of Wednesday morning (21 November 2018). Part of the petition reads, ‘A prince and his friend are accused of allegedly kidnapping, drugging and raping a teenage UNESWA [University of Eswatini] student. She has reported the matter to the police and despite this, neither the prince nor his friend have been arrested. There are allegations that the victim has recently been harassed and intimidated by the perpetrators. The victim has also been offered an overseas scholarship if she drops the charges. Section 20 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Eswatini provides for equality before the all. The prince, like all other accused persons, must be arrested prosecuted and let the courts of law decide his fate. The law must not have eyes!’

Also, a group of people marched on the Manzini regional police headquarters calling for the arrest of the prince and his friend. The Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (21 November 2018).

It said their concerns were ‘fuelled by what they said was deafening silence over this incident which occurred two months ago. They further expressed sheer frustration with the fact that no one has been arrested after the alleged student’s rape.’

In an interview in the Times of Swaziland (21 November 2018) the prince said he had nothing to hide and would cooperate with a police investigation.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Swaziland students in Taiwan forced to work ‘like slaves’ in frozen chicken factory

Students from Swaziland / Eswatini studying in Taiwan are being made to work in a frozen chicken factory for 40 hours a week to pay for tuition and accommodation. If they try to leave their university will punish them and their condition has been likened to slavery.

More than 40 Swazi students are said to be involved, according to the Swazi Observer newspaper. It said they only attend studies for two days a week.

The Observer reported on Monday (19 November 2018) the students went to Taiwan in September 2018 to study for a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) at the private MingDao University in Pitou.

The Observer reported, ‘According to several sources who are based in Taiwan, and familiar with the situation, these students are forced to work in the chicken factory where they are made to peel chickens under freezing temperatures to pay for their tuition fees and accommodation at the university.

‘They work for 40 hours in a week, which is ten hours per day. The conditions are so unfavourable that two of the students are reportedly back in the country after failing to keep up with the situation.’ It added the students only have one full day and a half day of studies and they work for five days.

It quoted a source saying, ‘The institution is making a profit out of the students because they get only two per cent of their earnings and the rest is forfeited for tuition fees and accommodation but the forfeited sum is way more than the fees of the two. This is a case of slavery and the students all want to come back home due to the unfavourable conditions they are exposed to in Taiwan.’

It reported one student likened the situation to ‘slavery’ because ‘the students cannot just leave, as the university will punish those remaining behind’.

The source said, ‘If you run away, the ones left behind will be made to suffer.’

Swaziland makes a lot of its relationship with Taiwan. The kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch is the only nation in Africa that officially recognises Taiwan. In 2018 Taiwan gave the King US$1.3 million towards the cost of his 50th birthday celebration. In April 2018 the King called on the United Nations to admit Taiwan to the organisation. Taiwan, which calls itself the Republic of China on Taiwan, is not recognised by the UN because the People’s Republic of China claims the territory as its own.

Taiwan has a history of exploitation in Swaziland. Taiwanese textile firms operate in Swaziland and have a poor record on workers’ rights.

In July 2014 a survey of the Swazi textile industry undertaken by the Trade 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.

Taiwan also donates aid to Swaziland. It regularly supplies tens of thousands of pairs of sneakers to women who participate in the annual Reed Dance where ‘maidens’ dance topless in front of the King. It is also spending E260 million (US$21 million) over five years to rebuild the out-patient department of Mbabane Government Hospital.

See also

‘Slave labour’ at textile factory
Taiwan first guest at King’s party

Monday, 19 November 2018

Swaziland King’s newspaper reports ‘assassination attempt’ on Prince Sicelo

A newspaper in Swaziland / Eswatini has reported what it calls an ‘assassination’ attempt against Prince Sicelo, a prominent member of the Swazi Royal Family.

The Sunday edition of the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III the absolute ruler in Swaziland, reported Sicelo was the victim of a drive-by shooting.

In the headline to its story the Observer said he had been ‘left for dead’.

The Observer reported (18 November 2018) Prince Sicelo was driving a white seven-seater vehicle at  Malagwane Hill near Mbabane when he was pursued by another vehicle that flashed its lights.

It reported he slowed down ‘ready to engage his pursuers’.

It added, ‘Just as the vehicle reached his side, he is said to have heard a loud banging sound which left him disoriented.

‘Seeing as he was slowing down, he is said to have involuntarily continued pressing his foot on the brakes as he moved further to the side of the road.

‘While in shock at the occurrence, still not aware that he had been shot, he is said to have heard two people approach the vehicle.’

The Observer said the attack happened on 20 September 2018 but details had only just emerged. It reported he lost consciousness for a while but later woke up and drove himself to the Mbabane Clinic where he was admitted for a week while being treated.

It reported he was ‘left for dead’ but added only one shot was fired and this lodged in his thigh.

It reported the attack as an ‘assassination attempt’ and said police later found a gun that it believed was used in the shooting.

Prince Sicelo is a controversial member of the Swazi Royal Family. Alleged exploits in his personal life are widely reported on social media.

Swaziland is an absolute monarchy. Political parties are banned from taking part in national elections and the King appoints the Prime Minister and Cabinet members. The attack on Prince Sicelo happened on the day before the national election in September 2018.

See also

PM speaks of ‘assassination threat’

Friday, 16 November 2018

Legitimacy and credibility of Swaziland election hampered by political parties ban, UN group reports

The ‘legitimacy and credibility’ of the recent national election in Swaziland / Eswatini was ‘significantly hampered’ because political parties are banned in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, according to a United Nations group.

The King has ‘excessive powers’ in the appointment of the Government, Parliament and the judiciary, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) said in a report just published.

It follows a visit to Swaziland on 6 to 8 November 2018 to review a number of human rights issues outlined in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The HRC reported, ‘According to the Constitution of Eswatini (Swaziland), the system of Government is based on the Tinkhundla, in which individual merit is a basis for election and appointment into public office. In practice, this translates in a system where the King has excessive powers appointment over the Government, Parliament and the judiciary, incompatible with article 25 of the ICCPR.’

Elections for the House of Assembly took place on 21 September 2018. Political parties were banned from taking part. The people were only allowed to elect 59 members of the House, a further 10 were appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swazi Senate were elected by the people; 10 were elected by the House of assembly and 20 appointed by the King.

Following the election the King appointed a Prime Minister and Cabinet in contravention of the Swaziland Constitution. He also appointed six members of his Royal Family to the House of Assembly and eight to the Senate.

In its report the Human Rights Committee said, ‘The legitimacy and credibility of the elections was significantly hampered by the design of the electoral mechanisms as a culture of political pluralism is lacking. There is no freedom of genuine and pluralistic political debate, political parties are unable to register, contest elections, field candidates or otherwise participate in the formation of a Government. 

‘Political organisations have tried to challenge the Government to allow at least individual candidates to express their affiliation to political parties during the election campaigning period in order to promote steps towards political plurality. On 20 July 2018, the High Court of Eswatini dismissed an application brought by SWADEPA for an interim order allowing individual candidates to express their affiliation to political parties during the election campaign period.’

Swaziland ratified the ICCPR in 2004 and its initial report on progress was due by 2005, but by 2017 it had failed to report. After such a long delay the HRC reviewed of the kingdom in the absence of report. The November visit was an attempt to review progress since then.

See also

Swaziland quizzed on terror law