Sunday, October 31, 2010


A report from France 24television.


21 October 2010

Swaziland, an absolute monarchy in Africa

In Swaziland, King Mswati III not only chooses his prime minister and government but also has the pick of the nation when it comes to finding a bride. This country located in south-eastern Africa was built on tradition and culture, and currently there is no place for democracy. However groups fighting for freedom are gaining momentum, but their work is slow and dangerous.

Every year, King Mswati III of Swaziland brings together all the virgins from his kingdom. During the vibrant and elaborate ceremony, the monarch can at any time chose a new wife from among the participants.

Behind the picture perfect traditional African image, Swaziland is a monarchy to be reckoned with. The king alone appoints the prime minister, and rules by decree. Political parties are forbidden and human rights regularly violated. FRANCE 24 went behind the scenes to meet the opposition.

To see the report, which is in the English language, click here.

Friday, October 29, 2010


There are none so blind as he who will not see, is the best way to describe Rick Kelsey who reported on Swaziland for London’s LBC radio.

Kelsey visited Swaziland and wrote and presented a feature about rural life in the kingdom.

But somehow he managed not to see the seven in ten people who are so abjectly poor that they earn less than one US dollar a day. Nor did he meet any of the 300,000 people who would go hungry without the food donated by overseas’ aid organisation.

Unlike Michael Skolnik, who wrote and produced the documentary Without The King, Kelsey didn’t meet any of the Swazi rural folk who are struggling against state violence and organising politically to get democracy in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

And unlike the UK Government, he gave no warning about the dangers of terrorism and police violence to tourists visiting Swaziland.

Instead, he interviewed a number of people who want to make a quick buck out of tourists and emphasised what he called the ‘beautiful scenery and very happy, relaxed people’.

Kelsey was in Swaziland on assignment for LBC to make a feature called Destination of the Week for the radio programme the Travel Show. LBC had announced it would be broadcast on 17 October 2010. Then it was postponed for a week, but I'm told never aired.

LBC has been silent to my requests for information about the intended broadcast date. Meanwhile, however, the radio station has put the feature on its website as a podcast.

If you absolutely must - click here to hear it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Another media freedom organisation has condemned Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister, for his latest attack on journalists.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) joins the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) in attacking Dlamini.

RWB voiced its ‘outrage at the fact that he accused Swaziland’s newspaper columnists of trying to tarnish the country’s image at the behest of foreign interests and suggested that newspapers should be required by law to obtain the government’s permission before publishing any column’.

In a letter to Dlamini, RWB secretary-general Jean-François Julliard, said, ‘Conspiracy theory is an old refrain in the simplistic rhetoric of governments with little inclination to respect basic freedoms. Putting more obstacles in the path of journalists will only have a negative effect. Adopting such a law would bring shame on Swaziland and tarnish its image much more than any critical newspaper column.’

Julliard added, ‘We urge you to promote press freedom and free speech and to abandon any plans for a repressive media law. By putting an end to the current harassment of the media and relaxing the climate for journalists, you will help Swaziland advance resolutely towards modernity.’

In a statement RWB said, ‘In a recent address to parliament, the prime minister said he would like to see it adopt a press law that would force columnists to obtain prior permission from the authorities before any column appeared.

Julliard said in his letter to Dlamini, ‘By making government approval a condition for the publication of newspaper articles, you would stifle all freedom of expression and strip journalism of its very essence.’

Earlier this month (October 2010), Swaziland was ranked 155th out of 178 countries in the RWB annual world press freedom index.

King Mswati III of Swaziland, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has been on the RWB list of ‘Predators of press freedom,’ for several years.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The Swaziland newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III has accused the king’s police force of ‘brutality’.

The Swazi Observer reported the police shot a suspect six times even though he was handcuffed.

Ndumiso Ngandla Simelane may lose a leg as a result of the atrocity.

The Observer reported, ‘police brutality was at play when a 34-year old handcuffed housebreaking suspect was shot six times’.

The Observer says that Simelane was trying to escape from ‘a trigger-happy police officer’ when he was shot because he feared being tortured by them.

In an interview with the newspaper Simelane said ‘police officers locked him in an office (handcuffed) and displayed “tools” they use (torture) when they want to extract the truth from a stubborn suspect.

‘“It was just after 11am when the police officers came at my workshop and handcuffed me. They also ransacked my business where they took some items such as cell phones that were brought for repairs by my clients. I tried to reason with them that I was not aware of the offence they claimed I was linked to. They never wanted to listen and kept on telling me that I was on their wanted list.”

He told the Observer that the police said he should be ready to cooperate if he still wanted to see the next day.

The newspaper reported, ‘He said he was shown, among other things, a gigantic plastic bag, a rope as well as a tube which the police said were “tools” to be used in making him cooperate.'

Simelane said he was then left in one of the offices at the police post where one of the officers told him they were going out for lunch.

‘“This was the last straw. As they left me alone in the office I managed to sneak out still handcuffed. I could not bear the thought of being tortured. I felt the safest option was to flee,” said Simelane.

‘Simelane said having been warned what would happen to him; he decided to come out of the building where he had been left handcuffed.

‘“I decided to come out of the building and it was while I was outside the gate when the two police officers were alerted by other women seated at the verandah. They apprehended me just by the gate. I heard the sound of the gun and fell to the ground,” said Simelane.

‘“Still with my hands handcuffed on the back, I picked myself from the ground and pleaded for their mercy. It was not given as one of them pulled out his revolver and started shooting. I was shot six times as you can see,” he added, pointing to the gunshot wounds on both legs.

‘He said he was then rushed to the Hlatikulu Government Hospital. He said given the serious injuries he sustained as a result of the bullets, chances were that he may be crippled for the rest of his life.’

This is not the first case where police in Swaziland have been trigger happy. To read more click here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister, reportedly told a delegation from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that the report on the inquest on Sipho Jele was ‘eagerly awaited’.

The report was ‘imminent’ and as soon as the report was ready the ILO would be among the first to get a copy, he promised.

Doesn’t he sound a reasonable chap? Readers will know that Jele was at a May Day rally this year and all of a sudden the Swazi security forces hauled him in. Within days he had died in government custody.

An inquest was started and before we knew it police and prison officers were shown to be liars. A documents about Jele’s arrest had been forged and an independent pathologist cast doubts on the Swazi state’s official line that Jele had committed suicide.

The international community took an interest in Jele’s case. And then, all of a sudden the inquest was adjourned with no date set for it to be resumed.

And that’s where we stand.

The inquest hasn’t ended and there’s no plan to finish it.

Now, what is that Dlamini has just told the ILO? The publication of the inquest report is imminent. Sorry but that sounds like an outright lie to me. The report cannot be ready because the inquest isn’t over. Never mind about publishing a report, many of us would simply settle at the moment for the inquest to be resumed.

Prime Minister Dlamini must think we are fools. He can’t get away with telling any old rubbish to the ILO in the hope that they would take his word for it.

And what do the Swazi media think they are up to by reporting Dlamini’s statement as if it were true, after they devoted so much attention to Jele’s inquest while it was running.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Statement from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Swaziland prime minister threatens to censor columnists

New York, October 22, 2010--The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by a recent statement from Swaziland 's Prime Minister, Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, announcing his intention to create a law requiring newspaper columnists to seek permission before they write critically about the government.

Dlamini's statement appeared in the Tuesday edition of state daily Swazi Observer, according to the Media Institute of Southern Africa and local journalists. Dlamini accused news columnists of tarnishing their country's image and taking payments from unnamed foreign interests, according to the same sources.

No further details were disclosed. The prime minister's statement did not include any specific details about what the law would require, how it would be enforced or when it might be enacted.

"The prime minister's vague threat to create a censorship law is a step backwards for Swaziland ,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita . "Requiring columnists to receive prior approval for their work would be a direct violation of Swaziland 's Constitution, which guarantees press freedom.”

Such a law would target a handful of weekend columnists who often criticize government decisions and policies, according to Jabu Matsebula, secretary and coordinator of the Swaziland Editors' Forum (SEF). Government pressure has already forced at least three columnists for the leading independent newspaper Times of Swaziland--Mfomfo Nkambule, Mario Masuku and Tulani Twala--to abandon their columns, according to CPJ research.

The prime minister's statement follows death threats in July against critical journalists from a senior member of Swaziland 's royal family, Matsebula said, and has created a climate of self-censorship. "The statement is actually suggesting that newspaper owners should not allow columnists whose views are not in favor of the government,” he told CPJ. “It is actually bringing pressure on newspaper publishers, who rely on the government for advertising--government being one of the biggest advertisers in the market that most newspapers cannot do without, especially in Swaziland 's small economy.”