Friday, January 18, 2019

Woman, 36, in Swaziland beaten and ordered to leave home because she is not married

A 36-year-old woman in Swaziland / eSwatini was beaten by three of her close relatives and ordered to leave home because she had no job and was not married.

The case which was reported in local media shines a spotlight on the plight of women in the male-dominated kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Wednesday (16 January 2019) that the woman whom it named had been beaten by three close relatives, including a woman. They hit her in the face with a brick. The newspaper published a photograph of her with a swollen face.

The Times reported, ‘She was given strict instructions to leave the homestead and get employment or find a husband to marry her.’

The newspaper added she said, ‘she was being blamed for misfortunes by relatives at the homestead because she was not married’.

The case highlights the position of women in Swaziland where by tradition they are considered to be owned by their fathers or their husbands.

Women remain oppressed in Swaziland and a main reason for this is King Mswati III who rules as an absolute monarch, according to report on women in the kingdom published in 2016.

ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa) reported that despite claims that Swaziland was a modern country, ‘the reality is, despite pledges and commitments, women continue to suffer discrimination, are treated as inferior to men, and are denied rights.’

ACTSA added, ‘The King has demonstrated he is unwilling to change the status quo and promotes multiple aspects of the patriarchal society.’

In a briefing paper called Women’s Rights in Swaziland ACTSA said, ‘Swaziland has a deeply patriarchal society, where polygamy and violence against women are normalised, deeply unequal cultural and religious norms, and a male monarch who is unwilling to make any change. All this contributes towards the daily discrimination faced by women.’

Among discriminations against women highlighted by ACTSA were the high levels of girls dropping out of school. ACTSA reported, ‘Cultural gender norms dictate that women and girls provide the bulk of household-related work, including physical and emotional care. As a result, girls are under pressure to drop out from school, especially where there are few adults available to care for children and the elderly, for example, in child-headed households.’

ACTSA also highlighted that women lacked the legal rights to administer their own assets. It reported, ‘Most married women are denied equal status as legal adults: they cannot buy or sell property or land, sign contracts or conduct legal proceedings without the consent of their husbands. Many widows, denied the right to own land, are forced from their homes.’

Women also have few chances to find jobs. Swaziland was ranked 150th out of 188 countries in the world in the Gender Inequality Index, ACTSA reported. ‘Men control household resources and thus women remain dependent. This often results in women seeking alternative avenues for income, including transactional and commercial sex,’ it said.

In March 2018 the European Union in Swaziland began funding a three-year project called Supporting Women Empowerment & Equality in Swaziland (SWEES) to advocate for and support women’s rights in the kingdom.

In 2009 a report conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on behalf of the Swaziland Ministry of Economic Planning and Development found, ‘Unfortunately, the status of women is so lower than that of men, that she will not eat until everyone has eaten.’

During meal times, the women waited for the men and the youth to eat before they did. ‘Eating last also means that her choice of food is limited,’ the report said. ‘Traditionally, she does not consume milk and its products at her marital home, unless she earns permission through the offer of liphakelo beast by her husband.’ This is when the husband gives the woman a cow for her own use.

In September 2018 a report published by Afrobarometer found women’s rights continued to be ‘a challenging issue’ in Swaziland.

‘Violence and abuse are a major development concern in eSwatini profoundly affecting women and children,’ the report stated. 

About one in three women experienced some form of sexual violence as a child, and one in four experienced other forms of physical violence as a child.

After surveying 1,200 adults in Swaziland, Afrobarometer reported people thought the Swazi Government was doing well in promoting opportunities and equality for women but fewer than one in three (29 percent) of people thought that these had actually improved ‘compared to a few years ago’.

The survey suggested, ‘Strong majorities of the Swazi population support equal rights for women when it comes to land and work. About seven in 10 (69 percent) say women should have the same right as men to own and inherit land, and almost two-thirds (64 percent) disagree with the idea that men should have more right than women to jobs when employment is scarce.

‘However, when it comes to gender roles in the home, seven in 10 respondents (71 percent) prefer that a woman, rather than a man, take care of the household and children.’

See also

Rise in gender-based violence
Sex bill highlights culture issues

Shocking lives for Swazi women

Wives say husbands can rape them

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Evicted farmers take on Swaziland absolute monarch to get their land back

We want our land back, King Mswati
Kenworthy News Media, 16 January 2019

Swaziland’s government has been evicting farmers from their land to expand the monarchy-controlled sugar industry for decades. After years of empty promises that they could return, the children of farmers from Mbuluzi are fighting to get their land back, writes Kenworthy News Media.

John Sicelo Vilane was born in the Mafucula community in Eastern Swaziland in 1984, a year after his parents had been evicted from the village of Mbuluzi near the border to Mozambique, and relocated to Mafucula  – which in siSwati literally means ‘having been thrown away’ – by order of Swaziland’s absolute monarch.

“The late King Sobhuza II told the residents to give their land to Simunye Sugar Estates to expand its sugar cane growing business. They were told that the place they were being relocated to had water, roads, proper shelter, and that 15 years later the residents would relocate back to their land. Their houses were then demolished in front of them,” John Sicelo Vilane, who is the Secretary General of the Media Workers Union in Swaziland, explains.

“Arriving at their new home in Mafucula, they were shocked. It was a forest with no houses, no roads, no shelter, and no compensation. They were given caravans – the only assistance they got up until today – and built stick and mud houses that were washed away by the cyclone Domonia in 1984, the year I was born,” Vilane continues.

No security of tenure
Swaziland is an absolute monarchy where the word of the King is law. He appoints the government and controls parliament, the judiciary and the economy, and he also controls and benefits personally from the country’s largest export industry, sugar.

Swaziland, with a population shy of 1.5 million, is the fourth largest sugar producer in Africa, and sugar accounts for a fifth of its GDP. For decades the monarchy has been harassing, evicting and forcefully relocating poor subsistence farmers without compensation to make way for sugar-cane fields controlled by King Mswati III.

For many years their plight was more or less overlooked, but in recent years the stories of the farmers are finally being listened to. In December Zingiswa Losi, the President of trade federation COSATU from neighbouring South Africa, Swaziland’s largest trade partner by far, met with sugar cane farmers from Mafucula, Vuvulane and Shewula – a meeting that John Sicelo Vilane attended. Here she promised to help them regain their land.

In a report from last year, Amnesty International described two cases of forced and unlawful evictions in Swaziland, concluding that the evictions were in violation of international and regional human rights law, and were a symptom of “a deeper underlying problem” to do with a lack of security of tenure.

And in a report from 2016, detailing the land confiscation in Swaziland’s sugar industry, the International Trade Union Confederation described how “the EU and the USA must realize that by supporting Swaziland through sugar markets they are, in fact, propping up the Swazi regime.”

‘We want our land back’
American independent watchdog organization Freedom House stated in a press release from 2013 that the Swazi police “are increasing pressure on farmers resisting their unlawful evictions from land that they have occupied for generations.” A report from the organization on Swaziland from the same year concluded that, “in Swaziland, property is insecure, and rightful owners have no effective redress in the legal system which places the king above all laws.”

So the farmers and their children from Mafucula, as well as other evicted Swazi farmers, have been forced to accept that they will not be given their land back without a fight.

When it was time to return to Mbuluzi 15 years later, as promised by King Sobhuza, the committee formed by the around 3.000 inhabitants of Mafucula was rebuffed by King Mswati III’s chief in the area and the sugar company.

“At the time we lacked those brave warriors who could have told the chief to pave way for negotiations with the company to resume. Now we, as the youth, have taken it upon ourselves to work the issue and take another step as a community,” John Sicelo Vilane says.

“Land is power and land is everything. Land is for us all to use, distribute and share equally. All that we want is justice, all we want is our our land back, and the delaying tactics from the sugar company won’t solve anything,” he insists.

See also

COSATU to help evicted Swaziland sugar cane farmers regain control of land from King

EU money pays for lavish Swazi king
Human suffering and Swazi sugar

King exploits sugar workers

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Swaziland’s absolute monarch grants scholarship to student who begged him on hands and knees

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland/ eSwatini, has granted a scholarship to a female student who publicly got down on her hands and knees to beg him for one.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, said on Tuesday (15 January 2019) this ‘proved that he listens to the needs of the people and acts fast’.

Mphilwenhle Matsebula, aged 26, a first year student at the Southern Africa Nazarene University (SANU) made international news in September 2018 when according to the Observer ‘she literally begged for a scholarship’. It happened when King Mswati was touring the International Trade Fair at Manzini.

The Observer reported, ‘Matsebula has been granted the scholarship as per His Majesty’s order. Previously, Matsebula’s life at the institution was very difficult because government had initially refused to grant her the scholarship. She had been told she did not qualify for it.’

Swaziland’s education system like all public services is presently in crisis because the government, handpicked by King Mswati, is broke. In November 2018 it was reported students were forced to sell themselves for sex to businessmen and affluent tourists because government had not paid allowances.

The Sunday edition of the Swazi Observer reported at the time, ‘delayed payments of allowances which themselves are meagre force girl students into availing themselves for sexual favours in exchange for food, drinks and other goodies’.

There is an ongoing dispute between students and the government over the payment of scholarships and allowances that cover fees, living expenses and items such as books. In May 2017, the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) launched a campaign for scholarships for all. They want the Swazi Government to reverse a decision to prioritise courses and cut scholarships by 60 percent. Students want all students admitted to higher learning institutions to have scholarships, regardless of the programme they are doing or the institution they are in.

Meanwhile, the outgoing President of SNUS Brian Sangweni told its 11th National General Congress in 2018 that thousands of high school graduates with good grades remained idle at home because the government would not pay them scholarships to study.

He said, ‘Those who are lucky to make it and enrol into the institutions are also not off the hook of suffering due to lack of living allowances to enable them to live a healthy and dignified period of study and to realise their optimal potential.’

He added students were finding it hard to concentrate to their studies and some dropped out or committed suicide because of the pressure.

Mpilwenhle Matsebula begs King Mswati Swaziland’s absolute monarch (far left) for a university scholarship. (Picture: Swazi Observer)

See also

In full public view, on hand and knees student begs Swaziland king for scholarship