Friday, December 14, 2018

Swaziland soldiers on military training in Russia say they face ‘racism’ – want to return home

Soldiers from Swaziland / eSwatini who are receiving military training in Russia want to go home because they are ill-treated and suffer racism.

Also, they say, the Swazi Government is slow in sending them their allowances and this makes it difficult for them to live.

The Swazi Observer reported on Monday (10 December 2018) the soldiers from the Army, officially known as the Eswatini Umbutfo Defence Force (UEDF), were threatening to leave Russia and return to Swaziland. It reported the soldiers were ‘ill-treated in Russia because of the colour of their skin.  Russia is one of the countries in the world that records high cases associated with racism.’

It added, ‘According to sources closer to the matter the Swazi government is not making things better for them. Amongst other things, it is said that their allowances take a significant time to be deposited into their accounts.’

It quoted an unnamed source saying, ‘Imagine living in a foreign country without money, with no relatives to help you. Russia is not just a country next door of which you can just take a bus home.’

The number of Swazi soldiers in Russia was not disclosed for security reasons.

The Observer reported soldiers were afraid to voice their concerns because they feared they would be sacked.

The source said, ‘The last time one newspaper reported such information, those who communicated with the newspaper were brought back home and were also fired.’

UEDF Communications and Information Officer Lieutenant Officer Tengetile Khumalo denied the claim.

The Observer reported on Wednesday a ‘concerned UEDF member’ said, ‘It is a pity that our grievances are “censored” by those in senior positions in the army. Last year alone, two soldiers returned to Eswatini but they are afraid to talk about it in fear of losing their jobs.’

It quoted Khumalo confirming three soldiers returned without completing the course in Russia, ‘because of their personal problems’. Khumalo added soldiers faced no ill-treatment and hardship.

In 2010, a contract was signed between the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Swaziland Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation providing Swazi military personnel to be educated in Russia on a number of military disciplines that include medicine, artillery and engineering.

See also

Why so much military training?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Church in Swaziland welcoming LGBTIQ people reopens, but no let-up on discrimination in the kingdom

A church in Swaziland / eSwatini that welcomes and supports LGBTIQ people has reopened.

Homosexual acts are illegal in the kingdom and LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer) people face daily discrimination.

The branch of the Ark of Joy International Ministry was relaunched in Coates Valley. The Sunday edition of the Swazi Observer reported the church in Swaziland had closed some years ago after ‘membership tapered off’.

The news of the relaunch was welcomed by the Rock of Hope which campaigns for LGBTI equality in Swaziland. Spokesperson Melusi Simelane said, ‘It is worth noting that many in the religious circles, continue to spew hate speech and show utter disregard for the deeds of the Lord, by being judgmental and expelling some of the LGBTI community from their places of worship. It is for that reason, we welcome the opening of such churches as those that show the love of God, and preach the spirit of oneness and togetherness.’

Meanwhile, Gender Links, an advocacy group based in Johannesburg, South Africa, reported LGBTI people in Swaziland expressed concern about the lack of respect shown to them because of their sexual orientation.

Sifiso Nhlabatsi, writing on the Gender Links website, said LGBTI people had tried to engage churches to sensitize them about their rights but had little success.

Nhlabatsi wrote about a meeting held between pastors and members of the LGBTI community in August 2018. ‘During the meeting which was attended by over 20 pastors and I was also part of, pastors made it clear that they cannot allow gay people to “flaunt” their behaviour in front of congregants. Pastors said what is being done by LGBTI community  is “demonic” and through prayer maybe can be healed.’

Nhlabatsi added, ‘The meeting which started off on a good note ended on a sour note as the two parties had a clash of opinions. Senior Pastors in the country did not even bother to attend the dialogue.’

Swaziland held its first LGBTI Pride parade on 30 June 2018. Swaziland police went on record to state it did not support the march. Separately, Superintendent Khulani Mamba, the official spokesperson for the police and a self-proclaimed prophet, preached from the pulpit, ‘We say no to homosexuality, this country will not tolerate the LGBTI community.’ 

One of the kingdom’s best-known NGO rights activist groups the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) snubbed the Pride festival saying it was against Biblical teaching. 

Swaziland is a tiny landlocked kingdom with a population of about 1.1 million people, mostly living in rural communities. It is ruled by King Mswati III who is one of the world’s last absolute monarchs who reportedly described homosexuality as being ‘satanic’.

In the run up to the event, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, ran three articles calling LGBTI people ‘a curse’ and ‘evil’ and likening them to child sex molesters and people who had sex with animals.

There is a great deal of prejudice against LGBTI people in Swaziland. In May 2016, Rock of Hope, which organised the Pride event, reported to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review on Swaziland that laws, social stigma and prejudice prevented LGBTI organisations from operating freely.

The report, presented jointly with three South African-based organisations, stated, ‘In Swaziland sexual health rights of LGBT[I] are not protected. There is inequality in the access to general health care, gender affirming health care as opposed to sex affirming health care and sexual reproductive health care and rights of these persons. HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care services continue to be hetero-normative in nature only providing for specific care for men born as male and women born as female, thereby leaving out trans men and women as an unprotected population which continues to render the state’s efforts at addressing the spread and incidence of HIV within general society futile.’

The report added, ‘LGBT[I]s are discriminated and condemned openly by society. This is manifest in negative statements uttered by influential people in society e.g., religious, traditional and political leaders. Traditionalists and conservative Christians view LGBT[I]s as against Swazi tradition and religion. There have been several incidents where traditionalists and religious leaders have issued negative statements about lesbians.  

‘Human rights abuses and violations against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex population continue to go undocumented, unreported, unprosecuted and not addressed.’

It added, ‘There is no legislation recognizing LGBT[I]s or protecting the right to a non-heterosexual orientation and gender identity and as a result LGBT[I] cannot be open about their orientation or gender identity for fear of rejection and discrimination. For example, the Marriage Act, only recognizes a marriage or a union between a man and a woman. Because of the absence of a law allowing homosexuals to conclude neither marriage nor civil unions, same-sex partners cannot adopt children in Swaziland.’

See also

LGBT Pride film shows what it’s like to live with prejudice and ignorance in Swaziland

LGBTI Pride gets global attention

‘Observer’ steps up LGBTI hate campaign

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Education Ministry reminds Swaziland schools beating of children is banned - but it is still widespread

Teachers in Swaziland / eSwatini have been reminded in a new government policy statement that corporal punishment of children in schools is outlawed.

It was banned in 2015, but children continue to be beaten, sometimes brutally.

The reminder comes in the National Education and Training Sector Policy from the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) which comes into force in January 2019. It said children should be taught self-discipline and respect for others without fear. All forms of corporal punishment should be replaced by non-violent ‘positive discipline’.

Despite the ban beating is rife in Swaziland schools. As recently as November 2018 it was reported police were investigating St Theresa’s Primary School, Manzini, following an allegation that teachers whipped children to make them do better in their exams. In June 2018 teachers reportedly caned every pupil at Mbuluzi High School for poor performance. 

In August 2017 it was reported boys Salesian High, a Catholic school, were forced to take down their trousers and underpants to allow teachers to beat them on the bare buttocks.

In 2011, Save the Children made a submission on corporal punishment in schools to the United Nations review on human rights in Swaziland. It said punishments at Mhlatane High School in northern Swaziland amounted to ‘torture’. 

In an overview of the situation in Swaziland schools Save the Children reported ‘The hitting of students by teachers in schools is not limited to strokes of the cane, but includes such methods as a slap with the open hand, kicks and fists. 

‘In one case in a school in the south of Swaziland, a young girl was kicked in the groin by her teacher after she refused to lift up her leg during physical education classes. She had told the teacher she cannot lift her leg up because she was wearing nothing underneath. This angered the teacher and earned the girl a kick in the groin. 

‘The damage occasioned led to paralysis as the girl walks with difficulty today, and her menstrual cycle was disturbed since then. Although initially protected by the principal and other Ministry of Education officials in Nhlangano, the teacher was eventually arrested after intervention by the girl’s elder sister.’

In a debate in the Swazi Parliament in March 2017 members called for the cane to be brought back into schools. The MPs said the positive discipline adopted in schools was causing problems for teachers because they no longer knew how to deal with wayward pupils. 

See also

Swaziland police investigate report children illegally beaten to encourage them to do well in exams

Children chained and flogged bare

Children fear beatings, miss school