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Friday, 29 March 2019

Girl, 12, has fingers broken at Swaziland school in latest case of illegal caning

A 12-year-old girl in Swaziland / eSwatini had her fingers broken when she was caned 25 times across her hand, in the latest case of illegal corporal punishment used in schools.

The girl at Mkhuzweni Primary School had failed 25 questions in a test. She had missed classes previously and was not prepared for the test, the Times of Swaziland reported on Friday (29 March 2019).

It reported, ‘This resulted in her sustaining serious injuries such that she fractured some of her fingers.  She was not the only one who was punished as her other classmates received 18- 20 strokes depending on how many questions they did not get right.

‘A teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said other parents came to complain to the school’s headteacher about the beating of their children.’

The Times said Regional Education Officer of Manzini Mlimi Mamba confirmed he attended to the case. Deputy Police Information and Communications Officer Inspector Nosipho Mnguni said the matter had been reported and investigations were ongoing.

Corporal punishment was banned in Swazi schools by the Ministry of Education and Training in 2015, but caning continues. There are many reports from across Swaziland that pupils have been brutalised by their teachers.

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. 

There had been 4,556 cases of ‘severe corporal punishment’ of children in Swaziland’s schools over the previous four years, Star Africa reported in March 2016.

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.

See also

Children fear beatings, miss school
Cane banned in Swazi schools
Teachers beat boys on naked buttocks

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Swaziland students hold hostage lecturers accused of rape and sexual assault

University lecturers in Swaziland / eSwatini were reportedly held hostage in their offices amid allegations that they had raped and sexually assaulted students.

It happened at the Kwaluseni campus of the University of Eswatini (formally UNISWA – University of Swaziland) on Wednesday (27 March 2019) and followed continuing allegations of mistreatment of students by academic staff.

A lecturer allegedly raped a 21-year-old student from the university last Friday, the Swazi Observer reported.

The newspaper reported, ‘Students stormed the offices of the lecturers alleged to have sexually abused students and held them hostage. They proceeded to write messages on the doors to their offices, making it clear that they were tired of lecturers who abused students.’

It followed a separate allegation reported in the Observer’s Sunday edition (24 March 2019) that a lecturer beat a pregnant student in full view of her colleagues. The newspaper reported the two had been in a persona relationship.

UNESWA Vice Chancellor Professor Justice Thwala said the lecturers had been suspended pending an independent inquiry. The police have been informed about the rape allegation.

Students have suffered sexual harassment for many years at the university, which has Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III as its Chancellor. In 2017 details of harassment that had been taking place for years was made public. This included a male administrator showing his private parts to women students and demanding sexual favours from them before offering assistance.

In November 2012 it was reported at a Colloquium on Sexual Harassment in Higher Learning Institutions held at the University of Swaziland that some male lecturers demanded sex in return for good grades.

Women in all walks of life in Swaziland suffer sexual harassment routinely. In 2017 Women and Law in Southern Africa - Swaziland (WLSA) reported male bosses demanded sexual favours from their domestic workers.

In July 2016 it was reported that women temporary employees at Swaziland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) had allegedly been forced to have sex with their bosses to keep their jobs. 

See also

Parents trade own girls for sex

Monday, 25 March 2019

Swaziland people pay E1 billion for absolute King’s upkeep, but it’s kept a secret

An independent magazine in Swaziland / eSwatini has reported that absolute monarch King Mswati III and his family were allocated E1 billion for their spending from the national budget in the past year, but this information has been kept secret from the public.

The Nation, a well-established monthly comment magazine, said this came at a time when the Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg said the kingdom could not afford to pay public servants cost of living salary adjustments.

The Nation reported (March 2019) that expenditure on the King was controlled by the Swazi National Treasury (SNT). Although the Auditor General audits SNT accounts each year its report is not made public. The Nation reported, ‘Audited statements of the SNT were removed from the public eye in 1992 when then Minister of Finance, Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, was stung by numerous revelations of scandals of gross misuse of public funds by that institution.’

Dlamini went on to be appointed Prime Minister by King Mswati and held office for a total of 17 years.

Citing an SNT report, the Nation said the E1 billion was ‘the entire budget for the royal households’ allocated for the financial year 2018 – 2019. The sum compares to the E2 billion budgeted for health; E1.5 billion for Defence and E1.4 billion for Agriculture.

In Swaziland nearly seven in ten of the 1.2 million population live in abject poverty on incomes less than the equivalent of US$3 per day (about E43). 

Swaziland has been regularly criticised by the United States for not revealing full details of the budget to the people. The U.S. Department of State in its 2018 Fiscal Transparency Report reviewed the kingdom’s budget and concluded that while budget documents ‘provided a general picture of government revenues and expenditures, revenues from natural resources and land leases were not included in the budget. Expenditures to support the royal family were included in the budget but lacked specific detail and were not subject to the same oversight as the rest of the budget.’

In Swaziland King Mswati controls natural mineral rights. He holds 25 percent of mining royalties ‘in trust’ for the Swazi Nation. The government also takes 25 percent. The Fiscal Transparency Report stated, ‘Criteria and procedures for awarding natural resource extraction licenses and contracts were outlined in law, but the opacity [lack of clarity] of the procedures, which involve submitting applications for licenses directly to the King, cast doubt on whether the government actually followed the law in practice. 

‘Basic information on natural resource extraction awards was not always publicly available.’

The U.S releases annual reports on fiscal transparency for countries that receive its financial assistance to ‘help ensure U.S. taxpayer money is used appropriately’. It said Swaziland had shown no improvement in fiscal transparency since the previous report in 2017.

See also

Swaziland King prepares for lavish birthday celebrations, despite dire poverty in the kingdom
No let up on poverty in Swaziland as absolute King makes public display of his vast wealth
Swazi budget a tale of woes

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Swaziland King prepares for lavish birthday celebrations, despite dire poverty in the kingdom

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland / eSwatini, is preparing for another lavish birthday celebration despite the poverty that ravages his kingdom. 

In past years the equivalent of many millions of US dollars has been spent on his celebrations, much of it from public funds. 

It was reported locally that officers of His Majesty’s Correctional Services (HMCS) which deals with prisons objected to being made to donate from their salaries towards the cost of the King’s birthday celebration this year. King Mswati is Commissioner General-In-Chief of HMCS.

The King’s birthday falls on 19 April but this year that coincides with Good Friday so he has put back his own celebrations to 26 April 2019. A public holiday for that day has already been declared. The venue for the celebration will be the Buhleni Royal Residence in the Hhohho region. The King has at least 13 palaces across Swaziland, a kingdom about the size of the US state of New Jersey.
Full details of the celebration have not yet been announced.

Last year for his 50th birthday the Queen Mother gave King Mswati III a dining room suite made of gold. The Government, whose members are personally appointed by King Mswati, gave him a lounge suite trimmed with gold.

He also received cheques totalling at least E15 million (US$1.2 million) to help pay for his birthday celebration that took place on 19 April 2018.

On that day he 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.

This happened at a time when seven in ten of the estimated 1.1 million population lived in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. The global charity Oxfam named Swaziland as the most unequal country in the world in a report that detailed the differences in countries between the top most earners and those at the bottom.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported at the time that many of the King’s subjects visited him at Lozitha Palace to hand over gifts. It reported that this took six hours to complete.

In 2017, just as the World Food Program (WFP) revealed that one-in-three people in Swaziland were ‘in need of emergency food assistance’, media in the kingdom reported that King Mswati III’s birthday cake took three months to prepare.

The Times of Swaziland reported, ‘All eyes were on the cake that was beautifully displayed in the front during the garden party at His Majesty’s birthday celebration. Most people were asking themselves how much time it took the bakers to prepare the cake. The company has always made it a point that it prepares a beautiful cake every year for His Majesty’s birthday celebrations.’

The Swazi Observer said, ‘The purple and cream white cake was set on a gold stand that connected the 49 pieces to make it one and the artistic look was finished off with a gold lion shaped piece.’

The WFP reported, ‘Chronic malnutrition is a main concern in Swaziland: stunting affects 26 percent of children under five years. Swaziland is vulnerable to drought in the south east. 77 percent of Swazis rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods.’ 

In 2015, King Mswati hosted a birthday party for himself that cost at least E1.2 million (US$120,000). According to a report in the Sunday Observer, 35 cattle and 1,000 blankets were also presented to the King. The King’s subjects, through their chiefs, also contributed 69 cattle, two goats and E5,400 cash.

The newspaper said the dinner held at Ebuhleni Royal Residence was mainly sponsored by the Indonesian Consular and businessman Kareem Ashraf.

In a speech, the King told his admirers that God blessed his party.

In 2013, his birthday party cost US$3.6 million, but Percy Simelane, spokesperson for the Swazi Government, said this money did not come out of the kingdom’s budget for celebrations and national events. He told Voice of America radio, ‘The King’s birthday was privately sponsored this year, as [was] the case last year.’ 

He did not say who sponsored the event.

Also in 2013, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a banned political party in Swaziland, reported 32 BMW cars had been delivered to King ahead of his 45th birthday celebrations.

In 2012, the King was embroiled in a row when he took delivery of a private jet plane, worth an estimated US$46 million. He claimed that the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 twin-engine jet was a gift from an admirer, but declined to say who it was. This led to speculation that the jet had been purchased out of public funds. 

The King choses a different area of his kingdom to visit for his birthday celebrations. In 2012 the venue was Shiselweni, Swaziland’s poorest region. Locals were forced to give up their cattle for the King. At the time, the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a banned organisation in Swaziland, called for the party to be cancelled. 

It said in a statement, ‘Shiselweni is the country’s poorest region, the same area where the country’s poorest citizens live. Areas like Lavumisa are so poverty stricken that its residents have at times been reported to be living on poisonous shrubs. Despite this abject poverty in the region, the King has insensitively decided to throw a lavish birthday party and rub his stolen riches in the people’s poverty stricken faces.’

In 2014, the King’s birthday party received global attention when world-famous hip-hop and soul singer Erykah Badu sang for the monarch.

King Mswati’s grip on power in his kingdom is so great that at the time magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko were serving two years in jail for contempt of court after calling the independence of the Swazi judicial system into question in articles in a small circulation magazine, the Nation.

Also, seven people were in jail awaiting trial for wearing T-shirts supporting the pro-democracy group PUDEMO.

It was against this background that Badu, who in the past had been a vocal supporter of human rights, sang the King’s praises and gave him a US$100 note as a gift.

See also

No let up on poverty in Swaziland as absolute King makes public display of his vast wealth

Swazi Cabinet’s gift of gold
Swazi King and queens of bling

How the Swazi Observer reported the King’s 50th birthday gift from the Queen Mother

Saturday, 23 March 2019

No let up on poverty in Swaziland as absolute King makes public display of his vast wealth

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland / eSwatini and the man who wore a suit studded with diamonds and a watch worth US$1.6 million at his 50th birthday celebration, told a United Nations meeting he would soon issue a report on ending poverty in his kingdom.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported on Friday (22 March 2019), ‘The King assured that government took seriously the poverty challenges and did not want to leave any citizen behind in its development agenda.’

He spoke at the United Nations conference on South - South Cooperation held in Argentina.

There have been no shortages of reports about poverty in Swaziland in recent years. In August 2018 a report published by the World Bank stated, ‘Poverty, inequality and unemployment are the primary development challenges which have remained stubborn and difficult to address.’

It said,  ‘Based on the international poverty lines of US$1.9 and US$3.2 a day, it is estimated that 38 percent of the Swazi population [estimated at 1.2 million] lives in extreme poverty and a total of 60.3 percent is poor overall. These estimates represent a relatively small improvement from the 2009 finding that 42.0 percent were subsisting below the $1.9 a day line and 64.4 percent were below the $3.2 a day line. 

‘In general, children, the elderly, the unemployed as well as female-headed and single-headed households are disproportionately represented among the poor.’

In December 2018 a report published by Afrobarometer suggested poverty in Swaziland got worse over the previous three years.

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).

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 was not the first organisation to identify the state of poverty in Swaziland. 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 said it could not raise the US$1.1 million it needed to feed starving children in the kingdom.

See also

PM gets it wrong on poverty
Economy: impossible to cut poverty
King gets new jet as people starve
Swazis among hungriest in the world

Friday, 22 March 2019

Swaziland High Court rules army assaulted civilian, must pay him damages

The High Court in Swaziland / eSwatini has ruled that the army tortured a civilian and has order it to pay him damages.

High Court Principal Judge Qinisile Mabuza also criticised the kingdom’s police for not investigating alleged assaults on civilians by members of the army, known officially as the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (UEDF).

The case followed an incident at Vuvulane in the Lubombo region in October 2003 when soldiers attacked Themba Maziya and kicked him with heavy boots, punched him with fists and immersed him in a canal full of water and assaulted him with an electric cable. Soldiers had accused him of stealing an Army vehicle.

The High Court was told Maziya was assaulted all over the body and the head.  As a result he suffered temporary loss of memory, he had scars all over the body and severe trauma.

The UEDF denied assault.

In her judgement Judge Mabuza said soldiers put Maziya into a van and drove him to a river where they tied his hands and legs and put him into the river head first.  ‘They assaulted him on the head with the cable and stabbed him on the head with sigeja.  They assaulted him on his back with the cable, kicked him and threw stones at him.  He says that a nerve/vein on his left temple burst due to the assault and from that day be became mentally disturbed.’

The assault continued for two hours until police rescued him and took him to Good Shepherd Hospital at Siteki where he was admitted for treatment and kept in for a day. He was subsequently admitted at the psychiatric hospital in Manzini where he stayed for three weeks.  

Giving her judgement Judge Mabuza said she was concerned that the police failed to investigate alleged assaults on civilians as it gave the perception that they protected members of the UEDF. She said the matter ought to have been investigated by police and the perpetrators charged with a criminal offence.

Maziya was awarded E70,000 damages.

This was not the only time UEDF forces have been accused of assault. As recently as October 2018 soldiers were accused of torturing farmers who crossed the border with South Africa at Dwalile to retrieve their straying cattle.

Residents told the Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland at the time they were abused each time they crossed a collapsed fence dividing the two countries to collect their livestock, which often strayed into South Africa.

The newspaper reported the farmers said members of the 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.’

In a separate case 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