Friday, November 27, 2015


King Mswati III of Swaziland has been listed by a top UK media house as one of the ‘despots’ and ‘rogues’ gallery of dubious characters’ who will meet Queen Elizabeth II at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta that started Friday (27 November 2015).

The Daily Telegraph, one of the most conservative and traditionalist newspapers in the UK, reported that the Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini was expected to attend the meeting, but that the King might also arrive.

The newspaper reported, ‘Swaziland will be represented by its Prime Minister, Barnabas Dlamini, though the organisers have said the country’s controversial king, Mswati III, may also decide to attend.

‘King Mswati has 15 wives, each of whom, by tradition, had to become pregnant by him before he would marry them. Amnesty International has accused him of violating the human rights of women and girls by subjecting them to forced marriage, and his lavish lifestyle in a country where most people live on less than £1 per day has also attracted regular criticism.

‘He is reported to spend £37m (US$56m) per year keeping his 15 wives and at least 24 children in 13 separate palaces. Political parties are banned in Swaziland and Mswati remains an absolute monarch.’

King Mswati never gets a ‘good press’ outside of Swaziland, where media regularly report on the abuses of human rights that take place in Swaziland. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections, the King chooses the Government (Barnabas Dlamini, the present PM, was not even elected to the Swazi parliament) and opposition groups are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


The Swaziland regime regularly uses the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) to stop free speech in the kingdom, the Commonwealth has been told ahead of its heads of government meeting.

The STA is ‘regularly used’ by the police to interfere in trade union activities, Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) said in a submission to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), ahead of the meeting in Malta on 27-29 November 2015.

It said King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, ‘must be held to account for its serious breaches of the Commonwealth Charter’.

In its submission, ACTSA, which is the successor to the Anti-Apartheid Movement, said, ‘A cornerstone of any State seeking to demonstrate its dedication to human rights is the ability of its citizens to exercise freedom of speech. In Swaziland, freedom of speech is denied.

It added, ‘A key instrument used to curtail freedom of expression in Swaziland is the STA. The STA has been widely criticised since its enactment because of its vague definitions and broad designation of ministerial power as well as its inconsistencies with Swaziland’s own constitution and Swaziland’s obligations under international and regional human rights law. This includes condemnation by the International Bar Association and Amnesty International.

ACTSA added, ‘The STA is regularly used by the police to legitimise interference with trade union activities. For instance during the 2014 May Day celebrations organised by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), Mario Masuko, President of PUDEMO, and Maxwell Dlamini, Secretary General of the Swaziland Youth Congress, were arrested and charged under the STA after delivering speeches in which they questioned the socio-economic governance of the country. The charges brought against them meant that if they were found guilty, they would have faced a sentence of up to 15 years of hard labour. 

Over a year passed with both men in detention and with no verdict having been passed. Finally, on 14 July 2015, the two men were released on bail, with conditions forbidding them from addressing public rallies. Whilst no longer incarcerated, the charges against both men have not been dropped.

Additionally, on 17 and 18 March 2014, charges of criminal contempt were brought against human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and editor in chief of the Nation, Bheki Makhubu. Both men were charged following publication of articles in the Nation that questioned the reasoning behind and circumstances of a case before the High Court of Swaziland. The state action taken against them was subject to condemnation by UN experts in June 2014. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported concerns that the detention of both men was related to the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression as recognised in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland. 

The OHCHR stated that it was of the view that the detention and trial of Maseko and Makhubu for the exercise of their right to express an opinion on the court case was counter to Swaziland’s international human rights obligations. The two men were subsequently sentenced to two years in prison without benefit or bail where the usual sentence is 30 days. 

Following much international condemnation and the dismissal of the judge who had imprisoned them, Bheki Makhubu was finally released on 30 June 2015 having spent 447 days in prison, the prosecution having decided not to oppose his appeal against conviction. The prosecution adopted a similar approach in the case of Thulani Maseko who was also released in July of this year.

The use of oppressive laws to limit freedom of speech is not limited simply to the use of existing legislation; there are also instances of unhelpful commentary by government officials that is indicative of the repressive nature of the Swazi State. For example, in August 2014, Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini, the Swazi prime minister, made a speech in Parliament in which he publically threatened Sipho Gumedze from Lawyers for Human Rights and Vincent Ncongwane, the General Secretary of TUCOSWA, by suggesting that members of their constituency “must strangle them.”

These comments were made following their attendance at the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington DC.

These actions are in contrast to the Charter that commits the Commonwealth to ‘peaceful open dialogue and the free flow of information … through a free and responsible media… to enhance democratic traditions and strengthening the democratic processes’.

The Commonwealth Observer mission in 2013 heard testimony that a number of journalists critical of the government had lost their jobs, faced legal action or jail, with the consequence that the practice of self-censorship had grown amongst reporters. The media are Swaziland is overwhelming controlled by the state, and thus, ultimately, by the king. 

The repeated arrests of the editor of one of the very few independent publications that has been critical of the state and its institutions is clearly intended to intimidate those who would seek to challenge the current regime.

The recommendation made by the Commonwealth Observer mission urging the Government of Swaziland to encourage and facilitate private media has apparently failed to inspire action. Instead, efforts to intimidate and restrict the media in fulfilling its legitimate role are ongoing. 

Beyond this, the much-criticised STA is being used to suppress political dialogue and thus scupper democratic processes. We believe that CMAG must not be a bystander whilst there are ongoing, serious and persistent violations of fundamental Commonwealth values.

See also




Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Public sector workers in Swaziland were blocked by police from entering the High Court to hear a case relating to their claim for salary increases.

It came after the government asked the High Court to ban a march by public sector unions to protest that a salary review report had not been released.

The Swazi Government in the small kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, told the court the march would be a breach of state security.

The High Court was due to meet on Tuesday (24 November 2015), but the case could not go ahead because the unions’ lawyers did not have time to prepare their case.

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Secretary General Muzi Mhlanga told local media they had not been allowed access to the High Court. 

‘We had come here to listen to a case in which we are involved with the government. It is disturbing to find that we are now denied access to the High Court, which is a public place,’ the Swazi Observer quoted him saying.

The protest was to be organised by the Public Sector Associations (PSA). The PSA includes SNAT, the Swaziland National Association of Civil Servants (SNACS), Swaziland Nurses Association (SNA), and Swaziland National Association of Government Accounting Personnel (SNAGAP). 

Members of the PSA had intended to go to the offices of the Ministry of Public Service to demand release of a salary review report. 

Swazi Government lawyers said the PSA had not consulted the Mbabane Municipal Council and the Hhohho regional police about the proposed march. 

In Swaziland at least 14 days’ notice must be given for a march and police permission obtained.

In June 2015, Swaziland was named as one of the ten worst countries for working people in the world, in a report from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

A week after that report was issued, the International Labour Organization (ILO) told Swaziland it must stop interfering in the activities of trade unions; ensure workers’ organizations are fully assured of their rights and ensure they have the autonomy and independence they need to represent workers.

The ILO placed Swaziland in a ‘special paragraph’ in its annual report to highlight the deficiencies in the kingdom’s commitment to freedom of association.

See also




Monday, November 23, 2015


People in Swaziland have been ordered not to comment on the controversial sponsorship of a new soccer tournament because King Mswati III has pronounced on the subject.

In a stark example of the lack of freedom of speech in the tiny kingdom where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, the most senior monarchy loyalist TV Mtetwa has pronounced that ‘members of parliament, [cabinet] ministers and whoever’ must be silent on the matter.

The controversy surrounds the E9 million (about US$900,000) sponsorship of the Ingwenyama Cup tournament by the government parastatal Sincephetelo Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (SMVAF). 
SMVAF exists to compensate victims of road accidents.

King Mswati himself launched the tournament at an event at Lozitha, one of the 13 palaces he has in Swaziland.

A range of critics said the amount of sponsorship was too much to spend in a kingdom that was presently battling with poverty and a drought. Seven in ten of the King’s 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 a day.

But, the Observer on Saturday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported on Saturday (21 November 2015) that Mtetwa, who is generally regarded as the ‘traditional prime minister’, said people must stop discussing the topic, ‘because the lion has already roared on the matter’.

The newspaper is part of the Swazi Observer group, which was called a  ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’ by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on press freedom in Swaziland.

The Observer on Saturday reported Mtetwa, ‘emphasised that it was wrong for people to publicly talk about what the King has already pronounced and set in motion’.

The newspaper added, ‘Mtetwa said since time immemorial it had been a traditional norm that no one speaks after the King had spoken.’

The newspaper said, ‘He warned all critics to guard against being seen to be going against pronouncements made by the King.’

The newspaper added, ‘Also sought for comment, was traditionalist and National Court President Ndumiso Dlamini who put it clear that he expected no one to taint what the king had blessed.

‘He said it was a known traditional or and cultural practice that once His Majesty had spoken, no one is expected to say a word against his.’

Earlier, some members of parliament told Minister for Finance Martin Gobizandla Dlamini that they were against the allocation of E9 million to the soccer tournament. The money will be paid over three years.