King Mswati III of Swaziland who has just taken the Chair of SADC has been revealed to exploit child labour on his fields. He has been named in an international report on the trafficking of people.
The Trafficking in Persons Report 2016, issued by the United States Department of State stated that Swazi chiefs, who are directly accountable to the King, ‘coerce children and adults—through threats and intimidation—to work for the King’.
It added, ‘Swazi boys and foreign children are forced to labor in commercial agriculture, including cattle herding, and market vending within the country.’
King Mswati was at the centre of an international controversy in January 2015 when it was revealed that schools in Swaziland, where he rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, were forced to stay closed after Christmas so children could weed the King’s fields. As many as 30,000 children were thought to have missed schooling as a result.
In Swaziland chiefs do the King’s bidding at a local level. People know they must obey 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 and then 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.
The Trafficking in Persons Report 2016 also stated that Swaziland was a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.
It added, ‘Swazi girls, particularly orphans, are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude, primarily in Swaziland and South Africa. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has contributed immensely to the increasing number of orphans and other vulnerable children at risk of exploitation through trafficking.’
It added, ‘Mozambican boys migrate to Swaziland for work washing cars, herding livestock, and portering; some of these boys become victims of forced labor. Traffickers use Swaziland as a transit country to transport foreign victims to South Africa for forced labor.
‘Traffickers reportedly force Mozambican women into prostitution in Swaziland, or transit Swaziland en route to South Africa. Some Swazi women are forced into prostitution in South Africa and Mozambique after voluntarily migrating in search of work.’
SWAZI GOVT MISLEADS ON CHILD LABOUR