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Wednesday, 31 January 2018


A chief in Swaziland is forcing his subjects to pay for him to have a new car.

Chief Mlotjwa II of KaLiba in the outskirts of Hlatikulu town in the Shiselweni region has demanded E100 (US$8) contributions from residents, the Sunday Observer newspaper reported (28 January 2018). In Swaziland seven in ten people live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

Chiefs are the local representatives of King Mswati III who rules the impoverished kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The chief wields tremendous power over their subjects and can, for example, determine whether people are allowed to live in the area, or whether children can attend universities and colleges. In some cases they decide who lives and who dies as they are in charge of distributing international food aid to starving communities. About a third of the population of Swaziland receiving food aid each year. 

The Observer reported, ‘Some of the residents have been questioning why they should buy the chief a motor vehicle. The residents were allegedly told to make E100 contributions towards buying the chief’s car.’

It added, one resident complained, ‘We don’t understand why we have to buy him a car, a personal car for that matter. This is not part of paying allegiance to the chief.’

The chief’s representative Obert Hlatjwako said residents had been asked but not forced to contribute. 

He then demanded that the newspaper reveal the names of the people who had made the complaints. 

Chiefs in Swaziland have a long history of abusing their subjects. In November 2017 it was reported about 20 families in Mvutshini in the Southern Hhohho region, were fined E900 each (US$64) for not attending community meetings and paying homage to their chiefdom. 

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.’

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.

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Swaziland’s blood shortage crisis is continuing. It is one of a number of crises afflicting health in the kingdom.

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (30 January 2018) that blood stocks fell during December 2017 because donors were typically children who gave donations through their schools.

It reported a family of a man suffering from bone marrow deficiency who feared he might die  due to the blood shortage.

Deputy Director of Health Dr Velephi Okello confirmed to the newspaper that there was a shortage. The Observer reported her saying, ‘Our donors are mainly school going children hence when schools close there are fewer donations coming in which resulted in the shortage.

‘Also, during the December holidays, there is a high demand for blood at the exact same time when the donors are not easily accessible.’

She added, ‘We will start our campaigns now that the schools have opened and we hope soon the shortage will be a thing of the past.’

The blood shortage crisis has been going on since at least June 2017. At that time the Ministry of Health turned to inmates in correctional facilities for blood but the news agency APA reported some people were against this ‘as they said it was against certain standards’.

Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has been gripped by a health crisis for a number of years. Much of it has been caused by the government’s failure to pay drugs’ suppliers.

Early in January 2018 health facilities were reported to have run out of vaccines against polio and tuberculosis and new-born babies were being put a risk.

In June 2017, Senator Prince Kekela told parliament that at least five people had died as a result of the drug shortages. About US$18 million was reportedly owed to drug companies in May 2017.

As ordinary people died the Prime Minister Barnabas 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.

Dlamini celebrated his 75th birthday in 2017. The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported (5 June 2017), ‘The Prime Minister said he was grateful that when Their Majesties were informed about his ailment in April, they responded hastily and ordered that he be taken to the best doctors in Taiwan, Taipei.  

‘“Their Majesties gave orders that I go to the best and well experienced doctors in Taiwan. I am now looking forward to turning 76 years and I thank God for keeping me safe,” he said.’

The nature of his illness has not been publicly revealed.

King Mswati lives a lavish lifestyle with at least 13 palaces, a private jet aircraft with another due to arrive in 2018, and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars. Meanwhile seven in ten of his 1.2 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

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Tuesday, 30 January 2018


Newspaper editors in Swaziland were on the payroll of murdered businessman Victor Gamedze, Zweli Martin Dlamini the exiled editor of Swaziland Shopping has said.

Dlamini fled to South Africa after a tip-off that he was to be arrested because he had upset the powers in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

His newspaper has been closed down by the Swazi Government. The reporting style of the Swaziland Shopper had also been criticised by the Swaziland Editors’ Forum.

In an interview with South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper published on Friday (26 January 2018), Dlamini said, ‘The editors’ forum was captured by Victor Gamedze. Almost all the editors were on his payroll. You know the Guptas in South Africa? It was like that. The reason they were saying they are unhappy is that I was writing about somebody they regarded as untouchable. So when I exposed the guy, he would go back to them to complain.’

The Mail & Guardian reported, ‘The Swaziland Shopping published its last edition in December. Dlamini never got to publish his last major scoop: a sensational story detailing how Gamedze was plotting to assassinate Mswati, which was distributed instead on social media. The story was long on speculation but short on evidence and, just days after it was made public, Dlamini was warned to get out of dodge.

‘A month after Dlamini fled the country, Gamedze was shot dead in broad daylight, at a petrol station, where he had stopped to grab a cup of coffee. 

‘The murder rocked Swaziland’s political elite to its core. Gamedze was no ordinary businessperson. His connections went all the way to the top, to the king, and he used these to build himself a business empire. He ran the controversial Swazi Mobile and presided over Mbabane Swallows, Swaziland’s biggest football club. His wealth and his social status should have made him untouchable, but also made him plenty of powerful enemies.’

The Mail & Guardian reported that Gamedze was ‘especially controversial’. It quoted one anonymous ‘senior editor’ saying, ‘Victor had captured the media. He had a very low opinion of the media, believed it was too powerful, and he wanted everyone to write what he said. He had the ability to call and stop stories from being published.’

The Mail & Guardian reported, ‘One example: in 2014, Gamedze assaulted Baphelele Kunene, a journalist with the Swazi Observer, in front of the paper’s managing editor. Although Kunene reported the assault to the police, they took no action. Another newspaper, which reported on the assault, had its distribution of that edition disrupted.’

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Swaziland scored a mere three points out of 100 in a global review of its budget transparency.

The kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch received zero points in a section on public participation as there were no opportunities for the public to engage in budget processes.

The scores are revealed in the 2017 Transparency Open Budget Survey produced by the International Budget Partnership (IBP).

While Swaziland scored three points, neighbouring South Africa scored 89.

In an 80-page report IBP revealed that the Swaziland legislature provides weak oversight of the budget. In Swaziland political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the Prime Minister, Cabinet and top judges and public servants are all chosen by the King.

IBP said the Swazi parliament was unable to discuss the budget properly because it was not provided with sufficient information. It said the government’s budget proposal should be available two months before the start of the budget year.

The IBP collaborates with civil society around the world to use budget analysis and advocacy as a tool to improve effective governance and reduce poverty.

This is not the first time that budget transparency in Swaziland has been criticised. The United States State Department in its annual Fiscal Transparency Report regularly points out the kingdom’s deficiencies. In its 2017 report it said, ‘Swaziland’s fiscal transparency would be improved by: providing more detail on expenditures and revenues in the budget, particularly for off-budget accounts, natural resource revenues, and royal family expenditures; subjecting the entire budget to audit and oversight; demonstrating applicable laws are followed in practice for awarding natural resource extraction contracts and licenses; and making basic information on natural resource extraction awards publicly available.’

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Monday, 29 January 2018


The Swazi Government ignores the law when spending nearly E10billion (US$840million) of public money buying goods and services, according to the Swaziland Public Procurement Regulatory Agency (SPPRA).

SPPRA Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Musa Sikhondze said government did not stick to rules laid down in the Public Procurement Act of 2011 when it came to tendering.

He told a meeting of media that government spent about on average E10 billion on procurement each year. The Times of Swaziland reported on Monday (29 January 2018), ‘He stated that they remained challenged to develop systems that would ensure that there is value for money as government undertakes procurement procedures but were challenged by the a number of issues that include budgetary constraints and being understaffed.’

SPPRA Director Policy, Legislation and Investigations Buhle Dlamini said out of 92 entities, especially in central government, only three adhered to the procurement act. The newspaper quoted him saying, ‘At present, we do not know how many tenders are being issued by government.’

The Times estimated 97 per cent of government institutions did not stick to the law.  

Meanwhile, the United States has once again criticised Swaziland for the secrecy there is around the national budget. The State Department’s annual Fiscal Transparency Report for 2017 says there has been ‘no significant improvement’. Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The report said revenues from natural resources and land leases were not included in the budget. It added, ‘Expenditures to support the royal family were included in the budget but lacked specific detail and were not subject to the same oversight as the rest of the budget.’

It criticised the role of King Mswati in awarding mining licences. It said, ‘The criteria and procedures for awarding natural resource extraction licenses and contracts were outlined in law, but the opacity of the procedures, which involve submitting applications for licenses directly to the king, cast doubt on whether the government actually followed the law in practice. 

‘Basic information on natural resource extraction awards was not always publicly available.’

King Mswati takes 25 percent of all mining royalties in his kingdom. He is said to hold this money ‘in trust for the nation’ but in fact uses it to fund his own lavish lifestyle. He has at least 13 palaces in the tiny kingdom with a population of about 1.3 million people. He has a fleet of top-of-the-range Mercedes and BMW cars and at least one Rolls Royce. He has a private airplane and is expected to take delivery of another during 2018. 

Seven in ten of his subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

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Friday, 26 January 2018


Swaziland has been given an award for ‘its contribution to peace, development and good governance’ by a group with links to the cultish Unification Church despite being ranked 34 out of 54 countries in Africa on governance by the world-renowned Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

The group making the award was the Universal Peace Federation (UPF). The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules the kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported on Thursday (25 January 2018) that Swaziland won ‘the gold award’ at the UPF’s First Africa Summit.

No further details of the award were given. The award is surrounded in mystery. A website created by UPF to publicise the ceremony that took place in Dakar, Senegal on 18-19 January 2018 had pages headed ‘program’ and ‘press kit’ but the pages were blank.

The Observer reported, ‘The UPF leaders expressed their support for the country’s Vision 2022 and confidence that Swaziland can be a world leader in peace-building and model country for promoting peace, development and prosperity for its people.

‘They expressed their desire to meet Their Majesties and to mobilise resources and investments to support the country in its vision.  Other dignitaries from outside Swaziland also recognised and congratulated the country for its efforts in promoting peace.’

It reported Zombodze Emuva MP Dr Titus Thwala received the gold award on behalf of the kingdom.
The award for good governance comes as a surprise because Swaziland was ranked 34 out of 54 countries for overall governance in the 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance produced by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. It received a score of 55.8 out of a hundred for rule of law. Other scores out of a hundred included: judicial independence (21.3); freedom of expression (22.8); civil liberties (33.3); and freedom of association and assembly (12.5).

The UPF was founded by Rev Sun Myung Moon who also created the Unification Church, popularly known as ‘the Moonies’. 

 After he died in 2012, the Daily Telegraph, a right-wing newspaper in the United Kingdom reported in an obituary, ‘Moon, a South Korean multi-millionaire businessman, discovered his vocation as the “second Messiah” in 1936, when he claimed to have met Jesus Christ on a Korean hillside, recognising Him from His picture. Jesus informed Moon that He had been unable to complete His mission on earth due to unforeseen circumstances, so Moon (Jesus went on) had been chosen to succeed Him and to establish the Kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.’

It added, ‘Moon gave every impression of believing his own sermons, and his blend of hard-sell Christianity and Eastern mysticism proved particularly appealing to the idealistic progeny of affluent Westerners, who were encouraged to hand over their worldly goods, reject their biological parents and accept the Moons as their “true parents”.’

It said,Moon engendered widespread hostility among parents, alarmed at the changed personalities of their converted children. Some mounted lawsuits accusing Moon of practising brainwashing, and there were reports of cult members being kidnapped and de-programmed by “cult-busters”.’

The Telegraph obituary said, ‘While Moon’s adoring followers were persuaded to part with their worldly goods and were sent out unpaid on fund-raising missions, Moon was ferried round in chauffeur-driven limousines, took fishing holidays on his 50ft luxury cabin cruiser and lived in a sumptuous New York property modelled on a Korean palace. The source of Moon’s original capital remained a mystery, but the fact that the church’s dedicated workers received no wages certainly contributed to his success. In 2008 one estimate put Moon’s personal wealth at about $990 million.’

In an obituary, the New York Times reported, ‘As his church grew more prominent in the 1970s and ’80s, it became embroiled in lawsuits over soliciting funds, acquiring property and recruiting followers. Defectors wrote damaging books. From 1973 to 1986 at least 400 of the church’s flock were abducted by their family members to undergo “deprogramming,” according to an estimate by David G. Bromley, a professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and an expert on Mr Moon. The church denied that it had brainwashed its followers, saying members joined and stayed of their own free will.’

It added, ‘In the late 1970s, Mr Moon came under the scrutiny of federal authorities, mainly over allegations that he was involved in efforts by the South Korean government to bribe members of Congress to support President Park Chung-hee. A Congressional subcommittee said there was evidence of ties between Mr Moon and Korean intelligence, and that the church had raised money and moved it across borders in violation of immigration and local charity laws.

‘Then, in October 1981, Mr Moon was named in a 12-count federal indictment. He was accused of failing to report $150,000 in income from 1973 to 1975, a sum consisting of interest from $1.6 million that he had deposited in New York bank accounts in his own name, according to the indictment.’

Moon was convicted the next year of tax fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice and sentenced to 18 months in prison. He was assigned to kitchen duty.

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Thursday, 25 January 2018


Textile workers in Swaziland are campaigning for a basic minimum wage and for many of them that would mean doubling their income.

Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA) members want a wage of at least E3,000 (about US$250) per month. At present, it is reported most textile workers earn between E1,300 and E1,500 per month.

They are supported by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).

Textile workers are among the most exploited in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. In 2015, Swaziland was named as one of the ten worst countries for working people in the world, in a report from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

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

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 at the time). 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.’

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. 

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A school in Swaziland is being criticised by an action group against abuse for a decision to make girl pupils take pregnancy tests.

Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) Communications and Advocacy Officer Slindelo Nkosi said the move was highly discriminatory.

She was responding in the Swazi Observer on Thursday (25 January 2018) following a report in the newspaper that Siphocosini High School parents had agreed that girl children should undergo pregnancy tests this year.

The newspaper said parents thought this was a good idea as it might save them money in school fees. Girls who become pregnant are forced to leave school.

The newspaper reported, ‘The most painful part of this situation is that the fees paid for the pregnants are usually non-refundable hence parents reached this decision.’

The Observer reported Nkosi saying in itself, the decision was highly discriminatory and reinforced gender gaps between Swazi girls and boys, thereby promoting unfair and unequal educational and life opportunities. Boys who make girls pregnant are not punished.

Nkosi said, ‘Prioritising “saving money” and not enrolling or sending a girl-child to school due to being pregnant is counterproductive and detrimental to the lives and future of the affected girls as it increases their vulnerability to unemployment, violence, poverty, illiteracy, HIV and AIDS and a myriad of social challenges.’

She added it was also important to recognise that pregnancy could be a result of several reasons such as rape, which most girls did not report due to fear of being ridiculed or blamed by friends and family members.

Swaziland Human Rights and Public Administration Commissioner Sabelo Masuku said the stand taken by the school parents at Siphocosini High School was new and unknown. The question if there was a violation of human rights could depend on how the pregnancy tests were done. Masuku also raised concern on the discrimination and inequality that could be as a result of the pregnancy tests. A challenge could arise when only the girls were tested for pregnancy yet boys were not tested for the same thing. He said girls do not impregnate themselves, but boys were the ones responsible. 

In November 2016 it was reported girls Bekezela Primary School in Lubulini were said to have fallen pregnant ‘due to the poverty levels’. The Swazi Observer reported at the time the children were said to have mainly been impregnated by older men who would promise them food and other necessities. 

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Wednesday, 24 January 2018


A man in Swaziland has been held in jail for nearly ten years as he awaits trail.

Sikhumbuzo Mdluli, of Ngwazini in the Manzini region was arrested and charged with murder in March 2008 and is still in the Sidvwashini Correctional Facility awaiting trial.

He has asked the High Court of Swaziland to intervene, the Swazi Observer newspaper reported (18 January 2018).

Mdluli is arguing that Swaziland’s Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act says if a person does not appear in court after six months awaiting trial in jail they should be discharged.

The Observer said he was also arguing that ‘his continued deprivation of liberty’ was a violation of the Swaziland Constitution as he was not getting a speedy and fair trial before a competent court of law.

He is not the only person jailed for lengthy periods awaiting trial. In December 2017 Swaziland’s Human Rights Commission reported at least 133 people had been detained in Swaziland jails without trial for more than a year, Executive Secretary of the Human Rights Commission Linda Nxumalo told the Sunday Observer (31 December 2017),  ‘One of the key cases that the Commission has worked on [in 2017] was one dealing with the issue of access to justice especially for 133 inmates that have been detained for longer than 12 months without trial or sentencing at our already overcrowded correctional facilities.’ 

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Swaziland continues to repress political dissent and disregard human rights and the rule of law, the latest international report on freedom in the kingdom reveals. 

Human Rights Watch in its review of 2017, just published, adds the independence of the judiciary is severely compromised and repressive laws continue to be used to target critics of the government and King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The report states, ‘In September, King Mswati told the United Nations General Assembly in New York that Swaziland is committed to peace and a decent life for all. He said his government 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 failed to mention, however, the recently passed amendments to the Public Order Act, which allow critics of the King or the Swazi Government to be prosecuted, and upon conviction be fined E10,0000 (US$770), imprisoned for two years, or both for inciting “hatred or contempt” against cultural and traditional heritage.’ 

The amendments to the Public Order Act grant sweeping powers to the national commissioner of police to arbitrarily halt pro-democracy meetings and protests, and crush any criticism of the government.

Human Rights Watch states, ‘Restrictions on freedom of association and assembly continued. The government took no action to revoke the King’s Proclamation of 1973, which prohibits formation and operations of political parties in the country. The police used the Urban Act, which requires protesters to give two weeks’ notice before a public protest, to stop protests and harass protesters.’

King Mswati is above the law, Human Rights Watch states. ‘The constitution provides for equality before the law, but also places the King above the law. A 2011 directive, which protects the King from any civil law suits, issued by then-Swaziland Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi after Swazi villagers claimed police had seized their cattle to add to the king’s herd, remained in force in 2017.

‘The Sedition and Subversive Activities Act also remained in force in 2017. The act restricts freedom of expression by criminalizing alleged seditious publications and use of alleged seditious words, such as those which “may excite disaffection” against the King. Published criticism of the ruling party is also banned. Many journalists told Human Rights Watch that they practice self-censorship, especially with regards to reports involving the king, to avoid harassment by authorities.’

Earlier this month (January 2018), Freedom House in its own review of human rights in Swaziland during 2017 declared the kingdom to be ‘not free’. It said civil liberties had deteriorated in the past year. Freedom House reported,Swaziland’s civil liberties rating declined from five to six due to increased government infringements on religious freedom and freedom of private discussion.’

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Thursday, 18 January 2018


Civil liberties in Swaziland have deteriorated in the past year, a leading global freedom group has reported.

Freedom House reported,Swaziland’s civil liberties rating declined from five to six due to increased government infringements on religious freedom and freedom of private discussion.’

The organisation said this in the Freedom in the World 2018 report just released. On a scale from one to seven where seven is the least free, Swaziland scored 6.5 on freedom; seven on political rights and six on civil liberties. It scored 16 out of 100 in total and Freedom House reported Swaziland was ‘not free’.

It has yet to release a detailed report on human rights in Swaziland for the past year. Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. 

Freedom House is not the only organisation to issue annual reports on freedom in Swaziland. The United States State Department in its most recent report published in 2017 and covering 2016 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.

‘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.

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Wednesday, 17 January 2018


Game rangers in Swaziland reportedly shot dead a man who was handcuffed in another case that underlines the zero-tolerance, shoot-to-kill policy against poachers in the kingdom.

The Sunday Observer newspaper reported (14 January 2018) that the latest shooting involved a man identified only as Zwane. He died on the spot after being shot in the abdomen at close range while handcuffed by rangers.

It happened at a private farm known as ka Skeepers in Lavumisa. The newspaper reported two men had been found loitering next to the farm around 1am and in possession of two protected game, namely inyala and a wild bird. The other man was shot in both legs but survived his injuries and is in Mbabane Government Hospital awaiting an operation to remove about 13 small bullet pellets of a 12 bore shotgun from his right leg.

The man, Mxolisi Mbhamali, aged 22, of Lavumisa told the newspaper he and Zwane had been poaching and were outside of the farm when trouble started.

The newspaper reported him saying, ‘We were outside of the farm and inspecting our car which had developed mechanical faults. As we were still busy with the car, we saw two people approaching us and Zwane whistled to alert them to assist us with the vehicle. Little did we know that the people we were alerting were actually farm rangers. There were three of them, two were carrying guns while the other a sjambok. Zwane was carrying a gun and they confiscated it from him before handcuffing us.’

The newspaper reported, ‘Mbhamali said while they were still pleading with the rangers to forgive and let them go, one of them pulled the trigger and shot Zwane on the abdomen at close range.’

Mbhamali said, ‘Zwane fell into the ground and the ranger turned and shot me on both legs several times. I rolled on the ground and disappeared into the thick bushes. I thereafter heard them calling the police on their mobile phones.’

Shootings by game rangers in Swaziland have attracted international attention. In 2017 a United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) questioned Swaziland about a law that gives game rangers immunity from prosecution for killing any person suspected of having poached and Survival International reported Swaziland ‘appears’ to have a shoot-on-sight policy that allows game rangers to kill suspected poachers.

The HRC asked the Swaziland Government to explain the Game Act (No. 51/1953) as amended in 1991, which gives conservation police personnel (game rangers) immunity from prosecution for killing any person suspected of having poached.

In April 2017, Survival International wrote to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, saying Swaziland ‘appears’ to have a shoot-on-sight policy that allows game rangers to kill suspected poachers.

In its letter it said, ‘We say “appears” because usually the policy is not defined by any law, or even written down.  As a consequence, nobody knows when wildlife officers are permitted to use lethal force against them, and it is impossible for dependents to hold to account officers whom they believe to have killed without good reason.’

Stephen Corry, Survival International Director, said the shoot-on-sight policy directly affected people who lived close to game parks and guards often failed to distinguish people hunting for food from commercial poachers.   

There has been concern in Swaziland for many years that game rangers have immunity from prosecution and can legally ‘shoot-to-kill’.

In 2016, the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) reported to a United Nations review on human rights in Swaziland, ‘There are numerous cases where citizens are shot and killed by game rangers for alleged poaching as raised by community members in several communities such as Lubulini, Nkambeni, Nkhube, Malanti, Sigcaweni, and Siphocosini. 

‘In terms of Section 23 (3) [of the Game Act] game rangers are immune from prosecution for killing suspected poachers and empowered to use firearm in the execution of their duties and to search without warrant,’ SCCCO told the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland in a report.

In January 2014, Swaziland’s Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula said rangers were allowed to shoot people who were hunting for food to feed their hungry families.

Commissioner Magagula publicly stated, ‘Animals are now protected by law and hunting is no longer a free-for-all, where anybody can just wake up to hunt game whenever they crave meat.’ 

He told a meeting of traditional leaders in Swaziland, ‘Of course, it becomes very sad whenever one wakes up to reports that rangers have shot someone. These people are protected by law and it allows them to shoot, hence it would be very wise of one to shun away from trouble.’

His comments came after an impoverished unarmed local man, Thembinkosi Ngcamphalala, aged 21, died of gunshot wounds. He had been shot by a ranger outside of the Mkhaya Nature Reserve. His family, who live at Sigcaweni just outside the reserve’s borders, said he had not been poaching. 

Campaigners say poor people are not poaching large game, such as the endangered black rhinos, but go hunting animals, such as warthogs, as food to feed themselves and their families. Hunger and malnutrition are widespread in Swaziland where seven in ten of King Mswati’s subjects live in abject poverty. Many are forced to become hunters and gatherers to avoid starvation.

King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has given game rangers permission to shoot-to-kill people suspected of poaching wildlife on his land and protects them from prosecution for murder in some circumstances.

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