Thursday, January 31, 2019

Swaziland continues to be riddled with corruption, new global report shows

Swaziland / eSwatini continues to be riddled with corruption, according to the latest annual report from Transparency International.

The kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch scored 38 out of a possible 100 in the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018. In 2017 it scored 37 on a scale where zero is ‘highly corrupt’ and 100 is ‘very clean’.  The index ranks countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople.

Transparency International did not publish details of the corruption in Swaziland, but it is already widely known. In November 2018 national police Deputy Commissioner Mumcy Dlamini told an event for International Fraud Awareness Week Swaziland lost E30 million from the economy because of banking fraud alone during the previous year.

In an annual report ending March 2017, Acting Auditor General Muziwandile Dlamini said  government financial accounts were incomplete, billions of emalangeni were unaccounted for and laid-down rules, guidelines and procedures were ignored. The offices of the Prime Minister, National Commissioner of Police, Defence Department and Correctional Services were among a string of government departments and agencies that broke the law by spending tens of millions of emalangeni on vehicles and transport running costs without authority.

In December 2017, Swaziland’s Anti-Corruption Commission issued a report suggesting that 79 percent of 3,090 people interviewed in a survey believed that corruption within government was ‘rife’.

The survey suggested that corruption was perceived to take place mostly in rural councils. The perceived major causes of corruption were poverty (58 percent), unemployment (54 percent) and greed (41 percent). The survey was conducted by the Swazi Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs through the ACC.

In June 2017, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported the kingdom, was riddled with corruption in both private and public places.

It said, ‘The results of grand corruption are there for all to see in the ever increasing wealth of high-level civil servants and officers of state.’ 

It added, ‘For a long time the police, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade as well as the Department of Customs and Excise have often been implicated in corrupt practices.’

It gave many examples including the case of the government propaganda organisation Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS) where E 1.6 million was paid to service providers for the maintenance of a machine that was neither broken nor in use.  The officer who authorised the bogus job cards has since been promoted and transferred to another government department. 

The report called The effectiveness of anti-corruption agencies in Southern Africa stated, ‘This type of behaviour is common albeit covert and therefore difficult to monitor as goods and services are undersupplied or rerouted for personal use. The results of grand corruption are there for all to see in the ever increasing wealth of high-level civil servants and officers of state.’

See also

Corruption rife among security firms servicing Swaziland Government and public enterprises

Swaziland ‘riddled with corruption’

‘Army among most corrupt in world’

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Renewed criticism that rule of law in Swaziland is ignored as new judges appointed

The Law Society of Swaziland Secretary Thulani Maseko has criticised recent appointments of judges in the kingdom saying there was no transparency in the choices and the Swazi Constitution was ignored.

This was not the first time Swaziland / eSwatini which is ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III has been criticised for ignoring the rule of law.

Maseko said five recent appointments to the kingdom’s High Court and Industrial Court ‘undermined the integrity, independence and accountability of the judiciary’. He said the appointing process had to be fair, transparent and competitive in line with Section 173 (4) of the constitution which also states appointments should be made on the basis of suitable qualifications, competence and relevant experience.

He said, ‘If these appointments were done in an open, transparent and competitive way, it would be clear that some of the appointees would not [have] passed the standard of integrity required of the judicial office.’

He added the appointments put the judiciary and the entire justice system into disrepute and undermined the rule of law. 

The rule of law is a principle in governance which means that all people – including those in authority – are subject to the law. Under this principle the law is supreme, setting out acceptable limits for behaviour and safeguarding against abuse of power.

The independence of judges in Swaziland has been questioned for many years. In 2015, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in a submission to a United Nations panel that was reviewing human rights in Swaziland called for an overhaul of laws and regulations in the kingdom to take power away from the King.

The ICJ which is composed of 60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world said,The judges’ appointment process continues to pose a threat to judicial independence and impartiality. The Constitution of Swaziland provides that the judges are appointed by the King after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). 

‘The King has the ultimate and final say in respect of the appointments to the bench. 

‘Moreover, the composition of the JSC and the appointment of its members undermine confidence in the independent discharge of its mandate, including the consultative role in the appointment of judges. The JSC is chaired by the Chief Justice, and in addition comprises two legal practitioners, the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission and two other persons. All of these individuals are appointed by the King.’

The ICJ added, ‘In addition, some recent judicial appointments have given rise to concern about the lack of qualification of those appointed. Certain appointments have been publicly questioned by Swaziland’s legal practitioners and by the Law Society.’

The ICJ called for an overhaul of the legal system in Swaziland. ‘The authorities of Swaziland must immediately review the laws and regulations pertaining to the JSC with a view to bringing them in line with regional and international law and standards, including by removing the Crown’s [the King’s] control over the JSC’s composition,’ it said.

In a separate report in 2016 the ICJ said the kingdom’s constitution needed to be changed to bring it in line ‘with regional and universal international law and standards, in particular on the separation of powers and respect for judicial independence’.

It added, ‘Swaziland’s constitution, while providing for judicial independence in principle, does not contain the necessary safeguards to guarantee it. Overall, the legislative and regulatory framework falls short of international law and standards, including African regional standards.’

In 2014 Caroline James of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) wrote the judiciary under the then Chief Justice MichaelRamodibedi had ‘become a puppet of King Mswati III, and the courts, which are supposed to hold the other branches of government to account, instead further his interests and protect his actions.

‘In 2011 the Chief Justice issued an official practice directive that no courts could entertain any legal suits filed against the King and his office. This directive shields the King from constitutional challenges brought against him as head of government, as well as actions brought against him in his personal capacity. This allows him to act with impunity, and completely removed any mechanism for accountability.

‘Later that year, one of the few independent thinking judges on the High Court bench, Judge Thomas Masuku, was impeached and removed from his position. Without Masuku the number of judges willing to apply the law impartially has been reduced, and as the Chief Justice himself allocates all cases before the High Court, he is able to ensure that any politically sensitive matters are given to judges he knows will rule in the government’s favour.’

She said the judiciary was being used to punish those who dared to speak out.

‘The offence of contempt of court exists to protect the integrity of the judiciary and prevent interference with justice, and not to prevent legitimate criticism of judges and their conduct. However, the range of conduct covered by the offence appears to have been widened, and is being used in Swaziland to shield judges from criticism. This broad interpretation has removed any certainty individuals may have over what they may or may not say about the judiciary.’

See also

Jurists: deep flaws in legal system

Swazi judicial crisis: King’s word is law

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Children at risk of food poisoning as Swaziland Govt’s financial crisis continues

Schoolchildren in Swaziland / eSwatini are at risk of poisoning because they only have rotten food to eat after the government failed to deliver supplies because it has run out of money.

The academic year started last week and schools, especially in rural areas, have not received supplies. Children rely on free food to avoid starvation. The crisis has been going on for many years and there seems to be no end.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Tuesday (29 January 2019) that some schools have had no supplies of food since September last year. What food that is left has become rotten, it reported head teachers saying. It is mainly beans and mealie meal.

It quoted one saying, ‘The food is now contaminated but we are forced to use it.’ He added, ‘We need fresh food urgently.’

The Times reported another head teacher said, ‘In these rural schools, it is impossible for us to teach without giving food to the pupils because for many, this is their only healthy meal.’

The Times added, ‘The delay in delivering of food to schools is putting pupils’ health at a high risk of eating contaminated and rotten food.’

The food crisis in Swaziland is long-running. In February 2018, children were warned to prepare themselves for starvation as the government once again failed to deliver free food to schools. The Swazi Observer reported at the time that schools relying on government aid – known as the zondle programme – ‘must brace themselves for starvation as the Ministry of Education and Training has failed to deliver food to schools on time’.

It quoted one school principal who wanted to remain anonymous, ‘The pupils should brace themselves for starvation because there is no available food in the school, and they have exhausted the food that was left last year.’

Schools have also been forced to close because of food shortages.

In June 2017 it was reported more than 200 pupils children at Mphundle High School were treated for food poisoning after allegedly being served contaminated meat.

In a report in August 2018 the World Food Program said 45 percent of children in Swaziland were orphaned or vulnerable. Chronic malnutrition was a main concern and stunting affected 26 percent of children under the age of five. An estimated 77 percent of Swazis relied on subsistence farming for their livelihoods.   

There seems no end to the crisis. In June 2018 headteachers and principals told the Swazi Observer they were in huge debt and unable to pay suppliers. It said the problem was with the government which faced financial challenges. 

The Swaziland national budget has been mismanaged for years. Swaziland is broke and the government is living from hand to mouth. In June 2018 the then Finance Minister Martin Dlamini told the House of Assembly that as of 31 March 2018 government owed E3.28 billion. Dlamini said budget projections indicated ‘exponential growth in the arrears’. 

The spotlight on spending in Swaziland intensified when in April 2018 at a party to mark both his 50th birthday and the anniversary of Swaziland’s Independence from Great Britain, King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit weighing 6 kg studded with diamonds. Days earlier he had taken delivery of his second private jet. This one, an Airbus A340, cost US$13.2 to purchase but with VIP upgrades was estimated to have cost US$30 million.

Meanwhile, seven in ten of the 1.2 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day.

See also

Bad food poisons 200 Swazi pupils

Swazi Govt ‘runs out of cash’

Lavish spending leads to food aid cut

Hunger forces schools to close early