Saturday, March 31, 2018


Swaziland’s Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini has hinted his government might try to restrict access to social media.

He told Senators there was nothing police could do ‘at the moment’ about posts on sites such as Facebook. The Prime Minister and his government have a long history of threatening social media.

The Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (28 March 2018), ‘The premier told the senators that all countries in the world were concerned on whether social media was good for development or not.’

He was speaking during a debate about how video footage showing the murder of businessman Victor Gamedze who was shot dead in a petrol station appeared on social media.

The newspaper reported, ‘The premier said it was unfortunate that social media was a very complex phenomenon, which no single person or organisation could control.’

It added, ‘However, the prime minister said there were many positives of social media. It enables people to communicate easily at lower costs and it also enables people to do business internationally. But he warned that abuse of social media could lead to devastating effects.’

The Swazi Government has a history of hostility to social media. In 2011, Dlamini said it was important to keep information published on Facebook away from the Swazi people. ‘If such stories from these websites then make it to the newspapers and radios, then the public at large will start to think there is some truth in the story yet it was just malicious gossip,’ the Times of Swaziland reported him saying at the time. 

He was commenting after information about a cabinet minister had appeared on social media.
The Swazi Observer also reported at the time, ‘Dlamini said government did not have any measures to control the internet but relied on the support of the media which assists by shying away from information published or sourced from the internet.’ 

In the run up to April 2011 a group used Facebook to try to drum up support for an ‘uprising’ for democracy in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The Government threatened the online activists with prosecution.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), in a statement in March 2011 said, ‘On 25 March 2011, Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini assured Senators in Parliament that his government would track down, arrest and prosecute one Gangadza Masilela, whose Facebook postings have been critical of the status quo in Swaziland and the leadership in the country. Masilela, who is believed to be using a pseudonym, has a large following on his Facebook page. Parliament recently urged the government to do something about Masilela as his Facebook postings were deemed too critical of the country’s leadership.’

It added, Having seen the uprisings in the Arab world where these social networks have been used to mobilize people to rise up and demand political changes from their governments, the jittery Swazi government is taking no chances and is trying to track down those calling for the Swazi uprising.’

In May 2011, the Times of Swaziland reported Swaziland had specially ‘trained officers’ to track down people who used  Facebook to criticise the Swazi Government. Nathaniel Mahluza, Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology, said the government was worried by what the newspaper called ‘unsavoury comments’ about the kingdom being published on the internet. 

In March 2012, Swaziland’s Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze said he would use the law against people who criticised Swaziland on the internet. He told the Swazi Senate that he would use what he called ‘international laws’ to bring the internet critics to task. He was reacting to concerns from Senators that the internet sites showed ‘disrespect’ to the King.

Academic research published in 2013 suggested that people in Swaziland used the Internet to communicate with one another and share information and ideas about the campaign for democracy, bypassing the Swazi mainstream media which was heavily censored. They debated and shared information about activities designed to bring attention to the human rights abuses in the kingdom.

The research suggested, ‘It is clear that social media sites have extended the public sphere to offer opportunities for a wider range of people both in the country and outside it, to produce, distribute and exchange information and commentary about the kingdom – especially in the context of the need for political change. People speak in their own voices and are not mediated in the way mainstream media are in Swaziland.’

In 2016, Afrobarometer reported nearly one in three people surveyed in Swaziland said they got their news from the internet at least ‘a few times a week’. It also reported that 33 percent of those surveyed got their news from ‘social media such as Facebook and Twitter’ a few times a week or every day. 

In 2014, a report jointly published by the Media Institute of Southern Africa and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) found young people in Swaziland were turning to social media sites such as Facebook because it allowed them to enjoy ‘the fundamental rights to freedom of expression’ that was denied to them elsewhere in the kingdom.

They also bypassed mainstream media such as television, radio and newspapers in favour of social media. The report called Youth Usage of Social media in Swaziland concluded, ‘The young people have welcomed the emergence of the social media because, among others, it affords them an opportunity not only to inter-act but also enjoy the fundamental right to freedom of expression provided in Section 24 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland adopted in 2005.

The report added, ‘They can now easily and freely bypass the severely censored mainstream media to access, produce, distribute and exchange information and ideas.

See also





Friday, March 30, 2018


A campaign has started in Swaziland called ‘Don’t kill us, we are human beings too’ to raise awareness about people with albinism.

People in Swaziland with the skin condition live in fear of their lives as some traditional healers, witchdoctors and others use their body parts in spells to bring good luck.

The Stukie Motsa Foundation is now using social media to dispel the false belief that people with albinism cleanse back luck and bring fortune to people.

There have been concerns in Swaziland for years that people with albinism have been targeted and murdered. Witchdoctors use the body parts to make spells that they claim bring people good luck.  Sport teams have also been known to use spells to bring them good fortune during matches. Witchdoctors’ services are especially sought after by candidates contesting parliamentary and local elections. An election is due in Swaziland later in 2018.

In January 2017, the Director of Public Prosecution’s office in Swaziland 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.

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 [people with albinism], 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 [people with albinism], 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.’

At present, a Swazi traditional healer is in police custody in South Africa for allegedly killing two children from Vosman near Witbank, one of them living with albinism. The South African Deputy Minister for Social Development, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said the killing of people living with albinism by people believed to be Swazis has become a national crisis in her home country.

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (27 March 2018), ‘The deputy minister said she wanted to know what Swaziland was doing to stop the killing of people living with albinism. She also stated that some of these people were quitting their jobs and schools in fear of being kidnapped.’

Albinism affects the production of melanin, the pigment that colours skin, hair and eyes. It's a lifelong condition, but it doesn't get worse over time. People with albinism have a reduced amount of melanin, or no melanin at all. This can affect their colouring and their eyesight. Albinism is caused by faulty genes that a child inherits from their parents.
See also


Thursday, March 29, 2018


One of King Mswati’s most prominent lieutenants in Swaziland has said money intended for his birthday celebration in April is being ‘looted’. 

Mbongeni Mbingo, the editor-in-chief of the Swazi Observer group, newspapers in effect owned by the King, said, ‘We all know that long before this event takes place, there are people who have already secured the bidding for the tenders and most of the money isn’t going to be spent on where it should.’

The equivalent of millions of US dollars will be spent on the so-called 50/50 celebrations to mark the King’s 50th birthday and the 50th anniversary of Independence from Great Britain. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Writing in the Sunday Observer (25 March 2018), Mbingo said, ‘It is inevitable that this country would want to celebrate such milestones and as such we have to accept that no matter our fiscal situation, this was going to happen.’ 

Swaziland is broke and Finance Minister Martin Dlamini in his budget speech on 1 March 2018 said the government would only spend on ‘the most critical expenditure items’ this year. He acknowledged, ‘Government sending continues to outpace its ability to raise enough revenues resulting in cash flow challenges and accumulation of arrears.’

In his speech opening Parliament in February 2018 the King commanded his government, ‘to prepare a budget that is based on available resources’. Dlamini said, ‘Government has conducted a thorough analysis of our expenditure in order to prioritise only the most pressing concerns.’

Already, the Swazi Government is to pay US$7.5 million for a fleet of luxury BMW cars to transport dignitaries on the day. The cost of the cars alone bust the US$1.7 million budget the government allowed itself for the festivities. The 50/50 celebration lasts one day – 19 April 2018.

E1 million (US$86,000) intended for retirement funds and to help the disabled has been transferred from the Swaziland National Provident Fund (SNPF) to help pay for the 50/50 celebrations. All police officers and soldiers in the kingdom have had money deducted from their salaries to contribute. Businesses have also been asked to donate. 

Mbingo wrote, Swaziland owed ‘it to ourselves to celebrate this kind of milestone’.

He added, ‘But, does this mean all the extravagance we are about to witness; the new cars; the uncontrollable expenditure; and the looting that is taking place already? We all know that long before this event takes place, there are people who have already secured the bidding for the tenders and most of the money isn’t going to be spent on where it should.’

He added, ‘The money is about to, if not already, find its way to corruption, and sheer extravagance is about to be displayed.’

Ten years ago in 2008 Swaziland held 40/40 celebrations. The cost overran by E32.6 million (about US$5 million at the then exchange rate). E17 million was budgeted but it ended up costing ‘at least’ E50.2 million. The exact figure is uncertain.

The budget overrun was revealed in the ‘Comprehensive Project Completion Report’ (CPCR), written by Luke Mswane, chair of the double celebrations committee that oversaw the 40/40 celebration that took place on one day – 6 September 2008.

The CPCR highlighted a catalogue of mismanagement. Next to no time was made available to set a proper budget for the events and it became impossible to keep track of the money. At least E1.8 million was spent on capital projects without any formal written authority.

The CPCR also stated that E500,000 was budgeted for labour costs, but overtime paid to civil servants amounted to E5 million.

Tellingly, since the world was led to believe that King Mswati’s joy at his 40th birthday and the independence anniversary was shared by his subjects, the CPCR report stated that there was actually a lack of interest in the event and it was impossible to attract sponsors. They had expected sponsors to pay E0.8 million but in fact only E104,000 was given.

See also