Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Swaziland High Court judge calls for debate on legalising abortion

A High Court judge in the deeply conservative kingdom of Swaziland (eSwatini) has started a debate about legalising abortion.


Judge Qinisile Mabuza heard a case involving a 26-year-old woman who was accused of causing the death of her four-year-old son, by drowning him in a river.


The eSwatini Observer reported that the child’s father had denied paternity, leaving her to rise the child herself. This prompted the judge to question what provisions were available for women who found themselves in similar situations.


The Swazi Constitution provides that abortion might be allowed on medical or therapeutic grounds, including where a doctor certifies that continued pregnancy will endanger the life or constitute a serious threat to the physical health of the woman; continued pregnancy will constitute a serious threat to the mental health of the woman; there is serious risk that the child will suffer from physical or mental defect of such a nature that the child will be irreparably seriously handicapped. 

However, no law exists to put the constitutional provisions into effect. 


According to the Observer, ‘In her subsequent remarks, she [Judge Mabuza] hinted that she viewed the current situation as shackling women’s autonomy, making an undertaking to tackle the current ban on abortion before she retires from the bench.


‘In fact, the learned judge believes it would be reasonable to allow women to make a decision on whether to perform an abortion.’


The Observer reported, she added some of the rights of women had been addressed through the 2018 Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act and it was time that society explored the possibility of legalising abortion as well.


Later, a number of representatives from organisations within Swaziland supported the idea of a debate. Acting Director Bongani Msibi of the Family Life Association of Swaziland (FLAS), a leader in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights delivery and youth programming in Swaziland, said the illegality of abortion often posed serious risks to women, and that legalisation could help to protect their reproductive and health rights.


Acting Director Zanele Thabede of Women and the Law of Southern Africa (WLSA) said abortion law reform should be discussed. She told the Observer it was important to have meaningful conversations whatever your beliefs about abortion.


Head of the Human Rights  and  Integrity Commission Sabelo Masuku said the group was in support of the call by the judge to have Swaziland revisit its position on abortion.


Because abortions are illegal in Swaziland it is difficult to say accurately how many are performed in the kingdom. However, in August 2018 the Times of Swaziland reported that every month, nurses at the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital in Manzini attended more than 100 cases of young women who had committed illegal abortions.


The IRIN news agency, quoting FLAS reported that in October 2012 more than 1,000 women were treated for abortion-related complications at a single clinic in Swaziland.


See also

Death of Swaziland schoolgirl after illegal abortion highlights suffering of women in kingdom


U.S. halts funding to Swaziland NGO as anti-abortion policy bites


Swaziland college principal reveals role abortions play in lives of his students

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Swaziland Army investigates after video showing ‘soldiers whipping civilians’ goes viral

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Army has started an investigation after video that appeared to show two soldiers whipping two civilians circulated widely on social media.


The 30-second video shows two men laying on the ground while one is whipped with what appears to be a branch of a tree. It is reported the assault went on for several minutes.


There is some confusion as to the role soldiers took. In some accounts the two men doing the whipping are soldiers and in others it is said soldiers who are not seen on the video but whose voices are heard were the soldiers.


According to a later report in the Times of eSwatini the incident is believed to have happened in an area near Matsamo on Saturday (26 September 2020), close to the border with South Africa.


The video also shows piles of South African banknotes in front of the two victims. 


The Independent News, eSwatini, reported the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (the official name of the Army) had started an investigation. A spokesperson said, ‘The defence force has since launched meticulous, internal investigations to determine the veracity of the clip.’ 


The News reported an unnamed male soldier saying that the defence force did not work like the police who opened charges against suspects. ‘As soldiers they just deal with you on the scene and set you free once you finish your punishment,’ the newspaper reported.



A still from the video circulating on social media

Soldiers in Swaziland have a long history of assaults on civilians, especially in border regions. In November 2019 a pregnant woman was slapped and thrown to the ground by two soldiers at Nsubane in the southeast of the kingdom. When she went to the army barracks to report the matter she was assaulted again.


In March 2019 the High Court ruled the army should pay E70,000 damages to a man it tortured. High Court Principal Judge Qinisile Mabuza also criticised the kingdom’s police for not investigating alleged assaults on civilians by members of the army.


In October 2018 soldiers were said to have tortured farmers who crossed the border at Dwalile to retrieve their straying cattle.


In a separate case in June 2018 three soldiers were charged with assault for burying a man alive after they accused him of stealing a phone from them at Mbekelweni.


In December 2017 soldiers were accused of routinely sexually assaulting women as they crossed border posts with South Africa. The Observer on Saturday reported at the time, ‘The army troops have been accused by women of abusing their powers by touching them inappropriately as they lay their hands on their buttocks just to allow to cross either to South Africa or into Swaziland. 


In July 2017 soldiers reportedly forced a bus-load of passengers to strip naked after it crossed the Mhlumeni Border Gate into Mozambique. Local media reported it happened all the time. 


In June 2017 it was reported women at the informal crossing situated next to the Mananga Border Gate were made to remove their underwear so soldiers could inspect their private parts with a mirror. The Swazi Army said it happened all the time. Soldiers were said to be searching for ‘illegal objects’ using a mirror similar to that used to inspect the underside of cars.


In September 2015, the Swazi Parliament heard that soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows. Member of Parliament Titus Thwala said that the women were among the local residents who were regularly beaten by soldiers at informal crossing points between Swaziland and South Africa.

See also

Army tortures recruitment cheats


Army sexual assaults at border posts


Soldiers inspect woman’s private parts

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Swaziland police teargas residents protesting about broken road bridge, fire rubber bullets

Police in Swaziland (eSwatini) fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse a crowd protesting that they were being made to pay fines for jaywalking while a broken pedestrian bridge was left unrepaired.

It happened at Eteni on the major Manzini-Mbabane Highway.

The residents complained that they were being charged for jaywalking by traffic officers when there was a bridge they should be using to cross to the other side of the road. The bridge was damaged a few weeks ago when one of the slabs fell off. 


The broken bridge



Protestors lit fires to block the road. Pictures sourced from Facebook

They have to walk long distances to get to the other side of the road. If they cross the road where the bridge is police can give on-the-spot fines of up to E60 for jaywalking. In Swaziland about seven in ten people have incomes of less than E30 a day.


Residents blocked the road on Thursday night (24 September 2020) by lighting tyres. Traffic was held up for several hours. Riot police were called to clear the road.


Police in Swaziland routinely use teargas and rubber bullets against protestors. They have also used heavy-handed methods when dealing with members of the public during the present coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown in the kingdom.


Police reportedly fired a shot and severely kicked and punched residents at Murray Camp, outside the main commercial city Manzini in August. Residents were allegedly drinking  alcohol outside a homestead which is against lockdown regulations. 


On 15 April Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini endorsed police beating people during the lockdown. He told a press briefing, ‘If you are found to be violating these regulations, the law will definitely take its course, we won’t compromise on this. Maybe those who were assaulted were found to be on the wrong side of the law by breaking the regulations put in place by government.’


A 15-year-old boy was shot and wounded by police when he played football with friends on a dusty field near Gege. The Times of eSwatini reported their game was being watched by two adults. It said the police officer allegedly fired his weapon to disperse the spectators.


The youngster was struck by a bullet in his left arm and it was later reported he would be maimed for life.


See also

Swaziland policeman shoots boy, 15, playing football during coronavirus lockdown


More reports of police and army violence against civilians as Swaziland coronavirus lockdown continues


Swaziland armed police, army intimidate people to obey coronavirus lockdown. Woman, 85, dies


Swaziland security forces whip destitute woman searching for food during coronavirus lockdown

Friday, September 25, 2020

Swaziland police hitch-hike to crime scenes because of vehicle shortages

Police across Swaziland (eSwatini) have to hitch rides from civilians to get to crime scenes or perform other duties because the kingdom is broke and cannot pay for fuel or repairs to vehicles.


Swazi Police spokesperson Superintendent Phindile Vilakati said ‘a majority’ of police stations across the kingdom were affected by the shortage.


The situation is not new as there have been similar reports over the past two years.


Vilakati was responding to a newspaper report that there was only one vehicle available to police in Mankayane and surrounding areas and ‘police officers are reportedly forced to walk or hitchhike to crime and accident scenes because government has challenges with fuel or vehicle repairs’. 


The only vehicle available was shared among the General Patrol, Crime Investigation Department (CID) and the Traffic Department. Traffic officers were reportedly using their personal vehicles to mount roadblocks.


The Times of eSwatini reported, according to a source, ‘There had been three cases of armed robberies where police were contacted but could not make it on time due to the fact that there was a shortage of motor vehicles.’ This gave the robbers ample time to leave the crime scene before the police could apprehend them.  


Vilakati said, ‘The situation has become even worse as it has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic to a point that we couldn’t service even the few cars that we have and on top of that the issue of fuel shortage also contributed dearly.’


The problem is not a new one. In July 2019 it was reported police at Ngudzeni had been without vehicles for a year. Officers were forced to either walk to crime scenes or to wait for a day or so in order to get the one vehicle that was allocated to the nearby Dumako Police Post.


Vilakati said at the time the police force faced challenges which she attributed to the ‘government’s obtaining economic crisis’.


 In August 2018 it was reported police in the Siteki area were forced to walk or hitch-hike to crime and accident scenes because the government had not paid for fuel or vehicle repairs. Traffic officers used their personal vehicles to mount road blocks.


In May 2018 it was reported that Swaziland was so short of resources that police were unable to secure voter registration centres in the runup to national elections and do their routine work at the same time. Police officers were said to have been left stranded at registration centres in the evenings because there were no vehicles available to take them home.


Police were unable to respond when a five-year-old was abducted and raped because they were on election duty, according to the Swazi Observer at the time. It said a toddler was with her mother at Mahlalini, an area in the outskirts of Nhlangano, when a man grabbed her and disappeared into a thicket where he raped her.


See also

Police forced to hitch-hike to crime and accident scenes as government-induced financial crisis bites



Media target Swazi Police shortages


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Swaziland faces jobs and poverty crisis as coronavirus disruption continues

The coronavirus crisis in Swaziland (eSwatini) is having widespread damaging effects on unemployment and poverty and many jobs might not return, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report fears.


The impact could last for generations.


UNDP looked at the way the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown imposed by the Swazi Government in March 2020 had disrupted life throughout the kingdom. Employment has been hit badly and hunger is spreading.


The report stated that in 2016 the national unemployment rate stood at 23 percent and the formal sector employed 3.1 percent and the informal 60.3 per cent with the working-age population consisting of 738,799 people of which 364,630 persons were out of the labour force. Almost 82 percent of employment is in the private sector, which is dominated by small and medium enterprises and factories.


The onset of coronavirus in March 2020 closed factories and other industries, including the service industry such as hotels and catering services. Workers were paid only for the days worked in March 2020, while the state of emergency declared on 17 March 2020 froze all economic activities in a range of sectors. The impact of these measures on people was immediate. The Ministry of Labour subsequently announced that 13 companies had laid off over 8,400 workers and the Minister announced (on 4 May 2020) that 8,429 would be paid salaries for April and May. The companies are mostly in the textile, hotels and catering sectors. They are part of 43 companies that have applied to lay off staff and requested an exemption from provident fund contributions to redirect the money to laid-off staff. 


The UNDP report stated, ‘People living in or near poverty often lack disposable cash, and so cannot easily stockpile food in times of crisis. Hunger, malnutrition, pneumonia and other forms of health-related shocks and stresses compound vulnerability to the virus and contribute to a vicious cycle of disease and destitution. 


‘The coronavirus pandemic would increase poverty, inequality and unemployment due to its adverse impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods in the economy. The non-provision of health insurance for the poor generally and the majority of the rural dwellers in particular, would exacerbate poverty and inequality. 


‘Informal economy job losses are bound to happen as the government continues to implement safety control measures, including restricted travel and partial lockdown. The effect of this on the informal sector will be huge as their members are likely to suffer significant losses since their incomes depend on daily labour. This development will further push the poor and the vulnerable to the margins, particularly in urban areas as they live from hand to mouth, with any day lost in trading time impacting directly on the household income. The recovery of this sector may be difficult as they are likely to expend their capital on survival requirements during the lockdown.’


It added, ‘A vital segment of the service industry is the tourism industry which employs about 5,000 people, of whom 3,500 work for members of the Hotel and Tourism Association (HOTAS). The industry generates about E1 billion (US$60 million) revenue annually. The closure of this sector because of COVID-19 has had a ripple effect on the cottage industry in handcrafts and artefacts, which relies on tour buses for their income. Such income evaporated overnight when borders were closed to tourists. 


‘Painting a picture of the sector’s losses to the pandemic, The Ministry of Tourism announced an estimated potential loss of E208.8 million out of which E95 million stems from accommodation, E97 million from restaurants, E11 million from the entertainment of tourists, and E62 thousand from transportation between February and July 2020.’


It added, ‘The 3,200-strong producers and exporters of homemade products such as handicraft artefacts, jams and natural gourmet foods are just as badly affected. This sector is an important contributor not only to the economy but also to the livelihoods of numerous low-income households in the rural sector. In 2019, this network of artefacts producers generated a turnover of E67 million and was looking to a more productive year in 2020. Unfortunately, their incomes dried up suddenly when the borders were closed.’


The UNDP report stated, ‘It has been said that these shocks, sudden as they are, could have long-lasting consequences on human development and can be passed to subsequent generations. Even after an epidemic has ended and economic growth has returned, the impacts of the shock could still leave lasting damage. What is certain, however, is that the effects will be unequally distributed, with vulnerable groups disproportionately affected.


See also 


Coronavirus lockdown costs thousands of jobs in Swaziland, people evicted from home



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

Monday, September 21, 2020

Swaziland authorities ban march to protest ban on alcohol during coronavirus crisis

A planned march in Swaziland (eSwatini) to protest the ban of manufacture and sales of alcohol during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was banned by police and the local municipal authority.


The march through the capital city Mbabane to deliver petitions to the Swazi Prime Minister, the South Africa High Commission and the European Union Commission was called off at the last minute on Friday (18 September 2020).


It had been organised by the Swaziland National Liquor Association (SNLA). The sale of alcohol is banned in the kingdom which went into partial lockdown in March to try to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Much of the lockdown has been eased but the alcohol ban remains.


SNLA said the ban had badly hit the alcohol industry with job losses and the future of some businesses was in jeopardy.


SNLA was told it had not submitted on time a request to march. Public protests are severely restricted in Swaziland which is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch.



See also

Swaziland coronavirus deaths top 100 as number of tests undertaken falls



Places of worship closed in Swaziland as coronavirus lockdown rules ignored



Top Royal presses Swaziland Govt to send riot police, army into homes to confiscate alcohol


Swaziland bans alcohol production and sales, threatens media as coronavirus lockdown extended

Monday, September 14, 2020

Swaziland coronavirus deaths top 100 as number of tests undertaken falls

The number of deaths from coronavirus in Swaziland (eSwatini) has broken through the 100 barrier to 101. Meanwhile, the number of test results announced by the Ministry of Health is falling.

Three new deaths were reported by the Ministry on Monday. The number of tests reported over the seven days ended 14 September 2020 were 1,751. This compared to 2,365 over the previous seven days and 2,306 for the last week of August.

To date 5,104 people tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), according to official Ministry of Health figures. Of these, 4,374 had recovered. 

Minster of Health Lizzie Nkosi reported on Monday a further three people – all aged in their sixties – had died of the virus, taking the total number to 101.

The number of deaths has risen slowly over the past weeks. On 1 August the total number of deaths was 43.

Swaziland has failed to get a grip on coronavirus. In March King Mswati III, the absolute monarch, ordered a partial lockdown of the kingdom. School and businesses were closed and restrictions on gatherings and travel were put into place. Many of these have since been eased.

The economy is broke and in early August Swaziland secured a US$110 million loan from the International Monetary Fund to help keep the kingdom going. It also got similar loans from the World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB).

To secure the IMF loan the Swazi Government in a letter promised the IMF, ‘We will contain public wage spending, continuing our policies of gradual employment reduction and lower-than inflation salary adjustments. We have commissioned an external review of the extra budgetary sector with the aim of rationalizing spending and transfers to key state-owned entities and merge entities with similar mandates over time.’

Later in August, Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced a strategic economic recovery plan that would cost E30 billion (US$1.73 billion). The Swazi Government wants E23 billion of this to be privately financed.

The plan listed 97 specific projects across eight sectors of the economy that ‘are ready to be implemented within 18-months beginning of 1 July 2020.’ It said 40,126 jobs would be created.
Observers were sceptical that the plan could be realised. Swaziland has been trying for more than a decade to reduce the government’s spending and to encourage private investment, especially from outside the kingdom. To date these efforts have largely failed. 

Swaziland continuously scores poorly in surveys for the ease of doing business in the kingdom.

See also

Swaziland’s plan to revive economy after coronavirus ambitious, but unrealistic

Swaziland pledges public sector job cuts, below inflation wage increases to secure IMF loan