Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Swaziland MP accuses phone company of bugging callers

A member of parliament in Swaziland / eSwatini has accused mobile phone company MTN of listening in on customers.

It is not the first time the company has been accused of doing this.

Robert Magongo, the Motshane MP, told the House of Assembly MTN staffers listened on to their conversations. He said there was no privacy. He called on the Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Princess Sikhanyiso, to take ‘serious action’ on the matter. 

The Times of Swaziland reported, ‘He said he would be forced to move a motion calling for the closure of MTN if they continued with this behaviour.’ MTN is one of only two mobile phone operators in the kingdom. 

The minister is expected to respond within a week. Princess Sikhanyiso was appointed to the job by her father who rules Swaziland as the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa.

In June 2017 some senior politicians in Swaziland said they feared their phones were being tapped. The Sunday Observer reported at the time, ‘House of Assembly Speaker Themba Msibi, when interviewed about the possibility of hearing devices and phones being tapped, said, “I too have concerns as at times calls sound hollow, making one suspect that a third party could be listening in.”’

Minister of Economic Planning Prince Hlangusemphi said he had heard rumours with nothing official and concrete to substantiate them. 

The newspaper reported, ‘Minister of Natural Resources Jabulile Mashwama said rumours of bugging have been around since time immemorial.’

In July 2013 the Times of Swaziland newspaper reported the Lobamba MP Majahodvwa Khumalo said his cellphone had been bugged ever since he started being ‘vocal against some people’. 

It is legal in certain circumstances to tap phones in Swaziland. The Suppression of Terrorism Act gives police the right to listen in on people’s conversations if they have the permission of the Attorney General.

When the Act came into law in 2008 Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini said that anyone who criticised the government could be considered a terrorist sympathiser.

In 2011, a journalist working in Swaziland for the AFP international news agency reported on her blog that her phone calls were being listened in to. 

In August 2011 Wikileaks published a cable from the US Embassy in Swaziland that revealed the Swazi Government had tried to get MTN, then the only mobile phone provider in the kingdom, to use its network for ‘surveillance on political dissidents’. 

Tebogo Mogapi, the MTN chief executive officer (CEO) in Swaziland, refused to comply and later did not have his work permit renewed and so had to leave the kingdom, the cable said.

See also

‘Observer’ hides king’s MTN links

PM share dividends under scrutiny

MTN ‘keeps Swazi King in its pocket’

Swazi election – sponsored by MTN

US decries King on MTN deal

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Swaziland falls short on eliminating human trafficking, but is making efforts, says new report

The Government of Swaziland / eSwatini does not does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of people trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so, according to the latest annual report from the United States State Department.

The report covered the year 2018. ‘Poor performance by leadership personnel at the anti-trafficking secretariat remained the principal obstacle to progress on trafficking during much of the reporting period,’ the report stated.

The government shelved a long-pending draft bill to amend the 2009 People Trafficking and People Smuggling (Prohibition) Act, as it determined it would have created expensive new bureaucratic structures.

However, the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence (SODV) Act came into force in August 2018 which included provisions for people trafficking. The Act provides for penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to E100,000 (US$6,970), or both, for the commercial sexual exploitation of an adult and, up to 25 years’ imprisonment with no option of a fine if the offense involved a child.

The report stated the government investigated more than 2,000 cases under the SODV Act, although it was unclear how many included potential trafficking crimes. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. 

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. It finalized a new, five-year national action plan. The task force for the Prevention of People Trafficking and People Smuggling was re-established in January 2017 after a four-month lapse and met regularly in 2018 and early 2019.
The report stated, ‘As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Eswatini, and traffickers exploit victims from Eswatini abroad. Swati trafficking victims come primarily from poor communities with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates. 

‘Traffickers exploit Swati girls, particularly orphans, in sex trafficking and domestic servitude, primarily in Eswatini and South Africa. Traffickers force Swati boys and foreign children to labor in agriculture, including cattle herding, and market vending within the country. 

‘Mozambican boys migrate to Eswatini for work washing cars, herding livestock, and portering; traffickers exploit some in forced labor. Traffickers use Eswatini as a transit country to transport foreign victims to South Africa for forced labor. 

‘Traffickers reportedly force Mozambican women into prostitution in Eswatini, or transport them through Eswatini to South Africa. Some traffickers force Swati into commercial sex in South Africa after voluntarily migrating in search of work. 

‘Reports suggest labor brokers fraudulently recruit and charge excessive fees to Swati nationals for work in South African mines—means often used to facilitate trafficking crimes. Swati men in border communities are recruited for forced labor in South Africa’s timber industry.’

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland, was himself named in a global report on modern slavery in 2018 for forcing his subjects to weed his fields.

His supporters say the work is done in the name of culture but others say if they do not work for the King they are punished.

The Global Slavery Index 2018 said there was evidence that the practice of kuhlehla continued, ‘where the community is forced to render services or work for the King or local chiefs’.

The report estimated there were 12,000 people in Swaziland in modern slavery. This number increased from 1,302 people in 2013 and 6,700 people in 2014. The numbers for 2018 may have been distorted by changes in the way victims were counted.

The report stated modern slavery, ‘refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception and / or abuse of power’.

This was not the first time King Mswati was named in a report on modern slavery or human trafficking. The annual Trafficking in Persons Report for 2017 from the United States State Department said, ‘Swazis are culturally expected to participate in the seasonal weeding and harvesting of the King’s fields and those who may refuse are subject to coercion through threats and intimidation by their chiefs.’

Seven in ten people in Swaziland live in abject poverty earning less than the equivalent of $US2 per day. They can be forced to work under the Swazi Administration Order, No. 6 of 1998 which makes it a duty of Swazis to obey orders and participate in compulsory works; participation is enforceable with severe penalties for those who refuse.

See also

Swaziland’s King Mswati Named as Offender in Global Report on Modern Slavery

Swazi Govt misleads on child labour
Kids forced to weed King’s fields

Monday, July 29, 2019

Swaziland Communists say they are developing a campaign of ‘armed struggle’ to topple King

The Communist Party in Swaziland is launching a campaign including sabotage and armed struggle to topple the absolute monarch King Mswati III. 

It said, ‘At an appropriate time, the regime and media in Swaziland must be notified of the intention to launch armed struggle. It should be made aware that the demand for Democracy Now! will be backed up by violent action.’

The party has been running a peaceful campaign for nearly 10 years calling for the unbanning of political parties, for freedom of assembly and media, and for free and fair elections, but said this was not bringing results.

It said, ‘The response has simply been more oppression.’

In Swaziland (renamed eSwatini by the King) under a system of government called Tinkhundla, political parties cannot take part in elections and groups advocating for democracy (including the Communist Party) are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The King appoints the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers as well as top judges and civil servants.

In a new statement issued by the Communist Party Central Committee (CC) called ‘Towards a framework for developing armed struggle,’ it said the party’s campaign must be stepped up.

The statement circulated on social media said, ‘We do not want to negotiate with the monarchy: it must abdicate and make way for democratic change under an interim administration.

‘We are under no illusion that, given the many years in which we have been calling for freedom and democracy, the regime will embrace democracy and freedom for our people. The regime must be forced to give up power!’

It added, ‘A sabotage campaign would be the most appropriate means of doing this.

‘We are not in a position to wage warfare; terrorism is counter-productive; all-out or even elements of revolutionary war is unfeasible in our situation. 

‘We must also consider the scale of existing struggle in Swaziland, the small size of our country and very small population, the small number and size of urban areas, and so on.’

It said the campaign aimed to prevent the King’s rule from functioning normally by disrupting power and communications. It also wanted to deter tourism and businesses from outside the kingdom, while also impeding the functioning of the Swazi sugar industry and other industries. 

It said, ‘In all cases the target must be infrastructure, not individuals.

‘Threats and intimidation aimed at individuals amount to thuggish behaviour and must be avoided. An exception is when we aim to prevent top officials in the government, police, army from carrying out their work.  

‘It should not as far as possible aim to prevent our people going about their work and everyday lives.’  It added, ‘We would never target schools or other places of learning, hospitals etc. – though such soft sabotage targets might appear easy. 

‘The targets of sabotage should in every case be linked to the state and Tinkhundla system’s capacity to function; to disrupting the scope for the government, monarchy, police, army, civil service to function. 

‘Particular attention should be given to disrupting government / monarchic digital communications through cyber warfare. This requires special expertise and assistance that must be worked out. We need to seek assistance from outside the country for this, possibly from friendly states.’

It said details of the means and forms of sabotage would be worked out by a small secretariat seconded from the Communist Party’s CC. ‘Secrecy is crucial, but the support of the CC and (trusted) membership must be secured.’

It said, ‘At an appropriate time, the regime and media in Swaziland must be notified of the intention to launch armed struggle. It should be made aware that the demand for Democracy Now! will be backed up by violent action.’

See also

Communists to launch campaign of ‘maximum defiance’ against Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati