Wednesday, August 31, 2016


King Mswati III of Swaziland who has just taken the Chair of SADC has been revealed to exploit child labour on his fields. He has been named in an international report on the trafficking of people.

The Trafficking in Persons Report 2016, issued by the United States Department of State stated that Swazi chiefs, who are directly accountable to the King, ‘coerce children and adults—through threats and intimidation—to work for the King’.

It added, ‘Swazi boys and foreign children are forced to labor in commercial agriculture, including cattle herding, and market vending within the country.’

King Mswati was at the centre of an international controversy in January 2015 when it was revealed that schools in Swaziland, where he rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, were forced to stay closed after Christmas so children could weed the King’s fields. As many as 30,000 children were thought to have missed schooling as a result. 

In Swaziland chiefs do the King’s bidding at a local level. People know they must obey the chief because their livelihood depends on his goodwill. In some parts of Swaziland, the chiefs are given the power to decide who gets food that has been donated by international agencies and then the chiefs quite literally have power of life and death in such cases with about a third of the population of Swaziland receiving food aid each year. 

The Trafficking in Persons Report 2016 also stated that Swaziland was a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. 

It added, ‘Swazi girls, particularly orphans, are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude, primarily in Swaziland and South Africa. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has contributed immensely to the increasing number of orphans and other vulnerable children at risk of exploitation through trafficking.’

It added, ‘Mozambican boys migrate to Swaziland for work washing cars, herding livestock, and portering; some of these boys become victims of forced labor. Traffickers use Swaziland as a transit country to transport foreign victims to South Africa for forced labor. 

‘Traffickers reportedly force Mozambican women into prostitution in Swaziland, or transit Swaziland en route to South Africa. Some Swazi women are forced into prostitution in South Africa and Mozambique after voluntarily migrating in search of work.’

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Organisers have said 98,000 ‘maidens’ were transported in 80 buses to attend Swaziland’s Reed Dance where they would dance half-naked in front of King Mswati III. But newspapers and social media have disputed the figure.

Innocent Maphalala, the editor of the Times Sunday, one of the kingdom’s few independent newspapers, wrote this would mean each bus would have carried 1,225 girls on each journey or each bus would have to make 15 trips.

Newspapers reported each of Swaziland’s four regions was given 20 buses. The main Reed Dance ceremony took place on Monday (29 August 2016) at the Ludzidzini palace.

Reed Dance Overseer Hlangabeza Mdluli was reported in the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, saying that ‘safety was made a priority for the maidens’.

The SABC in South Africa quoted Mdludi saying, We used buses to transport the girls this year, this shows that things have changed and we want our people to be safe.

The emphasis on ‘safety’ followed a tragedy at last year’s Reed Dance when 13 women and children died when the open backed truck they were travelling was involved in a collision. The dead were thrown clear of the truck.

The number of dead was disputed, with the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) putting the figure at 38.  

Photographs later revealed the maidens were being transported like cattle. The girls were forced to stand up in the back of an open truck cheek-by-jowl. There was no space to sit down or even to turn around. Photographs showed that at least sixty children were squashed onto the back of a single truck. Many of the trucks that transported the girls were usually used to move building materials. 

Tens of thousands of young girls from across Swaziland are forced to travel in similar trucks to attend the Reed Dance where they are expected to dance topless in front of Swaziland’s King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Media in Swaziland routinely describe the girls that dance for the 48-year-old King as ‘virgins’ or ‘maidens.’

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Monday, August 29, 2016


Riot police in Swaziland fired shots over the heads of striking workers who were protesting for an increase in pay of the equivalent of 35 US cents per hour.

Two shots were fired by the Royal Swaziland Police (RSP) when workers demonstrated outside the Plantation Forestry Company.

The strike has lasted more than nine days. Chairperson of the Swaziland Agriculture & Plantations Workers Union (SAPAWU) Sibusiso Masuku said workers demonstrated in front of a group of police. 

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Wednesday (25 August 2016) that one police officer fired two shots into the air, ‘which caused panic amongst the workers’. However, no one was hurt. 

The newspaper reported Masuku saying, ‘We were shocked by the gunshots but we are not backing down. It seems our complaints are not being heard by the administration. First we were told that we cannot hold our legal strike inside our work premises so we were forced to demonstrate along the dangerous road. 

‘Then we were allowed to picket inside the Plantation Company premises but now we want to take the strike to our work stations.’

Police in Swaziland regularly intervene on behalf of employers in industrial disputes. 

In October 2015 police fired shots and teargas at protesting textile workers at the Zheng Yong Garment factory in Nhlangano. They were protesting against the behaviour of security guards.

In June 2015, Swaziland was listed as one of the top ten worst countries in the world for workers’ rights. It was grouped alongside some of the worst human rights violators on the planet, including Belarus, China, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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