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Friday, 23 February 2018


A chief in Swaziland has been accused of unleashing ‘an army of drunken militia’ to beat up a group of community leaders.

Chief Ndlaluhlaza of Bulandzeni did this to stop a dispute among his subjects, the Observer on Saturday newspaper in Swaziland reported (17 February 2018).

The newspaper reported, ‘The group of militia said to be from Buhlebuyeza Royal Kraal and were imbibing on alcohol, hurled insults to the inner council after heavily assaulting them. The chief’s militia group is alleged to have also unleashed a reign of terror on residents, including the inner council leaders with their local leader Indvuna Dzingalive [Magagula], who is now nursing a broken arm.’

It said the incident was alleged to have happened in Mavula, near Sihhoye on Sunday 11 February 2018.

The Observer reported, ‘The militia group came with one mandate; that of assaulting anyone who was at the gathering for blessing newly installed people, in an area reserved for small community businesses.’

It said, ‘The uncompromising militia came armed with spears and wooden rods whereby they first visited the home of the indvuna at Timbondvweni, demanding to know from his wife his whereabouts.

‘The militia is said to have been transported on a van belonging to the chief. After failing to get the indvuna they went for umfana wendvuna (assistant/trustee) John Magagula.’

The newspaper added, ‘The militia allegedly pounced on the unsuspecting inner council and without communicating anything, started assaulting the members and others at the community gathering. They were assaulted with wooded rods and fists. It is said people ran helter skelter as the militia were baying for blood, assaulted everyone, including the elderly.

The Observer added, ‘Police are alleged not to have not set foot in the area to record a statement from the people who were assaulted and injured. Even during the time when they were given the RSP [Royal Swaziland Police] forms for them to be admitted in hospital, no statements were recorded.’

In Swaziland Chiefs are the local representatives of King Mswati III who rules the impoverished kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The chief wields tremendous power over their subjects and can, for example, determine whether people are allowed to live in the area, or whether children can attend universities and colleges. In some cases they decide who lives and who dies as they are in charge of distributing international food aid to starving communities. About a third of the population of Swaziland receiving food aid each year. 

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Thursday, 22 February 2018


A team of 26 police officers and 10 prosecutors in Swaziland is poised to force people to buy licences to watch the heavily-censored state-controlled television.

TV Licence Consortium Project Manager Modicai Donga said inspections would be of residential and business premises. In Swaziland a person with a television set or video recorder needs a licence by law.

There are only two television channels in Swaziland: one is commercial; the other, Swazi TV is state-run. Satellite television bought by subscription is also available in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. People are required to have licences even if they never watch Swazi TV.

Censorship at Swazi TV is so tight that every month the Swaziland Government issues directives to the station about what events it should cover. This was revealed in a report tabled at the Swaziland Parliament.

Bongani ‘Sgcokosiyancinca’ Dlamini, the Chief Executive of Swazi TV said the instructions had been given to the TV station in advance of the 2013 national elections by then Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Winnie Magagula.

His revelation was contained in a report tabled by Hhukwini MP Saladin Magagula, chairperson of the House of Assembly select committee in 2015. It was investigating a media ban imposed on MPs on state-owned media. 

According to a report in the Swazi Observer at the time, Dlamini said, ‘It was communicated to the station that any activity outside of government’s calendar cannot be featured as news and that government’s calendar is sent monthly by the press officer in Cabinet and it is normally updated in between.’

Dlamini also said there was a ban on MPs appearing on the news. He said the ban had meant to stop MPs appearing on TV during the run-up to the September 2013 national election. In Swaziland, political parties are banned from taking part in elections and all candidates stand as individuals. The ban was not lifted after the election.

Swazi TV is one of only two television stations in Swaziland. The other station, Channel S is privately-owned, but has a stated editorial policy to always support King Mswati.

Government also controls all radio in the kingdom (except one Christian station that does not broadcast news) through the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS). 

Censorship of radio and television in Swaziland is not new. In August 2014 Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Dumisani Ndlangamandla said the Swaziland Government would not let up on its control of state radio,  He said state media existed primarily to serve the interests of the state.

In August 2012, the government announced that in advance of the national election in September 2013 radio would be banned from broadcasting news and information that did not support the government’s own agenda.

New guidelines also barred ‘public service announcements’ unless they were ‘in line with government policy’ or had been authorised ‘by the chiefs through the regional administrators’ or deputy prime minister’s office’.

The guidelines said the radio stations could not be ‘used for purposes of campaigning by individuals or groups, or to advance an agenda for political, financial popularity gains for individuals or groups’. 

There is a long history of censorship on state broadcasting in Swaziland. Strikes and anti-government demonstrations are usually ignored by broadcasters. Sometimes live radio programmes are censored on air. In July 2011, the plug was pulled on a phone-in programme when listeners started criticising the government for its handling of the economy. Percy Simelane who was then the boss of SBIS and went on to become the government’s official spokesperson, personally stormed the radio studio and cut the programme.  

In March 2011, SBIS stopped broadcasting the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme after it carried reports critical of King Mswati

In 2010, Swazi police told SBIS it must stop allowing people to broadcast information about future meetings unless the police had given permission. Jerome Dlamini, Deputy Director of the SBIS said this was to stop the radio station airing an announcement for a meeting that was prohibited. 

He said, ‘It’s the station’s policy not to make announcements without police permission.’ 

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Wednesday, 21 February 2018


Swaziland’s Senate President Gelane Zwane has been ‘banned’ from attending parliament for up to two years because she is a widow in mourning. Minister of Labour and Social Security Winnie Magagula has met a similar fate.

Magagula was stopped from attending the opening of parliament on Friday (16 February 2018).

The two senior politicians have been caught up in Swazi tradition which dictates that a woman should mourn her husband for two years and in that time must stay away from public office and not be close to the King and his mother. King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Zwane confirmed to the Times of Swaziland newspaper that she would be staying away from parliament where she is leader of the Senate. It is also speculated that she will not be eligible to stand in the national election due later in 2018, nor can she be appointed to any official position until two years have elapsed. Her husband Michael was cremated last week.

Meanwhile, Magagula was stopped from attending the official opening of parliament where King Mswati made his annual speech from the throne. Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Paul Dlamini told her not to attend. She separated from her husband Enock Mfanyana Magagula in 1994 and he died last year.

The Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland reported (18 February 2018), ‘Magagula revealed that the DPM also informed her not to come close to any royal residence, Parliament and anywhere where Their Majesties were present. The minister said when she queried Dlamini on the suspension she was told it was according to Swazi culture.’

The newspaper added, ‘She stated that she would follow the directive by the DPM seeing as he was her elder and she was socialised into obedience.’

The DPM said Magagula could continue her duties as a minister.

The issue of Swazi culture and mourning contradicts Section 28 of the Swaziland Constitution which guarantees that women have the right to equal treatment with men, including equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities.

Women in Law in Southern  Africa Swaziland Chapter Director Colani Hlatshwayo told the Sunday Observer mourning culture put women at a disadvantage. She said Swaziland had signed United Nations’ treaties that encouraged women to participate in politics.

Simangele Mtetwa, who is responsible for gender issues in the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), told the Swazi Observer (19 February 2018) the action against Magagula was, ‘Totally unacceptable, and I condemn it in the strongest terms it deserves. This paints a gloomy future for all women in the country.’

She added if the  authorities were serious about the development of the kingdom such practices needed to stop because they were discriminatory in their nature. 

There was a major row at the election in 2013 when Dumisani Dlamini a chief’s headman in Ludzibini, an area ruled by Chief Magudvulela a former Swazi Senator, threatened people would be banished from their homes if they nominated Jennifer du Pont, a widow, for the upcoming election. 

The Times Sunday reported at the time, ‘[Dlamini] warned that those who would nominate her should be prepared to relocate to areas as distant as five chiefdoms away. Her sin was that she attended the nominations only a few months after her husband died.’

The newspaper reported, ‘He said she should still be mourning her husband.’

The Times reported Du Pont did not wear standard black mourning gowns and was dressed in a blue wrap-around dress known as sidvwashi.

Enough people in the chiefdom defied Dlamini and Ms du Pont was duly nominated.

In April 2017, Elections and Boundaries Commission commissioner Ncumbi Maziya told a voter education meeting at Bulandzeni Chiefdom that women in mourning had a constitutional right to stand for election. 

However, the Swazi Observer (3 April 2017) reported, ‘He said a person wearing a mourning gown was not allowed to be near His Majesty the King. If a certain constituency elected a person in such a situation, it was highly possible that the woman could not attend the Parliament opening event, where the King would also be in attendance. Maziya said that was when a woman would have to exercise conscience by at least standing by the gate of Parliament, to avoid being near the King.’

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Tuesday, 20 February 2018


Political parties in Swaziland are to go to court to force King Mswati III’s regime to allow them freedom of assembly and to take part in the national election due later in 2018.

King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. At present political parties advocating democracy in the kingdom are banned as terrorists. The Swazi Constitution does not allow any political parties to contest elections. 

The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO); the Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA) and the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) have joined forces to take the government to court. 

A national election is due at a date to be set by the King but under the kingdom’s constitution only individuals are allowed to be candidates. 

Swaziland’s previous election in 2013 was considered ‘not free and fair’ by a number of international organisations, including the Commonwealth Observer Mission and African Union which called separately for a review of the kingdom’s constitution. It said members of parliament ‘continue to have severely limited powers’ and political parties were banned. 

In 2008, the EU declined an invitation to observe the honesty of the Swaziland elections because of ‘shortcomings’ in the kingdom’s democracy.

In 2013, the EU which is a major donor of aid to Swaziland told King Mswati he must allow political parties to operate in his kingdom as it was important that international principles of democracy were upheld in Swaziland.

In October 2012, the United Kingdom also called for political parties to be un-banned in Swaziland.

In 2015 an independent survey showed more than one in three Swazi people wanted political parties to be allowed in the kingdom. This was even though all debate on democratising the kingdom is ruthlessly crushed by King Mswati’s state police and security forces. Meetings called to discuss democratic change are routinely disrupted by police and prodemocracy activists are jailed. No news media in Swaziland support political parties.

Afrobarometer reported that in Swaziland 36 percent of people questioned agreed with the statement, ‘The Swazi Constitution should be amended to allow for the existence of political parties in our country.’ A total of 58 percent agreed with the statement, ‘The constitutional ban on political parties has served our country well and should therefore be maintained.’ More than six people in ten people said they were not satisfied with the way democracy worked in the kingdom.

In a 2013 survey Afrobarometer reported two thirds of Swazi people wanted the kingdom to become a democracy and they wanted to choose their own leaders ‘through honest and open elections’.

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Monday, 19 February 2018


Three drivers have appeared in court in Swaziland on charges relating to the deaths of 13 people, mostly children aged 11 to 16, who were being transported on the back of a truck that crashed going to the Reed Dance in 2015.

Charges range from negligent driving to culpable homicide. 

But, nobody who ordered up to sixty girls to travel on the back of an open truck like cattle has been charged.

The Principal Magistrate David Khumalo at Manzini criticised the delay in the case coming to trail and said it must be finalised immediately. The prosecution was not ready and the case was postponed to 14 March 2018.

The deaths caused outrage in August 2015. The exact number of deaths in the incident is disputed. The Swazi Government said 13 people died; 11 children and two older people who were their supervisors. There was widespread disbelief in Swaziland that the death toll was so low. The Swaziland Solidarity Network, a prodemocracy group banned in Swaziland, citing the Swaziland Defence Force as a source, put the figure of deaths at 38. It later revised this figure to 65, citing medical officials as a source.

The official figures included an 11-year-old girl and seven girls aged 16 or under.

They died when they were loaded up onto the back of a truck used for conveying building materials. The truck was involved in a road collision on 28 August 2015. They were on their way to the annual Reed Dance or Umhlanga where they were expected to be among thousands of ‘virgins’ to dance half-naked in front of the King.

King Mswati came in for heavy criticism after the crash because journalists were prevented from reporting the event. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and media are heavily restricted in his kingdom.

Thousands of young girls from across Swaziland were forced to travel in trucks standing up  in the open back cheek-by-jowl. There was no space to sit down or even to turn around. Photographs show that at least sixty children were squashed onto the back of a single truck. Many of the trucks that transported the girls were usually used to move building materials.

Young girls travel this way every year to attend the Reed Dance where they are expected to dance topless in front of King Mswati. Media in Swaziland routinely describe the girls as ‘virgins’ or ‘maidens.’ The King was 46 years old at the time of the accident.

Media reports of the accident are inconsistent, but it is generally agreed that the children were thrown from the back of the truck when it was involved in a collision. Police reported that not all the girls died on the spot. International media reported that journalists in Swaziland were stopped from gathering information about the accident.

Media in Swaziland are heavily censored; the Swazi Observer, one of only two daily newspapers in the kingdom, is in effect owned by the King. The Media Institute of Southern Africa Swaziland chapter in a report on media freedom in Swaziland described the Observer newspapers as a  ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’.

The Reed Dance, which is also known as Umhlanga, is one of the main cultural events in Swaziland and it is strongly connected with the King. In Swaziland reporting negatively about the Reed Dance would be seen to be the same as criticizing the King.

Femi Falana, a lawyer in Nigeria, later sent a petition to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Mr. Juan Ernesto Mendez; the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Ms. Dubravka Simonovic; and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Mr. Christof Heyns.

Punch, a Nigerian-based news site, reported at the time, ‘The lawyer said it was particularly insensitive of the Swaziland monarch to have reportedly allowed the dance festival to proceed despite the news of the victims’ death.

‘He said it was also condemnable that rather than address the issues of rights violation, King Mswati III had continued to cover it up by trying to prevent publication of reports on the incidents.’
According to Punch, the petition read in part, ‘I argue that the annual Umhlanga Reed Dance itself is unlawful as it has continued to perpetuate forced marriages, entirely inconsistent with international human rights standards.

‘I also argue that religion, culture and tradition cannot be used to justify human rights violations, including violence against women, which is what the annual Umhlanga Reed Dance constitutes. The continuation of the Umhlanga Reed Dance also gives rise to other human rights abuses, including forced marriages.

‘Under international human rights law, states like Swaziland are to be held accountable if they fail to act with due diligence to prevent violations of rights such as those highlighted above or to investigate and punish acts of violence against women and provide effective remedies and access to justice for victims and their families.

‘By packing the girls onto the back of open trucks, the government of Swaziland should have reasonably foreseen that this would lead to violation of their rights to life and human dignity.

‘In fact, due diligence places a strict standard of conduct upon the government of Swaziland to protect all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction, including the girls and women.

‘I argue that the government of Swaziland has the supreme duty to prevent acts such as those highlighted above that can cause arbitrary loss of life such as the unnecessary deaths of these girls.’

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Sunday, 18 February 2018


A university in Swaziland has suspended student leaders for ‘misconduct’ for organising a protest over fees, allowances and poor facilities.

And, all first-year students at the campus in Manzini have been sent home indefinitely following continued class boycotts.

It happened at the Southern Africa Nazarene University (SANU).

The Student Representative Council (SRC) Secretary-General Tiger Nxumalo and President Zamokuhle Mamba were handed letters of suspension. Other members of the SRC executive were informed verbally of their suspension.

The Swazi Observer (16 February 2018) quoted Mamba saying they had been charged with misconduct and were awaiting a disciplinary hearing.

A spokesperson for SANU said property had been vandalised by protesting students.

Students at SANU have a number of issues including delayed payment of allowances for first-year students, withholding of ongoing students allowances, unreasonable allowance reduction, lack of project allowances, exorbitant fees and poor infrastructure. They petitioned the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Swaziland Higher Education Council (SHEC) on Monday (12 February 2018). The petition came after a class boycott that started on the previous Wednesday.

There have been class boycotts across college campuses in Swaziland. Students at the kingdom’s biggest university UNISWA have been protesting about delays in payment of allowances. The university was closed on Monday.

SANU has a poor history of student relations. In 2014, they were told they could not resume their studies following class boycotts in the Faculty of Health Sciences unless they gave the university the names of strike leaders.
Students were forced to reapply to study and as part of that application they were told to complete questionnaires which included three questions: How did the student body resolve to boycott classes in the absence of a student representative council? Who was responsible for calling all students out of their classrooms to join the strike? Do you know who were in the forefront of the strike action / the leaders? Name them.

The students went on strike in a dispute over allowances, poor learning conditions in the institution, insufficient books in the library and lack of laboratory equipment for science experiments. 

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Swaziland’s Industrial Court has told the government to negotiate with doctors and health workers in a dispute over cuts in on-call and call-out allowances.

The Court dismissed an application from the doctors and health workers to strike down a directive from government that would cut incomes by up to 50 percent.

Industrial Court Judge Abande Dlamini referred the matter to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. Should the matter not be resolved there it will be returned to court, the Swazi Observer reported on Friday (16 February 2017).

The court action came after doctors and health workers threatened to boycott on-call and call-outs.

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Saturday, 17 February 2018


Students in Swaziland are set to protest against the ‘extravagant spending’ of the 50/50 celebrations to mark the King’s birthday and the anniversary of Independence from Britain.

The protest is due to take place on 12 April 2018, the anniversary of the proclamation that turned Swaziland from a democracy into a kingdom ruled by an absolute monarch.

In a statement (14 February 2018), the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) said, ‘The National Executive Committee noted two upcoming national events in the terms of double celebration (50/50 celebration) and National Elections as projects that has been historically synonymous with corruption and extravagant spending and depriving the people fundamental social services in the process. In accordance with the 2018 theme, the NEC resolved to stage a protest on the 12th of April against extravagant spending and corruption.’

Details of the protest have still to be finalised.

The 50/50 celebrations are to mark the 50th birthday this year of King Mwsati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and the 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain. It has already been announced that celebrations will take place on 19 April at Mavuso Trade and Exhibition Centre.
A budget of the equivalent of US$1.7 million has been given by the government. The Taiwan Government has donated US$1.3 million.

When similar celebrations took place in 2008 the cost of the so-called 40/40 celebrations overran by E32.6 million (about US$5 million at the then exchange rate). E17 million was budgeted but it ended up costing ‘at least’ E50.2 million. The exact figure is uncertain.

The celebrations took place at a time when Swaziland was under the pressure of savage financial cuts, imposed by the International Monetary Fund, after years of mismanagement of the economy by successive Swazi governments – all handpicked by King Mswati.

The intended SNUS protest is set for 12 April. This is an important date in Swaziland as it was on this day in 1973 that King Mswati’s father King Sobuza II issued a Royal Decree that banned all political parties and put all legislative, executive and judicial power in the hands of the King. Despite a Constitution that came into effect in 2006, the Decree has not been withdrawn.

Protests are held each year on the anniversary of 12 April.

See also

APRIL 12 2012