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Thursday, 31 January 2019

Swaziland continues to be riddled with corruption, new global report shows

Swaziland / eSwatini continues to be riddled with corruption, according to the latest annual report from Transparency International.

The kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch scored 38 out of a possible 100 in the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018. In 2017 it scored 37 on a scale where zero is ‘highly corrupt’ and 100 is ‘very clean’.  The index ranks countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople.

Transparency International did not publish details of the corruption in Swaziland, but it is already widely known. In November 2018 national police Deputy Commissioner Mumcy Dlamini told an event for International Fraud Awareness Week Swaziland lost E30 million from the economy because of banking fraud alone during the previous year.

In an annual report ending March 2017, Acting Auditor General Muziwandile Dlamini said  government financial accounts were incomplete, billions of emalangeni were unaccounted for and laid-down rules, guidelines and procedures were ignored. The offices of the Prime Minister, National Commissioner of Police, Defence Department and Correctional Services were among a string of government departments and agencies that broke the law by spending tens of millions of emalangeni on vehicles and transport running costs without authority.

In December 2017, Swaziland’s Anti-Corruption Commission issued a report suggesting that 79 percent of 3,090 people interviewed in a survey believed that corruption within government was ‘rife’.

The survey suggested that corruption was perceived to take place mostly in rural councils. The perceived major causes of corruption were poverty (58 percent), unemployment (54 percent) and greed (41 percent). The survey was conducted by the Swazi Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs through the ACC.

In June 2017, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported the kingdom, was riddled with corruption in both private and public places.

It said, ‘The results of grand corruption are there for all to see in the ever increasing wealth of high-level civil servants and officers of state.’ 

It added, ‘For a long time the police, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade as well as the Department of Customs and Excise have often been implicated in corrupt practices.’

It gave many examples including the case of the government propaganda organisation Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS) where E 1.6 million was paid to service providers for the maintenance of a machine that was neither broken nor in use.  The officer who authorised the bogus job cards has since been promoted and transferred to another government department. 

The report called The effectiveness of anti-corruption agencies in Southern Africa stated, ‘This type of behaviour is common albeit covert and therefore difficult to monitor as goods and services are undersupplied or rerouted for personal use. The results of grand corruption are there for all to see in the ever increasing wealth of high-level civil servants and officers of state.’

See also

Corruption rife among security firms servicing Swaziland Government and public enterprises
Swaziland ‘riddled with corruption’
‘Army among most corrupt in world’

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Renewed criticism that rule of law in Swaziland is ignored as new judges appointed

The Law Society of Swaziland Secretary Thulani Maseko has criticised recent appointments of judges in the kingdom saying there was no transparency in the choices and the Swazi Constitution was ignored.

This was not the first time Swaziland / eSwatini which is ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III has been criticised for ignoring the rule of law.

Maseko said five recent appointments to the kingdom’s High Court and Industrial Court ‘undermined the integrity, independence and accountability of the judiciary’. He said the appointing process had to be fair, transparent and competitive in line with Section 173 (4) of the constitution which also states appointments should be made on the basis of suitable qualifications, competence and relevant experience.

He said, ‘If these appointments were done in an open, transparent and competitive way, it would be clear that some of the appointees would not [have] passed the standard of integrity required of the judicial office.’

He added the appointments put the judiciary and the entire justice system into disrepute and undermined the rule of law. 

The rule of law is a principle in governance which means that all people – including those in authority – are subject to the law. Under this principle the law is supreme, setting out acceptable limits for behaviour and safeguarding against abuse of power.

The independence of judges in Swaziland has been questioned for many years. In 2015, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in a submission to a United Nations panel that was reviewing human rights in Swaziland called for an overhaul of laws and regulations in the kingdom to take power away from the King.

The ICJ which is composed of 60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world said,The judges’ appointment process continues to pose a threat to judicial independence and impartiality. The Constitution of Swaziland provides that the judges are appointed by the King after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). 

‘The King has the ultimate and final say in respect of the appointments to the bench. 
‘Moreover, the composition of the JSC and the appointment of its members undermine confidence in the independent discharge of its mandate, including the consultative role in the appointment of judges. The JSC is chaired by the Chief Justice, and in addition comprises two legal practitioners, the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission and two other persons. All of these individuals are appointed by the King.’

The ICJ added, ‘In addition, some recent judicial appointments have given rise to concern about the lack of qualification of those appointed. Certain appointments have been publicly questioned by Swaziland’s legal practitioners and by the Law Society.’

The ICJ called for an overhaul of the legal system in Swaziland. ‘The authorities of Swaziland must immediately review the laws and regulations pertaining to the JSC with a view to bringing them in line with regional and international law and standards, including by removing the Crown’s [the King’s] control over the JSC’s composition,’ it said.

In a separate report in 2016 the ICJ said the kingdom’s constitution needed to be changed to bring it in line ‘with regional and universal international law and standards, in particular on the separation of powers and respect for judicial independence’.

It added, ‘Swaziland’s constitution, while providing for judicial independence in principle, does not contain the necessary safeguards to guarantee it. Overall, the legislative and regulatory framework falls short of international law and standards, including African regional standards.’

In 2014 Caroline James of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) wrote the judiciary under the then Chief Justice MichaelRamodibedi had ‘become a puppet of King Mswati III, and the courts, which are supposed to hold the other branches of government to account, instead further his interests and protect his actions.

‘In 2011 the Chief Justice issued an official practice directive that no courts could entertain any legal suits filed against the King and his office. This directive shields the King from constitutional challenges brought against him as head of government, as well as actions brought against him in his personal capacity. This allows him to act with impunity, and completely removed any mechanism for accountability.

‘Later that year, one of the few independent thinking judges on the High Court bench, Judge Thomas Masuku, was impeached and removed from his position. Without Masuku the number of judges willing to apply the law impartially has been reduced, and as the Chief Justice himself allocates all cases before the High Court, he is able to ensure that any politically sensitive matters are given to judges he knows will rule in the government’s favour.’

She said the judiciary was being used to punish those who dared to speak out.

‘The offence of contempt of court exists to protect the integrity of the judiciary and prevent interference with justice, and not to prevent legitimate criticism of judges and their conduct. However, the range of conduct covered by the offence appears to have been widened, and is being used in Swaziland to shield judges from criticism. This broad interpretation has removed any certainty individuals may have over what they may or may not say about the judiciary.’

See also

Jurists: deep flaws in legal system

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Children at risk of food poisoning as Swaziland Govt’s financial crisis continues

Schoolchildren in Swaziland / eSwatini are at risk of poisoning because they only have rotten food to eat after the government failed to deliver supplies because it has run out of money.

The academic year started last week and schools, especially in rural areas, have not received supplies. Children rely on free food to avoid starvation. The crisis has been going on for many years and there seems to be no end.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Tuesday (29 January 2019) that some schools have had no supplies of food since September last year. What food that is left has become rotten, it reported head teachers saying. It is mainly beans and mealie meal.

It quoted one saying, ‘The food is now contaminated but we are forced to use it.’ He added, ‘We need fresh food urgently.’

The Times reported another head teacher said, ‘In these rural schools, it is impossible for us to teach without giving food to the pupils because for many, this is their only healthy meal.’

The Times added, ‘The delay in delivering of food to schools is putting pupils’ health at a high risk of eating contaminated and rotten food.’

The food crisis in Swaziland is long-running. In February 2018, children were warned to prepare themselves for starvation as the government once again failed to deliver free food to schools. The Swazi Observer reported at the time that schools relying on government aid – known as the zondle programme – ‘must brace themselves for starvation as the Ministry of Education and Training has failed to deliver food to schools on time’.

It quoted one school principal who wanted to remain anonymous, ‘The pupils should brace themselves for starvation because there is no available food in the school, and they have exhausted the food that was left last year.’

Schools have also been forced to close because of food shortages.

In June 2017 it was reported more than 200 pupils children at Mphundle High School were treated for food poisoning after allegedly being served contaminated meat.

In a report in August 2018 the World Food Program said 45 percent of children in Swaziland were orphaned or vulnerable. Chronic malnutrition was a main concern and stunting affected 26 percent of children under the age of five. An estimated 77 percent of Swazis relied on subsistence farming for their livelihoods.   

There seems no end to the crisis. In June 2018 headteachers and principals told the Swazi Observer they were in huge debt and unable to pay suppliers. It said the problem was with the government which faced financial challenges. 

The Swaziland national budget has been mismanaged for years. Swaziland is broke and the government is living from hand to mouth. In June 2018 the then Finance Minister Martin Dlamini told the House of Assembly that as of 31 March 2018 government owed E3.28 billion. Dlamini said budget projections indicated ‘exponential growth in the arrears’. 

The spotlight on spending in Swaziland intensified when in April 2018 at a party to mark both his 50th birthday and the anniversary of Swaziland’s Independence from Great Britain, King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit weighing 6 kg studded with diamonds. Days earlier he had taken delivery of his second private jet. This one, an Airbus A340, cost US$13.2 to purchase but with VIP upgrades was estimated to have cost US$30 million.

Meanwhile, seven in ten of the 1.2 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day.

See also

Chaos and confusion across Swaziland as new school year starts

Bad food poisons 200 Swazi pupils

Swazi Govt ‘runs out of cash’

Lavish spending leads to food aid cut

Hunger forces schools to close early

Monday, 28 January 2019

Industrial Court stops Swaziland public servants strike at last minute

The Industrial Court in Swaziland / eSwatini stopped the national strike by public servants hours before it was due to start.

At an urgent hearing on Sunday (27 January 2019) Court President Sifiso Nsibande ruled the strike could not go ahead because there was still a case to be heard before the court.

The strike over a pay claim had been called by four unions: the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT); Swaziland National Association of Government Accountants Personnel (SNAGAP); Swaziland Nurses Association (SNA) and the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU). All are affiliated to the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).
Ahead of the strike Swaziland Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini threatened workers they would be sacked from their jobs if they went ahead and each could face a fine of up to E10,000. In Swaziland six in ten people have income less than E25 per day.

Following the Industrial Court ruling, SNAT said it would hold a meeting of members on Monday (28 January 2019) to discuss the way forward.

See also 

Swaziland public servants prepare for pay strike amid fears of renewed police violence against them

Friday, 25 January 2019

Swaziland public servants prepare for pay strike amid fears of renewed police violence against them

Public servants in Swaziland / eSwatini are due to start a national strike on Monday (28 January 2019) in a dispute over pay. State police have been put on alert and there are fears they might use violence to disrupt protests as they have done in the past.

Government offices, ministries, departments, schools, clinics, transport departments, healthcare centres and hospitals, are among areas that could be affected. The strike is expected to last for five days. It could be repeated each month after that.

Four unions are involved: the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT); Swaziland National Association of Government Accountants Personnel (SNAGAP); Swaziland Nurses Association (SNA) and the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU). All are affiliated to the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).

Workers have been campaigning for the past two years for cost of living salary increases of 6.5 percent. The government says it is broke and has offered zero percent. Unions say inflation in Swaziland has risen by 14.5 percent over the past two years. In a statement ahead of the strike the government said, ‘The taxpayers of Eswatini cannot pay cost of living adjustments (COLA) to Government employees for 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 while other stakeholders remain unpaid, while there are unfunded deficits and while Government salaries are already at unsustainable levels.’

Unions dispute this and say the government wastes money on ‘lavish’ spending on ‘non-priority and capital projects such as the construction of the International Convention Centre [ICC], funding of festivities such as the Umhlanga Reed Dance, 50/50 celebrations for the King’s birthday and Independence Day celebrations and catering for huge delegations to international trips.’

There are fears of police violence during the strike. In the past police fired live bullets, rubber bullets and teargas at workers and demonstrators who had been legally protesting. In September 2018 during a three-day strike the streets of Manzini, the kingdom’s main commercial city, were turned into a ‘battlefield’, according to local media. The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, said the bus rank in Swaziland’s major commercial city was ‘turned into a warzone as stun grenades, teargas, teasers and rubber bullets became the order of the day’.

The Times of Swaziland , the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, called it an ‘open battlefield’.
Armed police had been deployed across Swaziland. Videos and photographs of brutal police attacks were uploaded on social media. The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) in a statement said the videos showed ‘unlawful police actions’.

It added, ‘Several workers were wounded after police fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd in Manzini. These police officers then unleashed a wave of assaults against striking workers in an effort to quell the protests.’ 

See also

Police Turn Swaziland City Into ‘Warzone’ as National Strike Enters Second Day
Widespread Condemnation of Swaziland Police Brutal Attacks on Workers

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Chaos and confusion across Swaziland as new school year starts

Schools in Swaziland / eSwatini face chaos and confusion as the new academic year starts. Teachers are to strike, the government cannot afford to finance education and many pupils face exclusion because they do not have official identity documents.

Schools were due to return on Tuesday (22 January 2019) but this was in doubt following an announcement from the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) that a series of union meetings would take place across the kingdom during the week. SNAT will also be joining a national strike of public service workers due for 28 January 2019.

They are in a long-running dispute with government over cost of living wage adjustments. Unions have asked for 6.5 percent but the government says it is broke and has offered zero percent.

Meanwhile, it is doubtful that the government can afford to pay schools the fees they need so they can operate. Government needs to find E151.9 million for the primary schools across the kingdom to fund free primary education (FPE). There are about 650 primary schools in Swaziland. The Swazi Constitution requires that all children in the kingdom receive free primary education. For eight years until last year the European Union had paid about E140 million a year toward the cost of FPE. 

Initially, the EU said it would fund FPE for all primary school pupils until 2016. After the initial period elapsed the financial support was extended until the end of 2018.

There are about 330,000 pupils at school in Swaziland, including about 240,000 at primary schools. The government pays a minimum of E560 per pupil for primary pupils.

Minister of Education and Training Lady Mabuza told the Times of Swaziland government did not yet have a plan to pay fees in the absence of the EU sponsorship. 

‘We’ve not engaged on the issue much but the EU stated that they were withdrawing last year and government has to take over,’ Mabuza said.

At the end of last year the Ministry of Education and Training had to pay more than E40 million to cover the cost of sending police and prison wardens into schools to invigilate examinations while teachers were in dispute. 

Meanwhile, many children will not be able to attend school because they do not have the correct documentation. Head teachers in many primary schools say they will not accept pupils who do not have Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) issued by the government.

Last year the government refused to fund pupils who did not hold PINs. The Ministry said to avoid audit queries it had to pay fees against a PIN not a name of a pupil.

There are also reports that schools will not receive much needed materials such as stationery because suppliers have not been paid. At primary school each child needs at least 14 exercise books and seven text books. One supplier located in Manzini told the Times of Swaziland his company was owed E300,000.

It is not clear whether the government has paid food suppliers. In the past two years children who relied on government food aid – known as the zondle programme – had gone hungry when bills were left unpaid.

The problems at schools do not end at primary level. An investigation by the Swazi Observer in January last year revealed that some high schools charged nearly E9,000 per child per year in top-up fees. It also found that some schools were not allowing children, including OVCs (orphaned and vulnerable children) to attend classes until deposits on fees were paid.

The Ministry of Education then announced that no school in Swaziland had been given permission to charge top-up fees because none had made the necessary formal request to do so. Permission can take up to a year.

Also last year children were turned away because there were no spaces for them in classes at High School. This was because the kingdom had in recent years introduced FPE and children had graduated and there were not enough places for them in secondary schools. Parents were reported by local media to be walking from school to school in unsuccessful attempts to get their children placed.

See also

Primary schools grinding to a halt
Children told ‘prepare for starvation’
End of free Swazi primary schooling

Monday, 21 January 2019

Swaziland chief bans alcohol. Shows how chiefs have complete control in area they rule

A chief in Swaziland / eSwatini has banned alcohol in his area. It is another example of how chiefs in the kingdom have complete control over their people.

The ban happened in Qomintaba. Chief Gasa waNgwane Dlamini issued the ban after youths allegedly got drunk and attacked elderly people with spears. 

Chiefs are appointed by King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland. They rule in his name and have unlimited powers; sometimes literally of life and death.

The international news agency AFP reported a spokesperson for the chief saying, ‘The violent behaviour of drunk youths who spear and assault elderly people is the reason why the chief decided to ban alcohol.

‘In this area we have a problem of a high rate of drinking among youths caused by high unemployment.

‘This causes them to spend a lot of time drinking traditional concoctions and smoking dagga (marajuana).’

Chief Gasa waNgwane Dlamini was in the news ahead of Swaziland’s national election in September 2018. In April there was a campaign at Lavumisa that includes Qomintaba.

The Swazi Observer reported at the time people were angry at ‘the draconian laws imposed allegedly by the leadership of the area’. 

Lavumisa Chief Gasa WaNgwane’s main royal residence is Qomintaba. There are almost 16 mini-chiefdoms in Lavumisa, all which report to Qomintaba. Constituencies under Lavumisa include Sigwe, Somntongo and Matsanjeni South. 

The Observer reported, ‘There has been instability in the area with some of the residents, including close family members of the ruling household, questioning Gasa WaNgwane’s leadership style. It is said some of the close family members and residents no longer participate in activities organised by the leadership.’

Chiefs in Swaziland are appointed by King Mswati and wield tremendous power over their subjects. They can, for example, determine whether people are allowed to live in the area, or whether children can attend universities and colleges. In some cases they decide who lives and who dies as they are in charge of distributing international food aid to starving communities. About a third of the population of Swaziland receive food aid each year. 

Chiefs can and do take revenge on their subjects who disobey them. There is a catalogue of cases in Swaziland. For example, Chief Dambuza Lukhele of Ngobelweni in the Shiselweni region banned his subjects from ploughing their fields because some of them defied his order to build a hut for one of his wives.

Nhlonipho Nkamane Mkhatswa, chief of Lwandle in Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland, reportedly stripped a woman of her clothing in the middle of a street in full view of the public because she was wearing trousers.

In November 2013, the newly-appointed Chief Ndlovula of Motshane threatened to evict nearly 1,000 of his subjects from grazing land if they did not pay him a E5,000 (about US$500 at the time) fine, the equivalent of more than six months income for many in Swaziland.

In March 2017 the Swazi Observer reported the EBC told residents during a voter education exercise at Engwenyameni Umphakatsi, ‘it was not acceptable have elected politicians to behave as if they were above community leaders’.

It added, ‘Chiefs remain superior to any other person in communities as they are the administrative arm of His Majesty King Mswati III.’

See also 

Chief punishes residents with fine
Bullying chiefs rule in Swaziland