Thursday, March 21, 2019

Swaziland family treat teenager like a dog because she cannot walk and care for herself

A report in Swaziland / eSwatini says a teenager with physical challenges was forced by her family to live in a shack like a dog.

It demonstrates the extreme difficulties people with disabilities in the kingdom face. They are often hidden away because it is thought they are cursed or bring bad luck.

The latest case involving a 17-year-old girl at Mhlaleni in the Manzini Region was reported by the Times of Swaziland on Monday (18 March 2019). She has deformed feet and has never been able to walk. 

The newspaper reported her stepfather said at first they tried to accommodate her in the family house but as she was physically challenged she would frequently soil herself if there was no one around to assist her. 

The Times reported, ‘The stepfather claimed that the situation was so unbearable to a point that they decided to relocate the girl to the make-shift structure to remedy the situation.’ She has been there for two years.

The Times added, ‘The make-shift structure is constructed out of timber with spaces in between, allowing cold air into the structure. The structure also has a leaking roof and during rainy days, water seeps through, a scenario that poses hazardous effects to the health of the child.’

Her case is not unusual in Swaziland where people with disabilities are often hidden by their families. 

In 2017 Autism Swaziland Director Tryphinah Mvubu said people with Autism were often excluded from social services because their parents kept them away from the public in fear of embarrassment. 

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported her saying, ‘Some parents refuse to accept children with this condition as this disorder is considered to be a bad omen, hence they are locked in the house day in and day out so they cannot be seen by members of the community. They are so stigmatised to an extent that in some cases they are not even counted as members of the family.’

It is not only autistic children who are hidden. In July 2016, it was reported in local media that two disabled orphan children in Swaziland had been concealed from the world after a government official told their family it would harm the image of the kingdom if people knew of their condition.

It was reported that the two children aged 16 and eight might be suffering from polio. It was said they had not walked since they were born and had shrunk muscles and could only crawl. They both cannot talk. 

The abandonment of the children was one of many examples of poor treatment of people with disabilities in Swaziland.

A report published by SINTEF Technology and Society, Global Health and Welfare in 2011 that studied living conditions among people with disabilities in Swaziland, found, ‘There is a general belief that those who have a disability are bewitched or inflicted by bad spirits.

‘Many believe that being around people with disabilities can bring bad luck. As a result, many people with disabilities are hidden in their homesteads and are not given an opportunity to participate and contribute to society.’

It also found that people with disabilities had been abandoned by the Swazi Government. The report stated, ‘The absence of any comprehensive laws and policies to address people with disabilities’ access to equal opportunities reflect a lack of political will and a failure to recognize disability as a human right issue contributes to the devaluing and dehumanising of people with disabilities.

‘People with disabilities have the same rights as able-bodied people and they are entitled to enjoy all citizenry rights.’

See also

Sick kids 'hidden to save Swazi image'

Hidden sick kids: UNICEF responds

Disabled people ‘treated like animals’

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Not enough Supreme Court judges so Swaziland Terrorism Act appeal postponed

The Supreme Court in Swaziland /eSwatini postponed hearing the government’s appeal against a judgement declaring parts of the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act and Suppression of Terrorism Act unconstitutional because it did not have enough judges to form a bench.

Usually, the Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala sits with four other judges. The Times of Swaziland on Wednesday (20 March 2019) reported there were seven judges in the Supreme Court and Maphalala said a majority of them had dealt with the matter one way or the other in the past.

He said the case would be postponed until they could find sufficient judges.

The case had originally been tabled for October 2017 but did not go ahead because the government’s representatives did not attend court. The case was reinstated in March 2018 and has taken a  year to get to its current position.

Both Acts have been used by successive governments of King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch to stop advocates for democratic reform. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King chooses the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and all senior judges.

In September 2016, Swaziland’s High Court ruled that sections of the two Acts were unconstitutional. Judges said the Acts contravened provisions in the Constitution on freedom of expression and freedom of association.

The ruling was delivered after years of campaigning to have the Acts overturned.

In 2015 Amnesty International renewed its criticism of Swaziland for the ‘continued persecution of peaceful political opponents and critics’ by the King and his authorities. 

The human rights organisation called for the two Acts to be scrapped  or drastically rewritten.

It said the Swazi authorities were using the Acts, ‘to intimidate activists, further entrench political exclusion and to restrict the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.’

Amnesty said the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act violated Swaziland’s human rights obligations. It placed the onus on the accused to prove that their alleged acts, utterances or documents published were not done with ‘seditious intention’.

The Act also obliged courts to conduct proceedings in camera relating to an offence under the Act if so requested by the prosecution. 

Amnesty also said the Suppression of Terrorism Act was incompatible with Swaziland’s human rights obligations because of, ‘The failure to restrict the definition of ‘terrorist act’ to the threatened or actual use of violence against civilians; 

‘The failure of the definition to meet the requirements of legality, that is, accessibility, precision, applicability to counter-terrorism alone, non-discrimination and non-retroactivity.’

It added offences were, ‘defined with such over-breadth and imprecision that they place excessive restrictions on a wide range of human rights, including the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to freedom of expression.’

See also

Scrap Swazi Terror Act – Amnesty
No amnesty in ‘terror’ cases
Swazi Terror Act stops free speech
‘Opposition to King is terrorism’