There is no appetite to investigate human rights abuses or corruption in Swaziland /eSwatini, the latest report from the United States Department of State concluded.
Swaziland is controlled by King Mswati III and ‘political power remained largely vested with the king and his traditional advisors,’ the report, which covered human rights issues during 2018, stated.
The 24-page report detailed ‘human rights issues’ across a wide range of areas which included, ‘restrictions on political participation, corruption, rape and violence against women linked in part to government inaction, criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct, although rarely enforced, and child labor’.
The report stated, ‘The government often did not investigate, prosecute, or administratively punish officials who committed human rights abuses. With very few exceptions, the government did not identify officials who committed abuses. Impunity was widespread.’
The report added, ‘Although there were mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, there were few prosecutions or disciplinary actions taken against security officers accused of abuses.’ It said the Royal eSwatini Police Service (REPS) itself investigated complaints of police abuse and corruption, but did not release findings to the public.
‘In most cases the REPS transferred police officers found responsible for violations to other offices or departments within the police system.’
The Department of State report was not the first in 2019 to detail human rights abuses in Swaziland. In February, Freedom House concluded King Mswati continued to hold a tight grip on power and all aspects of life in the kingdom.
Freedom House scored Swaziland 16 out of a possible 100 points in its Freedom in the World 2019 report. It concluded that Swaziland was ‘not free’.
Freedom House stated, ‘The king exercises ultimate authority over all branches of the national government and effectively controls local governance through his influence over traditional chiefs. Political dissent and civic and labor activism are subject to harsh punishment under sedition and other laws. Additional human rights problems include impunity for security forces and discrimination against women and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people.’
National elections took place in Swaziland in 2018. Freedom House scored Swaziland zero out of a possible 12 points for its ‘electoral process’. It stated, ‘The king, who remains the chief executive authority, is empowered to appoint and dismiss the prime minister and members of the cabinet. The prime minister is ostensibly the head of government, but has little power in practice. Ambrose Dlamini was appointed prime minister in October 2018, although he was not a member of Parliament at the time of his appointment, as required by the constitution.
Freedom House scored Swaziland one point out of a possible 16 for ‘political pluralism and participation’ stating, ‘The king has tight control over the political system in law and in practice, leaving no room for the emergence of an organized opposition with the potential to enter government. The vast majority of candidates who contested the 2018 general elections were supporters of the king.’
Swaziland scored zero out of a possible 12 points for ‘functioning of government.’ The king appoints the Prime Minister and government ministers. Freedom House stated, ‘The king and his government determine policy and legislation; members of Parliament hold no real power and effectively act as a rubber stamp in approving the king’s legislative priorities. Parliament cannot initiate legislation and has little oversight or influence on budgetary matters. The king is also constitutionally empowered to veto any legislation. The absolute authority of the king was demonstrated by his decision to rename the country in April 2018 [from Swaziland to eSwatini] without any constitutional process or parliamentary approval.
The full report from the State Department is available here
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