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.

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