Monday, May 31, 2021

Swaziland fails to hit own deadline to get 500,000 coronavirus vaccines

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government has missed its own deadline to get additional coronavirus vaccines into the kingdom.


So far only 35,000 doses have been distributed among the population of more than 1.1 million.


The Swazi Ministry of Health has repeatedly said over past weeks that 500,000 more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would arrive by the end of May 2021.


But the doses have not arrived. Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi said in a statement there would be a ‘slight delay’. No firm date was given.


She said, some new requirements have had to be incorporated into the agreement with AstraZeneca to access these vaccines.


There is now doubt whether those people who received jabs would get a second dose in time for it to be effective. There should be a 12 week delay between jabs. She said, ‘This, therefore, means that the next two weeks are critical in ensuring that we get doses into the country.’


In an update on the state of play with other coronavirus (COVID-19), she said, 


‘Pfizer: Our negotiations are at an advanced stage. We have received the head of terms which have undergone all legal reviews including the Attorney General’s Office and we are on the verge of signing. We are yet to receive a delivery date. Government funding will be utilised for purchasing of these doses.


Johnson & Johnson (J&J): Engagements with J&J, through the African Union, are ongoing and the earliest expected delivery is slated for August 2021. We will receive doses from the COVAX facility and will also utilise the funding we have from Government and the Republic of China (Taiwan) for purchasing of additional doses. 


Moderna: With financial support from the Kirsh Foundation, we continue with our negotiations with Moderna. We are waiting to hear next steps from them and if all goes well, delivery will be in Q3 and these vaccines will be prepaid by the Kirsh Foundation. 


‘COVAX facility: We have received updated correspondence this week on the delivery of the next batch of 14 400 doses. They are in the process of finalising the logistics of getting the vaccines in-country, which will confirm the exact delivery date. 


Sputnik V: Bilateral negotiations are ongoing with the Gamaleya Institute to secure doses of the Russian Sputnik vaccine. As this vaccine has yet to receive approval, we continue to follow up with the WHO, SADC Regional Medicines Authority Harmonisation Initiative (ZAZIBONA) that we are part of and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) on approval of Sputnik V to enable its safe use in the country and in the region.’ 


See also

Total 86 health workers die from coronavirus at single Swaziland hospital


Swaziland runs out of coronavirus vaccines, only 35,000 people treated

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Five in court after Swaziland police-provoked protests turn violent

Five students appeared in court in Swaziland (eSwatini) following anti-police protests that turned violent.


Three were remanded to a maximum security prison and two were granted bail prior to a trail at the Swazi High Court.


They were arrested on Friday (21 May 2021) before a memorial service for Thabani Nkomonye, a 25-year-old law student. 


Nkomonye died in suspicious circumstances and there is widespread feeling in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch that he was killed by police.


The five arrested were Bongumenzi Gamedze, Hlengiwe Magagula, Khumbulani Nxumalo, Siphosethu Mavimbela and the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) Secretary General, Bafanabakhe Sacolo.


They were charged with various offences, including malicious damage and vandalism. The police post at Fairview was badly damaged.


According to local media reports police fired teargas and rubber bullets at the memorial service on Friday.


The Swazi Government had banned large gatherings, saying they broke restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus crisis.


Nombulelo Motsa, President of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Swaziland told Swati Newsweek, ‘We protested in Manzini City demanding justice for Thabani Nkomonye. However police dispersed us at Manzini. We left for the memorial at St Paul’s High School. The police followed us and dispersed us. They fired rubber bullets and teargas at the mourners.’


The Swaziland News reported, ‘Information gathered suggests that the protesters arrived at the police post armed with stones and vandalized the post, two officers allegedly tried in vain to stop them after firing shots in the air.’


The eSwatini Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported ‘dozens had to be rushed to hospitalafter police fired teargas canisters and gunshots at mourners’.


Reporting from the memorial service, the Observer said, ‘What at first started off as a peaceful service, with every other speaker commending how well behaved the youth was during the service, but until the police arrived, all hell broke loose. Seeing the police armoured vehicles making their way through the gate to the sports ground, there was shouting from a section amongst the attendees, demanding that the men in blue make a return as they were not welcome.


‘It seemed the police had one thing in mind – to hurt and make everyone cry. And that was achieved. Teargas canisters were directly shot where the masses were seated, as they bulldozed their way through the gate in their armoured paramilitary police vehicles. What followed was a stampede as mourners ran in all directions with teary eyes from the teargas.

‘The police were not fazed even by the wailing of elderly women and children, who had come to attend the memorial service. The elderly and the weak were trodden upon as a result of the stampede, while others collapsed as they suffocated from the teargas smoke. It was like a replay of the South African movie depicting the treatment suffered by black people during the apartheid regime.


‘The angry youth retaliated with stones. Cars that were parked by the entrance to the sports ground, from where the police were firing shots at first, were left damaged with windows shattered as the angry students fought back.


‘In a sheer act of force display, the police bulldozed their way into the stadium as they continued firing teargas canisters. At this point, some young women were already injured and crying hysterically and couldn’t breathe. The police gave chase as everyone escaped for dear life. The stadium was filled with white smoke, chairs and tables were left upside down. Seeing that their mission had been achieved, the police from the paramilitary wing, OSSU, withdrew and everyone was left worried sick about the injured and collapsed mourners.


‘The sounds of crying women echoed throughout the Fairview community, as others thought the collapsed had died. While people were being rushed in different cars to hospital, others came from corners and bushes, where they had sought refuge in search of water or any tap in sight from the nearby houses.’


See also

Swaziland P. M. tells police to halt public demonstrations as anger spreads following suspicious death

Monday, May 24, 2021

Swaziland media reporting of coronavirus was inadequate, UNESCO reports

Media reporting of the coronavirus pandemic in Swaziland (eSwatini) was inadequate, according to a new UNESCO report.


News concentrated on the statistics and mostly official Swazi Government sources were used in reports.


UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) studied nine countries in southern Africa, including Swaziland.


Overall, UNESCO reported ‘Most notably, reporting the pandemic has focused on the numbers. This was mostly motivated by statistics on infection rates, recoveries and deaths released by health authorities.’


It added, ‘The main gaps in professional reportage of the pandemic was in the low representation of women’s voices, citizen’s voices, young and elderly people and rural communities in news on Covid-19 in all countries. This meant that perspectives on Covid-19 were heard from men, official figures and urban communities. Other perspectives could however have enriched coverage, particularly understanding how different groups perceived the pandemic and its effects on their lives. This marginalisation of social groups meant that there was little inclusivity and diversity in overall reporting on the pandemic.’


In Swaziland, sixty percent of sources in news reports were men. Only 1 percent of stories were specifically from rural area.


The report said, ‘The media in the region rarely questioned or interrogated issues, numbers and claims they acquired from their sources in compiling Covid-19 articles. Some claims were presented as fact without the media putting disclaimers on such information.’


UNESCO researched news websites from 1 March to 31 August 2020.


See also

Total 86 health workers die from coronavirus at single Swaziland hospital

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Swaziland P. M. tells police to halt public demonstrations as anger spreads following suspicious death

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Acting Prime Minister has told police to halt mass demonstrations expected to protest the police’s action surrounding a suspicious death.


They were due to take place on Friday (21 May 2021) and follow protests on 17 May that ended in violence. Police shot an innocent bystander in the eye with a rubber bullet at point blank range.


Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku cited government rules around the present coronavirus pandemic that bans large gatherings.


In a statement he said, ‘We have asked the police to be vigilant and ensure there are no gatherings that will breach these regulations and expose emaSwati to the dangers of this uncompromising virus.’ 


Describing the 17 May protests, he said, ‘It is most concerning when a group of unruly people intentionally resort to violent confrontation towards the police and private citizens.’


He added, ‘In upholding the rule of law we implore the police to ensure that all perpetrators of this violence are brought to book to prevent any future incidences that will violate the rule of law and the rights of others.’


The protests are about the circumstances surrounding the death of Thabani Nkomonye, a 25-year-old law student. Police say he was the victim of a car accident on 8 May, but his body was not discovered until 13 May.


There is widespread suspicion in Swaziland that Nkomonye was killed by police.


In a statement the Swaziland Solidarity Network, a group campaigning for democracy in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch, said. ‘Police brutality in the country is endemic. Throughout the years it has claimed many innocent lives. If taking to the streets will lead to a change in attitudes from those in power then Swazis should neither be intimidated nor blackmailed.’


Colani Maseko, President of the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS), one of the groups organising the protests, said, ‘The youth must not listen to anything that will come from the Acting Prime Minister or anyone representing the King’s Government because they just want to disturb the protest and we can’t allow that.’


See also

Swaziland police shoot student in eye during protest unrest

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Swaziland police ‘assault man’ during protest against police harassment

Three police officers in Swaziland (eSwatini) were captured on video assaulting a man who was part of a protest against police harassment.


Police were caught on video slapping and kicking a protestor.


The video was widely circulated on social media.


It happened on Monday (10 May 2021) when bus conductors in Manzini protested after police previously arrested some of them for allegedly illegally operating their buses (known locally as kombis) at Mhlaleni. Police have been issuing court summons, although it is argued they do not have authority to do this.


According to local reports the protestors threw stones at police who then retaliated.


The Swaziland News reported police ‘had to run for their dear lives’.


Swati Newsweek reported an eyewitness saying, ‘The transport operators threw stones on the road. Police had to flee. The area became like a war zone.’


In the video the police officers are seen insulting, slapping and kicking a man.


 See also


Swaziland police ‘inflict torture’ on suspects: U.S. Govt. human rights report


Swaziland police halt democracy march, ‘torture’ leader

Monday, May 10, 2021

Total 86 health workers die from coronavirus at single Swaziland hospital

A total of 86 health workers, including doctors, nurses and paramedics, died of coronavirus at a single hospital in Swaziland (eSwatini).


It happened at Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM), Manzini. The eSwatini Observer reported Dr Mbuso Sihlongonyane from the hospital said RFM had lost 14 doctors, 60 nurses, 10 paramedics and two support staff since the pandemic started in March 2020.


The newspaper reported this accounted for 12.8 per cent of the total number of coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths in the kingdom. Also, more than 200 staff members tested positive for coronavirus at the hospital.


Dr. Sihlongonyane said when the coronavirus was at its peak there were more than 60 patients suffering from virus-related sicknesses per ward and five people would die every day in each ward.


The Observer reported, ‘He said for the young nurses, this was quite a traumatic experience.


‘He said for some of the nurses, it was their first time to work as healthcare workers since they were fresh from college, and upon being hired, the first impression they got regarding a hospital set up was that people were dying like flies.’


According to the Swazi Ministry of Health there have been 671 recorded deaths from coronavirus in the kingdom and 18,480 c0firmed cases.


See also

Swaziland runs out of coronavirus vaccines, only 35,000 people treated

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Swaziland human rights abuses attacked in third global report this year

Swaziland (eSwatini) suffers ‘significant’ human rights abuses including ‘cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; political prisoners or detainees; serious restrictions on free expression and the press; restrictions on political participation; and serious acts of corruption,’ according to the United States’ State Department.


It is the third substantial global organisation this year (2021) to highlight significant abuses in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III.


In its latest annual report on human rights in Swaziland, covering 2020, the State Department stated the Swazi Government was ‘inconsistent in its investigation, prosecution, and punishment of officials who committed human rights abuses’.


On conditions in prisons, the report stated they ‘did not always meet international standards due to overcrowding and, in certain locations, facilities that required repair or modernization’.


It stated the total prison population was 3,796, but there was only capacity for 958 inmates. ‘Prisoner-on-prisoner violence remained a concern due to increased gang activity among inmates as prison populations expanded and diversified.’


The State Department report followed one from Freedom House in February 2021. It found Swaziland was ‘not free’. It awarded the kingdom 19 points out of a possible 100.


In an overview of the kingdom, Freedom House reported, ‘The king exercises ultimate authority over all branches of the national government and effectively controls local governance through his influence over traditional chiefs. Political dissent and civic and labor activism are subject to harsh punishment under sedition and other laws. Additional human rights problems include impunity for security forces and discrimination against women and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people.’


Also in February 2021, Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its annual report highlighted restrictions on freedoms of assembly and association.

It reported King Mswati continued to rule as an absolute monarch and political parties remained banned from taking part in elections and had held supreme executive power since the 1973 State of Emergency decree.

HRW reported, ‘The country’s courts have upheld the legality of the decree despite the fact that the 2005 constitution provides for three separate organs of state—the executive, legislature and judiciary. The prime minister theoretically holds executive authority, but in reality, the king exercises supreme executive power and controls the judiciary. The 2005 constitution provides for equality before the law while simultaneously elevating the king above the law.’


See also

Swaziland police ‘inflict torture’ on suspects: U.S. Govt. human rights report


Swaziland still ‘not free,’ human rights group Freedom House reports


Swaziland gripped by human rights abuses, annual report states

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Swaziland runs out of coronavirus vaccines, only 35,000 people treated

Only 35,000 of Swaziland’s 1.2 million population have received their first vaccination against coronavirus and the kingdom has run out. The Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said more were expected.


He said they should arrive in Swaziland (also known as eSwatini) before the end of May 2021. Masuku and Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi have been promising new vaccines were imminent for some weeks.


Masuku, in a statement on Thursday (6 May 2021), said, ‘We are still expecting to receive a batch of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines from the COVAX facility before the end of this month. Additionally, we are also in line to receive the first batch of 500,000 vaccines from Oxford AstraZeneca before the end of this month to continue with the rollout of the vaccination exercise.’


He said, ‘While numbers of new infections nationally are relatively low, standing at 15 cases recorded in one week and no death reported in 18 days, we cannot be lulled into a sense of comfort and complacency.’ 


Despite the shortage of vaccines, Masuku announced relaxations on restrictions imposed as part of the kingdom’s partial lockdown to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The number of people allowed to attend outdoor arts and entertainment events has been increased to 500; indoor events can now accommodate up to 300 people.


More sports, such as basketball, netball, rugby sevens, volleyball and women’s football, will be allowed to resume.


Alcohol sales have been relaxed but continue to be restricted to home consumption.


According to the World Health Organisation, in Swaziland from 3 January 2020 to 6 May 2021, there had been 18,467 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 671 deaths, reported to WHO. As of 5 May 2021, a total of 34,897 vaccine doses had been administered.


See also

Number of coronavirus cases in Swaziland underestimated, Ministry of Health reveals


Chaos as Swaziland halts coronavirus vaccination of elderly


Swaziland top dogs get their coronavirus vaccines ahead of frontline health staff