Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Number of coronavirus cases in Swaziland underestimated, Ministry of Health reveals

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Ministry of Health has revealed that it has underestimated the number of people who tested positive with coronavirus in the kingdom.


Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi said there had been a further 1,017 cases that had previously gone unreported.


In a statement she said the ministry had asked health facilities across the kingdom to submit their testing registers to the National COVID-19 Laboratory in Mbabane.


‘From these records, it was found that there were 1,017 unreported COVID-19 cases who were tested and treated within certain health facilities.’


She added, ‘Cases of those who died were recorded immediately so as to facilitate their burial, thus the backlog is not inclusive of those who died while undergoing treatment.’


She said as of 12 April 2021 a total of 18,393 people tested positive and 669 died. A total 17,682 had recovered and there were now only 39 ‘active cases’ in Swaziland. She said cases were ‘at an all-time low’.


In a separate statement, Nkosi said the Swazi Government had obtained US$15.8 million from the Kirsh Foundation and US$1.5 million from the Taiwanese Government to fund the purchase of vaccines. Swaziland was also hoping to secure 100,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik vaccine.


To date the kingdom has only received 32,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and there were no firm dates for receiving further supplies


See also

Chaos as Swaziland halts coronavirus vaccination of elderly


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

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Swaziland girls, 15, sell selves for sex to feed families impoverished by coronavirus lockdown

Schoolgirls aged 15 and 16 in Swaziland (eSwatini) sold themselves for sex to feed their families while schools were closed during the coronavirus pandemic.


They said they were not attending schools now they had started to reopen because they could not afford to pay fees.


An investigation by the eSwatini Observer in the Manzini region found girls had become sex workers to feed their families after parents became unemployed because of Government-enforced shutdowns of the economy.


It reported, ‘They said they did not resort to sex work willingly, but were forced by the circumstances at their homes and were not able to gain admission in schools because of the fees that are demanded at registration. The girls mentioned that due to the extreme nature of their situation, they would sometimes go to bed hungry and they cannot even afford the facemasks as stipulated in the COVID-19 (coronavirus) regulations.’ 


The Swazi Minister of Education Lady Howard Mabuza said, ‘They are lying if they say they could not be admitted at schools because of their financial situation.’


Local community police said they would arrest girls engaged in sex work.


The legal age of consent for sexual activities in Swaziland is 18.


Girls in Swaziland have been traded for sex in the past. In May 2017 the Observer reported members of the Umbuto Swaziland Defence Force (the Swazi army) had been accused of taking advantage of poor families all over the kingdom’s remote rural areas. They gave food parcels to young and needy girls in exchange for sexual favours.


Nearly seven in ten people in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, live in dire poverty, with incomes of less than US$2 per day. About 26 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition.


In the Manzini urban area about 20 percent of the population (26,336 people) are estimated to be facing high levels of acute food insecurity, according to the IPC Acute Food Insecurity Analysis.


See also

Parents trade own girls for sex


Soldiers sex of food with girls, 14

Monday, April 12, 2021

Swaziland elites take first share of coronavirus vaccines, leaving the poor behind, new review suggests

Swaziland – like most of the world – is in the grip of a coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. As usual in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, those close to power have received preferential treatment. 


After a stop-start vaccination programme Swaziland (renamed eSwatini by the King) was left with only 32,000 doses to treat 1.1 million people. First to get their jabs were the Royal Family. The Acting Prime Minister, the Minister of Health and other Cabinet ministers were next in line. Health workers, and people with pre-existing serious health conditions, had to wait.


Finally, people aged 60 or over were told they could be vaccinated, but by this time there were few doses available and the so-called roll-out of vaccinations descended into chaos.


These were the main highlights in the first three months of 2021 as contained in Swaziland: Striving for Freedom, volume 41, a compilation of reports posted from January to March 2021 on the Swazi Media Commentary website.


The report is available on scribd dot com.


During this time it was also confirmed that Swaziland was not a free country. In its annual report on human rights in the kingdom, Freedom House scored Swaziland 19 out of 100 points. This was the same score it gave for 2020.


Separately, the latest annual report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) said restrictions on freedom of assembly and association gripped Swaziland.


A United Nations group investigating Swaziland was told there had been a ‘drastic deterioration’ in human rights. 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’.


Elsewhere, Save The Children reported nearly 60,000 people in Swaziland faced starvation or death unless immediate action was taken. They were among more than 347,000 people in the kingdom who faced acute food shortage and needed urgent humanitarian assistance. This included about 180,000 children.


Swazi Media Commentary is published online, updated most weekdays. It is operated entirely by volunteers and receives no financial backing (or support in kind) from any organisation. It is devoted to providing information and commentary in support of human rights in Swaziland.


See also

As coronavirus deaths rise, Swaziland Royal Family remain indifferent, new review finds


Swaziland coronavirus toll rises, economy in freefall, no end in sight, new review shows


Coronavirus pandemic highlights human rights abuses in Swaziland, new review shows


Assault on human rights follows coronavirus lockdown in Swaziland


Swaziland Striving for Free... by Richard Rooney

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