Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic highlights human rights abuses in Swaziland, new review shows

The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis dominated events in Swaziland during the second quarter of 2020. A partial shutdown of the kingdom ordered by absolute monarch King Mswati led to widespread job losses and hunger. The government which is not elected by the people but directly appointed by the King largely failed to bring the virus under control. Police and soldiers were deployed on the streets of towns and cities to force people to obey instructions to stay at home. Roadblocks were set up across the kingdom to stop people travelling. Widespread human rights abuses were reported.

The number of people testing positive and the death rate due to coronavirus in Swaziland is not accurately known. The Ministry of Health has been supervising the collection of test results but it does not give details of who is allowed to be tested and who is not. By 30 June 2020 the Ministry had reported a total of 812 cases and 11 deaths.

Coronavirus is the main topic covered in the period April to June 2020 and contained in Swaziland: Striving for Freedom, volume 38, a compilation of reports posted on the Swazi Media Commentary website and available to download free-of-charge from Scribd dot com

Elsewhere, the United States’ State Department  reported the Swazi Government and its agents committed ‘arbitrary or unlawful killings’. It highlighted cases of police brutality in its annual report on human rights. In June a prisoner was allegedly killed by prison warders during disturbances among gang members at the Sidwashini correctional facility.
Separately, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported Swaziland had one of the worst records on workers’ rights in the world. 

The LGBTI group eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities continued to fight for recognition in Swaziland and asked the High Court to overturn a decision by a government agency not to register it so that it could operate legally. The case continues.

Swaziland has no media freedom according to Reporters Without Borders in an annual report. Meanwhile, Eugene Dube, a journalist critical of King Mswati was beaten by police, arrested and faced a treason charge for reports published on the Swati Newsweek website. He fled to neighbouring South Africa. Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, President of the Economic Freedom Fighters-Swaziland (EFF), was charged with sedition for criticisms he made of the King on the same website.  

Swazi Media Commentary is published online, updated most weekdays. It is operated entirely by volunteers and receives no financial backing from any organisation. It is devoted to providing information and commentary in support of human rights in Swaziland.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Coronavirus set to ‘spread like wild fires’ through Swaziland, PM warns, but lockdown to be eased

The coronavirus crisis in Swaziland (eSwatini) is in danger of spreading like ‘wild fires’ in part of the kingdom, Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini warned.

Teams are to be sent from door-to-door in an attempt to find cases, test, treat, isolate and trace contacts, he announced on Friday (10 July 2020).

Despite the spread, schools will continue to reopen, some businesses will be taken out of lockdown and some sports will be able to start again. Churches are set to reopen.

In a statement Dlamini said, ‘It took the Kingdom two months to reach 600 cases and only 20 days to reach 1,200 infections.’ There have now been 17 deaths from coronavirus (COVID-19). He said this had set off ‘alarm bells’ among the people of Swaziland.

He said, ‘We are dealing with an ever evolving enemy which is always ready to strike and we have no other option but to keep up our guard and pace of intervention. This will, inevitably, be a long road to travel and certainly a marathon, not a sprint to the finish line.’

He said there were ‘hotspots’ of infections in the Manzini region and parts of Hhohho.  The Lubombo and Shiselweni regions had clusters with a high potential to turn into ‘wild fires’ if not urgently attended to, he added. 

He announced, ‘The Ministry of Health will soon embark on a “Door to Door Campaign” contained in a six point plan to halt the spread of COVID-19, starting in the Manzini and Hhohho regions and eventually spreading throughout the country. This plan will focus on education, finding cases, testing, treating, isolating and tracing contacts.’

Despite the increase in cases he said the Swazi Government would start a phased reopening of sporting activities. From Monday (13 July 2020) angling, athletics, cricket, cue sports, cycling, darts, equestrian, golf, shooting, tennis and teqball would be allowed if strict health conditions were met. Spectators would not be allowed.

Dlamini said more businesses would also open from Monday and churches would be able to open with reduced numbers in the congregation from 19 July.

Meanwhile, the Industrial Court has still to decide on an application from the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) to force the government to halt the reopening of schools that started on Monday (6 July 2020). SNAT says it is not yet safe for pupils to return.

See also

Coronavirus cases in Swaziland hit record level, 10 pc of tests come back positive

Swaziland Govt. halts food aid to many elderly people as coronavirus crisis grows

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Coronavirus cases in Swaziland hit record level, 10 pc of tests come back positive

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Ministry of Health announced a new record of coronavirus cases in a single day just as schools in the kingdom began to reopen and churches were told they could begin operating again.

The number of cases has been steadily rising in recent weeks. On Wednesday (8 July 2020) Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi reported there had been 82 positive cases in the previous 24 hours bringing the total number of cases to 1,138. There have been 14 deaths. 

The number of tests reported in the first eight days of July was 3,306. Of these nearly 10 percent (326) tested positive. The total population of Swaziland is about 1.3 million.

Schools across Swaziland began to reopen on Monday against the advice of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) which said it was unsafe to do so. SNAT went to the Industrial Court on Tuesday to try to get the reopenings halted. The case is continuing.

Already local media have reported cases of suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) among pupils. One teacher reportedly tested positive. 

On Wednesday the Ministry of Home Affairs issued regulations allowing churches to reopen with the maximum number of people present being ‘the equivalent of 30 per cent of the total holding capacity’ of the venue.

The entire Swazi Cabinet of government ministers have been in isolation this week after one of their number tested positive. They were expected to return to work on Thursday after tests they undertook proved negative.

See also

Swaziland Govt. halts food aid to many elderly people as coronavirus crisis grows

Swaziland teachers go to court in bid to stop schools reopening during coronavirus crisis

Entire Swaziland Cabinet in isolation after minister tests positive for coronavirus