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Monday, 30 April 2018


A secretive hate group is fighting to stop Swaziland having its first ‘gay pride’ parade.

It has launched an online petition against the march organisers the Rock of Hope.

The group calls itself Parents of Eswatini (Parents of Swaziland). It launched a petition on the CitizenGo website. The petition appears to originate in Germany.

The petition uses hate speech to describe what it calls the ‘LGBT lifestyle’ [Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender].

It attacked the Rock of Hope for ‘promoting homosexuality’.

Rock of Hope in a statement published online said its mission was ‘to build a society in Swaziland that is free from the stigmatization, discrimination and the oppression of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people this also include prisoners and sex workers who fall under the listed categories. The organization through its activities aim to create a very strong and proud society of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the entire kingdom of Swaziland.’

The march is due to be held in June 2018.

CitizenGo started in Spain in 2013 as a project of an organisation called HazteOir. It now claims to have millions of supporters in more than 50 countries, according to the Open Democracy website.

It reported, ‘HatzeOir was founded in 2001. [In 2017], a team of investigators in Spain traced links between the group and “El Yunque”, a mysterious secret society that allegedly has cells across Mexico and the US mobilised to “defend the Catholic religion and fight the forces of Satan though violence or murder”, according to Mexican investigative journalist Alvaro Delgado. Previously, in 2014 a judge dismissed a claim by HazteOir disputing links between the groups.

‘CitizenGo describes itself as “pro-family” and a defender of life, family, freedom, and dignity. Madrid lawyer Ignacio Arsuaga, reportedly the great-grandson of the late dictator General Francisco Franco, sits at the helm of both it and HatzeOir,’ the website reported.

The Political Research Associates website reported, ‘CitizenGo has a variety of longstanding ties to right-wing organizations and right-wing efforts around the globe.’

It added, it operated primarily through an online petition platform ‘to push an anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion agenda’.

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King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of impoverished Swaziland, wore a watch worth US$1.6 million to his 50th birthday party. This was in addition to a suit beaded with diamonds that weighed 6 kg. 

Meanwhile, teachers are warning that children may starve because the Swazi Government cannot afford to pay to feed them. The charity Oxfam called Swaziland the most unequal country in the world in a report.

Days before his birthday King Mswati took delivery of his second private jet plane. This one, an A340-300 Airbus had a purchase price of US$13.2 million, but with VIP upgrades it reportedly cost about US$30 million. 

A picture of the King with his watch and suit was published on Facebook by a group that monitors the spending of the Swazi Royal Family.

King Mswati III with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and one of his 13 wives, Inkhosikati LaMotsa during at his 50th birthday party. Picture: Swazi Royal Leeches Lifestyle Facebook page
The watch is a Jacob & Co Grand Baguette timepiece. The Jacob & Co website describes the watch as, ‘polished 18K white gold invisibly set with 360 baguette diamonds 13.20ct.; five crowns invisibly set with baguette diamonds 3.50ct.; five sapphire glasses with transparent anti-reflective treatment; circular satin-finished with hand engraving case back. Dial: Local time and four time zone dials for New York, L.A., Tokyo and Paris.’

The website puts the cost of the piece at US$1,620,000, which is about E21 million in local currency. This is more than the financial aid given to Swaziland each year by the European Union to pay for free primary school education.
The timepiece in detail with the $1,620,000 price tag. Picture: Jacob and Co website

In Swaziland seven in ten of King Mswati’s estimated 1.1 million subjects live in abject poverty on incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. The King has 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars.

Children in Swaziland have been told by teachers to prepare themselves for starvation as the government failed to deliver free food to schools over the past year. At the heart of the crisis is the Swazi Government’s inability to pay its suppliers. In the March 2018 Budget, Finance Minister Martin Dlamini said the government owed E3.1 billion and was trying to find a way to pay its bills. 

As a result of unpaid bills, suppliers have stopped delivering food, and medicines. Electricity supplies to government offices, law courts, police stations, libraries, media houses, and border posts have been cut. 

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 that detailed 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’.

The extent of poverty in Swaziland has been reported extensively outside of the kingdom. In its annual report on human rights in the kingdom, published in March 2017, Amnesty International said two thirds of the people in Swaziland continued to live below the poverty line and that around half the population said they often went without food and water, and over a third said that medical care was inadequate.

In a report in May 2017, the World Food Program estimated 350,000 people of Swaziland’s population were in need of food assistance. WFP helped 65,473 of them. It said it was regularly feeding 52,000 orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) aged under eight years at neighbourhood care points. About 45 percent of all children in thought to be OVCs.

It reported chronic malnutrition affected 26 percent of all children in Swaziland aged under five. 

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Sunday, 29 April 2018


A Bill has been tabled in the Swaziland parliament to ensure 30 percent of members of the House of Assembly are women. It has taken 12 years to get this far.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The King chooses 10 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly and 10 members of the 30-strong Senate. Members of the House of Assembly choose the other 20.

The Constitution that came into effect in 2006 requires five women to be elected to the Senate by the House and the King to choose another eight. There have been two national elections since the Constitution came into effect and the required number of women members of parliament has not been met. 

On representation in the House of Assembly, the Constitution states, ‘The nominated members of the House shall be appointed by the King so that at least half of them are women.’

It also requires there are four female members specially elected from the four regions of Swaziland.

At the last election in 2013 only one woman, Mbabane East MP Esther Dlamini, was elected to the House of Assembly. The King appointed only three women and no women were elected from the four regions.

Following the elections, the King filled five of the eight designated seats in the Senate with women, while the House of Assembly named five women to the Senate

The Election of Women Members to the House of Assembly Bill was tabled in the House of Assembly in early April 2018. It is reported that it should become law before the next national election takes place at a date in 2018 yet to be set by the King.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported on Monday (23 April 2018) that the Bill will force the House of Assembly to elect four women into it, with one woman coming from each region. This will only happen if that number has not been elected by the voting public.
The Bill also sets out a procedure for selecting the women members. It makes no reference to the selection of Senate members.

The move to pass a Bill comes after the King directed parliament to create a legal tool for the election of women.

Women have always been under-represented in Swazi parliaments. Generally, in traditional Swazi culture women are treated as minors under the control of their husbands, fathers or family members.
The percentage of House of Assembly candidates who were women at the 2008 election was 24 percent. The figure fell to 17 percent for the 2013 election.

In a voter education meeting in 2017 held to sensitise chiefs in the kingdom about the 2018 election the Elections and Boundaries Commission was warned not to encourage the electorate to vote for women for gender-balance reasons.

The Swazi Observer reported at the time Chief Mdlaka Gamedze, said the call by many organisations to vote for women may lead to interference with the people’s choices. 

It reported, ‘Instead, Gamedze urged the EBC team to encourage the freedom to nominate or elect any member of the society without considering whether it is a male or female.’

It added, ‘Gamedze said the electorate must be free to vote for candidates who they deem fit to develop their constituencies.’

At the same meeting the Observer reported, ‘Chief Mvimbi Matse reported that some women were denied the opportunity to contest for the elections by their husbands. Matse said there have been instances where women were nominated during the first stage but later withdrew after their husbands instructed them to do so.’

That problem was echoed by women at a voter education meeting at KaGucuka in July 2017. They said some women in Swaziland were too scared to stand as candidates because their husbands would be angry and even disown them.

During the 2008 Swazi national election, women who campaigned for women to be elected to the House of Assembly were branded ‘evil’ by chiefs. 

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Saturday, 28 April 2018


There is no media freedom in Swaziland, according to the latest annual report from Reporters Without Borders.

The kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, stands at number 152 out of 180 in the world ranking. 

In a report just published RWB stated the kingdom, ‘prevents journalists from working freely and obstructs access to information. No court is allowed to prosecute or try members of the government, but any criticism of the regime is liable to be the subject of a prosecution. 

‘For fear of reprisals, journalists censor themselves almost systematically. In January 2018, an investigative journalist had to flee to South Africa after being threatened in connection with an article revealing the King’s involvement in an alleged corruption case. His newspaper was closed on the King’s orders.’

The report was referring to the case of Swaziland Shopping and its editor Zweli Martin Dlamini. It concluded there was ‘no media freedom’.

Also just published is the US State Department review of human rights in Swaziland for 2017. It states that the Swazi Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, ‘but the King may deny these rights at his discretion, and the government severely restricted these rights in prior years’. 

It added, ‘Officials impeded press freedom. Although no law bans criticism of the monarchy, the prime minister and other officials cautioned journalists against publishing such criticism with veiled threats of newspaper closure or job loss.’

The report stated, ‘The law empowers the government to ban publications if it deems them “prejudicial or potentially prejudicial to the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health.” Most journalists practiced self-censorship. Journalists expressed fear of judicial reprisals for their reporting on some High Court cases and matters involving the monarchy.’

The report stated, ‘Broadcast media remained firmly under state control. Most persons obtained their news from radio broadcasts. A controversial ministerial decree prohibiting MPs from speaking on the radio was apparently lifted. The government noted the decree had never been enforced. There was no instance, however, in which an MP had violated it. Despite invitations issued by the media regulatory authority for parties to apply for licenses, no licenses were awarded. Stations practiced self-censorship and refused to broadcast anything perceived as critical of the government or the monarchy.’

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Friday, 27 April 2018


The man kept in a Swaziland jail for nine years awaiting trial has been released on bail.

Fana Shongwe who is charged with murder appeared at the Swaziland High Court on Thursday (26 April 2018) where Judge Mbutfo Mamba released him.

Shongwe’s case made international news. He had been arrested and charged in 2009 and was offered bail at E50,000 with E15,000 in cash with the rest as surety. He could not afford to pay.

His trial date has yet to be set.

Judge Mamba said, ‘Mr Shongwe, it is unfortunate that such happened to you, it should not have happened to anyone, it is not the law that failed you, but the people entrusted to execute the law failed you, you are going home today as you will be released,’ according to a report in the Swazi Observer on Friday (27 April 2018).

The newspaper reported, ‘Justice Minister Edgar Hillary expressed annoyance in the manner Shongwe’s matter has been handled. He assured that something was being done to correct the problem.’

At least 133 people in Swaziland have waited more than a year in jail without coming to trial, according to Swaziland’s Human Rights Commission.

A report just published by the US State Department into human rights issues in Swaziland for 2017 stated, ‘Lengthy pretrial detention was common. Judicial inefficiency and staff shortages contributed to the problem, as did the police practice of prolonging detention to collect evidence and prevent detainees from influencing witnesses if released. There were instances in which the length of detention equalled or exceeded the sentence for the alleged crime.’

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Two community police officers in Swaziland stripped a man naked, tied him to a tree and flogged his bare buttocks with sticks until they bled profusely.

It happened at Malindza after they had accused him of stealing pots from his grandfather’s house. They were helped by one of his female cousins. 

This was not the first time community police have been in the spotlight for their actions. In 2014 three Malindza community police beat to death a mentally challenged man who had escaped from the National Psychiatric Centre.  

The Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (25 April 2018) that Dumisani Joma, aged 24, had taken a pot from his aunt’s house without consent, following a family dispute.

The newspaper reported the community policeman and his cousin later went to find him at a neighbour’s home.  

It reported, ‘They accused him of stealing pots from his grandfather’s house. Joma said without being given any moment to explain his side of the story, the men and woman grabbed and forced him out of the homestead. 

‘Along the way, he was tied with ropes and further stripped naked in full view of members of the public. 

‘“They then took me home where I was tied against a tree before taking turns to assault me with sticks,” he said. Joma said the beating continued until he bled profusely on his buttocks.’

Sikelela Dlamini, aged 60,, Mbhodze Lukhele, aged 64, and Thantazile Mtshali, aged 21, were later each sentenced at Swazi National Court to seven months in a correctional facility with an option to pay a E700 (US$56) fine.

The community police operate in rural Swaziland and are supervised by traditional chiefs who are local representatives of King Mswati III, Swaziland’s absolute monarch. They have the authority to arrest suspects concerning minor offenses for trial by an inner council within the chiefdom. For serious offenses suspects should be handed over to the official police for further investigations. 

There are concerns that some community police officers in Swaziland overstep their authority. 

In March 2018 a court heard  that three community policemen gang-raped a 17-year-old schoolgirl at knifepoint and forced her boyfriend to watch. One of them recorded it on his cellphone. The teenager was in her school uniform while she and her boyfriend walked to a river after a school athletics competition. The community policemen told them they were on patrol to make sure none of the pupils committed any offences during the athletics competition.

In 2013 community police in Mvutshini banished two men from their community in Swaziland because they were gay. The men, one aged 18 and the other 21, had moved from the Lubombo region to stay with the aunt of one of them.

In 2011 community police in Kwaluseni reportedly threatened to murder democracy activist Musa Ngubeni if he was released on bail pending trial on explosive offences. Residents accused the community police in the area of being involved in criminal activities. 

The Weekend Observer newspaper reported at the time that some community police officers had been discovered to be involved in cattle rustling and others with stolen exhibits confiscated from thugs in the area. They were entrusted with the responsibility of taking the exhibits to the police station, but they instead kept some for personal use, a resident told the newspaper. In a third instance, another community policeman defrauded a resident of an undisclosed sum of money using the name of a police officer from Sigodvweni. 

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Thursday, 26 April 2018


In an unprecedented and unexpected move in Swaziland, one of King Mswati III’s newspapers has published a supplement that offered support for LGBTI people. 

Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is fiercely traditional. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people are discriminated against in all walks of life and their relationships and acts are outlawed. 

The Sunday Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, devoted much of its SCENE supplement, aimed at young adults, to the topic last week (22 April 2018). 

Nokwanda Sibandze, who edited the supplement wrote, ‘SCENE set out, as usual, to find people who are proud and open about being gay or even being lesbians. And to our misfortune, most of them could not speak out on the issue as they had their reservations on why they are not comfortable enough to share their story with the rest of the country.  

‘I would honestly say this was one of the hardest and saddest issues I had to do as people in the LGBT[I] community shared why they were not comfortable to share their story.  

‘Some said they have been bullied just because of their sexual orientation while others simply said they are not accepted by their family members so they would not be able to be part of the issue.’ 

Sibandze added, ‘Some were brave enough to share their story and pictures as well. Melusi Simelane, who is an activist for the rights of people in the LGBT[I] community, shared his story and views on the issue. Melusi is also a world traveller who attends meetings and global seminars that speak on rights of LGBT[I] people in the world. He is the communications officer at Rock of Hope and continually strives and fights for the rights of his peers in the country.

‘We also talked to Luyanda Mndzebele a young man who is proudly gay. He says it is not fair that they have to be accepted when everyone else is said to be living right. 

‘We also discuss same sex parenting. As many same sex couples wish and also look forward to having their own children in the future.’

The supplement is unusual because generally LGBTI people are vilified in Swaziland and subjected to abuse in their daily lives and from police and medical workers. 

Pitty Dludlu, a member of the LGBTI community, told the annual Joshua Mzizi Memorial Lecture held in Ezulwini in December 2017 they faced a number of issues that included access to health care without the stigma and prejudice.

The Observer on Saturday reported at the time, ‘Dludlu further decried the service they are subjected to in the hands of the police and health care workers as the worse abusers of the LGBTI community. The abusive situation is worse at the bus terminal station to the LGBTI community. 

‘Other challenges are that they are denied scholarship due to their sexual orientation. Dludlu further pointed that “qualified transgender community are unemployed as they are told point blank that there is no need to proceed with an interview once they see their sexual orientation and told embarrassingly that they don’t hire such people”’. 

In a review of human rights in Swaziland for 2017, just published, the US State Department noted, ‘While colonial-era legislation against sodomy remains on the books, no penalties are specified, and there were no arrests. The government asserted that same-sex relationships and acts were illegal but did not prosecute any cases during the year. 

‘Societal discrimination against LGBTI persons was prevalent, and LGBTI persons generally concealed their sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTI persons who were open regarding their sexual orientation and relationships faced censure and exclusion from the chiefdom-based patronage system, which could result in eviction from one’s home. 

‘Chiefs, pastors, and government officials criticized same-sex sexual conduct as neither morally Swazi nor Christian. LGBTI advocacy organizations had trouble registering with the government. One such organization, House of Pride, was under the umbrella of another organization that dealt with HIV/AIDS. It was difficult to determine the extent of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity because victims were not likely to come forward, and most LGBTI persons were not open regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

‘On July 23, a third-year University of Swaziland student committed suicide, reportedly because he found himself isolated after his family rejected him due to his sexual orientation.’

There is a long history of discrimination against LGBTI people in Swaziland. In May 2016, Rock of Hope, which campaigns for LGBTI equality in Swaziland, 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 LGBTI were not protected and there was inequality in the access to health care.

The report added, ‘LGBTIs 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 LGBTIs 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 LGBTIs or protecting the right to a non-heterosexual orientation and gender identity and as a result LGBTI cannot be open about their orientation or gender identity for fear of rejection and discrimination.’

HOOP (House of Our Pride), a support group for LGBTI people, reported to the United Nation in 2011, ‘It is a common scene for LGBTI to be verbally insulted by by-passers in public places. [There is] defamatory name calling and people yelling out to see a LGBTI person’s reproductive part are some of the issues facing LGBTI in Swaziland.’

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