Wednesday, January 27, 2016


‘Respect for human rights and the rule of law declined in the Kingdom of Swaziland, ruled by an absolute monarch, King Mswati III, since 1986. Political parties are banned, judicial independence is severely compromised, and repressive laws are used to target critics of the government and the King.’
These were the conclusions of Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2016, published on Wednesday (27 January 2016).
The report stated, ‘As in previous years, Swazi authorities severely restricted civil and political rights. In March 2015, police beat leaders of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) and prevented them from holding a meeting, ostensibly because the discussions would have included calls for multiparty democracy. Among those severely beaten was a prominent trade unionist, the SNAT Secretary General Muzi Mhlanga.

‘The Suppression of Terrorism Act, the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act of 1938, and other similarly draconian legislation provided sweeping powers to the security services to halt meetings and protests and to curb criticism of the government, even though such rights are protected under Swaziland’s 2005 constitution. In September 2015, eight human rights defenders challenged the constitutionality of these security laws in the High Court of Swaziland. A final ruling has yet to be handed down.’

In a detailed analysis of Swaziland, HRW, highlighted media freedom as a particular problem.
It said, ‘Journalists and activists who criticized the government were often harassed and arrested. The Sedition and Subversive Activities Act continued to restrict freedom of expression through criminalizing alleged seditious publications and use of alleged seditious words, such as those which “may excite disaffection” against the king. Published criticism of the ruling party is also banned. Many journalists practiced self-censorship, especially with regard to reports involving the king, to avoid harassment by authorities.

‘On June 30 [2015], the Supreme Court of Swaziland granted an appeal by human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, and editor of The Nation magazine, Bheki Makhubu, and ordered their immediate release from prison. Maseko and Makhubu were arrested in March 2014 for two articles they published in The Nation questioning the impartiality of the judiciary, and sentenced to two years in prison. Civil society groups dismissed the trial as a sham.

‘In July 2014, The Nation and its publishers were fined an equivalent of US$9,500 by the Swaziland High Court for publishing “seditious” information in the two articles that Maseko wrote.

‘Authorities also barred media from reporting on issues they deemed sensitive. For example, when scores of young girls died in a road traffic accident on August 28 [2015] on their way to an annual Umhlanga festival where thousands of virgins dance before the king to celebrate womanhood and virginity, authorities blocked media reporting of the incident. The government later said 13 people had died. Regional and international media disputed the government’s figure and estimated the death toll at 65.’

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Monday, January 25, 2016


All opposition to the rule of absolute monarch King Mswati III of Swaziland is treated as ‘terrorism’, according to a new analysis of the legal system in the kingdom.

Courts in Swaziland do the King’s bidding and lawyers regularly face intimidation.

The analysis was published by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) to mark International Day of the Endangered Lawyer on Friday (22 January 2016).

The report written by Annabel Raw and Caroline James said, ‘In Swaziland, opposition to the King and the political system which prohibits political parties is treated as terrorism and the courts have often been seen to do the King’s bidding

‘Swazi lawyers regularly face intimidation when they challenge this status quo. 

‘In August 2014, human rights lawyer Sipho Gumedze attended a civil society event in Washington DC held at the White House to coincide with the US-Africa Summit hosted by American President Barack Obama. At the time, there had been a crackdown on free expression in Swaziland and a number of political and social activists were in prison or facing charges resulting from their criticism of the Swazi King and political system. 

‘Gumedze was photographed with a colleague from the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) holding a banner saying “Free Speech in Swaziland NOW!” Soon after, the Prime Minister of Swaziland, Barnabus Sibusiso Dlamini, said, in a speech to Parliament, that Gumedze and his colleague should be “strangled” on their return to Swaziland.

‘Another of these lawyers, Thulani Maseko, spent fifteen months in prison in 2014 and 2015 after he was charged and convicted of contempt of court for writing an article that was critical of the then-Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi. Maseko was described as a “disgrace to the legal profession” by the presiding judge, Mpendulo Simelane, when he was sentenced. Ramodibedi and Simelane have since been charged with defeating the ends of justice – in essence what Maseko was attempting to highlight in his article.’

The analysis concluded, ‘The beauty of the law and the potential of an independent judiciary is that no matter who you are, you are beholden to the same rules as everyone else. Even kings and armies must comply with the rule of law. It is vital that lawyers are able as professionals to serve the law’s potential in being free to represent their clients independently and with zeal, being able to speak freely when shining light on violations of the law, and to defend the rights of the vulnerable, even against the most powerful. It is an idea that the international community has recognised and affirmed as indispensable to the rule of law and the realisation of human rights.’

Thursday, January 21, 2016


Universities and colleges in Swaziland will be censored in what they can teach to ensure they do not damage the ‘image’ of the kingdom, if new draft regulations are adopted.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Thursday (21 January 2016) that higher education institutions should not ‘teach things which could be detrimental to the wellbeing and image of the country’.

The newspaper reported the Executive Secretary of the Swaziland Higher Education Council (SHEC) Mboni Dlamini said, ‘this did not mean that institutions should not provide political studies, if their mission was to do so’.

The Times added, ‘He said, however, they should stick to the parameters of that particular subject. He said lecturers should stick to the approved syllabus and not teach things which could be detrimental to the wellbeing and image of the country.’

In Swaziland all political parties are banned from taking part in elections. Many groups advocating democracy in the kingdom are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

In Swaziland, the King appoints the cabinet, top civil servants and judges.

Elections are held every five years, but voters get to choose only 55 of the 65-member House of Assembly. The other ten members are appointed by King Mswati. No members of the 30-strong Swaziland Senate are elected; 20 are appointed by the King and 10 are selected by the House of Assembly. 

Dlamini was presenting the Draft Higher Education Regulations to representatives of Swazi universities and colleges.

The Times quoted Dlamini saying, ‘The University of Swaziland teaches political studies, lecturers should stick to the parameters and not go outside their domain to the detriment of the country.’

The Times reported, ‘He said they should not also teach things which will harass others be it in politics, religion or local culture. He said if an institution was licensed to teach Agriculture, they should stick to that, and not be involved in any other non-agricultural activities.

‘“We do not want institutions to focus on other things that will smear the image of the country. The institutions should also not teach things which will incite students to engage in protest actions,” he said.’