Thursday, June 30, 2016


Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) has called on the international community to apply serious pressure on the Government of Swaziland so that it respects human rights and develops a genuinely democratic constitution. 
The absolute monarch King Mswati III is due to become the chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August 2016 while his government continues to violate human rights with impunity. In a report published on Wednesday (29 June 2016), ACTSA warned that Swaziland might plunge into a protracted crisis unless African governments, as well as bilateral and multilateral donors, vigorously and consistently engage with the Government of Swaziland so that it genuinely protects and serves all of its citizens.

In a statement, ACTSA said, ‘The report, Swaziland’s Downward Spiral, outlines how the current Constitution of Swaziland fails to respect democratic norms, and many laws undermine basic freedoms, especially those of women. The country’s largest opposition party, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), is banned. 

‘Trade unions and other civil society organisations seeking to promote human rights and democracy endure systematic oppression. As a result of mismanagement and corruption, the economy is in a dire state, with 63 percent of the population living below the poverty line, and wealth concentrated in the hands of the royal family and a tiny elite close to the King.’

The statement continued, ‘The report argues that the international community has not sufficiently engaged with the denial of human rights and with authoritarianism in Swaziland. Some, especially those within the country, interpret this as condoning the actions of the King and his government. Ultimately, real and lasting change will only come about if the King enters into meaningful dialogue with his political opponents, as well as with all sections of civil society. Internal pressure for reform can and must be bolstered by significant external pressure.’

The report is the latest in a long line of reports published over the past two months highlighting human rights abuses in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland met in May 2016 and received reports from a large number of organisations within Swaziland and outside calling on the Swazi regime to improve its human rights record.

Among them, The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) reported, people were being shot and killed in Swaziland because they were suspected of poaching and game rangers were immune from prosecution.

Human Rights Watch reported that Swaziland had not kept its promise made in 2011 to change laws in the kingdom relating to freedom of association and assembly so they met international standards.

A joint report from Swaziland Multi-Media Community Network, Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and Constituent Assembly – Swaziland stated Swazi police tortured a 15-year-old boy after his mother had reported him for stealing E85 (US$6).

A joint report from SOS-Swaziland, Super Buddies, Prison Fellowship and Luvatsi – Swaziland Youth Empowerment Organisation, stated children as young as 11 years old were being incarcerated in juvenile correction facilities in Swaziland for up to 10 years, even though they had committed no crimes.

Rock of Hope, which campaigns for LGBTI equality in Swaziland, reported that laws, social stigma and prejudice prevented LGBTI organisations from operating freely.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Three members of the Swaziland Communist Party who are accused of setting houses alight as a protest against a chief have been granted bail by the High Court after spending 115 days in jail on remand.

Sithembiso Sibandze, Qiniso Mkhatshwa and Siyabonga Gina were accused of burning four huts at Chief Mshikashika II’s Royal Kraal at KaNgcamphalala. They have been charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

They have been given bail of E15,000 each and banned from crossing the Mzimnene River to the Manzini city centre or going to Siphofaneni. 

Their bail application was opposed by the office of the Swazi Director of Public Prosecutions on the grounds that they would interfere with potential crown witnesses, some of whom were their relatives. 

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported on Wednesday (29 June 2016) that the prosecution argued two of the men had already admitted guilt, ‘since they confirmed to have torched the houses, causing over E100,000 [US$6,676] worth of damage’. 

According to the newspaper, the accused, ‘said they wanted the chief to spring into action and convene a meeting for the residents. They claimed that the chief was abusive towards the residents and stifled their development because he demanded too much money from the sugar cane schemes, where he demanded to be paid E5,000 yearly from each of the 65 associations.’

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


People are being shot and killed in Swaziland because they are suspected of poaching and game rangers are immune from prosecution, a United Nations review on human rights has been told.

The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) reported, ‘There are numerous of cases where citizens are shot and killed by game rangers for alleged poaching as raised by community members in several communities such as Lubulini, Nkambeni, Nkhube, Malanti, Sigcaweni, and Siphocosini. 

‘In terms of Section 23 (3) [of the Game Act] game rangers are immune from prosecution for killing suspected poachers and empowered to use firearm in the execution of their duties and to search without warrant,’ SCCCO told the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland in a report.

It added, ‘For example, there is a case of Jika Jika Mabila and another, who were shot by the Mlawula game rangers for suspected poaching during the night inside the game reserve. The other died on the spot, and Jika Jika was hospitalised at the Good Shepard Hospital, as he shot on the leg, on the ribs, and on the left arm, and was eventually arrested.’

SCCCO recommended the Game Act be amended, ‘to give effect to the full protection and realisation of the right to life and to allow for the prosecution of all perpetrators of extrajudicial killings.’
There has been concern in Swaziland for many years that game rangers have immunity from prosecution and can legally ‘shoot-to-kill’.

In January 2014, Swaziland’s Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula said rangers were allowed shoot people who are hunting for food to feed their hungry families.

Commissioner Magagula publicly stated, ‘Animals are now protected by law and hunting is no longer a free-for-all, where anybody can just wake up to hunt game whenever they crave meat.’ 

He told a meeting of traditional leaders in Swaziland, ‘Of course, it becomes very sad whenever one wakes up to reports that rangers have shot someone. These people are protected by law and it allows them to shoot, hence it would be very wise of one to shun away from trouble.’

His comments came after an impoverished unarmed local man, Thembinkosi Ngcamphalala, aged 21, died of gunshot wounds. He had been shot by a ranger outside of the Mkhaya Nature Reserve. His family, who live at Sigcaweni just outside the reserve’s borders, said he had not been poaching. 

Campaigners say poor people are not poaching large game, such as the endangered black rhinos, but go hunting animals, such as warthogs, as food to feed themselves and their families. Hunger and malnutrition are widespread in Swaziland where seven in ten of King Mswati’s subjects live in abject poverty. Many are forced to become hunters and gatherers to avoid starvation.

King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has given game rangers permission to shoot-to-kill people suspected of poaching wildlife on his land and protects them from prosecution for murder in some circumstances.

Ted Reilly, the chief executive of Big Game Parks (BGP), which owns and manages Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Mkhaya Nature Reserve and also manages Hlane National Park, the kingdom’s largest protected area, held in trust for the Nation by the King, holds a Royal Warrant to allow him to shoot-to-kill. 

He has had this for at least twelve years. In 2004 Reilly appeared in a documentary produced by Journeyman Pictures in which he spoke of his relationship to the King and showed his warrant on camera.

The documentary commentator said, ‘He [the King] gave Ted a Royal Warrant that allowed him to arrest and if necessary shoot-to-kill the poachers.’

The commentator added, ‘The Royal Warrant, still in force today, protects rangers from prosecution for murder as long as the poacher draws his weapon first.’

Reilly said, ‘It is the biggest honour that you could possibly imagine.’

Reilly showed the documentary makers a specially-made fort with gun turrets, where rangers can hide to shoot at poachers. He also showed surveillance towers. ‘From here, we go out, we launch attacks,’ he said. 

On camera, Reilly said the automatic weapons his rangers used against poachers, ‘are much smaller than the AK-47, but are equally as devastating. You don’t survive one of those shots if it hits you properly.’

Reilly told the documentary, ‘Our guys aren’t to be messed with. If they [poachers] come after rhino they’re going to get hurt, and if he gets killed or maimed, well, you know, who’s to blame for that?’