Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Protests are growing against the Swaziland Government’s order that Christianity is to be the only religion taught in schools.

The decision was imposed by the Swazi Cabinet which is handpicked by King Mswati III, the autocratic monarch in Swaziland. The move came into force on 24 January 2017 at the start of the school year after only a few days’ notice.

The AFP international news agency reported,Officials said that old text books were being replaced with new ones that mention only the Bible, and that schools were required to submit a list of qualified religious studies teachers ahead of the start of term.’

It added, ‘“Other religions will not be offered at primary and high school level,” said Pat Muir, a top education ministry official, adding that the policy sought to avoid confusing pupils.’

Eyewitness News in South Africa reported, ‘Schools are obliged to submit their religious studies syllabi at the start of each term to show they contain no Islamic or Jewish references.’

The move could be against the spirit, if not the letter, of the Swazi Constitution. When the 2005 Constitution was being drafted, it was decided not to insist that Swaziland was a Christian country. This was to encourage freedom of religion. 

According to the CIA World factbook religion in Swaziland is broken down as Zionist (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship) 40 percent, Roman Catholic 20 percent, Muslim 10 percent, other (includes Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish) 30 percent.

Lucky Lukhele, the spokesperson of the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), an organisation banned in Swaziland because it campaigns for democracy in the kingdom, said, ‘This pits the authorities on a clash with the national Constitution adopted in 2005 which guarantees freedom of religion and declares Swaziland a multi-faith based society, thus barring anyone from imposing their own religious beliefs on others. The constitution and laws prohibit religious discrimination and provide for freedom of religion, including the right to worship and to change religion.’

The African Independent reported him saying, ‘We will be engaging all the democratic forces in Swaziland to challenge this unilateral and short-sighted decision by government whose effect will be to arrest the thought process, flourishing of ideas and intellectual growth of Swazi children.

‘For a long time the Swazi state has been abusing religion as a tool to exercise a firm grip on people’s freedoms and their right to demand respect for their rights. This is unacceptable and we will challenge it in the courts, in regional bodies, the African Union and even the United Nations. Not only is this decision unconstitutional, but also it is barbaric and contrary to world trends and advancement.’

AFP said, ‘The US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report said some schools have long sought to prevent Muslim pupils from leaving early for Friday prayers.

‘It also said some Christian groups “discriminated against non-Christian religious groups, especially in rural areas where people generally held negative views on Islam”’

Lawyers for Human Rights spokesperson Sabelo Masuku said although Swaziland was predominantly Christian, the Government had to consider the Swazi Constitution which made it clear there was freedom of religious choice. 

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported that Masuku said, ‘what government has done was very risky and some people might not take kindly to other religions being banned’.

Nkosingiphile Myeni, Communications Officer of The Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO) in Swaziland, a network of NGOs, ecumenical bodies and other faith-based organisations, said, ‘Firstly, government must not forget that in 2005, Swaziland entered a new era of constitutionalism. In Section 23 of the Constitution, liberties including human rights, freedom of conscience and religion are entrenched. The inclusion of all other religions must be in line with this constitutional provision to cater for all sectors of society.’

Myeni said Swaziland had to adhere to international standards such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration stated, ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.’

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) criticised the move saying the Swazi Government had made a decision based on ideology.

SNAT Secretary General Zwelithini Mndzebele in a statement said learning was about being exposed to diverse experiences that gave the young person the opportunity to use judgment and apply the learned skills.

Mndzebele said, ‘Learning about other religions helps everyone to better accommodate and understand others’ aspirations and ways of life. It is one of the best catalysts for the achievement of world peace.’

School principals said they feared other religions might take the Government to court over the ban because it might infringe the Swazi Constitution on freedom of religion. 

The Swazi Observer reported, ‘The principals said the schools that would be teaching Christianity only were government owned and such entities were governed by the constitution.’

The newspaper said. ‘Schools Manager Macanjana Motsa assured the principals that what was being introduced in the schools had been approved by government. Motsa said the constitution talked about freedom of religion and this was practised in churches, which are structures outside the schools. 

‘She added that there was nowhere where they banned other religions such as Islam from being practised in the country. Motsa said the different religions could be practised outside school boundaries as nothing has changed on that. 

‘She said the syllabus taught in public schools was regulated by government and she believes they have not strayed from that.’

See also


Monday, January 30, 2017


The Director of Public Prosecution’s office in Swaziland has told witchdoctors in the kingdom to stop murdering people for body parts.
The witchdoctors, also known as tinyanga, were advised to go to the Ministry of Health for body parts, such as bones.

There have been ongoing concerns in Swaziland that people, especially those with albinism, have been targeted. Witchdoctors use the body parts to make spells that they claim bring people good luck.  Their services are especially sought after by candidates contesting parliamentary and local elections. Sport teams have also been known to use spells to bring them good fortune during matches.

Macebo Nxumalo from the Director of Public Prosecutions told members of the Tinyanga Association, meeting in Manzini on Thursday (26 January 2017) witchdoctors who needed human bones must visit the ministry of health and see if they cannot get help there, the Swazi Observer newspaper reported.

During the national elections in Swaziland in 2013, people with albinism lived in fear that their body parts would be harvested by candidates seeking good luck. 

Independent Newspapers in South Africa reported at the time, ‘In the past albinos, who lack the skin pigment melanin, as well as epileptics have been specifically targeted, prompting the police to set up registries. 

‘In 2010, the killing and mutilation of albinos, including in one instance the decapitation of two children in Nhlangano, prompted panic.’

In August 2013, Independent Newspapers quoted an academic at the University of Swaziland, who did not want to be named, saying, ‘Ritual killings to achieve elected office are a natural outgrowth of a government based not on rationality or democratic principles but on superstitious beliefs. 

‘The Swazi king claims power through an annual Incwala festival where a bull is brutally sacrificed and mysterious rituals occur, and this sets the tone. No one knows how office-holders are appointed in Swaziland. It’s all done in secret, without recourse to merit or any rhyme or reason, so this fuels irrational beliefs. 

‘Ritual murder has long been part of Swazi life.’

See also


Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Acting is best way to show solidarity with suffering people

 Kenworthy News Media
24 January 2017

Introduce sanctions and boycotts against the repressive Swazi regime and help the democratic movement with everything from legal assistance to torture counselling, organizational skills and information dissemination, says a young Swazi activist, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Stories of incredible hardship, suffering and lack of democratic rights often overflow our social media feeds and are ever-present in our newspapers and on radio and TV.

But many of the articles, campaigns and reports we read, hear and see fail to pinpoint the reasons for these hardships. And even fewer offer credible solutions to how we can act to bring about positive and democratic change in the societies that they describe.

Young Swazi activist Bheki Dlamini wants to break this mould and present governments, organisations and individuals around the world with a set of concrete options for helping the democratic movement and the people of his native Swaziland attain democracy and socio-economic justice.

Torture, prison and exile
Bheki Dlamini is 33 years old. He was born in the tiny absolute monarchy of Swaziland where the King rules like a 17th century monarch.

A country that ranks amongst the most unequal in the world, where anyone can be charged with terrorism for wearing a political t-shirt or chanting a political slogan. And a country that is amongst the most unequal in the world, where two thirds of the population live in chronical poverty and over 20 percent have HIV/Aids.

Dlamini has himself suffered the hardships that are portrayed in many articles about the so-called developing countries. But as with many others like him who are dismayed with the lack of freedom and socio-economic justice in Swaziland and abroad, he has chosen to keep fighting back.

He grew up the rural areas, where the vast majority survives at the mercy of the King’s chiefs, many of food aid from the UN. He was tortured and spent nearly four years in prison awaiting trial for a crime he didn’t commit, because he is a member of banned political party PUDEMO. And he has had to flee his native country, fearing for his life, after he held a speech demanding democracy and social change in a Swaziland.

Expensive persecution
From his life in exile, on a scholarship programme at the University in Bergen, where he is completing a Master’s degree in Public Administration, Bheki Dlamini is keen to help keep the dream of a free and democratic Swaziland alive that is the main purpose of PUDEMO, the political party and movement he belongs to. Regardless of the increasing pressure that the state in putting on the movement.

– Since the famous Treason Trial of PUDEMO in 1990, our leaders and members have been subjected to all forms of persecution from the state, ranging from arrests, detentions, beatings and torture. The cost of legal fees is escalating and crippling the movement, which is often unable to cover all its arrested members, says Bheki Dlamini.

This means that many activists and potential activists become afraid to challenge the regime, not least because of the debilitating and increasing cost of legal fees, bail money, counselling for torture victims and lack of support for the families of imprisoned activists.

– The world can contribute towards the creation of a sustainable legal assistance structure for activists, ensure bail money for torture victims is available, and support the families of members arrested or killed by the regime. This would mean that activists had less to lose in fighting for democracy, says Bheki Dlamini.

The importance of organisation and education
Another problem, according to Dlamini, is that of the development of intellectual and organisational skills of members of the democratic movement, in a country where the King controls the education system and news outlets, and is reducing the number of scholarships given and dismissing activists from university.

– We need these skills now, in the struggle for democracy, and in a future democratic Swaziland. Students are forced out of high school or tertiary institutions because of their activism, he says.

He suggests that these students can receive scholarships to study abroad, like he is. He also suggests that exchange programmes can be put in place with organisations abroad that help activists learn basic organisational skills in regard to fundraising, campaigning, organisational strengthening and research on Swaziland, of which there is preciously little available.

Bypassing censorship
But to be able to develop intellectual and organisational capacity, as well as credible research, Swazis and people abroad need to get the full picture of what is happening in Swaziland. And they aren’t getting it at the moment, Swazis because of a censored and self-censoring press. People abroad because Swaziland is not at all extensively covered in the (mainstream) press.

One way of doing this is through culture and art. Both areas that have been appropriated as used politically by the King and his regime, to equate nationalism and “Swaziness” with the monarchy and keep the population in line.

– We need to strengthen our cultural activism, with theatre, poetry and music, and urge our international partners to host cultural events outside Swaziland. And we need to use online newspapers and radio broadcasts set up abroad, that can be disseminated unhindered, says Dlamini.

Another useful way of informing people abroad about the plight of people in Swaziland is by organising lectures, seminars or protests in front of Swazi embassies or consulates.

Or by organising film screenings abroad with films such as the one about Bheki or others that scratch beneath the surface of political Swaziland. The success of the Danish-produced documentary about Bheki, that has been shown on national television in Scandinavia and won and been nominated for several international awards, proves the effect of this.

– If Swazi activists could be provided with and trained in using video cameras or smartphones, as well as in making such films, the visual nature of a documentary is an effective way of marketing our struggle both at home and internationally. The media is deeply censored by the regime, so such initiatives provide an alternative platform to voice people’s suffering, says Bheki Dlamini.

Isolate the regime
Finally, Bheki Dlamini sees no way around actual boycotts and travel bans against the regime by governments, organisations and individuals around the world. This was after all what helped neighbouring South Africa’s democratic movement rid itself of the country’s apartheid regime.

– Travel bans on the King and his cohorts would have a huge impact on the regime, helping to undermine its legitimacy both inside and outside Swaziland, says Dlamini.

He also suggests that student councils, trade unions, churches or political parties could organise business, cultural or sports boycotts or campaigns. Or that tourists boycotted cultural events that are used to prop up the monarchy.

According to Dlamini, these include so-called cultural events such as the annual Umlanga (“Reed”) Dance and the Incwala ceremony.

Or companies where the King has invested what is nominally public money, but which is in effect used for his personal benefit, such as the Royal Swazi Sugar Corporation, the Royal Swazi Sun Group, the largest hotel group in Swaziland, a variety of shopping malls, Swazi SAB breweries, Parmalat Milk and Cheese Processors and telecommunications company Swazi MTN.

– So as you can see, there is plenty you can do, as a government, organisation or individual that will make a significant difference. Both for members of the movement fighting at great personal risk for democracy and socio-economic justice, but also for the many poor Swazis who dare not risk involving themselves in the struggle for fear of losing what little they have, Bheki Dlamini concludes.

Bheki Dlamini is the President of the Swaziland Youth Congress, the youth wing of the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO). 

“Swaziland – Africa’s last monarchy”, a documentary film about Bheki Dlamini by award-winning Danish investigative journalist Tom Heinemann, was shown on Danish, Swedish and Norwegian national television in 2016. It was nominated for several awards at international film festivals, and won the main prize and the prize for best short documentary at the ‘A Film for Peace’-festival in Italy.

Other documentaries about Swaziland, recommended by Bheki Dlamini, include “Without the King,” “The King and the people,” and “Special assignment: Swaziland and the Dlamini Dynasty.”