Friday, May 31, 2019

Doubts over evidence as Swaziland democracy activist Musa Ngubeni jailed seven years

Musa Ngubeni, the democracy activist in Swaziland / eSwatini, has been jailed for seven years with four of them suspended for possession of explosives.

His case took eight years to conclude and the conviction has been criticised for lack of evidence. 

Ngubeni was an activist with the banned Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) and the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO). In Swaziland political parties cannot contest elections and groups campaigning for democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Ngubeni was found guilty and sentenced by Piggs Peak Magistrate Joe Gumedze. Swaziland which is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch does not have jury trials.

Ngubeni was arrested together with student leader Maxwell Dlamini in 2011 and charged with contravening the Explosives Act. They were both arrested during protests against the government which is not elected but handpicked by King Mswati.

According to Ngubeni and Dlamini they were subjected to torture during their interrogation. They were both released on bail in 2012 under strict conditions, including having to report to the police four times a week. Their trial resumed in 2014, where Dlamini was acquitted.
Peter Kenworthy of Kenworthy News Media who has followed the case since 2011 reported Ngubeni and Dlamini both insisted that the charges against them were fabricated and political, and that the state had stalled their case for three years due to lack of evidence.

A mysterious brown shoe box, that was allegedly found near Ngubeni’s home in Mbikwakhe when he was arrested in 2011 and was supposed to have contained explosives, detonators and wires, was never produced in court.

Initially a witness for the prosecution had claimed that the box was too dangerous to bring to court. Later the box was claimed to have exploded after a South African bomb expert had tried to assemble it.

Kenworthy reported the trial has been described as a farce by Swaziland’s democratic movement. Amongst other things because testimonies of the prosecution witnesses were untruthful and contradicted each other, because the pair were interrogated by what appeared to be hired South African Police investigators without the presence of Ngubeni’s and Dlamini’s lawyers, and because Ngubeni and Dlamini appeared in court on occasion without legal representation.

Following Ngubeni’s conviction, SWAYOCO said in a statement the Mswati government tried to deliberately delay and prolong the case to procure ample time to manufacture false evidence for his conviction.

The Communist Party of Swaziland said in a statement, ‘If there is any individual who still doubts that Swaziland’s judiciary remains one of Mswati’s tools through which he suppresses the people of Swaziland, then Ngubeni’s case should be the ultimate illustration point.’

See also

Profile of Musa Ngubeni
Court case against activists a ‘farce’

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Grants for people with disabilities cut as Swaziland Govt financial crisis continues

Grants for people with disabilities in Swaziland / eSwatini are to be cut because the government has run out of money.

Now, only 20 people in each political constituency (known locally as tinkhundla) will get benefits.

There are 59 tinkhundla in the kingdom for about 1.2 million people. In 2016 the then Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini estimated 114,000 people were living with disabilities in Swaziland.

E8.7 million (US$600,000) was set aside in this year’s national budget for the grants. In 2017 that figure was E25.5 million, according to budget estimates for 2019 – 2022.

President of the Federation of People with Disabilities in Swaziland (FODSWA) Sipho Dlamini said he had been told by Swaziland’s Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku the cutback was because of the ongoing financial crisis.

He told the Times of Swaziland (28 May 2019) his organisation would work closely with local leaders to choose who gets the grants.

Sipho Dlamini said people with disabilities were not adequately represented in parliament. The Times reported he said it was because of this that issues of people with disabilities were not given the attention they deserved.

People with disabilities in Swaziland are poorly treated. A report published by SINTEF Technology and Society, Global Health and Welfare in 2011 that studied living conditions among people with disabilities in Swaziland, found, ‘There is a general belief that those who have a disability are bewitched or inflicted by bad spirits.

‘Many believe that being around people with disabilities can bring bad luck. As a result, many people with disabilities are hidden in their homesteads and are not given an opportunity to participate and contribute to society.’

It also found that people with disabilities had been abandoned by the Swazi Government. The report stated, ‘The absence of any comprehensive laws and policies to address people with disabilities’ access to equal opportunities reflect a lack of political will and a failure to recognize disability as a human right issue contributes to the devaluing and dehumanising of people with disabilities.

‘People with disabilities have the same rights as able-bodied people and they are entitled to enjoy all citizenry rights.’

Since that report the Disability Act of 2018 introduced financial grants, but the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch, is in economic meltdown. Public health centres and hospitals have run out of medicines, schools are without supplies and children are going hungry because feeding programmes have stopped. All because the government, which is handpicked by the King, cannot pay suppliers.

See also

Disabled people ‘treated like animals’

More deaths in Swaziland as government fails to pay medicine suppliers

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Njabulo Dlamini, democracy activist in Swaziland, dies aged 32

Njabulo Dlamini, one of the best known young democracy activists in Swaziland / eSwatini, has died aged 32. 

Dlamini, who was known as Njefire, was the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) International Organiser since 2017. He was still a student at the University of Swaziland when he joined the party in 2011, the year it was founded. He was elected to the CPS Central Committee in 2013 and served as the party’s National Organiser.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch and political parties are not allowed to take part in elections. The CPS along with other pro-democracy organisations are also banned from the kingdom under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Dlamini took a leading role in pro-democracy campaigns by students and in defence of the people against state-imposed evictions of residents in the Madonsa township. He also spearheaded a number of international solidarity campaigns and helped establish the Swaziland Kurdistan Solidarity Network.  His last major international work was during the 2019 Israeli Apartheid Week where he helped organise activity in collaboration with the leadership of the Swaziland National Union of Students in solidarity with the Palestinian people. 

At the time of his death he was awaiting trial together with Mcolisi Ngcamphalala, Deputy National Chairperson of the CPS, of the traffic offence of jaywalking. They had been arrested while they were on their way to a workers’ planning meeting in Manzini. 

Dlamini worked as a teacher and was Secretary of the Big Bend Branch of the Swaziland National Association Of Teachers. He died in Mbabane Government Hospital on 23 May 2019. He had been diagnosed with fungal pneumonia a few weeks earlier. 

In a statement, the CPS said, ‘One thing that did not go down well with some of the former leaders in the union is that Comrade Njabulo tended to pursue issues which were viewed by many as too difficult and impossible to win; issues that had never been attempted before. It was his revolutionary tenacity, persuasion and steadfastness that helped grow the force necessary to convince the leadership that those issues be pursued. 

‘With his practical contribution towards the resolution of those issues, he became highly trusted and a great source of inspiration to many members of the union and beyond. The union gradually transformed and became more radical on its campaigns partly due to his untiring work. This is how he was able, working together with other young workers, to hold activities that were thought impossible before, including a fully-packed night vigil in August 2018 and a young workers’ forum where workers’ self-defence units were formed.’

Photo: Sourced from Facebook