Saturday, April 10, 2021

Remembering the Swaziland ‘uprising’ of 2011

It is 10 years since the attempted ‘uprising’ by pro-democracy campaigners against the Swaziland state and absolute monarch King Mswati III. It started on 12 April 2011, organised through the Internet and attracted international attention.


It was inspired by the so-called Arab Spring where people in North Africa turned against their own repressive governments.


In Swaziland (since renamed eSwatini by King Mswati) political parties are not allowed to contest elections, the King appoints the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers as well as top public servants and judiciary. Those advocating democracy are prosecuted and jailed under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.


The Swaziland ‘uprising’ was brutally put down by state forces. Leaders were arrested and later jailed. The state violence was condemned across the world.


Amnesty International said at the time, ‘We are alarmed by the levels of state violence in the past 24 hours and the numbers of arbitrary and secret detentions witnessed during this period and fear that those targeted may be at risk of torture.’


The United States called ‘on the Government of Swaziland to respect the rights of all its citizens to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, which are guaranteed by the Swazi Constitution and by international human rights instruments’.


April 12 marks the day in 1973 when King Sobhuza II tore up the country’s constitution and introduced a Royal Decree giving him full control over Swaziland. That Decree is still in place.


For moment by moment coverage of the 2011 ‘uprising’ follow this link.


Richard Rooney


Pictures taken in Manzini, Swaziland’s main commercial city, during the protests.


Friday, April 9, 2021

Swazi Government looks to cut 3,000 public service jobs

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government is looking to cut 3,000 public service jobs and there could be no salary review this year, as the kingdom’s economy continues in free-fall.


At present the public service salary bill is thought to amount to about 35 percent of the kingdom’s government’s annual budget.


Trade unions say they were given this news at a negotiation meeting on Wednesday (7 April 2021). 


The eSwatini Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the absolute monarch King Mswati III, reported, ‘During that bargaining process government reportedly emphasised the need to strike the balance between the salary review exercise and the financial burden it is currently facing, as also engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic.’


The Observer reported at the meeting government negotiators said the number of public servants would have to be reduced by 3,000 over three years.


Sikelela Dlamini, General Secretary of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), one of the kingdom’s biggest unions, said they would probably fight the government in the court.


See also

Swaziland court bans public sector pay strike


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Chaos as Swaziland halts coronavirus vaccination of elderly

The vaccination of elderly people against coronavirus in Swaziland (eSwatini) has been thrown into chaos and temporarily halted.


A timetable for jabs was issued by the Ministry of Health but was largely ignored. An announcement was made that only health motivators should attend vaccination centres on Tuesday (6 April 2021) but many elderly people turned up.


The Times of eSwatini quoted Lucky Matsebula, an organiser at Pigg’s Peak, saying, ‘We had a tough time turning them back.’ He added many people were eager to be vaccinated and were not willing to turn back without being treated. Many said they could not afford to make another trip from their homes to the centres.


In a statement on Tuesday the Ministry of Health said the inoculation of the elderly was ‘currently in abeyance’ as inoculation of health workers continued. No date for resumption was given.


Meanwhile, Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi said they could not guarantee that vaccines would be available in Swaziland in time for people who needed their second jabs of AstraZeneca in late May. 


Swaziland had only received 32,000 doses and each person needs two doses for the vaccine for them to be successfully protected against coronavirus (COVID-19). Nkosi said there were only about 12,000 doses remaining in the kingdom. The population of Swaziland is about 1.1 million people.


Swaziland is expecting delivery of 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine but no date has been set for their arrival.


A row has broken out over a partnership between the Ministry of Health and the Luke Commission, a health institution linked to Swazi royalty, to accelerate vaccination. 


The Swaziland News, an online publication, reported and the Luke Commission had ‘deployed unprofessional health workers’ who did not wear uniforms and there were doubts that they were nurses, doctors or health workers.


Nkosi said the Luke Commission had experience working in communities providing essential care to the elderly through mobile outreach services.


See also

Swaziland running out of coronavirus vaccines, no firm date to receive more

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Swaziland running out of coronavirus vaccines, no firm date to receive more

Swaziland (eSwatini) is fast running out of coronavirus vaccine and might not get more until the end of June 2021.


The kingdom only received 32,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab for a population of 1.1 million. A person needs two doses to be fully protected against coronavirus (COVID-19).


The Swazi Ministry of Health reported on Saturday (3 April 2021) that 18,130 people had been vaccinated so far in total.


A drive to vaccinate people aged 60 and over started on 31 March. Before the vaccines were rolled out the Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi and other cabinet ministers were vaccinated. A total of 5,839 healthcare workers have reportedly also been vaccinated.


There are now fewer than 14,000 doses left to administer.


Nkosi said Swaziland did not have enough doses to inoculate all the elderly and others with pre-existing serious conditions.


She said they were expecting to receive the next doses in the second quarter of 2021, which ends on 30 June.


She added, ‘At the moment we don’t have the specific dates as to when we will receive delivery.’


Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dr Simon Zwane said the numbers wanting the vaccine were huge and there were problems controlling crowds of people who turned up for jabs. There was a danger of crowds spreading the virus.



See also

Swaziland top dogs get their coronavirus vaccines ahead of frontline health staff


Swaziland U-turn on use of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Swaziland police fire shots to break up drinkers outside bar

Police in Swaziland (eSwatini) fired gunshots to break up a group of people who were drinking alcohol in the street.


It happened outside a bar called Mdzimba View in Ezulwini on Thursday night (1 April 2021).


Chief Police Information and Communications Officer (PICO) Phindile Vilakati said police fired ‘warning shots’ after the drinkers smashed beer bottles on the road close to the Ezulwini Police Post.


The Swazi Observer reported, ‘Vilakati said the fired shots were just a tactic to ensure that they drive away the rowdy crowd out of the area.’


The bar was told to close for the evening.


Alcohol sales have been restricted in Swaziland in recent months as part of a partial lockdown to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.


Police in Swaziland, which is ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, routinely use guns, water canon and teargas to disperse gatherings, even those that are lawful.


The situation has escalated in recent years that human rights observers believe the Swazi police  have a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy.


See also

Swaziland police kill another unarmed man reviving fears of shoot-to-kill policy


Swaziland police fire live ammunition as children protest about witchcraft at their school


New ‘shoot-to-kill’ fear as Swaziland police gun down three suspects as they flee

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Move to hire 900 teachers to reopen Swaziland schools after coronavirus lockdown

Swaziland (eSwatini) might get 900 additional teachers to help schools as they reopen after the coronavirus lockdown.

Minster of Education and Training Lady Howard Mabuza said she expected the Swazi Government to approve the hiring of teachers immediately.

In an interview with the Times of eSwatini she said the teachers would replace those who had retired, died or left the profession. She added they were also renewing contracts for teachers who were employed on a temporary basis.

She could not say how many of the 900 teachers would be permanent.

Schools began to reopen on Monday (29 March 2021) and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) argued that for safety reasons the number of pupils per class should be limited to a maximum of 20.

The Times reported, ‘The hiring of the teachers comes at a time when many schools were failing to function due to the lack of educators. In some schools, pupils were left unattended as teachers had to run around trying to settle in other learners. The lack of teachers in schools was one element which had resulted in a huge disorder on the first day of reopening of schools on Monday.’

SNAT Secretary General Sikelela Dlamini said the need was not only for the renewal of contracts for teachers employed on a temporary basis, but also for new teachers who would be appointed for the first time.

Dlamini estimated 5,000 additional teachers were needed. He said there were about 335,000 learners at school in Swaziland.


See also

Confusion as Swaziland schools try to reopen after coronavirus shutdown


Teachers’ leaders fear Swaziland schools not ready to reopen as Govt. eases coronavirus lockdown

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Confusion as Swaziland schools try to reopen after coronavirus shutdown

There was confusion across Swaziland (eSwatini) as schools attempted to reopen after an almost one-year closure because of the coronavirus pandemic.


The Ministry of Health and Training had issued a staggered timetable for reopening but many pupils turned up when they were not scheduled.


There was also confusion about whether school fees needed to be paid. 


Staff and pupils were required to wear masks and to keep social distancing. Many had their temperatures screened before they were allowed into school. Many were unsure how they were supposed to behave. 


The Times of eSwatini reported, ‘It was a bad start to the reopening of schools as a lot seemed to have gone wrong. Teachers had a tough time while trying to arrange pupils who had no clue which classrooms they had to occupy.’


It added, ‘Meanwhile, some of the pupils in Grade IV, V and VI had to be turned back as they had attended school yet they were not supposed to.’


The eSwatini Observer reported several schools in the Shiselweni region were expected to open without teachers. There are over 140 primary schools and over 70 high schools in the region.


It quoted Regional Education Officer Siboniso Gumbi saying, ‘The only serious challenge I have received from a number of principals it is that of the shortage of teachers. There are schools that will open with only five teachers. Other schools are likely to open with fewer teachers than that.’


Separately, the Swaziland National Association of Teachers and the Swaziland Association of Schools Administrators said that there would be no lessons until the number of teachers was doubled. 


See also

Swaziland Parliament forces Education Minister to drop school fees during coronavirus lockdown


Teachers’ leaders fear Swaziland schools not ready to reopen as Govt. eases coronavirus lockdown

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Stigma against women with HIV in Swaziland rife, human rights review told

The stigma faced by people with HIV in Swaziland (eSwatini) continues to be widespread with a particularly damning effect upon women and girls, according to a submission to a United Nations group’s investigation into human rights in the kingdom.


‘It can affect the number of women and girls seeking treatment,’ the Birmingham City University, School of Law (UK), said in a written submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland. 


It added, Swaziland had ‘particularly deep-rooted gender roles and cultural norms, which often lead to negative consequences for women and girls, including in the context of HIV’.


It reported Swaziland had the highest rate of HIV across the world. It was estimated that around 200,000 adults and children were living with HIV – about 17.4 percent of the kingdom’s total population.


While the number of people currently living with HIV was still steadily increasing, the number of new infections was decreasing.  There were several reasons for this, including a rise in the general population, and an expansion of access to antiretrovirals (HIV medication) in Swaziland, meaning that more people infected with HIV were living longer lives. 


Around 95 percent of those infected with HIV could access antiretrovirals. ‘However, there is still much work to be done in eSwatini, particularly in terms of women and girls, as over 60 percent of those aged over 15 and living with HIV are women. This is a particularly sensitive issue, as women in Eswatini are often considered to be “subordinate to men,” with gender inequality being pervasive across the country.’


It reported, ‘ A study carried out in 2016-17 in the region of Shiselweni found that, in some cases, “asymptomatic people living with HIV were motivated to start ART (antiretrovirals) in order to prevent them from developing symptoms that would visibly show them to be HIV-positive.”’


It added, ‘The study also found that in other cases, “engaging with treatment and care services was also seen as having the potential to expose someone as HIV-positive and thereby open to stigmatisation.” In these cases, “[w]hen the risk of exposure through clinic attendance was deemed too great, people were found to disengage from care and take treatment intermittently.”’


The Birmingham University report stated statistics also showed that this stigmatisation particularly affected women and girls aged 15 to 24.


It added a practical way of tackling this stigmatisation was through education. ‘It is widely agreed that the education provision in eSwatini regarding HIV and AIDS is poor,’ it added.


Statistics from 2014 showed that only 49 percent of young women (ages 15-24) and 51 percent of young men demonstrated adequate knowledge on this subject.


The Birmingham University report said public programming explicitly designed to reduce the existing stigma had helped create a supportive environment which was more tolerant and understanding. To some extent, the Swazi Ministry of Health was already seeking to implement this, through radio and television shows about HIV.


The university recommended Swaziland should extend its current Health Promotion Programme using different types of accessible media, including creative and dramatic presentations, and information campaigns for tolerance and inclusion and interactive educational workshops.


It commended civil society and non-governmental organisations in Swaziland for efforts made towards engaging projects and strategies to tackle stigma and foster inclusivity.


See also

‘Drastic deterioration’ in Swaziland human rights, United Nations’ investigation told

Monday, March 29, 2021

‘Drastic deterioration’ in Swaziland human rights, United Nations’ investigation told

There has been a ‘drastic deterioration’ in human rights in Swaziland (eSwatini), a United Nations group investigating the kingdom, ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, was told.


Human Rights Watch said since the 1973 Royal Decree, ‘political parties are banned, the judiciary is severely compromised, and repressive laws have been used to target independent organizations and harass civil society activists’.


In a submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland, Human Rights Watch said, ‘There has been no progress on essential rights reforms, including the removal of all legislative and practical restrictions to free exercise of civil and political rights, in particular those related to freedom of association and expression to allow the registration and operation of political parties; introducing greater political freedoms through free, fair, transparent democratic elections; ensuring the right to health without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; abolition of the death penalty; and decriminalization of same-sex relations and prevention of discrimination based on marital status and sexual orientation. 


‘The government has yet to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, despite previously agreeing to do so.’


Human Rights Watch added,The government has yet to repeal, or amend as appropriate, a number of repressive laws that restrict basic rights to freedom of association and assembly, despite these rights also being guaranteed in eSwatini’s 2005 constitution.


‘Police have sweeping powers under the Public Order Act. The king’s 1973 decree banning political parties remains in force despite repeated calls from local political activists to have it revoked. The constitution does not address the formation or role of political parties. Section 79 of the constitution provides that eSwatini practices an electoral system based on individual merit and excludes the participation of political parties in elections. Traditional leaders and chiefs have powers to restrict access to their areas, and have often used these powers to bar civil society groups and political groups like the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) and the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO).’


It added, ‘Restrictions on freedom of association and assembly continue. On October 20, 2020, the High Court heard a challenge by the eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities (ESGM), a human rights community-based advocacy organization which aims to advance the protection of human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex persons. In September 2019, the eSwatini Registrar of Companies had refused to register ESGM as a company saying that “ESGM’s objectives were unlawful because same-sex sexual acts are illegal in the country.”’


Human Rights Watch is calling on the Swazi Government to guarantee freedoms of association, assembly, and expression, including freedom of association on the basis of sexual orientation and to revoke the king’s 1973 decree on political parties, allow the registration and operation of political parties, and introduce multi-party democratic elections.


Earlier this month (March 2021) Freedom House in its annual report declared Swaziland was ‘not free’.


It reported, ‘The king exercises ultimate authority over all branches of the national government and effectively controls local governance through his influence over traditional chiefs. Political dissent and civic and labor activism are subject to harsh punishment under sedition and other laws. Additional human rights problems include impunity for security forces and discrimination against women and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people.’


The Universal Periodic Review is a process through which all UN Member States are provided the opportunity to review the human rights records of all other Member States.  At the same time, each State under review has the opportunity to report on human rights conditions within their own borders, including actions that have been taken to address concerns detailed by other States. 


See also

Swaziland still ‘not free,’ human rights group Freedom House reports


Anniversary of day Swaziland stopped being a democracy and became absolute monarchy