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Thursday, 31 May 2018

HIGH COURT HEARS OF ‘POLICE TORTURE’

A former hotel supervisor told the Swaziland High Court police tortured her to try to make her confess to theft.

She said she was handcuffed, beaten, suffocated to near death, and threatened with hanging. She complained later to the local police commander but felt nothing was one about her complaint, so she went to court.

Phindile Mndzebele is claiming E750,000 (US$60,000) in damages from the Royal Eswatini [Swaziland] Police Service.

She told the High Court was she was the house-keeping manager at the Lugogo Sun hotel when a items and cash were reported stolen from a room. Police accused her of the theft and took her in a police vehicle to a forest up a mountain.

The Swazi Observer reported on Thursday (31 May 2018) that she denied being involved in the theft. Five officers were alleged to have forced her to sit on a grass mat and her hands were cuffed and she was suffocated three times. She was told the assault and suffocation would not stop until she soiled herself. One officer said she would hang if she did not give up the stolen items.

The ordeal ended when the police officers were called away to other duties.

The High Court was told doctors examined Mndzebele and found her muscles were swollen as a result of the assault on her back. She also had to attend daily counselling.

Reports of police torture are common in Swaziland. The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in a report on Swaziland published in May 2018 stated the Swazi State, ‘continues to be either actively involved in, or turn a blind eye to, torture’. 

It added, ‘Reports of suspects dying in police custody, workers assaulted by state police, suspects shot and killed by the army, as well as suspected poachers tortured and killed by game rangers and private farm owners have come to characterize law enforcement in Swaziland.

‘Amnesty International reports that, in June 2015, a Mozambican national living in Swaziland, Luciano Reginaldo Zavale, died on the day he was arrested on allegations that he was in possession of a stolen laptop. In August 2015, independent forensic evidence indicated that he did not die of natural causes. An inquest was established to investigate the death, but its findings have never been made public. 

‘In February 2016 at the Kwaluseni campus of the University of Swaziland, a student of the University, Ayanda Mkhabela, was run over by an armoured police vehicle during a student protest and left paralysed. The Commissioner of Police publicly announced that he would institute an investigation within the police service. As at the end of 2017, no public investigation had been undertaken into the incident. The Commissioner of Police had not made public the findings of the internal investigation.’ 

The ICJ said there was generally no independent mechanism for investigating abuses committed by the police.

It added, ‘The students involved in the protest have instituted legal proceedings in respect of damages. The Government is defending the action.’

The ICJ added, ‘Recent situations paint a gloomy picture about the treatment of persons in custody. A former Member of Parliament, Charles Myeza, has added credence to the serious allegations of torture at Bhalekane Correctional Facility, revealing in court papers that officers also treated him in an inhumane way. Myeza, who was serving a custodial sentence at the facility, alleged that he was stripped naked, smacked on the buttocks and had his genitals squeezed by officers, in furtherance of a common purpose to violate his right to dignity. The former Member of Parliament is currently suing the Government.’

See also

ARMY CONFIRMS SHOOT-TO-KILL POLICY
ANOTHER FATAL SHOOTING BY RANGERS
https://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2018/01/another-fatal-shooting-by-rangers.html

‘RITUAL KILLINGS LINKED TO ELECTION’

There are ‘widespread speculations’ across Swaziland that a number of recent abductions resulting in mutilations and killings might be related to the ongoing national election in the kingdom, the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) said.

SWAGAA said, ‘Children, both girls and boys, are especially targeted; however, this does not mean adults cannot be a target in future. For this reason, all people should remain on high alert.’

It said in a statement, ‘The fact that there are widespread speculations on whether or not these abductions are for ritual purposes linked to the upcoming Parliamentary elections in Eswatini [Swaziland] cannot be ignored.’

Swaziland has a history of abductions and ritual killings in the run-up to national elections that are held every five years. Voter registration is currently taking place and ends on 17 June 2018. The date for the actual election has yet to be announced.

In June 2017, during a voter-education workshop, Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) called for an end to ritual killings around voting time. It was concerned about reports of people mysteriously disappearing across the kingdom. 

At KaLanga in the Lugongolweni constituency EBC educator Cynthia Dlamini said ritual murder reports increased during election time. The Swazi Observer reported at the time, ‘Dlamini said this was one belief driven by lunacy which tarnishes the image of the country in the process. She said the commission condemns such beliefs and called for intensive investigations against those who would be suspected of ritual killings.’

At the last election in 2013, The Swaziland Epilepsy Association warned that cases of the abduction of epileptic people always increased during elections. Mbuso Mahlalela from the association told the Swazi Observer at the time it was common for the vulnerable to be targeted and abducted. He spoke after a report that a 13-year-old epileptic boy might have been abducted for ritual purposes.

Before the election in 2008 a march by civil society groups to draw attention to ritual killings was banned by the government amid fears that it would bring bad publicity to Swaziland and might embarrass King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, who had spoken out against the practice. 

The Times of Swaziland reported at the time the march had been motivated by the mystery disappearances and murders of women. Some of these had been found mutilated fuelling speculating that they were related to rituals.

Some Swazi people believe body parts can be used as ‘muti’ which is used to bring good fortune to candidates at the election and help them to win seats in parliament. 

In 2008, it was strongly rumoured in Swaziland that the reason why members of the government wanted to ban discussion on the ritual murders was that some of them had themselves used ‘muti’ to get elected.

In March 2018, a campaign called ‘Don’t kill us, we are human beings too’ was launched to raise awareness about people with albinism, a group at particular risk at election time. The Stukie Motsa Foundation is using social media to dispel the false belief that people with albinism cleanse bad luck and bring fortune to people. 

There have been concerns in Swaziland for years that people with albinism have been targeted and murdered. Witchdoctors use the body parts to make spells that they claim bring people good luck.  Sport teams have also been known to use spells to bring them good fortune during matches. Witchdoctors’ services are especially sought after by candidates contesting parliamentary and local elections. 

In January 2017, the Director of Public Prosecution’s office in Swaziland told witchdoctors in the kingdom to stop murdering people for body parts. The witchdoctors, also known as tinyanga, were advised to go to the Ministry of Health for body parts, such as bones. 

During the national elections in Swaziland in 2013, people with albinism lived in fear that their body parts would be harvested by candidates seeking good luck.  

Independent Newspapers in South Africa reported at the time, ‘In the past [people with albinism], who lack the skin pigment melanin, as well as epileptics have been specifically targeted, prompting the police to set up registries.  

‘In 2010, the killing and mutilation of [people with albinism], including in one instance the decapitation of two children in Nhlangano, prompted panic.’ 

In August 2013, Independent Newspapers quoted an academic at the University of Swaziland, who did not want to be named, saying, ‘Ritual killings to achieve elected office are a natural outgrowth of a government based not on rationality or democratic principles but on superstitious beliefs.  

‘The Swazi king claims power through an annual Incwala festival where a bull is brutally sacrificed and mysterious rituals occur, and this sets the tone. No one knows how office-holders are appointed in Swaziland. It’s all done in secret, without recourse to merit or any rhyme or reason, so this fuels irrational beliefs.  

‘Ritual murder has long been part of Swazi life.’ 

See also 

PEOPLE WITH ALBINISM WANT PROTECTION
‘MPs USE WITCHCRAFT FOR SUCCESS’
ELECTION: ‘RITUAL MURDERS WILL RISE’
SWAZI GOVT BANS MURDERS MARCH
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2008/07/swazi-gvt-bans-murders-march.html

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

SWAZI LAW USED AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS

Laws in Swaziland have been used by the State as weapons against human rights defenders, a major investigation of the kingdom by international lawyers revealed.

‘There is a growing perception that the law, in particular the law of sedition, defamation, public order and anti-terrorism is systematically used to target human rights defenders (HRDs) and legitimate pro-democracy campaigners,’ the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) reported.

It stated, ‘As far back as 1990, the Sedition and Subversive Activists Act 1938 (SSA) and the King’s 1973 Proclamation to the Nation were used against HRDs and legitimate pro-democracy campaigners. Leaders of the pro-democracy banned political opposition, the Peoples’ United Democratic Movement, were charged and tried for high treason for having convened a meeting to discuss the political problems in the country,’ it stated in a report called Achieving Justice for Gross Human Rights Violations in Swaziland - Key Challenges.

It added, ‘This approach has continued, with Amnesty International recently concluding that: “Legislation continued to be used to repress dissent”. In 1994, members of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) and the Swaziland Communist Party were arrested and charged under the Sedition Act for being in possession of seditious placards. They were also charged under the King’s Proclamation for holding either a demonstration or a political meeting without the prior written consent of the Commissioner of Police. The High Court found them not guilty on the sedition charge, but convicted them on the contravention of Decree No. 13 of the King’s Proclamation.

‘In 2001, the leader of the People’s United Democratic (PUDEMO), was charged with two counts under the Sedition Act, accused of allegedly making statements that were seditious. At the close of the Crown’s case he was acquitted and discharged of the first count, and called to his defence on the second count. He was later acquitted on the second count as well. The judiciary proved to be able to exercise its judicial function independently and impartially without fear or favour. In 2005, a group of HRDs and legitimate pro-democracy campaigners were charged under the sedition law for allegedly committing acts of violence against the State. In the bail application they told the court that, while in custody, they had been subjected to torture and cruel and degrading treatment by State security agencies.

‘The court ordered that “the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Swaziland in liaison with the Minister responsible for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, urgently, in the interest of justice and in the national interest, establish a commission of enquiry into the allegations that are before court concerning torture and denying basic human rights enshrined in our Constitution, to investigate and to report publicly the outcome within a reasonable time”.

‘Despite the court’s order, no such commission was set up and no report was made. The HRDs were released on bail and to date [May 2018] the matter has not been called for trial. Neither the applicants nor the DPP have made any follow-up on the order for an inquiry, albeit that nothing prevents the applicants from instituting contempt of court proceedings for the Minister’s failure to give effect to the court order. 

‘In 2008, following a spate of bombings of some Government buildings and some tinkhundla centres, the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008 (STA) was enacted. As soon as the Act entered into force, PUDEMO and three other organizations were listed as terrorist organizations under section 28 of the STA.

‘In the same year, its leader Mario Masuku was charged under the STA and, alternatively, under the SSA. In September 2009 he was acquitted and discharged by the High Court of Swaziland, because the State failed to prove the its case. 

‘Also in 2008, human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko was arrested and charged under the SSA. He was released on bail and subsequently filed an application to the High Court challenging the constitutional validity of the SSA having regard to the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of the right to freedom of expression and opinion.

‘This case was consolidated with others that challenged the same law, together with the Suppression of Terrorism Act.  In 2009, another member of the listed PUDEMO, Mphandlana Shongwe, was charged under the STA for shouting a slogan “Viva PUDEMO, viva SWAYOCO” at a civil society meeting. At his first appearance before the High Court, he was released on bail. To date, his case has not been called for trial.  

‘In May 2014, Mario Masuku (leader of the PUDEMO) and Maxwell Dlamini (student leader and member of the PUDEMO youth league, the Swaziland Youth Congress, SWAYOCO) were charged under the SSA and STA for having addressed workers on Workers’ Day in Manzini, and shouting slogans in support of PUDEMO, an organisation listed as a terrorist organisation under the STA. Initially denied bail, they were kept in pre-trial detention from May 2014 until July 2016. They were eventually granted conditional bail and released by the Supreme Court, one of those conditions being that they should “refrain from addressing public political gatherings  pending finalisation of the criminal trial”. Although the Order was made by consent, its effect was that, for as long as they were awaiting trial, these pro-democracy campaigners were deprived of their rights to freedom of  speech, assembly and association and to take part in the discourse of public affairs. 

‘Also in 2014, a group of seven members of the PUDEMO were arrested and charged under the STA and the SSA. They, as well as Maxwell Dlamini and Mario Masuku, filed separate applications at the High Court to challenge the constitutional validity of the SSA and the STA. All the matters challenging the constitutional validity of the two pieces of legislation were consolidated and heard by a full bench of the High Court, which, in September 2016, delivered its judgment. The relevant provisions of the SSA and STA were held to be unconstitutional and were set aside. 

‘Although the Government noted an intended appeal against the judgment, it failed to file the appeal as required by the Rules of the Supreme Court. On 21 November 2017, the Supreme Court struck off the matter and ordered that it should not be reinstated unless with the leave of the Court. On 5 December 2017 the Government filed an application for reinstatement. The application for leave was heard on 13 February 2018. The Supreme Court’s reserved judgment allowed the appeal to be reinstated, finding that: “…the importance of the matters arising from the appeal and form the view that it would leave a bitter after taste in the Court’s palate for such serious matters to be decided by default as it were, due to the confusion that seems to have reigned at the office of the Attorney-General”. 

‘The persecution through the law and prosecution of HRDs and legitimate prodemocracy campaigners continue unabated, even in the face of recommendations of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. Although, in both the 2011 and 2016 UPR of Swaziland, the Government accepted recommendations to fully align the SSA and STA with the Constitution of Swaziland and the State’s obligations not to impede the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, it has failed to do so.’

The ICJ report added, ‘In 2017, the Government of Swaziland amended the STA and repealed the Public Order Act (POA). The amendments to the STA are very cosmetic, while the new POA is comprehensive. Under section 28(1) of the POA, the Minister responsible for national security and the Police Service (the Prime Minister) has published the Code of Good Practice. Although the requirement of a permit for holding public gatherings and processions has been dispensed with in favour of a notice procedure, the local authority and/or the Commissioner of Police have the power to prohibit an intended gathering.161 Given the wide discretionary powers of the National Commissioner of Police to prohibit events,162 there is concern that such prohibition is may be applied in an arbitrary, unnecessary and/or disproportionate manner, contrary to international human rights standards on the regulation and policing of gatherings.’

See also

SWAZILAND FAILS HUMAN RIGHTS TEST
SWAZILAND QUIZZED ON TERROR LAW
SWAZI HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD KILLS AGOA
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/05/swazi-human-rights-record-kills-agoa.html

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

ELECTION VOTES SOLD FOR CHICKEN PIECES

Poverty-stricken textile workers in Swaziland say they have been selling their votes in the forthcoming national election for cash and chicken pieces.

Sitting members of parliament have sent their agents into factories to buy up votes during the present registration process.

The Sunday Observer reported (27 May 2018) several textile workers from different firms in the industrial town of Matsapha said they were willing to sell.

It reported one textile worker saying, ‘Some of the current Members of Parliament have dispatched their agents to our firm in Nhlangano to buy votes for as little as E50 and chicken portions.’

It added the textile workers were persuaded to register as residents of the surrounding areas as opposed to their chiefdoms of origin. In Swaziland, people may register in any constituency if they have stayed in the area for not less than three months.

‘Since most of the people working in the firms are now renting flats in the neighbouring constituencies, they are then targeted and persuaded to register to vote within their present residential areas,’ the newspaper reported.

There have been reports of corruption across Swaziland since registration began on 13 May 2018. At Maphungwane in the Matsanjeni North Constituency, football teams rejected a E10,000 (US$790) sponsorship from an aspiring member of parliament. The Swazi Observer reported (18 May 2018) that the sponsorship was in the form of prize money that would be paid at the end of the football season and after the election had been held.

The newspaper reported the clubs’ representatives questioned the timing of the sponsorship and rejected the offer. One club boss told the Observer that aspiring MPs had also tried to manipulate them in the past.

Police in Swaziland are investigating possible election corruption concerning a former government minister accused of bribing people with promises of food parcels for their votes. 

Elsewhere, residents at Mbangweni complained of nepotism when four people selected to assist in the election were from the same family. The Swazi Observer reported Inkhosatana Gelane, the acting KoNtshingila chief, saying they were ‘loyal and respectful residents’. The Shiselweni Regional Administrator Themba Masuku is investigating. 

See also

CONFUSION OVER VOTER NUMBERS
POLICE PROBE ELECTION “CORRUPTION’
POOR START TO VOTER REGISTRATION
REGISTRATION OPENS FOR SWAZI ELECTION
https://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/registration-opens-for-swazi-election.html

Monday, 28 May 2018

SWAZI FIREFIGHTERS THREATEN STRIKE

Firefighters in Swaziland are threatening to strike because they are being forced to work in ‘appalling conditions’. Government funding is so bad they have to buy their own uniforms and safety equipment.

‘We have been buying ourselves uniforms because it takes years for the department to supply us and the quality is deplorable for us, as we need heat-resistant uniforms due to the environment we work under,’ one firefighter told the Observer on Saturday newspaper (26 May 2018). 

With the wild grass fire season starting, firefighters say they do not have masks to prevent smoke inhalation. Other equipment such as gloves are also not available.

One officer told the newspaper there were also problems in the fire stations and dormitories. It added, ‘Firefighters said the Mbabane station was just a health hazard to employees, they said if health inspectors could do their work at the station, no doubt it could be closed.’

Firefighters said they had to buy lightbulbs for the guard house and had inadequate heating. They also said their communications system was no longer working and they often had to use their own cell phones during emergencies.

Swaziland National Fire and Emergency Services (SNFES) spokesperson Herbert Shabangu told the newspaper, ‘It’s a trying moment for the government department as there is no money for doing most of the key things for emergency service.’

If they do strike, the firefighters could find themselves in legal trouble. The Swazi Government in 2015 declared SNFES personnel were ‘a uniformed service’ like the police and army and were not permitted to strike.

Firefighters are members of the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU).

See also

FIREFIGHTERS ‘ORDERED TO CHURCH’
https://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/firefighters-ordered-to-chuch.html

COURT BID TO ALLOW PARTIES IN ELECTION

The Swaziland Democratic Party  (SWADEPA) is going to the High Court to try to force absolute monarch King Mswati III to allow political parties to contest the forthcoming election.

Parties have been banned from running since a royal decree in 1973 established the absolute monarchy.

SWADEPA wants its party members to openly contest the election due later this year. Under the present system of ‘Monarchical Democracy’ people are only allowed to stand as individuals. At the last election in 2013 Jan Sithole the SWADEPA President was elected in this way to the House of Assembly in Manzini North.

The application is expected to be heard on 20 July 2018.

Elections are held every five years in Swaziland but international observers do not consider them to be ‘free and fair’ because political parties cannot take part. At past elections people only got to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chose the other 10. At the forthcoming election there will be an additional four seats for people to vote for. It has not been announced how many members the King will choose but the Swaziland Constitution allows him to pick up to ten.

As in previous years, none of the 30 members of the Swazi Senate will be elected by the people; the King will choose 20 and the other 10 will be chosen by members of the House of Assembly. The King picks the Prime Minister and Government.

In its report on conduct of the 2013 election, the African Union (AU) mission called for fundamental changes to ensure people had freedom of speech and of assembly. The AU said the Swaziland Constitution guaranteed ‘fundamental rights and freedoms including the rights to freedom of association’, but in practice ‘rights with regard to political assembly and association are not fully enjoyed’. The AU said this was because political parties were not allowed to contest elections.

The AU urged Swaziland to review the constitution, especially in the areas of ‘freedoms of conscience, expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement as well as international principles for free and fair elections and participation in electoral process’.

In its report on the 2013 elections, Commonwealth observers recommended that measures be put in place to ensure separation of powers between the government, parliament and the courts so that Swaziland was in line with its international commitments.

It also called on the Swaziland Constitution to be ‘revisited’ and recommended that a law be passed to allow for political parties to take part in elections, ‘so as to give full effect to the letter and spirit of Section 25 of the Constitution, and in accordance with Swaziland’s commitment to its regional and international commitments’.

The European Union Election Experts Mission (EEM) made much of how the kingdom’s absolute monarchy undermined democracy. In its report it stated, ‘The King has absolute power and is considered to be above the law, including the Constitution, enjoying the power to assent laws and immunity from criminal proceedings. A bill shall not become law unless the King has assented to it, meaning that the parliament is unable to pass any law which the King is in disagreement with. 

‘The King will refer back the provisions he is not in agreement with, which makes the parliament and its elected chamber, the House of Assembly, ineffective, unable to achieve the objective a parliament is created for: to be the legislative branch of the state and maintain the government under scrutiny.’

The EEM went on to say the ‘main principles for a democratic state are not in place’ in Swaziland.

See also


U.S. AMBASSADOR ENCOURAGES PARTIES
SWAZIS WANT DEMOCRACY - SURVEY
EU TELLS KING: ‘FREE PARTIES’
UK CALLS FOR PARTIES TO BE UN-BANNED

Sunday, 27 May 2018

CENSORSHIP TOTAL AT SWAZI STATE MEDIA

The extent to which state media in Swaziland is censored to control people’s understanding of what is going on in the kingdom, has been revealed by UNESCO.

The news agenda is manipulated in favour of absolute monarch King Mswati III. No opposition to the government is allowed on the airways and media practitioners in state-run media are civil servants first and journalists second, it reported.

In Swaziland all radio stations except one that does not report news is state-controlled. The largest of two TV stations in Swaziland is also state-controlled.

The report, Assessment of Media Development inSwaziland, is the most comprehensive study of journalism and development in Swaziland ever published.

The report stated, there is a ‘lack of editorial independence in the state-controlled broadcast media’.  It added, ‘Swazi TV and radio are effectively departments of the civil service and government mouthpieces acting more as a vehicle for development.

‘In the case of the SBIS, which operates the radio station, the broadcast journalists are considered civil servants first and journalists second. As they are employed as information officers, they are part of the civil service and are thus expected to abide by the Government General Orders.

‘As government information officers they are expected to censor disruptive or critical information likely to compromise national security and frustrate government’s realisation of socioeconomic development goals, which clearly contravenes the spirit of editorial independence.

‘In addition, the ICT [Information, Communications and Technology] Ministry has invoked the Public Service Announcement (PSA) Guidelines to control the state broadcasters. These guidelines bar all Swazi citizens, irrespective of their status, from airing their opinions on the radio and television stations before their opinions have been cleared by their chiefs. Thinly veiled as public announcement guidelines, the PSA guidelines regulate all operations and activities of the state broadcasters.’

It said no PSA is allowed on air, ‘that is negative or does not support Government’s agenda’.

UNESCO reported, ‘According to the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services Code of Conduct and Operational Procedures of 1987, all state events and occasions which involve the presence of the King, Indlovukazi (Queen Mother) and Prime Minister shall receive priority coverage.

‘Article 3 of the same code stipulates that SBIS is a national radio station fully supported by the government and therefore broadcasters must abide by the policies and should not allow their political affiliations to intrude into broadcast messages.’

UNESCO reported this was contrary to international standards on public service broadcasting, ‘which caters for all people irrespective of their social or economic status in society. It provides programming for everyone; be it the general public or minority audiences.’

Broadcasting, UNESCO reported, should be, ‘A meeting place where all citizens are welcome and considered equals. It is an information and education tool; accessible to all and meant for all, whatever their social or economic status.’

See also

JOURNALISTS SAY THEY ARE UNDER THREAT
 
SWAZI BROADCASTING WILL NOT BE FREED
https://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/swazi-broadcasting-will-not-be-freed.html

Saturday, 26 May 2018

CONFUSION OVER SWAZI VOTER NUMBERS

Commentary

As registration for the forthcoming election in Swaziland entered its second week, more than 100,000 had reportedly signed up.

Martin Dlamini, the Managing Editor of the Times of Swaziland, and one of the chief cheerleaders for King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, called the turnout ‘impressive’. In his column in the newspaper on Friday (25 May 2018) he said it showed there were ‘potential voters eager to elect new Members of Parliament’.

But he (and we) have no way of knowing if these figures are impressive or not. That is because we do not know how many people in the undemocratic kingdom are entitled to vote.

At the start of registration for the last election in 2013 the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) announced 600,000 people were eligible to vote (but observers questioned at the time this was an under-estimate of the true figure.) At the election in 2008, the EBC gave the figure as 400,000.

This time around no figure has been given. It is not even clear what Swaziland’s total population is. In November 2017, the Swaziland Government announced it was 1,093,238 people, according to the 2017 census. Of these, 562,127 were females and 531,111, males. It did not give a clear breakdown according to age, but said 35.6 per cent of the population were of ‘working age’. That would amount to 389,192 people, a far cry from the 600,000 eligible to vote last time.

The accuracy of the total population count is in doubt. For years, outside organisations had been estimating the size of the population in Swaziland and recording it as much higher than 1.1 million. The CIA Factbook gave the figure in July 2017 as an estimated 1,467,152 (373,914 higher than the government figure). 

The CIA figures breakdown the ages. Unfortunately, it does not state how many are aged 18 and over (the eligible voting age), but it shows the number of people aged 25 and over as 628,935. It also shows 324,495 people aged between 15 and 24. We cannot be certain how many from this group are aged 18 or over, but an educated guess would be that when added to those aged 25 and over the number of  people eligible to vote is comfortably between 700,000 and 800,000.

Which of the two estimates of the population is more accurate? We cannot say for certain, but it is on public record that there were many problems collecting information for the 2017 census. In April 2018, long after the census was completed and results announced, the Swazi Observer reported that enumerators (the people who did the counting) were still owed E1.3 million (US$104,000) in payments. That suggests the census was not run very efficiently.

It matters that we have an accurate figure for the number of people eligible to vote. Elections in Swaziland are recognised outside the kingdom to be undemocratic. Political parties cannot take part and people vote under a system of ‘Monarchical Democracy’ that underpins the King’s place as an absolute monarch. The King and his supporters say that the people of Swaziland like it that way and there is no need for change.

But that has never been tested. Media are censored and freedom of assembly is limited, so there has never been an a opportunity to debate whether people are truly happy with the political system. The turnout at elections is used by the King’s supporters as a way of measuring this. That is why it is in the interest of the King to spread the message that they are well supported. 

Martin Dlamini, who doubles up as a newspaper editor and an official paid praise singer for King Mswati, says the 100,000 who have signed up to vote so far is ‘impressive’. But, really it is not if there are more than 700,000 people able to vote.

At the last election in 2013 the EBC said there were 600,000 people eligible to vote. Assuming (although it was disputed as being too low) this was an accurate figure, in 2013 414,704 people registered to vote. At the final (secondary) election, 251,278 actually voted. That was only 41.8 percent of those supposedly entitled to vote and hardly a ringing endorsement for the validity of the election.

Richard Rooney

See also

VOTERS SNUB SWAZI ELECTION
VOTING CHAOS AS NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP
https://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/voting-chaos-as-numbers-dont-add-up.html

Friday, 25 May 2018

JOURNALISTS SAY THEY ARE UNDER THREAT

Seven in ten journalists interviewed by UNESCO in Swaziland said they had faced attempts from politicians or advertisers to interfere with what they were writing.
 
Meanwhile, there is evidence that journalists in private media are not only compromised by politicians but also ‘brown envelope journalism’ where media practitioners are given money or other financial benefits to push or hide information or stories.

Practitioners in state-run media have no editorial independence and are considered civil servants and are expected to abide by government orders.

The findings are contained in Assessment of Media Development in Swaziland, the most comprehensive report ever published on journalism and development in Swaziland.

UNESCO reported that in a survey journalists were asked, ‘Have you ever been faced with attempts by external actors (whether political or commercial) to interfere in the editorial content of an article or programme that you re working on?’ A total of 65 percent of the journalists interviewed answered ‘Yes, more than once.’ Another 5 percent answered, ‘Yes.’ A further 15 percent had no answer to the question.

UNESCO reported the number of respondents who had no answer, ‘may suggest that some respondents might have been responding with caution out of fear of reprisal.’

It added, ‘These results suggest lack of editorial independence in both private and state media and two recent cases illustrate this. In 2014, the government interfered with the editorial independence of the privately-owned Times of Swaziland as well as the state broadcaster. The government ordered the former, Times of Swaziland, to retract a story about the spending of E208 million (US$20,800,000) by the authorities reportedly sourced from Principal Secretary in the Finance Ministry, Khabonina Mabuza, to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in Parliament. 

‘In another case, the management of the state broadcaster suspended  information officer, Thandiswa Ginindza, from air after she broadcast a live interview with the Chairman of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and Member of Parliament, Jan Sithole, on the country’s disqualification from benefitting from the USA’s African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA). A controversy surrounded the number of benchmarks that Swaziland required to meet before being reinstated as a beneficiary. But the main reason for her suspension was that MPs are banned from using the state broadcaster.’

UNESCO also reported that in an interview, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civil Organisations (SCCCO) Director, Lomcebo Dlamini, ‘observed that the editorial independence of the private media is not only compromised by political pressure but also by “brown envelope journalism” where media practitioners are given money or other benefits to push or hide information or stories.’

It quoted Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, National Director of Media Institute of Southern Africa, Swaziland chapter, who said even in the private media editorial independence was compromised by editors and media owners who had ‘a cosy relationship’ with the government and big corporations. ‘The private media owners and editors ingratiate themselves with big corporations that reciprocate with handing out freebies to the editors and journalists. Such tendencies not only compromise the editorial independence of the media but also contravene Article 3(1) of the Code of Ethics for Journalists which states that: “Journalists should not accept bribes or any form of inducement to influence the performance of his/her professional duties,”’ UNESCO reported.

It also reported that Swazi TV and radio ‘are effectively departments of the civil service and government mouthpieces acting more as a vehicle for development’.

It added, ‘broadcast journalists are considered civil servants first and journalists second. As they are employed as information officers, they are part of the civil service and are thus expected to abide by the Government General Orders.

‘As government information officers they are expected to censor disruptive or critical information likely to compromise national security and frustrate government’s realisation of socioeconomic development goals, which clearly contravenes the spirit of editorial independence. 

‘In addition, the ICT [Information, Communications and Technology] Ministry has invoked the Public Service Announcement (PSA) Guidelines to control the state broadcasters. These guidelines bar all Swazi citizens, irrespective of their status, from airing their opinions on the radio and television stations before their opinions have been cleared by their chiefs.’

See also

TV CENSORS PUBLIC SERVANTS’ MARCH
‘EDITOR FLEES AFTER DEATH THREAT’
GOVT ‘TIGHTENS GRIP ON CENSORSHIP’

JOURNALISTS ‘SCARED TO DO THEIR JOBS’
https://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/journalists-scared-to-do-their-jobs.html

ELECTION OF WOMEN BILL STALLS

Evidence is growing in Swaziland that traditionalists do not support a constitutional change to ensure 30 percent of members of the House of Assembly are women.

It has taken 10 years for a Bill to reach parliament and on Monday (21 May 2018) debate on it was halted because some members left the house leaving fewer than the necessary quorum of 30 in place.

During the debate on the Election of Women Members to the House of Assembly Bill, Mbabane West Member of Parliament (MP) Johane Shongwe said that wives should not stand for election unless they had the permission of their husbands. His comments were reported prominently by both of Swaziland’s daily newspapers.

The Times of Swaziland, reported he ‘had some of his colleagues in stitches while others were seething with anger’. 

The Times reported, ‘In his usual funny tone’, Shongwe said he was in favour of passing the Bill but had an issue with the fact that some of the women who would be nominated would be people’s wives.
It added, he queried, ‘If I nominate someone’s wife, who will I say gave me the permission?’

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported Shongwe saying, ‘It is difficult for women to nominate one another in chiefdoms. Therefore, it is advisable for them to get permission from their husbands. I was nominated by a woman to be where I am right now, to show that most women would rather nominate a man than another woman.’

The Observer reported, ‘The legislator further said women MPs would sometimes attend workshops at places far away from their homes. This would mean they would have to go for days without sleeping next to their husbands at home. MP Shongwe said this could pose a problem for the husband, especially if his permission was not sought by the wife before taking the politics path.’

Later, Silindelo Nkosi, Advocacy Officer, for the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA), said, ‘This is clear backward thinking. While the rest of the world is advocating and promoting gender equality, it is rather worrying to have a prominent public figure making such an irresponsible statement with no shame.’

In Swaziland, political parties are not allowed to run for election. 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.
The Election of Women Members to the House of Assembly Bill will put into legal force the constructional requirements. It was tabled in the House of Assembly in April 2018 on the instruction of the King. It is hoped that it would become law before the next national election due later in 2018.

There has been opposition to the change across the kingdom. In the past year, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) ran a series of voter-education workshops and conferences. 

Chiefs at a capacity building conference in Siteki in February 2017 spoke against encouraging the electorate to vote for women for gender-balance reasons, the Swazi Observer reported at the time. ‘The traditional leaders said this may be equal to interfering with the people’s choices or rather channelling them into voting against their will but adhere to an order.’

It added, Chief Mdlaka Gamedze raised the issue and he said the call by many organisations to vote for women might lead to interference with the people’s choices.

‘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,’ the Observer reported.

‘Meanwhile, 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. However, Matse said they would now work closely with the EBC to make sure that such incidents are not repeated in the future,’ the newspaper reported. 

At a voter education workshop at KaGucuka in June 2017, One women, reported by the Swazi Observer at the time, said most women of the area feared being nominated for the elections because they would be questioned and even disowned by their husbands. 

It reported a woman who did not want to be named saying, ‘To be very honest, the reason why this small area has never had a female nominee for elections is because we fear our husbands who will question us on how we got nominated to stand for the elections in the first place. We have heard that a successful nominee requires at least 10 people to nominate them to stand for the elections, unfortunately for us women our husbands will get angry at us when we get nominated.’

Women remain oppressed in Swaziland, according to report published in 2016 by ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa). It reported that despite claims that Swaziland was a modern country, ‘the reality is, despite pledges and commitments, women continue to suffer discrimination, are treated as inferior to men, and are denied rights’.

In a briefing paper called Women’s Rights in Swaziland ACTSA reported, ‘Cultural gender norms dictate that women and girls provide the bulk of household-related work, including physical and emotional care. As a result, girls are under pressure to drop out from school, especially where there are few adults available to care for children and the elderly, for example, in child-headed households.’

Despite the misgivings of traditionalists, the Bill will certainly be passed because King Mswati has instructed it. Barnabas Dlamini, the Swazi Prime Minister, is on record saying government belonged to His Majesty and it took instructions from him to implement them to the letter, without questioning them.  In 2012 the Times Sunday newspaper reported him saying, ‘Government listens when His Majesty speaks and we will always implement the wishes of the King and the Queen Mother.’

The PM said Cabinet’s position on the matter was that it respected His Majesty’s position on all matters he spoke about. He said Cabinet just like the nation, heard what the King said and his wishes would be implemented.

See also

BILL TO GET WOMEN IN PARLIAMENT
NEW DRIVE FOR SWAZI WOMEN’S RIGHTS
WIDOWS CAN STAND IN SWAZI ELECTION
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2017/04/widows-can-stand-in-swazi-election.html