Wednesday, January 31, 2018


A chief in Swaziland is forcing his subjects to pay for him to have a new car. 

Chief Mlotjwa II of KaLiba in the outskirts of Hlatikulu town in the Shiselweni region has demanded E100 (US$8) contributions from residents, the Sunday Observer newspaper reported (28 January 2018). In Swaziland seven in ten people live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

Chiefs are the local representatives of King Mswati III who rules the impoverished kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The chief wields tremendous power over their subjects and can, for example, determine whether people are allowed to live in the area, or whether children can attend universities and colleges. In some cases they decide who lives and who dies as they are in charge of distributing international food aid to starving communities. About a third of the population of Swaziland receiving food aid each year. 

The Observer reported, ‘Some of the residents have been questioning why they should buy the chief a motor vehicle. The residents were allegedly told to make E100 contributions towards buying the chief’s car.’

It added, one resident complained, ‘We don’t understand why we have to buy him a car, a personal car for that matter. This is not part of paying allegiance to the chief.’

The chief’s representative Obert Hlatjwako said residents had been asked but not forced to contribute. 

He then demanded that the newspaper reveal the names of the people who had made the complaints. 

Chiefs in Swaziland have a long history of abusing their subjects. In November 2017 it was reported about 20 families in Mvutshini in the Southern Hhohho region, were fined E900 each (US$64) for not attending community meetings and paying homage to their chiefdom. 

In June 2017 Chief Somtsewu Motsa of Lushishikishini threatened too banish all single mothers from the area he rules over to ease the burden to the community of children born out of wedlock.

The Observer on Saturday (17 June 2017) said Chief Somtsewu Motsa had called a meeting of all ‘single mothers, pastors and those known to have impregnated girls without marrying them’. The newspaper reported, ‘Reliable sources said the traditional authorities were threatening to evict anyone to be seen to defy the chief’s order.’

Chiefs can and do take revenge on their subjects who disobey them. There is a catalogue of cases in Swaziland. For example, Chief Dambuza Lukhele of Ngobelweni in the Shiselweni region banned his subjects from ploughing their fields because some of them defied his order to build a hut for one of his wives.

Nhlonipho Nkamane Mkhatswa, chief of Lwandle in Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland, reportedly stripped a woman of her clothing in the middle of a street in full view of the public because she was wearing trousers.

In November 2013, the newly-appointed Chief Ndlovula of Motshane threatened to evict nearly 1,000 of his subjects from grazing land if they did not pay him a E5,000 (about US$500 at the time) fine, the equivalent of more than six months income for many.

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Swaziland’s blood shortage crisis is continuing. It is one of a number of crises afflicting health in the kingdom.

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (30 January 2018) that blood stocks fell during December 2017 because donors were typically children who gave donations through their schools.

It reported a family of a man suffering from bone marrow deficiency who feared he might die  due to the blood shortage.

Deputy Director of Health Dr Velephi Okello confirmed to the newspaper that there was a shortage. The Observer reported her saying, ‘Our donors are mainly school going children hence when schools close there are fewer donations coming in which resulted in the shortage.

‘Also, during the December holidays, there is a high demand for blood at the exact same time when the donors are not easily accessible.’

She added, ‘We will start our campaigns now that the schools have opened and we hope soon the shortage will be a thing of the past.’

The blood shortage crisis has been going on since at least June 2017. At that time the Ministry of Health turned to inmates in correctional facilities for blood but the news agency APA reported some people were against this ‘as they said it was against certain standards’.

Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has been gripped by a health crisis for a number of years. Much of it has been caused by the government’s failure to pay drugs’ suppliers.

Early in January 2018 health facilities were reported to have run out of vaccines against polio and tuberculosis and new-born babies were being put a risk.

In June 2017, Senator Prince Kekela told parliament that at least five people had died as a result of the drug shortages. About US$18 million was reportedly owed to drug companies in May 2017.

As ordinary people died the Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini revealed that King Mswati and his mother paid for him to travel to Taiwan for his own medical treatment.  Dlamini was not elected PM by the people of Swaziland. He was personally appointed by the King, as were all other government ministers and top judges in the kingdom. None of Swaziland’s senators are elected by the people.

Dlamini celebrated his 75th birthday in 2017. The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported (5 June 2017), ‘The Prime Minister said he was grateful that when Their Majesties were informed about his ailment in April, they responded hastily and ordered that he be taken to the best doctors in Taiwan, Taipei.  

‘“Their Majesties gave orders that I go to the best and well experienced doctors in Taiwan. I am now looking forward to turning 76 years and I thank God for keeping me safe,” he said.’

The nature of his illness has not been publicly revealed.

King Mswati lives a lavish lifestyle with at least 13 palaces, a private jet aircraft with another due to arrive in 2018, and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars. Meanwhile seven in ten of his 1.2 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Newspaper editors in Swaziland were on the payroll of murdered businessman Victor Gamedze, Zweli Martin Dlamini the exiled editor of Swaziland Shopping has said.

Dlamini fled to South Africa after a tip-off that he was to be arrested because he had upset the powers in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

His newspaper has been closed down by the Swazi Government. The reporting style of the Swaziland Shopper had also been criticised by the Swaziland Editors’ Forum.

In an interview with South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper published on Friday (26 January 2018), Dlamini said, ‘The editors’ forum was captured by Victor Gamedze. Almost all the editors were on his payroll. You know the Guptas in South Africa? It was like that. The reason they were saying they are unhappy is that I was writing about somebody they regarded as untouchable. So when I exposed the guy, he would go back to them to complain.’

The Mail & Guardian reported, ‘The Swaziland Shopping published its last edition in December. Dlamini never got to publish his last major scoop: a sensational story detailing how Gamedze was plotting to assassinate Mswati, which was distributed instead on social media. The story was long on speculation but short on evidence and, just days after it was made public, Dlamini was warned to get out of dodge.

‘A month after Dlamini fled the country, Gamedze was shot dead in broad daylight, at a petrol station, where he had stopped to grab a cup of coffee. 

‘The murder rocked Swaziland’s political elite to its core. Gamedze was no ordinary businessperson. His connections went all the way to the top, to the king, and he used these to build himself a business empire. He ran the controversial Swazi Mobile and presided over Mbabane Swallows, Swaziland’s biggest football club. His wealth and his social status should have made him untouchable, but also made him plenty of powerful enemies.’

The Mail & Guardian reported that Gamedze was ‘especially controversial’. It quoted one anonymous ‘senior editor’ saying, ‘Victor had captured the media. He had a very low opinion of the media, believed it was too powerful, and he wanted everyone to write what he said. He had the ability to call and stop stories from being published.’

The Mail & Guardian reported, ‘One example: in 2014, Gamedze assaulted Baphelele Kunene, a journalist with the Swazi Observer, in front of the paper’s managing editor. Although Kunene reported the assault to the police, they took no action. Another newspaper, which reported on the assault, had its distribution of that edition disrupted.’

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