Friday, January 31, 2020

Swaziland police chief threatens social media users with wrath of the law if they criticise King

Police in the absolute monarchy of Swaziland (eSwatini) are to hunt down and arrest people who criticise King Mswati on socail media.

The National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini said the law would deal with them harshly.

He made the announcement in a written statement published in media across Swaziland on Friday (31 January 2020).

The eSwatini Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported, ‘He stated that the police service was hot on their trail and they will see to it that the perpetrators of the cybercrime ultimately face the wrath and might of the law.’

Human rights are severely curtailed in Swaziland. 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’.

There is very little media freedom in Swaziland, where one of the only two daily newspapers is owned by King Mswati. All broadcast news is controlled by the government, whose members are handpicked by the King.

Democracy campaigners use social media sites such as Facebook to draw attention to human rights abuses.

Dlamini said there were ‘highly insolent and morality devoid characters disseminating seditious, slanderous and very insultive statements about the country’s authorities via social media’.

He added, ‘The intent and motive of these statements is seemingly to vilify and pour scorn on the country’s authorities, which we find completely unacceptable and an insult to the entire nation.’

The Swaziland News, an online newspaper, reported, the National Commissioner announced that they had launched a high-level investigation that would uncover those behind these vitriolic and damaging statementsso they could be dealt with according to the law. He said they have noted that these individuals were in a mission to plant a seed of disorder and anarchy in the Nation.

This is not the first time the Swazi state has threatened social media users.

In March 2018, Swaziland’s then Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini hinted his government might try to restrict access to social media, but he told Senators there was nothing police could do ‘at the moment’ about the posts.

The Swazi Observer reported at the time, ‘The premier said it was unfortunate that social media was a very complex phenomenon, which no single person or organisation could control.’

The Swazi Government has a history of hostility to social media. In 2011, Prime Minister Dlamini said it was important to keep information published on Facebook away from the Swazi people. ‘If such stories from these websites then make it to the newspapers and radios, then the public at large will start to think there is some truth in the story yet it was just malicious gossip,’ the Times of Swaziland reported him saying at the time. 

He was commenting after information about a cabinet minister had appeared on social media.

The Swazi Observer also reported at the time, ‘Dlamini said government did not have any measures to control the internet but relied on the support of the media which assists by shying away from information published or sourced from the internet.’ 

In the run up to April 2011 a group used Facebook to try to drum up support for an ‘uprising’ for democracy in the kingdom. The Government threatened the online activists with prosecution.

In May 2011, the Times of Swaziland reported Swaziland had specially ‘trained officers’ to track down people who used  Facebook to criticise the Swazi Government. Nathaniel Mahluza, Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology, said the government was worried by what the newspaper called ‘unsavoury comments’ about the kingdom being published on the internet. 

In March 2012, Swaziland’s Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze said he would use the law against people who criticised Swaziland on the internet. He told the Swazi Senate that he would use what he called ‘international laws’ to bring the internet critics to task. He was reacting to concerns from Senators that the internet sites showed ‘disrespect’ to the King.

Academic research published in 2013 suggested that people in Swaziland used the Internet to communicate with one another and share information and ideas about the campaign for democracy, bypassing the Swazi mainstream media which was heavily censored. They debated and shared information about activities designed to bring attention to the human rights abuses in the kingdom.

The research suggested, ‘It is clear that social media sites have extended the public sphere to offer opportunities for a wider range of people both in the country and outside it, to produce, distribute and exchange information and commentary about the kingdom – especially in the context of the need for political change. People speak in their own voices and are not mediated in the way mainstream media are in Swaziland.’

National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini

See also

PM hints at social media restriction

One in three use Internet for news

Swazi people speak up for themselves
Government threatens Facebook critics
Swazi police track Facebook users


Friday, January 24, 2020

Public sector corruption in Swaziland getting worse, Transparency International report suggests

The public sector in Swaziland (eSwatini) is ‘corrupt to highly corrupt’, according to the latest annual report from Transparency International.

The kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and where political parties are barred from taking part in elections, scored 34 out of a possible 100 in the 2019 Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

On the scale zero is ‘highly corrupt’ and 100 is ‘very clean’. The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople.

The score of 34 puts Swaziland in the area of corrupt to highly corrupt according to the CPI scale. In 2018 Swaziland scored 38 and in 2017 it scored 37.

Transparency International recommended, ‘To end corruption and restore trust in politics, it is imperative to prevent opportunities for political corruption and to foster the integrity of political systems.’

In Swaziland the King chooses the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers. He also picks senior judges and senior civil servants. 

Following elections in 2018, King Mswati appointed eight members of his Royal Family to the kingdom’s 30-member Senate and another six to the House of Assembly.

In July 2019 nearly one in four people (24 percent) surveyed in Swaziland believed their Prime Minister was corrupt, according to a separate report from Transparency International.
Nearly one in three (32 percent) thought government officials were corrupt. Just over half (51 percent) thought corruption had increased in the previous 12 months. 

Nearly one in five (17 percent) users of public services reported they had paid a bribe in the previous 12 months: 21 percent said they had paid a bribe to get an ID card; 10 percent said they had bribed the police.

The results were published in the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Africa survey, a collaboration between Afrobarometer and Transparency International. 

In an annual review on human rights in Swaziland published in 2019 the United States Department of State reported, ‘there was a widespread public perception of corruption in the executive and legislative branches of government and a consensus that the government did little to combat it’. 

The report stated, ‘There were widespread reports of immigration and customs officials seeking bribes to issue government documents such as visas and resident permits. In March [2018] police raided the Department of Immigration, where they confiscated files and arrested and charged two senior immigration officers. The government filed charges against one of the senior officers based on allegations she had processed applications for travel documents for foreign nationals who were not present in, and had never visited, the country.’

It added, ‘Credible reports continued that a person’s relationship with government officials influenced the awarding of government contracts; the appointment, employment, and promotion of officials; recruitment into the security services; and school admissions. Authorities rarely took action on reported incidents of nepotism.’

See also

Swaziland King appoints eight of his family to Senate amid reports of widespread vote buying elsewhere

New drive against corruption in Swaziland leaves out King Mswati, the biggest drain on the public purse

Nearly one in four in Swaziland believe Prime Minister is corrupt, Transparency International reports

Swaziland Auditor General fears fraud as govt pensions paid to the deceased

Thursday, January 23, 2020

‘Plot underway to assassinate Swaziland absolute monarch’, international defence journal reports

Mercenaries from Israel and Lebanon are plotting to assassinate King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), the Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy journal reported.

The journal published by the International Strategic Studies Association said the plot was supported by the African National Congress (ANC) which is the governing party in South African, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the Government of the United Kingdom.

The journal reported (Vol. 47, No. 11/12, 2019) the mercenaries entered Swaziland in November 2019 but were unable immediately to get to the King because he was in seclusion as part of the annual Incwala ceremonies.

Swaziland is not a democracy and political parties are barred from taking part in elections. Groups that advocate for democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The King chooses the Prime Minister and cabinet and top judges.

Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy journal reported the plot was backed by the UK because it ‘had reportedly been promised concessions to exploit eSwatini reserves of diamonds and natural gas, among other things, in a “post-Mswati” eSwatini. Sensitive UK Government documents confirm that understanding.’ 

It added, ‘Significant external financial and political support for the revolutionaries has not brought about a national groundswell against the King. The Umbutfo eSwatini Defence Force (UEDF) and the Swati chiefs and peoples reaching into South Africa (including the Johannesburg region, traditionally Swati territory) remain passionately loyal to the King.’

The journal offered no evidence to support its reporting. It gave this analysis of why eSwatini was important globally.

‘Presently, despite its size, it is a pillar of stability relative to South Africa itself, given that collapse of the South African state is a possibility, even as soon as 2020. And Southern Africa is key to monitoring and control of the Cape of Good Hope sea route. South Africa is presently a key component of the PRC’s strategy to control sea lanes and ports globally. 

‘Moreover, eSwatini is the only country in Africa which still recognizes the Republic of China (ROC: Taiwan), rather than the PRC. If South Africa falls apart and an independent KwaZulu-Natal returned eSwatini's access to the Indian Ocean, this would significantly affect maritime strategies in the region. As well, the Zulu Kingdom itself may not necessarily recognize Beijing.’

The International Strategic Studies Association founded in 1982 and based in Washington DC describes itself as a worldwide membership Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) of professionals involved in national management, particularly in national and international security and strategic policy.

See also

‘Attempted coup in Swaziland’