Friday, April 25, 2014


Seven members of Swaziland’s best known pro-democracy party the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) have been arrested and charged under a terrorism act for wearing t-shirts and berets with the group’s name on them.

They were arrested outside the Swazi High Court where they were with other members of the public who gathered to show support for Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko, who are in court on contempt charges following the publication of magazine articles that were critical of the kingdom’s judiciary.

PUDEMO is banned under Swaziland’s controversial Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) which has been extensively used against opponents of King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), another prodemocracy group banned under the STA, reported that seven PUDEMO members were arrested and charged. It named them as Bongani Gama; Mlungusi Makhanya (the group’s Secretary General); Brian Ntshangase (the group’s public relations officer); Mangaliso Khumalo; Bafana Magongo; Ntobeko Maseko and Size Tsabedze.

The men are expected to appear in court on Monday 28 April 2014.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Qalakaliboli Dlamini, the Swaziland journalist whose articles attacked gays and called battered women ‘bitches’, has been sacked by his newspaper.

But, he was not sacked for his articles, even though they caused a storm of protest from readers.
Instead, he was dismissed because of comments he made on his Facebook page about the Times Sunday, the newspaper that employed him.

Qalakaliboli Dlamini, aged 41, whose real name is Musawenkhosi Dlamini, became notorious during 2012 for articles he wrote for the newspaper. 

Among his targets were battered women. In December 2012 he wrote that they were ‘bitches’ and said ‘most’ women who were beaten up by men brought it upon themselves. 

After the publication of the article a range of organisations, among them the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA), Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organizations, Coordinating Assembly for Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO), Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders, Swaziland National Association of Teachers, Swaziland Positive Living and the Swaziland Agricultural Producers Union (SAPU), called for an apology.
Makila James, the US Ambassador to Swaziland, also publicly backed readers who complained about the article. 

The newspaper refused to apologise. Instead, the newspaper’s readers’ representative ruled that Dlamini had a right to his views. 

Readers boycotted buying the newspaper in protest. 

In May 2012, Dlamini was briefly suspended by the Times Sunday after he wrote an article attacking homosexuals as ‘satanic’ and ‘evil’. In the article he said, ‘I hate homosexuality with every fibre of hair or flesh in my body.’ 

The article received what Times Sunday editor Innocent Maphalala called an ‘unprecedented’ number of complaints. 

At the time, Dlamini responded to his critics saying, ‘I am not at all apologetic for my choice of words.’
He added, ‘I will continue to stand up against homosexuals and if need be, I will run a public anti-homosexual campaign.’

His sacking was not the result of readers’ complaints. Times Sunday editor Innocent Maphalala, writing in his own newspaper, said Dlamini was dismissed because ‘while writing for us, he used Facebook to disparage management and staff of the Times Group of Newspapers.  

‘He also had many unkind words to say about our other columnists like the respected Musa Hlophe and the likeable Bundu Teacher.’

He added, ‘We were alerted to this by Facebook users who wondered what was going on because they thought we were one big happy family, especially after I defended Qalakaliboli a year or so ago, when everybody was against him for bashing women and gays in his articles.’

Dlamini’s sacking took place in January 2014, but has only now become public. Maphalala said this was because Dlamini had been writing comments on his Facebook page which were ‘detrimental to the image of the Times Sunday, in particular, and the Times Group of Newspapers in general.’

He added, ‘I view his behaviour as unprofessional and have sent email messages, privately warning him to stop. He has not.’

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More than six people in ten in Swaziland say they are not satisfied with the way democracy works in the kingdom.

This was one of the findings in a report called ‘Let the People Have a Say’, published this week by Afrobarometer.

The research surveyed 34-countries in Africa and asked a series of questions about what people thought about democracy and how democratic they thought their own country was.

But, only in Swaziland were researchers were not allowed to ask a question about whether people rejected ‘one man rule’. In its report Afrobarometer said this was because ‘a near-absolute monarch resists democratization’ in the kingdom.

Among the report’s main findings were that in Swaziland 46 percent of people surveyed said ‘democracy is preferable to any other government.’

Only 35 percent of people were ‘somewhat or very satisfied’ with the way democracy worked in Swaziland.

A total of 22 percent of people said they believed non-democratic governments can be preferable to democracies.

In Swaziland political parties are banned from taking part in elections and political parties that campaigned for democracy in the kingdom have been banned as terrorists. Even so, 70 percent of people strongly disapproved of one-party rule.

Dissent in Swaziland is often put down by police and state forces, but 86 percent of people rejected military rule for Swaziland.

Across the continent seven out of 10 Africans prefer democracy to other political regimes.

The report raised questions about the depth of Africans’ support for democracy, suggesting that levels of support depend on whether citizens were experiencing democracy and whether they felt they were benefitting from it. 

The report concluded the demand for, or commitment to, democracy was much lower in countries where democracy is disputed or elections are not held – such as Algeria, Egypt, Madagascar and Swaziland.

The report was authored by Professor Michael Bratton of Michigan State University in the United States and Richard Houessou of the Institute for Empirical Research in Political Economy (IREEP) in Benin.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014


King Mswati III’s right-hand man has told a community they ‘will burn’ if they continue to defy instructions from the King.

And, the Swaziland King ordered a ‘complete silence’ from his subjects in the kaLuhleko chiefdom about his decision to appoint their chief.

The warning was delivered by Ludzidzini Royal Residence Governor Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, who is commonly known in Swaziland as the ‘traditional prime minister’. This means he is the voice of the King and more powerful than Barnabas Dlamini, the man the King appointed as Swaziland’s figurehead PM.

Mtetwa and a delegation from the King visited kaLuhleko on Monday (14 April 2014) to issue a dire warning. The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch,  reported ‘Bhekwako Dlamini of kaLuhleko has been mobilising the people to snub meetings called by the newly appointed Chief Zulwelihle Maseko, who was blessed by Their Majesties last June.’ 

The newspaper reported, ‘His Majesty roared through Ludzidzini Governor Timothy Velabo Mtetwa commonly known as TV.

‘“It has gotten to the attention of His Majesty the King and the Queen Mother that there is something irregular happening here and that is why we are here today,” he said to deafening silence.

‘“There is a bad habit that has come to the attention of the authorities that there are some people who still choose to defy the chief and do not recognise a man who has been appointed by the King. Where have you ever heard of that? This is the person who has been chosen to take over from Mfanwenkhosi Maseko and I have been sent by His Majesty to order that there be complete silence in this place,” said the tough talking Mtetwa.’

The Observer reported Mthethwa warned that people who did not adhere to the directive issued by the King ‘will burn’.

Swazi chiefs have enormous power. It is through chieftaincies that King Mswati maintains control of his people and chiefs do his bidding at a local level. People know not to get on the wrong side of the chief because their livelihood depends on his goodwill. In some parts of Swaziland the chiefs are given the power to decide who gets food that has been donated by international agencies. The chiefs quite literally have power of life and death in such cases with about a third of the population of Swaziland receiving food aid each year. 

Chiefs can and do take revenge on their subjects who disobey them. There is a catalogue of cases in Swaziland. For example, Chief Dambuza Lukhele of Ngobelweni in the Shiselweni region banned his subjects from ploughing their fields because some of them defied his order to build a hut for one of his wives.

Nhlonipho Nkamane Mkhatswa, chief of Lwandle in Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland, reportedly stripped a woman of her clothing in the middle of a street in full view of the public because she was wearing trousers.

In November 2013, the newly-appointed Chief Ndlovula of Motshane threatened to evict nearly 1,000 of his subjects from grazing land if they did not pay him a E5,000 (US$500) fine, the equivalent of more than six months income for many.

He said his subjects had illegally built homes on land put aside for grazing.

See also