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Friday, 30 August 2019

Swaziland High Court rules married women equal under the law to their husbands

A law in Swaziland / eSwatini that relegates married women to the legal status of minors under the guardianship of their husbands has been ruled unconstitutional by the kingdom’s High Court.

The High Court of eSwatini ruled on Friday (30 August 2019) that the common law doctrine of marital power offended women’s constitutional rights to dignity and equality.

Marital power refers to the archaic common law doctrine that a husband has the ultimate right to decide over his wife and the matrimonial property. The doctrine of marital power means that a married woman cannot deal with the marital assets without the knowledge and consent of her husband, yet her husband can do so without seeking and obtaining her approval.  Under the doctrine, a wife cannot conclude contracts without her husband’s permission, she cannot represent herself in civil suits, and she cannot administer property, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) said in a review of the case.

SALC reported the court struck down sections 24 and 25 of the Marriage Act to the extent that it provided that marriages were governed by common law ‘unless both parties to the marriage are African in which case… the marital power of the husband and proprietary rights of the spouses shall be governed by Swazi law and custom.’

SALC said, ‘Relying on recent judgments by the Botswana and India courts relating to the criminalisation of sexual orientation, the eSwatini High Court emphasised that dignity is an essential element of respect and honour and being subjected to marital power and minority status denies women their right to dignity.’

Colani Hlatjwayo, Executive Director of Women and Law Southern Africa-Swaziland, said, ‘The effect of the judgment is that the common law doctrine of marital power is declared unconstitutional, and that all spouses married in terms of the Marriage Act in community of property have equal capacity to administer the marital property. As such, this case is an important step towards marriage equality in eSwatini.’

Swaziland, ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch, is a deeply conservative kingdom. In 2016 ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa) reported that despite claims that Swaziland was a modern country, ‘the reality is, despite pledges and commitments, women continue to suffer discrimination, are treated as inferior to men, and are denied rights.’

ACTSA added, ‘The King has demonstrated he is unwilling to change the status quo and promotes multiple aspects of the patriarchal society.’

In a briefing paper called Women’s Rights in Swaziland ACTSA said, ‘Swaziland has a deeply patriarchal society, where polygamy and violence against women are normalised, deeply unequal cultural and religious norms, and a male monarch who is unwilling to make any change. All this contributes towards the daily discrimination faced by women.’

See also

Woman, 36, in Swaziland beaten and ordered to leave home because she is not married

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Amnesty says Swazi Govt failing to help people forcibly evicted from their homes a year ago

The Government of Swaziland / eSwatini has failed to help the hundreds of people who were forcibly evicted from their homes a year ago, Amnesty International reported.

‘Despite Amnesty International having raised the alarm over forced evictions that left hundreds of people homeless, the eSwatini government has not taken any steps to provide reparations, including alternative housing, to the victims of this human rights violation,’ Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa said on Thursday (29 August 2019).

Mwananyanda added, ‘Many of the communities who are facing notices of eviction have stopped planning for their future and they are devastated by the prospect of finding themselves on the streets. To wilfully ignore their suffering and distress is simply unacceptable.’

Those who have been forcibly evicted and others who remain at risk of forced evictions are mainly subsistence farmers. ‘The forced evictions not only impact their right to adequate housing but also their livelihoods, thus pushing them deeper into poverty,’ Amnesty said.

In a report in 2018, Amnesty International revealed that many Swazis were vulnerable to forced evictions because they lacked security of tenure, due to the kingdom’s ‘deeply flawed’ land governance system.

Most of the land is Swazi Nation Land, held in ‘trust’ by the absolute monarch King Mswati III. He has power to allocate it to individuals or families through his chiefs. The remainder of the land is title-deed land, owned by private entities or the government.

Amnesty International found that at least four communities, Sigombeni, Madonsa, Mbondzela and Vuvulane, were at risk of imminent eviction from their farming land and their homes. 

Amnesty reported, ‘In Sigombeni, at least seven homesteads comprising 75 adults and 29 children are at risk of imminent eviction after the Central Farm Dwellers Tribunal ruled on 27 March 2018 that they should vacate portion 1 of Farm 246 in the Manzini region. The farm owner does not want people to live on the farm anymore. The affected families told Amnesty International that they would lose at least 17 graves on their land if they were finally removed.’

One woman told Amnesty, ‘We are pensioners. We don’t have money. [The government] should at least compensate us and give us money. It’s not only us affected [there are other communities affected]. We don’t want to go.’

In Madonsa, more than 200 people from approximately 58 families are facing eviction from land claimed by a parastatal authority.

In Mbondzela, approximately 100 people, are at risk of being evicted from title-deed land. The residents have appealed to the Minister of Natural Resources and Energy who has referred the matter back to the Central Farm Dwellers Tribunal for reconsideration.

In Vuvulane at least 16 families remain at risk of eviction.

In the past few years, hundreds of people have been affected by forced evictions in Swaziland. Most of the evictions were carried out in the absence of adequate notice, genuine consultation and without adequate compensation, in violation of international law, Amnesty said.

In May 2019, hundreds of people marched at Malkerns to protest the forced eviction of people who had been left homeless and destitute. The march was jointly organised by a variety of civil society organisations. The Times Sunday, reported at the time one of the evicted people said, ‘We eat from the bins as we do not have homes and cannot practice farming.’

See also

Evicted farmers take on Swaziland absolute monarch to get their land back
Bulldozers move in to evict families
Homes destroyed for King’s vanity project

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Disabled women in Swaziland fear nurses trying to force them to be sterilised

Women with disabilities in Swaziland / eSwatini say they fear nurses are trying to force them to be sterilised so they cannot have babies. 

According to the Swazi Observer, ‘health practitioners coerce them into removing their uterus as they are told that they were incapable of mothering children because of their disabilities’.

It published an account from a woman, aged 25, who uses a wheelchair and was in labour. ‘One nurse at first wanted to know how I was going to mother the baby because I myself needed to be taken care of,’ she said.

She added, ‘I felt like I was being stripped naked. The conversation turned serious when I was told to consider being made sterile before I leave the hospital.’

The newspaper said, ‘After having refused to be made sterile and fearing not being capable of having any more children, one nurse made remarks to the effect that next time she returned, there would be no negotiations.’

The Observer reported Disabled Women of Swaziland Director Buyi Masuku said she knew of individual experiences of some women with disabilities when being attended to in public health institutions.

The newspaper said many parents had their disabled daughters sterilised to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Human Rights Commissioner Sabelo Masuku told the newspaper this was a shocking gross violation of human rights and one of a kind the commission had never dealt with before.

People with physical or mental challenges are often mistreated in Swaziland. In March 2019 it was reported a 17-year-old girl with deformed feet who had never been able to walk was forced by her family to live in a shack like a dog. The family said they had tried to accommodate her in the house but she would frequently soil herself if there was no one around to assist her. 

In 2017 Autism Swaziland Director Tryphinah Mvubu said people with autism were often excluded from social services because their parents kept them away from the public in fear of embarrassment.

The Swazi Observer newspaper at the time reported her saying, ‘Some parents refuse to accept children with this condition as this disorder is considered to be a bad omen, hence they are locked in the house day in and day out so they cannot be seen by members of the community. They are so stigmatised to an extent that in some cases they are not even counted as members of the family.’

It is not only autistic children who are hidden. In July 2016, it was reported in local media that two disabled orphan children in Swaziland had been concealed from the world after a government official told their family it would harm the image of the kingdom if people knew of their condition. It was reported that the two children aged 16 and eight might be suffering from polio. It was said they had not walked since they were born and had shrunk muscles and could only crawl. They both cannot talk. 

The abandonment of the children was one of many examples of poor treatment of people with disabilities in Swaziland.

A report published by SINTEF Technology and Society, Global Health and Welfare in 2011 that studied living conditions among people with disabilities in Swaziland, found, ‘There is a general belief that those who have a disability are bewitched or inflicted by bad spirits.

‘Many believe that being around people with disabilities can bring bad luck. As a result, many people with disabilities are hidden in their homesteads and are not given an opportunity to participate and contribute to society.’

It also found that people with disabilities had been abandoned by the Swazi Government. The report stated, ‘The absence of any comprehensive laws and policies to address people with disabilities’ access to equal opportunities reflect a lack of political will and a failure to recognize disability as a human right issue contributes to the devaluing and dehumanising of people with disabilities.

‘People with disabilities have the same rights as able-bodied people and they are entitled to enjoy all citizenry rights.’

See also

Hidden sick kids: UNICEF responds
Disabled people ‘treated like animals’

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Swaziland university closed indefinitely as student protests continue

The University of eSwatini (formerly University of Swaziland) has closed indefinitely and sent students home after protests across its three campuses.

Students are engaged in an ongoing protest over allowances which have been cut in recent years and are now not being paid fully at the beginning of semesters.

Students across Swaziland which is ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III have been protesting the issue in the three weeks since classes started for the academic year. They also want scholarships to be given to all people who want them and qualify. Many of the present first year students have registered at the university but have not been granted scholarships. Students are also angry that they were not consulted over changes.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported students vandalised property, started fires and blocked roads.

See also

Limkokwing University, Swaziland, asks High Court to force end to class boycott
Swaziland police hold and ‘torture’ students after protest march on Govt ministry

Monday, 26 August 2019

Number of child deaths from diarrhoea in Swaziland rises

The number of children known to have died in the current outbreak of diarrhoea in Swaziland / eSwatini has risen to 11, the charity WaterAid reported.

This was revealed at a workshop on hygiene held at Pigg’s Peak.

WaterAid Eswatini Research Manager Ncamiso Mhlanga said the main contribution to these deaths were poor sanitation methods, mainly at home or day care centres where these children stay.

Swazi Director of Health Services Vusi Magagula reported in early August 2019 that six children had died over a period of four days and about another 1,000 others had been treated for the infection caused by the rota virus. 

Deaths from this preventable disease occur in the kingdom every year. But the government, ruled by King Mswati III as the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, is broke and continually fails to tackle to problem.

Diarrhoea is a bowel infection often caused by contaminated water or food. According to the website of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a 25-pack of one dose vials of rotavirus vaccine to immunise against diarrhoea costs US70.49 (E1,050) at commercial rates. Typically a child needs two doses to be immunised.

Swaziland is broke and public services are grinding to a halt. All kinds of medicines are in short supply in public hospitals and clinics because the government has failed to pay suppliers. Nursing posts and other vacancies remain unfilled as part of a government policy to cut its wages bill. At least 400 qualified nurses are unemployed, Dr Magagula recently told a meeting of pensioners in Mbabane.
See also

Six children die in Swaziland in diarrhoea outbreak. Vaccines short since government has not paid suppliers
Swaziland nurses picket, drugs run out, lives put at risk as government fails to pay suppliers

Friday, 23 August 2019

Limkokwing University, Swaziland, asks High Court to force end to class boycott

Limkokwing, the private university in Swaziland / eSwatini favoured by the kingdom’s absolute monarch, has petitioned the High Court to force boycotting students back to class.

An urgent application was filed on Thursday (22 August 2019) to stop the boycott that has been running for much of the past week.

Students are protesting against a number of issues, including the payment of allowances, scholarships for all admitted first year students and involvement of students in decision-making. Last week with students from the public University of Eswatini (formerly UNISWA) and Eswatini Christian Medical University they marched on the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to deliver a petition outlining their grievances.

The university in its High Court submission said there had been clashes between police and students on university premises. ‘Violence is likely to continue and escalate,’ it stated.

The Limkokwing  University of  Creative Technology was launched in Swaziland only after an intervention by King Mswati. In June 2011, it emerged that the university’s founder Tan Sri Dato Lim Kok Wing had a meeting with King Mswati and convinced him that Swaziland needed a new university.

He persuaded the King that sub-degree courses in such subjects as graphic designing, tv & film production, architectural technology, advertising, creative multimedia, information technology, event management, business information technology, journalism and media, public relations and business management, would help Swaziland, which is mainly an agricultural society, to prosper. 
Once the King gave his support nobody in his kingdom stood in its way. Limkokwing started in Swaziland illegally because an Act of Parliament was needed to set up a university, but Limkokwing was allowed to start without parliament’s approval. 

In 2013, the university awarded King Mswati an honorary doctorate in ‘human capital development.’

Limkokwing, part of an international group of campuses, has been controversial since it opened in Swaziland in 2011. Students and education commentators have highlighted the poor quality of courses, staff and resources.
Limkokwing was chosen by King Mswati to house his University of Transformation to take students from across the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region. The King became chair of SADC in August 2016 when he pledged the university would be operating by August 2017. Nothing substantial happened and the plan remains stalled.

See also

King’s new unworkable university
New Swazi university substandard
King fell for bogus university

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Beating banned in Swaziland schools, but ‘no law’ to prosecute teachers who do

There is confusion in Swaziland / eSwatini about whether the use of corporal punishment in schools is illegal even though the government issued a directive banning it.

This emerged at Manzini when a prosecutor refused to take a teacher to court because no ‘legal instrument’ existed.

The case reported by the Times of Swaziland involved a pupil from St Theresa’s Primary School. She and others had been caned and she needed medical treatment. Police were informed and they made a case to go ahead to the magistrates’ court.

The legal prosecutor’s office refused to take it forward. The newspaper reported this was, ‘because there was no legal instrument which confirms that corporal punishment was abolished in schools in the country’.

It added, ‘without the instrument which states that corporal punishment was abolished, there was nothing they could do’. The prosecutor did not deny that the pupils had been beaten.

In 2015 a directive was issued from Swaziland’s Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) stating that corporal punishment was banned in schools. Phineas Magagula, Minister of Education and Training, warned that teachers who beat pupils should be reported to the ministry so that they could be disciplined. The ban was restated in the National Education and Training Sector Policy in 2018.  

A number of teachers have been reported to police for beating children since the directive was first issued. As recently as June 2019 a teacher at Gilgal Primary School was arrested after allegedly whipping a 10-year-old boy who needed treatment at a health centre for his injuries. The teacher, Thulile Fortunate Mhlanga, aged 39, was charged under the Children Protection and Welfare Act.

In November 2017 a  male teacher at Lozitha High School was arrested and charged for allegedly beating an 18-year-old female pupil on the buttocks with a pipe because she had not had her hair cut as instructed by the school. In Swaziland an 18-year-old is legally an adult.

In June 2016 the school principal at the Herefords High School was reported to police after allegedly giving a 20-year-old female student nine strokes of the cane on the buttocks.

In September 2015 the Times reported a 17-year-old school pupil died after allegedly being beaten at school. The pupil reportedly had a seizure.

In March 2015 a primary school teacher at the Florence Christian Academy was charged with causing grievous bodily harm after allegedly giving 200 strokes of the cane to a 12-year-old pupil on her buttocks and all over her body.

In 2005 The International Save the Children Alliance published research into Swazi children’s experiences of corporal punishment. Children reported being subjected to corporal punishment at school due to making a noise or talking in class, coming late to school, not completing work, not doing work correctly, failing tests, wearing incorrect uniform items, dropping litter, losing books or leaving them at home.

In 2011, Swaziland was told by the United Nations Human Rights Periodic Review held in Geneva it should stop using corporal punishment in schools, because it violated the rights of children. 

See also

Swaziland police investigate report children illegally beaten to encourage them to do well in exams 

Swaziland teacher arrested after boy, 10, beaten for defiance, needed medical treatment

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Swaziland college principal reveals role abortions play in lives of his students

The principal of a teacher training college in Swaziland / eSwatini said at least 50 of his students had abortions in the space of a year. 

Ngwane Teachers College Principal Dr Amos Mahlalela addressed students at the college at an assembly. 

Later, interviewed by the Observer on Sunday newspaper in Swaziland he said the college in the Shiselweni region did not know where the students obtained the medication used to terminate pregnancies. 

If a student becomes pregnant while studying at the college she is required to leave and not return until after the baby is born.

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, abortion is prohibited in Swaziland except in cases of necessity but there is disagreement about what constitutes a case of necessity. 

‘The majority position of commentators is that a case of necessity exists only when an abortion is performed to save the life of the pregnant woman.  However, it is possible that a case of necessity need not be so serious and that an abortion could be performed in cases of serious threat to both physical and mental health, foetal defect and rape. There is no case law on this issue in Swaziland,’ the report stated.

The Swazi Constitution provides that abortion might be allowed on medical or therapeutic grounds, including where a doctor certifies that continued pregnancy will endanger the life or constitute a serious threat to the physical health of the woman; continued pregnancy will constitute a serious threat to the mental health of the woman; there is serious risk that the child will suffer from physical or mental defect of such a nature that the child will be irreparably seriously handicapped. 

However, no law exists to put the constitutional provisions into effect. 

Because abortions are illegal in Swaziland it is difficult to say accurately how many are performed in the kingdom. However, in August 2018 the Times of Swaziland reported that every month nurses at the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital in Manzini attended more than 100 cases of young women who had committed illegal abortions.

See also

Death of Swaziland schoolgirl after illegal abortion highlights suffering of women in kingdom
U.S. halts funding to Swaziland NGO as anti-abortion policy bites

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Swaziland confirms health services in meltdown as Govt has not paid suppliers

The Ministry of Health in Swaziland / eSwatini has confirmed the extent of the crisis in public hospitals and clinics due to the economic meltdown.
Drugs have run out and there are shortages of nurses, midwives and other health professionals. Fuel frequently runs out and ambulances and other vehicles have broken down.

Among the major challenges faced by the ministry are a shortage of drugs, delayed payment of service providers, frequent shortages of fuel, the breakdown of transport and shortages in human resources. 

The information was contained in the ministry’s first quarter performance report delivered to the Swazi parliament.

Part of the report states, ‘While most patients were negatively affected, highly impacted patients were those on psychiatric medication, which stocked out for longer periods and those taking anti-hypertensive treatment. The main cause for stock-outs is failure to pay suppliers on time due to the fiscal challenges facing the government.’

The government which is not elected but chosen by absolute monarch King Mswati III owes about E3 billion (US$340 million) to suppliers across all public services, including schools. 

The report said that within the health sector most facilities had been negatively affected by the delayed payment and subsequent withdrawal of services by service providers. This included catering, security, servicing of medical equipment, immunisation, external referrals, cleaning materials and protective supplies.

‘This has negatively affected the provision of health services, thus reducing the quality of patient stay at facilities,’ the report added.

The report stated there were a total of 179 vacant positions at the end of March 2019; including 19 medical or dental officers, 77 nurses or midwives and 83 allied health professionals, administrative and support staff. At least 400 qualified nurses were unemployed, Director of Health Services Dr Vusi Magagula recently told a meeting of pensioners in Mbabane.

The crisis has been deepening for a number of years. At least six children were reported to have died  from diarrhoea earlier this month (August 2019). Drugs to treat them were unavailable.

Collection points have been set up across Mbabane, the Swaziland capital, to collect donations to feed hospital patients left hungry after the government failed to pay food suppliers. Food banks organised by members of the public working as the ‘Emergency Disaster Network’ have set up collection points for donations at various points across the city for patients at the Mbabane Government Hospital. Food items, ranging from bags of beans, rice, chicken portions and sugar have been collected, the Swazi Observer reported. Cash donations have also been made. Food shortages had also hit two other public hospitals, Hlatikhulu Government Hospital and Nhlangano Health Centre, both in the Shiselweni Region.

See also

Swaziland cancer patients refused treatment because Govt. has not paid hospital bills 

More deaths in Swaziland as govt fails to pay medicine suppliers

Food collection points set up in Swaziland as hospital patients unfed after Govt fails to pay suppliers 

HIV drugs not available across Swaziland as health crisis deepens
Swaziland health crisis getting worse as budgets cut. Rural areas most affected
Swaziland health crisis: fearful psychiatric nurses say they might release patients

Monday, 19 August 2019

Making media freedom in Swaziland is more than a dream

New Frame

Magazine editor Bheki Makhubu, in spite of harassment from King Mswati III and his cronies, is undeterred in his bid to expose the regime’s wrongdoings.

Bheki Makhubu, editor of 'The Nation' magazine

The role of dissenting journalists in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) is more crucial than ever before. But the grimy reality is that critical journalists left in Africa’s last absolute monarchy are rare to find. Bheki Makhubu, an editor of eSwatini’s monthly political magazine The Nation, is one of the few remaining in the landlocked country who isn’t scared to speak out.

“I’ve always understood that the media by its nature calls out authority and it protects the public interest,” he says. “I think by nature of human existence, people in authority need to be monitored and called to account, because otherwise, they tend to forget why they are there and sometimes they are not aware of what they are supposed to do; we need to remind them of their functions.”

To call authorities to account in eSwatini is, however, almost an impossible task because of the regime’s repressive laws towards dissidents. “This country is run by bullies,” Makhubu says at his magazine’s offices in the country’s capital, Mbabane. He frequently publishes critical stories against King Mswati III and his stooges. While working for the Times of Swaziland, the country’s oldest newspaper, Makhubu once wrote that the king is a “businessman”, a remark that forced him to issue an apology to the ruler after the paper was put under immense pressure.

On 17 March 2014, Makhubu and activist and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko were jailed for 15 months for criticising eSwatini’s former chief justice Michael Ramodibedi. This was after a government vehicle inspector whose job it is to check whether government cars are authorised to be on the road requested authorisation from a chauffeur driving a judge in a government vehicle. Both the judge and chauffeur allegedly refused, resulting in the impounding of their car.  

No one should be denied representation

“Ramodibedi had [the inspector] arrested and charged with contempt of court,” Makhubu says, adding that the inspector had requested legal representation at court which Ramodibedi allegedly denied. “I then wrote an article saying that whatever power Ramodibedi might have, he does not have the power to deny anybody the right to legal representation,” Makhubu explains. For this, he and Maseko were thrown into jail.

Makhubu says these are tactics employed to deter journalists from assuming a watchdog role. “When I walked out of that prison, almost to this day they don’t know what to do with me. I almost got complete freedom,” he says.

It’s not only journalists who interrogate officials’ actions who are deterred from pursuing what’s truly in the public interest. Makhubu says citizens of eSwatini are also barred from practising their sacrosanct rights – to debate issues directly affecting them.

“EmaSwati might say they are not oppressed because the king is there to take care of those he can take care of,” he says. “All we have to do is be on his downside. I find it utterly disgusting. As emaSwati we are not some kind of [ethnic group] lost somewhere in medieval times without any consciousness. People in this country are highly educated but they don’t like it to be known what they know, because they don’t know who they might offend.”

Grammar rules and fear of authority

Making an example of how an appetite for debate in eSwatini has been lost, Makhubu highlights how grammatically incorrect the word Eswatini is. It’s what appears on government letterheads, describing the country itself. He explains that the “s” should be capitalised regardless of any context as it represents a group of people. However, only the “e” in the word is capitalised, which ought to be so only in the beginning of a sentence.

“I’ve challenged a few experts on the isiSwati language as to why the ‘s’ is [lower case],” he says. “Nobody wants to answer. In a vibrant society, those people who know better would have stood up. But you might do that and question this guy in authority who does not know better than you, he might make your life miserable and victimise you. People are scared of that and I think that’s the saddest thing that has happened at eSwatini.”

Makhubu says the fear to speak out and to challenge the regime has escalated to the point that there’s a naturalised perception that the country only belongs to the king. “Politics over the years has tended to shift towards making everybody believe that [the country] is a real estate belonging to the king and we are simply squatters on somebody’s land. And in fact, even those who paddle that point do it for political reasons, because they know it’s not true. They say it because it’s good for the king’s ego. Unfortunately, this is done at the cost of others,” he says.

One particular case that demonstrates how far the king’s iron-fisted hand could go to compromise the rights of others is his “unthinkable act” almost two decades ago, which remains a “sore point to emaSwati.” In July 2000, the king forced two chiefs to surrender their chieftaincy status so that his older brother, Prince Maguga, could assume a chieftaincy role in both villages which are about 25km apart.

The king does what he likes 

The chiefs did not cede to the order which led to the king issuing an order through the Ministry of Home Affairs to evict them along with their supporters. The chiefs and some of their supporters are still living in exile in South Africa. The king “exercised authority he did not have. Those who advised the king were trying to assert this untruth that he can do as he likes when he likes,” Makhubu says, adding, “The king’s powers are in the main constrained by Swazi laws and customs. He cannot act outside customary law on matters touching culture and tradition.”

The media has a role to challenge this perception and “to tell emaSwati that their rights are not dependent on anybody’s wishes.” However, since constructive debates are muzzled and those deemed dissidents are threatened with jail, the media is unable to effectively play its watchdog role. It’s only through Makhubu’s political magazine, with a circulation of about 5 000 copies, that he tries to push back the narratives of the establishment.

“As a [member of the] media, I don’t see myself as a political activist. I’m a journalist and I do what I do to expose the wrongs. I am not trying to lead any revolution. This freedom that I seem to have alone, sort of has made me say, ‘let me continue doing what I do. Perhaps people will be inspired by it,’” Makhubu says. But if the citizens are not inspired enough to take action, “I write to record it to history, to say to the people who will be living in Swaziland in 3019, that there were people who saw [the wrongs] and spoke about [them].”

This article was first published by New Frame.

See also

Journalists ‘scared to do their jobs’

Journalists in Swaziland endure year of harassment as they try to do their jobs