Thursday, February 27, 2020

Swaziland court threatens woman, 19, with jail for wearing miniskirt in public

A 19-year-old woman in Swaziland (eSwatini) was sentenced to three months in jail with the option of a fine for wearing a miniskirt in public. 

It happened in Luvumisa, a town near the border with South Africa.

The Times of eSwatini reported she was stopped on the street by police and told to change her clothes. She was seen about two hours later still wearing the miniskirt and was arrested.

She appeared at court in Luvumisa and was sentenced to three months jail with an option of an E300 fine. 

The Times reported the court was told the woman’s underwear was visible under the skirt.

It is a stated policy in Swaziland to arrest women who wear miniskirts.

In late 2012 Swaziland Police announced that women found wearing a miniskirt in public would be arrested and face a fine or imprisonment. Swazi Police official spokesperson Wendy Hleta told the Times Sunday newspaper that it would only take one complaint for a woman in a miniskirt to be arrested. She said police would use a law dating from 1889.

She was commenting after police stopped a march by women protesting at the harassment they received from men when they wore miniskirts or other clothes such as low-cut jeans or crop tops that displayed their stomachs. The men wanted them to wear clothes they considered more appropriate to Swazi tradition. 

In the course of the interview Hleta said that men might be tempted to rape women who wore skimpy clothes.

By coincidence around the same date the Times of Swaziland published a letter from a woman who recounted a trip she and her female friend made to Manzini police station to report a crime. She was wearing a miniskirt and her friend shorts. 

She said five male officers verbally attacked them. Among the comments made by the police officers were, ‘You b******, go and get dressed or remove yourselves from our presence. 

‘Can’t you hear that we are telling you to go and dress appropriately first? Or have you come to solicit here? This is not a prostitution site.’ And , ‘Go before we do you harm.’

In July 2019, Vulimpompi Nhleko, the member of parliament for Nkwene, urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to condemn women who wore ‘skimpy’ clothes to church. He spoke during a debate in the Swazi House of Assembly.

See also

Woman in pants banned from election

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Swaziland Govt tells High Court LGBTI acts are illegal because they are ‘unnatural’

A representative of the Swaziland (eSwatini) Government told the kingdom’s High Court LGBTI people were ‘unnatural’ and their campaign group was unlawful.

Siboniso Nkambule, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade, was opposing an application from the Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities (ESGM) group to be officially registered.

The Registrar of Companies had previously refused to register the association so that it could operate legally in the kingdom. ESGM has a number of objectives including to advance the protection of the rights of LGBTI people in Swaziland and reduce harm that affect their wellbeing based upon sexual orientation and gender identity.

Nkambule told the court, ‘May I state that every other sexual action other than what is in the order of nature, capable of producing offsprings is unnatural and, therefore, prohibited in terms of our laws.’

The Times of eSwatini reported Nkambule said in an affidavit, ‘The actions of Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities constitute unnatural action which ought to be stopped in our society for purposes of our young generations as well as the public interest.’

The matter is still pending in court.

Discrimination against LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) people in Swaziland is widespread but in recent years they have become more visible and vocal. The first ever Pride march took place in 2018.

Melusi Simelane, Founder and Executive Director of ESGM, writing in a report on LGBTI experiences in Swaziland said LGBTI identities were not criminalised in Swaziland but colonial laws that included the crime of sodomy still existed. He said this suggested homosexuality was ‘simply about a sexual act rather than a broader issue of love and respect’.

He added the outdated laws violated constitutional rights. He said despite the law the state did not prosecute consenting adults.

A report published in 2019 written by two academics and the Southern and East African Research Collective on Health found evidence of serious human rights violations against Swazi people who were LGBTI. The report concluded they suffered ‘social exclusion, marginalisation and stigma’ because they were seen as being different from the rest of the population.

This, the report said, ‘has a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex’.

Swaziland is a deeply conservative kingdom ruled by the absolute monarch King Mswati III. The King has in the past described homosexuality as ‘satanic’  In May 2016 four organisations jointly reported to the United Nations about LGBTI discrimination in Swaziland. Part of their report stated, ‘LGBT[I]s are discriminated and condemned openly by society. This is manifest in negative statements uttered by influential people in society e.g., religious, traditional and political leaders. Traditionalists and conservative Christians view LGBT[I]s as against Swazi tradition and religion. There have been several incidents where traditionalists and religious leaders have issued negative statements about lesbians.’  

See also

LGBTI discrimination in Swaziland leads to big mental health issues, report finds
LGBT Pride film shows what it’s like to live with prejudice and ignorance in Swaziland

LGBTI Pride gets global attention

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Reporting of Swaziland Govt finances fails to meet international standards, auditor general states

Government finances in Swaziland (eSwatini) continue to be in a mess with widespread misreporting of assets and liabilities, the kingdom’s auditor general reported.

Timothy Matsebula listed a catalogue of errors that included bank balances that were misstated by nearly E125 million because government cash books did not tally with bank statements.

The figures were part of the auditor general’s annual report for the year ended 31 March 2019 just published. He described the reporting as ‘unacceptable’ and said it did not conform to international standards.

Matsebula reported, ‘Other bank balances were understated by E16,682,280.78 in aggregate; thus, reflecting an incorrect cash position of the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini at year end.’

He also highlighted a bank balance that had nearly E1 billion IMF Special Drawings Rights had not been disclosed.

The auditor general found assets amounting to E1.9 million were incorrectly classified as liabilities in the Detailed Statement of Liabilities. ‘These bank balances were reported as overdrawn bank accounts whereas bank statements showed that the accounts had positive balances, as at the year end.’

Elsewhere, overstated liability account balances amounted to E403 million while understated liability account balances amounted to E87 million.

Matsebula also found there had been unauthorised over-expenditure of E845 million in recurrent expenditure budget. There was also unauthorised over-expenditure of E16 million in the capital expenditure budget.

Matsebula concluded, ‘I draw attention to the presentation and disclosures in the financial statements which reflect an unacceptable financial reporting framework. The current financial reporting practice does not conform to any internationally recognised financial reporting framework and does not present the Government Accounts (Financial Statements) fairly in some accounting areas.’

This is not the first time the auditor general has found the government accounts to be inadequate.

Last year billions of emalangeni could not be accounted for. In his annual report for the 2018 Matsebula stated government revenue, assets, and liabilities ‘were materially misstated’. He said in some cases it was impossible to reconcile government cash books with bank statements.

The AG reported then, ‘Misstatements can arise from fraud or error and are considered material if, individually or in the aggregate, they could reasonably be expected to influence the economic decisions of users taken on the basis of these Financial Statements.’

See also

Govt ministries broke law on spending

Govt ministries in financial mess