Tuesday, December 11, 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, December 10, 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

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Man close to death following ‘assault’ by officers at Swaziland police station


A man is reportedly fighting for life in hospital after being allegedly assaulted by two officers at a police station in Swaziland/ Eswatini.

He is suffering from severe internal bleeding, heart seizures, the swelling of his kidneys and nerve damage on both his arms and legs.

The Swazi Observer reported on Thursday (29 November 2018) that the man whom it did not name was from Mangwaneni. It said police accused him of having stolen items from a house, which he denied.

It reported him saying, ‘[Police] assaulted me by first tying a piece of cloth around my mouth so that I cannot scream. They then hit me multiple times with fists and kicks in the stomach. I fell to the floor and the police stood on my stomach while laughing. They then put a plastic bag over may face and thereafter sank my head into water until I passed out.’

It reportedly happened on Saturday. Since then the alleged victim has been in hospital.

The Observer reported, ‘Currently, the assault victim is still in critical condition with medical practitioners saying he might lose his life due to the multiple internal injuries he allegedly suffered during the assault.’

Police said they were investigating the alleged incident.

There are numerous reports in Swaziland of assault and brutality at police stations. In September 2018, four women were reportedly beaten with sjamboks [whips] and pipes and scalded with boiling water at Siteki police station. Two of them needed hospital treatment for burns and blisters. They were accused of stealing from shops.

In March 2017, a man accused of multiple murders told a court he was tortured by police for 11 days to force him to confess. He said he was suffocated with a tube and assaulted all over his body, resulting in many serious injuries. The alleged attack was said to have taken place at Lobamba Police Station, the Manzini Magistrates’ Court was told.

In January 2017, local media reported police forced a 13-year-old boy to remove his trousers and flogged him at Ngwenya police station with a sjambok, to make him confess to stealing a mobile phone. 

In June 2016, a United Nations review panel looking into human rights in Swaziland was told in a joint report by four organisations, ‘In Mbabane [the Swazi capital], police tortured a 15-year-old boy after his mother had reported him for stealing E85.00 (US$6). The boy alleges that he was beaten with a slasher (metal blade tool for cutting grass) and knobkerrie [club] for five hours. While enduring the pain, he alleges that he was made to count the strokes aloud for the police to hear. Instead of being charged, the boy was physically assaulted and made to sit in a chair for thirty minutes before he was sent back home.’

The report was submitted to the United Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland by the Swaziland Multi-Media Community Network, Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and Constituent Assembly – Swaziland.

See also

Police must not beat suspects: Court