Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Barnabas Dlamini, the unelected Prime Minister of Swaziland, who has a history as an enemy of human rights in his kingdom, will receive 80 percent of his salary for life when he retires.

He will also get a newly-built house and a top-of-the-range car. Deputy Prime Minister Paul Dlamini will get a similar pension.

This is the first time such a retirement package has been sanctioned for the top Swazi politicians.

Barnabas Dlamini made this public on Friday (25 March 2017) in response to members of parliament who stalled a move to spend E5.5 million (US$72,000) toward building him a new house for his retirement. In Swaziland, seven in ten people live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 a day.

The Observer on Saturday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, the autocratic ruler who appointed Dlamini Prime Minister, reported the payment had been approved in the Finance Circular No. 2 of 2013. 

A week earlier members of the House of Assembly had frozen a budget item of E5.5 million to build the PM a retirement house. They said the kingdom faced a dire financial situation and could not afford it.

Barnabas Dlamini was appointed PM by the King following the 2008 election. The King disregarded the constitution he had signed in 2005 that clearly states that the Prime Minister must be a member of the House of Assembly. Dlamini has sat in six parliaments, but has never been elected by anybody.

When introducing Dlamini as the new PM, King Mwsati told him publicly to get the terrorists and all who supported them. 

Dlamini set about his task with zeal. He banned four organisations, branding them terrorists. 

His Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini told Swazis affiliated with the political formations to resign with immediate effect or feel the full force of the law. Under the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA), enacted the same year Dlamini came to power, anyone who disagrees with the ruling elite faces being branded a terrorist supporter and a maximum prison sentence of 25 years.

This happened at a time when the call for democracy in Swaziland was being heard loudly both inside the kingdom and in the international community. 

The Dlamini-led Government immediately clamped down on dissent. In 2011, Amnesty International reported the ill-treatment, house searches and surveillance of communications and meetings of civil society and political activists. Armed police conducted raids and prolonged searches in the homes of dozens of high profile human rights defenders, trade unionists and political activists while investigating a spate of petrol bombings. Some of the searches, particularly of political activists, were done without search warrants.

In 2010, Dlamini publicly threatened to use torture against dissidents and foreigners who campaigned for democracy in his kingdom. He said the use of ‘bastinado’, the flogging of the bare soles of the feet, was his preferred method.

Dlamini told the Times of Swaziland newspaper he wanted ‘to punish dissidents and foreigners who come to the country and disturb the peace’.

Dlamini’s abuse of human rights did not start with his appointment in 2008. He was a former PM and held office for seven and a half years until 2003. While in office he gained a reputation as someone who ignored the rule of law. 

In 2003, he refused to recognise two court judgements that challenged the King’s right to rule by decree. This led to the resignation of all six judges in the Appeal Court. The court had ruled that the King had no constitutional mandate to override parliament by issuing his own decrees.

In a report running for more than 50,000 words, Amnesty International  looked back to the years 2002 and 2003 and identified activities of Dlamini that ‘included the repeated ignoring of court rulings, interference in court proceedings, intimidating judicial officers, manipulating terms and conditions of employment to undermine the independence of the judiciary, the effective replacement of the Judicial Services Commission with an unaccountable and secretive body (officially known as the Special Committee on Justice but popularly called the Thursday Committee), and the harassment of individuals whose rights had been upheld by the courts.’ 

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