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Friday, 14 December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also

Why so much military training?

Thursday, 13 December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also

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

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also

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

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also

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

Monday, 10 December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a 2017 report by Danish solidarity organisation Afrika Kontakt revealed how smallholder growers are also left vulnerable by sugar price fluctuations and transport costs, as well as by the corruption and undermining of the fight for democracy, that EU-support for Swaziland’s sugar industry, healthcare and education systems allows.

See also

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