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Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Swaziland King appoints new Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini in violation of Constitution

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland/ Eswatini, chose his new Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini in violation of the kingdom’s Constitution.

Section 67 of the Constitution says the King must appoint the PM ‘from among members of the House [of Assembly]’ but Dlamini is not a member. He was not elected by the people. The King also appoints ten members of the House of Assembly but did not give Dlamini a place.

The appointment is a clear breach of the Constitution and it highlights how the document that came into effect in 2006 is generally meaningless. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and this is allowed for in S65(4) of the Constitution which states, ‘Where the King is required by the Constitution to exercise any function after consultation with any person or authority, the King may or may not exercise that function following the consultation.’

Put in simple language, ‘The King is permitted to do what he likes.’

King Mswati has a firm grip on power in his kingdom. At the election on 21 September 2018 his subjects were only allowed to select 59 members of the House of Assembly, the King appointed a further 10. Political parties were banned from taking part.

None of the 30 members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the House elects 10 and the King appoints 20. After the election the King appointed six members of his own family to the House of Assembly and eight to the Senate.

The King also chooses the PM, government ministers and top civil servants and judges.

Lisa Peterson, the United States Ambassador to Swaziland, criticised the King for not following the constitution when making appointments after the election. In an article that appeared in both of Swaziland’s two national daily newspapers she wrote, ‘I am disappointed, disheartened and disturbed that parliamentary appointments made by the Palace disregard explicit provisions of the country’s Constitution. 

‘The terms are quite simple: among the members of the House of Assembly appointed by the King, at least half shall be women: among the 20 for the Senate, at least eight shall be women. Out of 10 appointees to the House, only three were women. In the Senate, only seven women were appointed. These shortfalls show that gender equity is not a priority for the country’s most senior officials, which means that it will not be a priority for many others in Eswatini’s male-dominated leadership.’

She warned failure to stick by the Constitution ‘will likely’ affect the amount of development aid Swaziland receives in future from the US.

She wrote, ‘This failure to abide by the terms of the Constitution has an impact not only on women’s economic, political and social participation, but on all aspects of the rule of law in this country.  If senior leaders do not need to follow the rules laid out and agreed to, why should anyone else in the country have to abide by any rules? Failure to uphold the rule of law has ramifications far beyond Parliament.’

‘As Eswatini faces a critical fiscal crisis, foreign investment will be an important component of a multifaceted economic recovery and growth strategy. Foreign investors are attracted to or deterred by a range of factors, but rule of law is a major consideration. If the Constitution itself is treated as an optional guide or a collection of recommendations, this provides little comfort to investors who seek assurance that contractual matters will be addressed transparently in accordance with the law. 

‘Beyond the potential impact on foreign direct investment, violation of the basic framework of governance will likely also have an impact on prospective foreign assistance mechanisms from the United States.’

Richard Rooney

See also

Swaziland King chooses new PM with no political experience, but together they have close business ties

Monday, 29 October 2018

Qatar embassy in Swaziland briefly detains two journalists

Committee to Protect Journalists, 25 October 2018
Security staff detained two Times of Swaziland journalists for more than an hour at the Qatar Embassy in Swaziland's capital, Mbabane, on October 5, 2018, according to a statement by the local chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), writes the Committee toProtect Journalists. The journalists were detained after a senior diplomat tried to make them sign a statement barring them from publishing a report about his alleged involvement in an assault, according to The Times of Swaziland.

The paper's business editor Kwanele Dhladhla and investigative journalist Welcome Dlamini were at the embassy to interview Qatar's Charge d' Affaires and acting ambassador Yaqoub Yousuf al-Mulla about an incident in which the diplomat allegedly pointed a firearm at a street vendor, according to The Times of Swaziland Sunday and a Swazi journalist with knowledge of the case, who spoke with CPJ but asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

Al-Mulla agreed to speak to the journalists, but then tried to force Dhladhla and Dlamini to sign a written acknowledgement they would not publish the article, according to a Times of Swaziland report. 

A document on an Embassy of Qatar letterhead, dated October 5 and published by the Times of Swaziland, stated, We, the employees of The Times newspaper, are committed not to publish any information of the embassy of the state of Qatar without an order or written permission from the embassy. In case of anything, the newspaper and the responsible persons will be prosecuted.

Dhladhla and Dlamini refused to sign, saying the story was in the public interest, according to the Zimbabwe chapter of MISA, who also issued a statement, and the Times of Swaziland. The pair recorded the interview, according to the journalist with whom CPJ spoke. 

According to MISA-Zimbabwe, the diplomat ordered embassy security staff to detain the journalists until they signed the agreement. The diplomat allegedly threatened to report the journalists to senior member of the Swazi Royal House, according to MISA and the Times of Swaziland article.

Al-Mulla called the Swazi police and reported that the journalists had broken into the embassy because they did not have an appointment or permission to be there, MISA-Zimbabwe said.
After Dhladhla and Dlamini were released, they went to the police and laid a charge of kidnapping against the diplomat, according to MISA-Zimbabwe. Neither journalist signed the document, according to the journalist with whom CPJ spoke. 

The Times of Swaziland article about the incident, published on October 6, 2018, quoted Assistant Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Inspector Nosipho Mnguni as saying that an enquiry pertaining to trespassing was being pursued against the journalists.

Swazi police spokeswoman Phindile Vilakati referred CPJ to Swaziland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment. As of October 24, 2018, Joel Nhleko, the ministry's principal secretary, had not responded to CPJ's WhatsApp messages seeking comment.

The paper published the article about al-Mulla's alleged assault of a street vendor on October 7, 2018. The report said that the diplomat admitted having a gun but disputed allegations that he threatened the vendor. 

Times of Swaziland editor Martin Dlamini told CPJ, “We are shocked that our journalists could be subjected to such treatment by an ambassador. This is not just a serious attack on the local media but displays disrespect toward the country. We will follow this matter until justice is served.”

A senior official in the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CPJ in an emailed statement that al-Mulla had agreed to an off-the-record briefing on October 5, but that Dlamini and Dhladhla had “misunderstood the agreed ground rules as the Acting Ambassador was surprised to find that he had been recorded throughout”, the official said. The official denied that the journalists were held against their will and said that if any evidence of a violation from a Qatari diplomat toward a journalist is found, “the necessary steps will be taken.”

See also

Two More Human Rights Groups Condemn Swaziland Police Attack on Journalist
Media Freedom Group Calls On SADC To Investigate Swaziland For ‘State-Sponsored’ Attacks On Journalists

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Swaziland King chooses new PM with no political experience, but together they have close business ties

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland / Eswatini has chosen a businessman with no political experience as his new Prime Minister.
Ambrose Dlamini is best known as the chief executive officer (CEO) of MTN Swaziland, the mobile phone service provider. The King receives millions of dollars a year in dividends from MTN.  He was given 10 percent of MTN Swaziland when he granted it the licence to operate as the only mobile phone service provider in his kingdom.

Swaziland is not a democracy; the King chooses the Prime Minister and government members. The King appointed six members of his own family to the House of Assembly and eight to the Senate earlier in October 2018. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections. No members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people.

The King announced his choice of PM on Saturday (27 October 2018). He had previously said he had been told whom to appoint by an angel that had appeared to him in a prayer.

King Mswati at one time was estimated by Forbes to have  a personal net worth (assets minus liabilities) of US$200 million. Seven in ten of the people in Swaziland live on incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day.

In 2014, The Sunday Times newspaper in South Africa reported that MTN ‘brokered [a] cosy relationships with the monarchy’.

It reported that the King held 10 percent of the shares in MTN in Swaziland and was referred to by the company as an ‘esteemed shareholder’. It said MTN had paid R114 million (US$11.4 million) to the King over the five years up to 2014. The payments have continued since then but the total amount the King has received is not publicly known.

The Sunday Times reported in 2014 that MTN had a monopoly in Swaziland and was used by 57 percent of the population. It said MTN was able to keep prices high, citing the cost of 300 megabytes of data in Swaziland as E149, while in South Africa the same amount of data cost E79.

In 2009, Earl Irvine, then US Ambassador to Swaziland, wrote a confidential cable (later published by Wikileaks) in which he said the King operated in his own financial interest. Part of the cable said, ‘Royal politics and King Mswati’s business interests appear to have caused the ouster of Mobile Telephone Network (MTN) CEO Tebogo Mogapi and halted parastatal Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) from selling the MTN shares it owns to raise money for a Next Generation Networks (NGN) cell phone project. 

‘Industry and press observers privately indicated that the King, who already owns many MTN shares, had wanted to purchase the MTN shares himself at a cheaper price than the buyer, MTN, was offering SPTC. 

He went on, ‘Government officials later prevented the sale, and recently did not renew the work permit for CEO Mogapi, a South African citizen, apparently in retaliation for his role in the transaction, as well as the CEO’s reported decision to oppose government efforts to use the MTN network for electronic surveillance on political dissidents.’

Ambrose Dlamani later became CEO of MTN.

The US Ambassador’s cable went on, ‘Government officials would likely prefer a more malleable Swazi CEO at MTN who would cooperate more fully with royal and government wishes.’

See also

Swaziland King says angels told him whom to appoint as new Prime Minister, but he won’t yet reveal the name
Swazi election – sponsored by MTN
Does PM have a fortune from MTN?
US decries Swazi King on MTN deal
Phones cut as Swaziland protests

Friday, 26 October 2018

Swaziland King says angels told him whom to appoint as new Prime Minister, but he won’t yet reveal the name

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland / Eswatini, told a meeting of the kingdom’s ‘People’s Parliament’ he had been visited by angels whom told him who he should appoint as the kingdom’s new Prime Minister.
In the past the King has said he received messages directly from God.

He told his story at the Ludzidzini Royal Residence on Wednesday (24 October 2018) during a meeting of Sibaya. The Sibaya is where the King summons his 1.1 million subjects to the royal cattle byre to discuss pressing issues.

When he called Sibaya people expected he would reveal who he had chosen to be Prime Minister, following the recent national elections. 

Instead of revealing his choice the King said he had prayed hard for guidance and had been visited by angels. The Times of Swaziland reported he said, ‘The angels did eventually come and told me who it was.’

The Times added, ‘He said it became apparent as he was continuously in prayer that the angels and ancestors (tingilozi nemadloti) would appear to him and show him the right man for the job.

‘He said the angels and ancestors would show him the man who was given the authority to run the country.’

The said he would not reveal the name until at least Saturday (27 October 2018) after the Sibaya had given its views on who should be the PM.

King Mswati and his supporters have in the past said the King has a direct line to God.

In 2013, African Eye News Service reported King Mswati’s elder brother, Prince Masitsela Dlamini, said that God had given the royal family authority to rule over other Swazi clans. ‘The Dlaminis are closer to God,’ said Dlamini.

In 2011, the King said God spoke to him through a TV remote control. It happened at the Lozitha Palace, near Mbabane. At the time the King told his subjects about his ‘miraculous experience’.

The Times of Swaziland reported in October 2011, ‘His Majesty saw a miracle yesterday when he was preparing a sermon [to preach to a group of evangelical Christians.] The King said a remote control lay at the centre of a coffee table but something mysteriously brought it down.

‘He said there was no person or wind that could have brought it down.  The King said he realised that God was with him.  It was Him who brought the remote control down.’

In September 2013, the King told his subjects he had received a vision during a thunderstorm and was told that the political system in Swaziland that puts the King at the head and bans political parties should from then on be called ‘Monarchical Democracy.’

On 21 October 2009, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, told its readers King Mswati was ‘ordained by God to lead his people’. Musa Ndlangamandla, the Observer chief editor at the time, reported that Lutfo Dlamini, then Swaziland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, wrote a poem to the King that included the line, ‘You are living proof that Kings and Monarchs are ordained by God to lead his people’.

Following this, the most senior ‘traditionalist’ leader in Swaziland
Timothy Velabo Mtsetfwa was reported in the Observer saying ‘Royalty was a gift from God’. He said this while urging the Swazi nation ‘to respect the Royalty because it cares for the needy’. 

Mtsetfwa also spoke about how multi-parties which are banned in Swaziland, ‘were a monster to which many countries had succumbed and fell’. He then went on to say, ‘in other countries, especially those under multi-party democracy, the leaders only think of themselves and their immediate families and forget about the needy people’. 

Following the latest election on 21 September 2018 the King appointed six members of his own family to the House of Assembly and eight to the Senate.

The King rules as an absolute monarch and chooses the PM and government. People are only allowed to select 59 members of the House of Assembly; the King appoints a further 10. No members of the Swazi Senate are elected, the House of Assembly elects 20 and the King appoints 10. 

See also

Swazi King’s private line to God
Fears over King’s mental health

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Communists to launch campaign of ‘maximum defiance’ against Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati

Communists in Swaziland / Eswatini are to launch a campaign of opposition to the absolute monarch King Mswati III urging ‘maximum defiance’. It is one of several ongoing campaigns in the kingdom, mostly organised by trade unions.

The Communist Party of Swaziland’s ‘Red October’ campaign starts on Saturday (27 October 2018). In a statement it said, ‘The aim is to up the pressure on the dictatorship, which is increasingly showing signs of cracking under popular pressure.’

It is targeting policing and police stations; structures of the Tinkhundla ‘traditional’ authority; royal owned places of business, leisure and livelihood; Parliament and government ministries; government e-communications and the electricity supply to key regime sites of power.

It said, ‘Ideas for blocking, thwarting and sabotaging the regime’s governance and running will be developed in a coordinated way to affect a maximum number of sites of the regime’s operations. The regime will learn that there is no space within society where it can relax or be sure of popular compliance and support.’

It added, ‘The aim is to make the regime unable to function as broadly as possible, to make it unable to govern the country in key areas. Maximum Defiance aims to allow our people to adopt a flexible approach to how they resist the regime. We are not calling for an immediate shutdown of everything, but we are urging labour unions, civil society, communities and party organisations to find the best ways to defy the regime in as many areas of their work and life as possible.’

It said, ‘The overriding aim of the Maximum Defiance campaign is to push the regime to accepting the will of the people by unbanning all political formations, ensuring complete freedom of assembly and media, and disbanding itself as an initial step towards free and fair multi-party elections.’

There is at present an ongoing campaign by trade unions under the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA). Workers want a national minimum wage of E3,500 (US$ 234.27) a month, and an increase in elderly grants (pensions) to E1,500. Public sector workers also want a 6.5 percent cost of living salary adjustment. The Government says it is broke and has offered zero percent.

Many workers also want the legalisation of solidarity strikes, an increase in health and education funding and an end to arbitrary evictions especially on the working class and poor.

Teachers are presently boycotting overseeing school examinations as part of their own dispute over pay.

On 23 September 2018 the Industrial Court forced the Swaziland National Association of Teachers to postpone a three-day strike until 23 November 2018

Police attacked workers during three days of protest in September 2018.

See also

Widespread Condemnation of Swaziland Police Brutal Attacks on Workers
Vicious Attack by Swaziland Police on Defenceless Workers Captured on Video
Swaziland Police Fire Gunshots During Textiles Dispute, Third Attack on Workers in a Week
Swaziland Teacher Who Stopped Police Chief Shooting Into Unarmed Crowd Appears in Court

Police in Swaziland Attack Nurses With Taser During Peaceful Protest Over Pay

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Swaziland soldiers accused of ‘torturing’ farmers searching for their stray cattle

Soldiers in Swaziland / Eswatini have been accused of ‘torturing’ farmers who crossed the border with South Africa to retrieve their straying cattle.

It is the latest in a long line of reports of soldiers physically abusing innocent civilians.

The latest report involves cattle farmers at Dwalile, which is close to the Malutha Border Post between the two countries. 

Residents told the Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland (21 October 2018) they were abused each time they crossed a collapsed fence dividing the two countries to collect their livestock, which often stray into South Africa.

The newspaper reported the farmers said when they are found driving cattle from South Africa the Swaziland soldiers who are members of the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (UEDF) ‘would dip them in a nearby swamp’ in their clothes.

It added, ‘They are also made to do frog jumps, rolled on the ground and some are assaulted and kicked by the soldiers. Most of the abuse lasts for over an hour and had left some of the farmers sick.’

The Observer said complaints have been made to the UEDF and community leaders. ‘Some of the people who have suffered brutality at the hands of these uncompromising soldiers have threatened to lay charges against government,’ it added.

The newspaper called the Army’s behaviour ‘torture’ and said residents ‘had suffered intolerable abuse at the hands of the soldiers’.

UEDF Public Relations Officer Lieutenant Nkosinathi Dlamini told the newspaper the farmers made ‘false accusations’. 

Reports of Army abuse of civilians are common in Swaziland. In June 2018, three soldiers were charged with assault for burying a man alive after they accused him of stealing a phone from them at Mbekelweni.

In December 2017 soldiers were accused of routinely sexually assaulting women as they crossed border posts with South Africa. The Observer on Saturday reported at the time, ‘The army troops have been accused by women of abusing their powers by touching them inappropriately as they lay their hands on their buttocks just to allow to cross either to South Africa or into Swaziland. 

‘Some women when being searched for illegal goods alleged that they are touched almost everywhere by the male army officers and these informal crossings.’

The newspaper said the inappropriate behaviour took place ‘almost every day’ around the Ngwenya informal crossing. 

In July 2017 soldiers reportedly forced a bus-load of passengers to strip naked after it crossed the Mhlumeni Border Gate into Mozambique. Local media reported it happened all the time. 

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reported they were ordered to strip ‘stark naked’ as part of a ‘routine body search’. The newspaper said the passengers had been on vacation in Mozambique.

In June 2017 it was reported women at the informal crossing situated next to the Mananga Border Gate with South Africa were made to remove their underwear so soldiers could inspect their private parts with a mirror. The Swazi Army said it happened all the time.

Soldiers were said to be searching for ‘illegal objects’ using a mirror similar to that used to inspect the underside of cars.

In September 2015, the Swazi Parliament heard that soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows. Member of Parliament Titus Thwala said that the women were among the local residents who were regularly beaten by soldiers at informal crossing points between Swaziland and South Africa.

The assaults are not confined to border areas. In 2011, a man was reportedly beaten with guns and tortured for three hours by soldiers at Maphiveni who accused him of showing them disrespect. He was ordered to do press ups, frog jumps and told to run across a very busy road and was beaten with guns every time he tried to resist.

In July 2011, three armed soldiers left a man for dead after he tried to help a woman they were beating up. And in a separate incident, a woman was beaten by two soldiers after she tried to stop them talking to her sister.

He said that he did more than 50 press ups and he was beaten with guns every time he asked to rest.

See also

Army tortures recruitment cheats 
Army sexual assaults at border posts
Soldiers inspect woman’s private parts

Monday, 22 October 2018

Results of Swaziland election not published one month after poll questioning kingdom’s claim to democracy

The results of the House of Assembly election in Swaziland / Eswatini have still not been published one month after the vote took place.

It is further evidence that the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch is not a democracy.

The election took place on 21 September 2018. The kingdom’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) promptly announced the winners at the 59 constituencies (known as tinkhundla) but no break-down giving the number of votes cast for each candidate has been released.

This is not new in Swaziland: the full results of the previous election held in 2013 have never been published.

In Swaziland, political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the people are only allowed to select 59 members of the House of Assembly; the King appoints a further 10. No members of the 30-strong Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the King appoints 20 members and the House of Assembly elects 10. Following the election King Mswati appointed six members of his Royal Family to the House of Assembly and eight members to the Senate.

The EBC has not released the results of the House of Assembly election, although they are known. The two national newspapers in Swaziland published some results from individual tinkhundla as they were announced on the night of the election. 

The EBC has the capacity to publish the results. After the first round of the election (known as the Primary Election) on 24 August 2018, the EBC uploaded on its website all the results. At the time the Swazi Media Commentary (SMC) blogsite analysed the data and found a total of 156,973 people voted for members of the House of Assembly at the Primary Election; 28.83 percent of those who had registered.

In June 2018 after revising the figure the EBC announced that 544,310 people had registered to vote. It said earlier that 600,000 people in the kingdom were eligible to register. This meant, according to EBC figures, that 90.7 percent of eligible people had done so. The EBC figure was questioned after allegations were made of election law breaking. No copy of the national electoral roll was made public.

SMC reported that the size of the turnout in the Primary Election was important as voting was the only way people in Swaziland had of demonstrating their support (or lack of it) for the political system. In 1973, King Sobhuza II tore up the constitution, banned political parties and began to rule by decree. Although a new constitution came into effect in 2006, little has changed and King Sobhuza’s son King Mswati III continues to rule as an absolute monarch. Political opposition is banned in Swaziland and those who campaign for democracy are charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

The voting figures for the Primary Election suggested a lack of support for the political process. The results of the primary Election have since been removed from the EBC website.

The final round of the election (known as the Secondary Election) was marred by accusations of bribery, vote-rigging and other malpractice. There were also outbreaks of violence. Police fired gunshots, stun grenades and rubber bullets as voters at Sigwe protested against completed ballot papers being taken away from a polling centre. In Ndzingeni polling stations voters were dispersed using teargas during counting as voters threatened to enter the polling station where counting was taking place. APA news agency reported outbursts of violence started as early as noontime on election day and intensified in the evening when the counting of votes was about to resume.
Some journalists and official independent election observers were barred from entering voting counting centres and told they must sign a declaration of secrecy form.

Following the election official complaints were made to the EBC about malpractice. Residents at Ntfonjeni said people were bussed in and allowed to vote after the election had closed. At Ndzingeni residents complained of vote-rigging.

See also

Swaziland Police Fire Gunshots, Set Off Grenades and Rubber Bullets as Voters Protest During Election
Violence, corruption, vote-buying reported in Swaziland election. Journalists barred from entering counting centres
Swaziland (Eswatini) Election 2018: Links to Information and Analysis From Swazi Media Commentary

Organised Certainty, Why elections in Swaziland are not democratic

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Swaziland King appoints eight of his family to Senate amid reports of widespread vote buying elsewhere

King Mswati III the absolute monarch of Swaziland / Eswatini has appointed eight members of his Royal Family to the kingdom’s Senate. This is in addition to the six he previously appointed to the House of Assembly.

In an unexplained move, the King appointed Prince Hlangabeza to both the House and the Senate.

The announcement came on Thursday (18 October 2018) and follows national elections that are widely discredited outside of Swaziland as undemocratic. No member of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the King appoints 20 and members of the House of Assembly elect 10.

The King’s appointments underline the lack of democracy in Swaziland. Elections for the House of Assembly were held on 21 September 2018. Political parties are banned from taking part and people are only allowed to select 59 members; the King appoints a further 10.

Ten members of the Senate were elected by members of the House of Assembly on Tuesday amid reports of widespread bribery. The Times of Swaziland reported on Thursday that police were investigating after votes were said to have been sold for between E20,000 and E40,000. In Swaziland seven in ten of the estimated 1.1 million population have incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 (about E30) a day.

The Times said the bribery allegations came to light after one unsuccessful Senate candidate whom it did not name demanded her money back from members of the House of Assembly.

The Observer on Sunday newspaper, which is in effect owned by King Mswati, said in an editorial comment (14 October 2018), ‘It is now an open secret that the 10 seats available for Senate, to be chosen by the MPs, are now sold to the highest bidder.’

Vusi Kunene, a columnist for the Times of Swaziland, criticised Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission for not taking action. He wrote, ‘That it is no longer a secret that there is a lot of vote buying and the institution, which is supposed to guard against such, is silent, is worrying.’

The buying of Senate seats in Swaziland is common. In the run-up to the election Ncumbi Maziya, a Commissioner at the EBC, told a workshop for election candidates that members of parliament charged E60,000 for their vote.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported in August 2018, ‘He said parliamentarians are the most corrupt people. He said he has since gathered that parliamentarians are swindling money from people who want to make it into Senate. 

It added, ‘Maziya said he learnt that people are made to fork out money amounting to E60,000 if they want to get a vote to be elected into Senate. “If you have no money you won’t make it into Senate,” Maziya stated.’

In a separate development, the Times of Swaziland reported on Friday two unnamed candidates for the Senate election had secretly been disqualified because they had failed police vetting. It reported, ‘their past was found wanting’. It gave no further details.

It added, ‘Vetting is the process of performing a background check on someone before offering them employment, conferring an award, or doing fact checking prior to making any decision.’

It said, ‘To save face, some of the MPs [Members of Parliament] continued to elect the candidates who had not passed the vetting stage, although it was clear from the counting of the votes that they did not stand a chance to win.’

It added, ‘Chief Police Information and Communications Officer (PICO)  Superintendent Phindile Vilakati, said as the police they could not divulge any information on the vetting of individuals.

‘“The process that is undertaken is highly confidential and therefore, for security reasons, one cannot state what happens,” said Vilakati.’

See also

Swaziland King appoints six of his own family to House of Assembly and more expected in Senate House 

Swaziland Election Officer Reveals MPs Sell Their Votes When Electing Kingdom’s Senators 

Swaziland (Eswatini) Election 2018: Links to Information and Analysis From Swazi Media Commentary

Organised Certainty, Why elections in Swaziland are not democratic

Friday, 19 October 2018

Police violence, undemocratic elections, hunger and disease: highlights of Swaziland’s human rights violations

Police in Swaziland / Eswatini turned the city of Manzini into a warzone when they attacked a legal protest by workers demanding pay improvements. It was one of a number of police attacks on legal demonstrations in which bullets, stun-grenades, water cannon and teargas were fired. A video of an indiscriminate attack by police on defenceless people went viral on the Internet. The police violence was condemned globally.

Police also fired gunshots, grenades and rubber bullets during Swaziland’s election as voters protested against what they believed was malpractice. The election was largely recognised outside the kingdom to be undemocratic. Political parties are banned from taking part and at its conclusion King Mswati III the absolute monarch in Swaziland appointed six members of the Royal Family to sit in the House of Assembly. No members of the Swazi Senate are appointed by the people. The election was riddled with reports of bribery, vote-rigging, and violence.

These are some of the reports in this edition of Swaziland: Striving for Freedom which includes reports from Swazi Media Commentary published July to September 2018. It is available to download free-of-charge from Scribd dot com. Among others are the financial meltdown of the Government with health and education services failing. There were reports of hunger and deaths as a result of the government’s inability to pay its suppliers. Meanwhile, King Mswati and his family continue to spend lavishly on themselves. Barnabas Dlamini, a stanch ally of the ruling elite who was recognised globally as a serial abuser of human rights in Swaziland, died after a long illness. 

It was also revealed in a once-secret CIA report that the revered King Sobhuza II supported the white-ruled Apartheid government in South Africa because he was afraid that change there would encourage people to press for political reform in his own kingdom.

Swazi Media Commentary is published online, updated most weekdays. It is operated entirely by volunteers and receives no financial backing from any organisation. It is devoted to providing information and commentary in support of human rights in Swaziland.

See also

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom. Latest review of human rights from Swazi Media Commentary
Swaziland update on human rights
A decade of news and views

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Reported attempt to re-form Swaziland Police Union rekindles memories of fight for workers’ rights

Police leaders in Swaziland / Eswatini are playing down reports that a trade union for junior officers has been re-formed in the kingdom.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, which has a long history of anti-trade unionism, was so keen to support the police management that it published the same comments from its spokesperson in separate editions more than two weeks apart.

Reports that the Swaziland Police Union (SWAPU) might be back in operation spread on social media during the kingdom’s discredited House of Assembly elections in September 2018. SWAPU was banned in 2008 after the High Court and the Supreme Court ruled it to be illegal.

The Swazi Observer (27 September 2018) and also its Saturday edition (13 October 2018) reported on a hurried press conference called by the police on 26 September 2018. Both stories used the same quote from Chief Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati, ‘We have been able to trace the source and origin of the circulating information. Our investigations have unravelled that the whole story, in particular the contents therein, were fake news creatively made up as a figment of someone’s fertile imagination in furtherance of ulterior political motives, in particular as cheap propaganda strategy to promote anarchy and put a damper on the national elections.’

No evidence to support her assertions were given.

SWAPU was formed in 2005 and failed after a struggle for recognition when both the Swaziland High Court and the Supreme Court dismissed it as illegal. The Police Union became incorporated to the legally-recognised Royal Swaziland Police Staff Association.

In September 2007, the then Police Commissioner Edgar Hillary applied for a court order to arrest Khanyakwezwe Mhlanga the Secretary General of the Police Union because Mhlanga was illegally mobilising officers.

This was part of a bitter fight that continued for many months. Swazi police officers disobeyed their commander when instructed to arrest fellow police officers who were trying to hold a trade union meeting. So, the senior officers themselves had to try to break up the meeting. As they tried to arrest trade union leaders their fellow unionists freed them and they escaped to safety.

Swaziland police Deputy Commissioner of Police Isaac Magagula had warned the unionist against holding the meeting. The Swazi Observer had the previous week quoted Magagula saying, ‘It is only with the expressed approval of the commissioner that police officers can convene or attend any meeting.’

Many believed the commissioner did not have this power since the Swaziland Constitution allows for freedom of assembly so the meeting was protected and should have been allowed to go ahead.

A video of Royal Swazi Police breaking up the meeting in October 2007 is still on YouTube. It shows police dragging people from the meeting and trying to arrest them.

A senior police officer is videoed saying that the meeting cannot go ahead because the organiser’s do not have a permit. He says he is only following his orders.

The video then shows police dragging people from the meeting hall to a waiting police van. Three policemen attack one man who is dragged by his feet on his back and as he tries to struggle free he cries out ‘Where are you taking me? What have I done?’

As police try to put him in the back of a van his comrades come and rescue him and the police appear to give up on him.

Later in the video police drag off another man. He desperately clings to a pole to stop them taking him further. Again, his comrades come to his rescue and he escapes.

The video, which lasts eight minutes, has no commentary, but it does have the sound of the confusion. The camera operator gets close to the action and most of the time is right in the thick of it. Naturally, the police are aware that they are being videoed.

The level of violence used by the police was much less than witnessed in September 2018 when p
olice turned the city of Manzini into a ‘battlefield’ and ‘warzone’ on the second day of a national strike in the kingdom when stun grenades, teargas, teasers and rubber bullets were used. 

The Times of Swaziland reported in 2007, ‘The Regional Commander Senior Superintendent Caiphas Mbhamali, instructed the junior officers to arrest the defiant SWAPU members, but they did not take his orders as they stood and watched.

‘The senior officers took it upon themselves to effect the arrest, but SWAPU members resisted and the scuffle continued.

‘During the scuffle, the shirt of a senior officer’s uniform got torn, SWAPU member Thandukwazi Zwane’s T-shirt was also ripped apart.

‘A member of SWAPU quickly jumped inside his car parked close by, reversed at high speed towards the crowd and ordered his colleagues to jump inside.

‘Meanwhile, the SWAPU President Dlamini blocked the gate with his car, allowing his followers out of the gate.’

Although SWAPU lost its case in both the High Court and Supreme Court there was one dissenting judgment.  High Court Judge Qinisile Mabuza said that existing regulations that banned trade unions were inconsistent with the Swazi Constitution, which allowed for freedom of association. She also said Swaziland laws needed to conform to international standards and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions.

The judge said Swaziland needed, ‘to conform to modern trends in a democratic society in meeting the [union’s] expectations and fulfilling their constitutional rights’.

The judge said that denying officers their ‘fundamental rights’ to form a union were, ‘repugnant to good governance and the rule of law, and particularly that the sanction for forming a union is dismissal, which is a disciplinary measure’.

She called the existing laws banning the union ‘old discriminatory and oppressive’. She went on, ‘They are inconsistent with Chapter III of the constitution. They should be declared null and void. They have no place in a democratic society.’

See also

Swazi police chief snubs union