Thursday, July 16, 2015


A report published in King Mswati’s newspaper saying Swaziland needs more police officers to meet international standards is wide of the mark.

In fact, the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati as an absolute monarch and criticised in the international community as a ‘police state,’ needs fewer police if it is to meet the standards in Africa.

The Swazi Observer reported on Thursday (16 July 2015) that the current ratio in Swaziland stands at one police officer for every 500 people in Swaziland. It said the correct ratio ‘for international standards’ should be one for every 250 people.

The figure was given at workshop to discuss the Royal Swaziland Police strategic plan 2016-2020. No evidence was given to support these figures. If the statistics are true it would mean the Swazi police force would need to double in size to meet international standards.

In Swaziland they tend to make it up as they go along when it comes to identifying police needs in the kingdom.

For example, in 2013 Swaziland’s Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini and his press secretary Percy Simelane were unable to agree on the number of police in Swaziland.

Dlamini told newspaper editors at a meeting that there was one police officer to every 700 people in Swaziland, but the figures were ‘supposed to be’ one officer to every 200 people.  

This, he said, meant that Swaziland needed to employ more police to avoid compromising security. He said Swaziland must not reduce the security budget. 

However Simelane told the Times of Swaziland the accepted international ratio was one officer to every 400 people (half the number the PM came up with).

To try to sort out the confusion, the Times published figures from the 2012/2013 Establishment Register from the Ministry of Public Service that showed the kingdom had 4,329 police officers. 

It also found that the Central Statistical Office for the year 2012/2013 put the population of Swaziland at 1,055,506.

Based on these figures, the ratio of police officers to people in Swaziland was one officer to 244, the newspaper concluded.  

The figure supplied by the Times contradicted the Prime Minister’s claim in Swaziland there was only one officer to 700 people.

The Times went on to say that based on Simelane’s claim that there needed to be one officer for every 400 people, in Swaziland the police service was overstaffed by 1,690 officers.

But Dlamini and Simelane were both wrong. A United Nations- published report International Statistics on Crime and Justice demonstrates there is no global average ratio for police to population. However, it shows in Africa, the median average number of police officers to population is 187 officers per 100,000 people. 

If that figure applied to Swaziland there should be 1,973 police officers in the kingdom, not the 4,329 there are, according to the Establishment Register. To meet the average for Africa, Swaziland would need to sack 2,356 officers.

People in Swaziland are suspicious of the motives in demanding more money be spent on increasing police numbers. Swaziland has been criticised for resembling a police or military state.

In 2013,the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported that Swaziland police and state security forces had shown ‘increasingly violent and abusive behaviour’ that was leading to the ‘militarization’ of the kingdom.

OSISA told the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia, ‘There are also reliable reports of a general militarization of the country through the deployment of the Swazi army, police and correctional services to clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country’s undemocratic elections.’

Again in 2013, after police broke up a meeting to discuss the pending election, the meeting’s joint organisers, the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), said Swaziland no longer had a national police service, but instead had ‘a private militia with no other purpose but to serve the unjust, dictatorial, unSwazi and ungodly, semi-feudal royal Tinkhundla system of misrule’.

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