Thursday, April 30, 2020

Swaziland’s coronavirus lockdown in chaos as motorists beat travel ban

The coronavirus lockdown in Swaziland (eSwatini) has descended into chaos as people ignore the stay at home order and travel ban.

Police backed by the army and prison warders have tried to lockdown Manzini, the main commercial centre in the kingdom, but people have refused to comply. Roadblocks have been set up across the kingdom

New travel restrictions came into force on Monday (27 April 2020) and police ordered that all people wanting to travel by road across Swaziland would need written permission. Among those allowed to write permits were area chiefs and other local officials. Now, the police have withdrawn this permission because too many permits were issued.

The National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini announced the rule change on Wednesday (29 April 2020). He said the lockdown had been rendered useless by the huge number of permission letters that had been issued. He said the number of motorist on the road had increased since the first day of the new restriction.

He ordered that travel be further restricted to only those who were sick and going to hospital and those working for essential services.

Human Rights Lawyer Sibusiso Nhlabatsi told the Swaziland News, an online newspaper,  that the police chief was acting beyond his powers in announcing the Manzini lockdown. It was, he said for the prime minister Ambrose Dlamini to make such decisions.

Swaziland has been in partial lockdown since 27 March with business closures and bans on gatherings and unnecessary travel.

As of Thursday there had been only one recorded death from coronavirus (COVID-19) and 100 confirmed cases of the virus.

In other coronavirus developments:

A 27-YEAR-old man was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment with the option of paying an E2,000 fine for being in Manzini town centre without good cause and resisting arrest. He said he had gone to pick up his wife from work.

MOTORISTS STOPPED at roadblocks are being fined E50 if they are not wearing a facemask.

SOME SUPERMARKETS are testing people’s temperatures to see if they might have the virus before allowing them into the store. Other stores have started a no-mask-no-entry policy.

THE MINISTRY of Health announced it would be hiring another 293 health workers, including 90 nurses, to work in public hospitals.

See also

Army, police close down Swaziland’s main commercial city in bid to halt coronavirus spread

Public need written permission to travel in Swaziland in big coronavirus clampdown

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Swaziland Govt. confirms it will not feed the starving in towns and cities during coronavirus lockdown

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government will not send food to the starving and destitute in towns and cities during the extreme lockdown that it has imposed in the fight against coronavirus.

The decision comes as Manzini, the main commercial city in the kingdom, has been locked down by the army and police and is surrounded by roadblocks. People on the streets are being arrested for loitering.

Unknown thousands of the 110,000 population have lost their jobs because of the lockdown and have no money or food.

On 22 April 2020 the Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced the government would feed more than 300,000 people from 63,000 households across all four regions of the Kingdom. The total population of Swaziland is about 1.3 million. He pledged the assistance would be delivered within two weeks.

Now, National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Wandile Mavuso has confirmed that people in urban areas would not get food from the government.

He explained on state radio that the government was directing its efforts only to rural areas.

The Times of eSwatini reported people including vendors who earned their living through selling fruits and vegetables on the streets, car wash employees who earned E10 per car, drycleaners employees, hair-dressers and salon owners, those employed at cellphone shops, hotels, restaurants and security guards, among others, had no income and could not get food.

It said, ‘A study has shown that most of these people are tenants [living in flats] on the outskirts of towns and cities and currently have no other source of income.’

It reported Mavuso saying, ‘We will not include tenants in the relief plan. We will not be going to the flats.’

He added the government would only work in places where there were ‘local structures’ in place. This would include chiefs and those who worked with chiefs. Mavuso said this would ensure that ‘deserving beneficiaries’ were identified.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch and he appoints the chiefs as his local representatives. 

Since the Prime Minister made his pledge to feed 300,000 people the Swazi House of Assembly rejected a plan put forward by Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku to send people money instead of food. 

The plan was to spend about E270 million (US$14 million) with government distributing about E45 million per month to 301,762 people across the kingdom.

Masuku said the scheme would give people the choice on what food to buy and stop them  gathering together to receive parcels and risk catching coronavirus (COVID-19). He said it would also save on the cost of delivering food.

A number of members of parliament thought the plan was open to corruption and money might not be used for the intended purpose of buying food.

A final decision on how to proceed with the food relief has yet to be made.

See also

Swaziland Govt. pledges to feed 300,000 facing hunger in next two weeks as coronavirus intensifies

People face ‘imminent death from hunger’ in Swaziland as coronavirus lockdown hits poorest

Army, police close down Swaziland’s main commercial city in bid to halt coronavirus spread

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Wife of Swaziland King’s critic seeks court order to stop police harassing, beating her

The wife of Zweli Martin Dlamini, the Swaziland (eSwatini) editor and journalist being hunted by police for writing and publishing articles critical of absolute monarch King Mswati III, has asked magistrates to issue a restraining order to stop police harassing and beating her.

Nompendulo Nokuthula Mkhonta filed an urgent application at the Mbabane Magistrates Court on Monday (27 April 2020). 

In her application she said a group of eight police officers entered her home on 10 April seeking her husband. They were ‘armed to the teeth’ and did not have a warrant.

They took her to the national police headquarters where she was handcuffed and suffocated with a plastic bag over her head. They wanted to know the whereabouts of her husband who is in hiding.

She said police threatened to return to her home at a later date.

Earlier this month in an annual report the group Reporters Without Borders concluded there was no media freedom in Swaziland.

Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and King Mswati chooses the prime minister and cabinet ministers. He also appoints top judges and civil servants. Groups advocating for democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Police have stepped up their campaign against online newspapers and social media that are calling for reforms. Zweli Martin Dlamini, the editor of the Swaziland News, an online newspaper, told the Voice of America radio on Monday that he was in hiding and feared arrest.

He reportedly fled to neighbouring South Africa in March 2020 for the second time. He said he had been arrested and tortured by Swazi police who accused him of sedition. 

Also, on 7 February 2020, The Swaziland News reported Dlamini was being harassed and receiving death threats from King Mswati’s first born daughter Princess Sikhanyiso, who is the Minister of Information Communication and Technology.

Dlamini had previously fled to South Africa in fear of his life in 2018. He had received death threats from a local businessman and his newspaper Swaziland Shopping was shut down by the Swazi government.

Separately, on 23 April 2020 Eugene Dube, the editor of another online publication, Swati Newsweek, was arrested and beaten by police. Police accused him of writing and publishing critical articles about King Mswati. He could face a charge of treason.

At a press briefing last week the Swazi National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini said police were investigating people who had critical websites online. He wanted to find out who hosted them.

See also

‘No media freedom’ in Swaziland, Reporters Without Borders annual report states
Swaziland journalist critical of absolute monarch, beaten, arrested, faces treason charge

Swaziland journalist ‘tortured by police after criticising absolute monarch in newspaper articles’

Newspaper editor flees Swaziland for second time after arrest and police torture
‘Attempt made to poison journalist critic of Swaziland’s absolute monarch,’ editor says