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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

SWAZILAND’S SINISTER REED DANCE

Rehearsals for this year’s Reed Dance in Swaziland have started and the maidens who dance bare-breasted in front of King Mswati III have been told by organisers they must wear short skirts.

The Reed Dance or Umhlanga is an annual event in which tens of thousands of ‘maidens’, some as young as ten, dance for the pleasure of the King. It is widely reported within Swaziland that the dancers are ‘virgins’.

The ceremony has come under criticism in recent years because of its overt political nature. The maidens are taught songs that decry activists who want democracy in the small kingdom ruled by King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

It has also been reported that many maidens are paid to take part in the ceremony or are threatened with public whippings if they do not.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported on Wednesday (23 August 2017) that rehearsals for the event are underway. It reported that Princess Gcebile,  Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Tinkhundla, told representatives of more than 50 chiefdoms in Shiselweni they needed to maintain tradition and attend the ceremony wearing short skirts.

International observers have pointed to the ‘sleazy’ nature of the Reed Dance in which half-naked children dance for the King who is aged 49.

In 2016, the Guardian newspaper, a respected international publication based in the United Kingdom, reported, ‘Traditionally, the King is allowed to choose one of the women as a wife, but in recent years the festival has been more about preserving a cultural heritage.’

The newspaper added that many participants were forced to attend the Umhlanga. It quoted a 29-year-old teacher saying, ‘They say we are not forced, but we are. Families who don’t send their daughters to the Umhlanga have to pay a fine, usually a goat or a cow.’

She added, ‘The girls sleep in small classrooms or tents without proper sanitation. There are also many rules you have to adhere to when you attend the Umhlanga. This is the 21st century. We shouldn’t be forced to wear certain clothes.’

The Guardian reported for some girls, taking part in the festival was a way to make some money. It quoted one teenager who said, ‘It’s going to be a fun week. We are very excited. We are given 500 rand each.’

Zwane, a mother of six, told the newspaper forcing or bribing young girls to attend the Umhlanga was a violation of their human rights. ‘Chiefs abuse their power and penalise families who don’t take part. The whole idea is for women to show themselves naked in front of the King so that he can choose a wife. It’s very degrading to women. We don’t walk around bare-breasted at home. Why should we do it at cultural ceremonies?’

Umhlanga, billed as Swaziland’s foremost cultural day, proved to be anything but in 2013 when 120,000 half-naked maidens reportedly sang a song praising the Kings then-recent pronouncement about his continued rule over his kingdom.

They praised the King for announcing that henceforth Swaziland would be a ‘Monarchical Democracy’. This was a new name for the already existing ‘Tinkhundla’ system that puts all power in the hands of the King. 

The King said he had been told in a vision to make this change.

The song included these words (loosely translated from the original), ‘Your Majesty Swaziland is well governed through the Tinkhundla System of Democracy and will be victorious through it.’

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported at the time, ‘Royal Swaziland Police Superintendent Wendy Hleta who was the Master [sic] of Ceremonies together with former Indvuna YeMbali Nothando Ntshangase noted that the maidens were seemingly pleased with the message conveyed by the new composition.’ 

The sinister nature of the Reed Dance was also exposed in 2012 when about 500 children were ordered to sing a song vilifying political parties. This was part of a clampdown on dissent in the kingdom.

The children were taught a song to sing at the dance which had lyrics that when translated into English said political parties ‘set people against each other’ and said that if political parties were allowed to exist in the kingdom the King’s people ‘could start fighting each other’.

Political parties are banned in Swaziland, but there is increasing pressure from pro-democrats for this to change. Some traditional authorities also believe that support for the present system that puts them in control is on the wane. In Swaziland pro-democracy demonstrations have been attacked by police and state security forces.

In 2014, it was reported by media within Swaziland that girls had been told if they did not attend that year’s Reed Dance they would be publicly whipped. Girls in the Mbilaneni chiefdom were told that if they travelled to the event but do not attended the ceremony, they will be beaten on the buttocks when they returned to their homesteads.  

Thami Thikazi, the headman of the Mbilaneni chiefdom, said if parents disagreed with the punishment they would be forced to wield the lash themselves.

The Swazi Observer, reported at the time Thikazi said, ‘In case parents distance themselves from such, we are going to order them to be the ones administering the punishment in the form of strokes on the buttocks should it be found that they (girls) did something intolerable. The punishment will take place in full view of everyone.’

See also

DISPUTE OVER REED DANCE SAFETY
SWAZI MAIDENS LEARN POLITICAL SONGS
CULTURAL REED DANCE TURNS POLITICAL
SWAZIS FORCED TO DANCE FOR KING
SWAZI GIRLS FACE PUBLIC WHIPPING

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

‘POLICE EXECUTE MAN COWBOY STYLE’

Police in Swaziland ‘executed’ a suspect ‘cowboy style’ when they shot him at point blank range, a local newspaper reported.

Siboniso ‘Door’ Mdluli, aged 22, of Maseyisini, was gunned down on Friday evening (18 August 2017) but was only found dead the next day.

The Swazi Observer reported on Monday, ‘It is believed he died as a result of excessive bleeding. It is said police riddled him with bullets as he was fleeing while they were trying to arrest him.’

It happened when police raided the home of Mdluli’s girlfriend. They were searching for him in connection to an alleged armed robbery and illegal possession of a firearm.  

The newspaper reported, ‘It is said the police identified themselves and bulldozed their way inside and dragging Mdluli out. The mission involved two plain clothed police officers armed with an R4 rifle and a pistol.’

The Observer added, ‘They told him they were acting on a tipoff after he was said to have pointed a firearm at someone threatening to shoot them, a source said. It was then that the whole house was ransacked and things turned upside down with the hope of finding the gun.

‘However, no firearm was found. The police then dragged Mdluli out and proceeded with him to their vehicle which was parked within the yard.’ Mdluli resisted and tried to flee.

The Observer reported, ‘Just when he was a short distance away the police opened fire and hit him on the back just below the buttocks. He is said to have not stopped and continued running. He disappeared in the thick of the night and with the police chasing after him.  

‘He reportedly crawled until he reached another homestead situated over a kilometre away from the scene, trying to seek help.

‘However, he found all houses locked since it was late in the night. He then sprawled behind one of the houses, where he was found dead [by residents the next morning].’

Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Khulani Mamba said the deceased got shot while he was escaping a lawful arrest, the newspaper reported.

See also

POLICE SHOOT UP ‘DRINK-DRIVER’S’ CAR
POLICE SHOOT SURRENDERING MAN
SWAZI POLICE ‘MURDER’ SUSPECT
POLICE ‘EXECUTE’ SUSPECT IN STREET
SWAZI POLICE SHOOT-TO-KILL AGIN
POLICE SHOOT AND KILL MENTALLY ILL MAN
 
POLICE ‘SHOT ACCUSED RAPIST IN HEAD’
POLICE SHOOT-TO-KILL ON BUS
POLICE KILL SURRENDERING MAN

Monday, 21 August 2017

COURT BLOCKS SYMPATHY STRIKE

The Industrial Court in Swaziland has blocked an intended sympathy strike in support of Nedbank workers.

Swaziland Union of Financial Institution and Allied Workers (SUFIAW) had asked members in all banks across the kingdom to strike on Friday (18 August 2017) in support of a long-running dispute over pay.

In Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, ‘secondary’ or ‘sympathy’ strikes are illegal.

The strike at Nedbank over a 10 percent cost of living adjustment continues.

In 2015 Swaziland was named as one of the ten worst countries for working people in the world, in a report from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

The kingdom was grouped alongside some of the worst human rights violators in the world, including Belarus, China, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

The report called The World’s Worst Countries for Workers, reviewed the conditions workers faced during the previous year.

Among the worst cases in Swaziland the ITUC reported on the strike at the Maloma Mine which is partly owned by King Mswati.

It reported, ‘Some 250 workers went on strike on 24 November [2014], after the mine management refused to negotiate over a US$72 housing allowance with the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Swaziland (ATUSWA). All legal requirements were observed by the striking workers, and even though the strike was peaceful, the workers were surrounded by police equipped with riot shields, protective headgear, guns and teargas.

‘During the strike, management refused the workers access to water, toilets and medical facilities. Chancellor House, the investment arm of the ANC, owns 75% of the Maloma mine, with the remaining 25% owned by the Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, a fund controlled by King Mswati III, who is one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchs.’

ITUC also reported that the Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini, ‘publicly threatened Sipho Gumedze from the Lawyers for Human Rights and TUCOSWA [Trade Union Congress of Swaziland] General Secretary Vincent Ncongwane because of their participation in the US Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington DC. 

‘Prime Minister Dlamini made the following statement during a speech in Parliament: “They leave your constituencies and do not even inform you where they are going and once they come back and you find out that they are from your constituency you must strangle them.”’

A week after that report was issued, the International Labour Organization (ILO) told Swaziland it must stop interfering in the activities of trade unions; ensure workers’ organizations are fully assured of their rights and ensure they have the autonomy and independence they need to represent workers.
The ILO placed Swaziland in a ‘special paragraph’ in its annual report to highlight the deficiencies in the kingdom’s commitment to freedom of association.

See also

MORE WORKERS JOIN SUGARCANE TRADE UNION
HUMAN SUFFERING AND SWAZI SUGAR
KING EXPLOITS SUGAR WORKERS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2016/10/king-exploits-sugar-workers.html

Thursday, 17 August 2017

SWAZI KING WRONG ON CONSTITUTION

King Mswati III, Swaziland’s absolute monarch, mislead when he told a television reporter that the constitution in his kingdom was the will of the people.

In fact at the time the 2005 constitution was being drafted, the International Bar Association, a group invited by King Mswati to make comments, called it ‘flawed’ and ‘a fraud’.

King Mswati said in an interview with the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) uploaded to the Internet on Monday (14 August 2017), ‘When we created the constitution, this constitution which went around the people of this country, every Swazi participated... was invited to come make a submission in terms of how you want to see your constitution of this country, even when the constitution was drafted before it was actually adopted.  It also was to give back to the nation, to read, and everyone was able to be given a chance to make submissions and to comment... this was a process that took some years, so we finally have a product of after nine years of consultation.’

He also said Swaziland was a democratic nation ‘in the sense that it is people driven. It is not a one person state. It is the people saying this is how we want to be governed.’

The King and his supporters have maintained for years that the Swazi Constitution is legitimate and the will of the people. However, the International Bar Association , a group of experienced lawyers, was called in by King Mswati III in 2003 to comment on the first draft of the constitution. It called the process ‘flawed’ and reported that one critic went so far as to call it a ‘fraud’.  The resulting report called Striving for Democratic Governance was stark in its criticism of both the process of ‘consultation’ on the constitution and the wording of the document itself.

One of the IBA’s main conclusions was that the ‘position and powers’ of some ‘stakeholders’ in Swaziland ‘including the Monarchy’ are in effect ‘actually placed above the Constitution and its principles’.

The IBA studied what was going on during the drafting process, which was controlled by the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC).

The CRC did not allow the judiciary or NGOs to contribute to the drafting process and ensured that individual Swazi people were interviewed in the presence of their chiefs. As a result the ‘overwhelming’ majority wanted the King to keep all his powers and wanted the position of traditional advisers to the King to be strengthened. They also wanted Swazi customs to have supremacy over any international rights obligations.

The IBA report states, ‘The terms of reference of the Commission did not allow expressly for group submissions, and as apparently they were not entertained, NGOs per se were effectively prevented from commenting. The IBA panel considers that, unfortunately, this in itself deprived the CRC of much valuable input.’

The IBA report goes on, ‘The CRC also faced a number of practical problems. There were disputes between local chiefs, collecting views during the rainy season in Swaziland was difficult, and several Commission members resigned.

‘The extent to which individual Swazis were consulted has also been questioned. The CRC did not keep records of the submissions it received and media coverage of submissions was apparently banned.

‘There is therefore no formal record of how Swazi citizens presented their views and of what in fact they said to the CRC.

‘Furthermore, information was elicited in a highly charged atmosphere. Individuals were reportedly asked, in the presence of chiefs, whether they wanted to retain the King and whether they preferred political parties.

‘The CRC report states that “there is a small minority which recommends that the powers of the monarchy must be limited” and continued that “an overwhelming majority of the nation recommends that political parties must be banned”.

‘The report concludes that “an overwhelming majority recommends that the system of Government based on the Tinkhundla must continue” and, as well as the ban on political parties being maintained, that the executive powers of the King should be maintained, the position of traditional advisers to the King strengthened, and Swazi customs have supremacy over any contrary international rights obligations.’

In November 2007 the Swaziland High Court ruled that documents pertaining to the drafting process could not be made available for public scrutiny, thereby allowing the ruling elite to maintain the fiction of full consultation.

Under the constitution the monarchy remains above the law and political parties are banned.
Many organisations have called for Swaziland’s constitution to be rewritten to make the kingdom more democratic.

In July 2008 the European Union declined an invitation to monitor the Swaziland national election later that year because, it said, it was clear the kingdom was not a democracy. Later, it suggested a wholesale review of the constitution was in order.

In November 2008 the Commonwealth Expert Team, which had monitored the election called for a review because the elections were not credible since political parties were banned in Swaziland. It said that the review ‘should be carried out through a process of full consultation with Swazi political organisations and civil society (possibly with the support of constitutional experts).’

After the most recent national election in 2013, the African Union (AU) mission that observed it called for fundamental changes in the kingdom to ensure people have freedom of speech and of assembly. The AU said the Swaziland Constitution guaranteed ‘fundamental rights and freedoms including the rights to freedom of association’, but in practice ‘rights with regard to political assembly and association are not fully enjoyed’. The AU said this was because political parties were not allowed to contest elections.

The AU urged Swaziland to review the Constitution, especially in the areas of ‘freedoms of conscience, expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement as well as international principles for free and fair elections and participation in electoral process’.

In 2015, following a visit to Swaziland, a Commonwealth mission renewed its call for the constitution to be reviewed so the kingdom could move toward democracy.

In its report on the 2013 elections, the Commonwealth observers recommended that measures be put in place to ensure separation of powers between the government, parliament and the courts so that Swaziland was in line with its international commitments.

They also called on the Swaziland Constitution to be ‘revisited’.

The report stated, ‘This should ideally be carried out through a fully inclusive, consultative process with all Swazi political organisations and civil society (needed, with the help of constitutional experts), to harmonise those provisions which are in conflict. The aim is to ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal.’

It also recommended that a law be passed to allow for political parties to take part in elections, ‘so as to give full effect to the letter and spirit of Section 25 of the Constitution, and in accordance with Swaziland’s commitment to its regional and international commitments’.

See also

POLL OBSERVERS: REWRITE CONSTITUTION
SWAZILAND PM CONSTITUTION LIES
SWAZIS DID NOT CHOOSE POLITICAL SYSTEM
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2013/04/swazis-did-not-choose-political-system.html

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

SWAZI KING’S UNIVERSITY FLOP

King Mswati III failed in his promise to have a new SADC-wide university up and running in Swaziland before his time as chair of the organisation ends this week (August 2017).

King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, announced in August 2016 after assuming the chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that a ‘university of transformation’ taking students from all over the region would open by the time he stood down from the office.

Both the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, and the Swazi Observer, which is in effect owned by the King, reported on 31 August 2016 that King Mswati told the SADC heads of state summit held at Lozitha, ‘This initiative will give new hope and opportunity to our youth and our women. The intention is to have the first intake of students prior to the 37th SADC summit in 2017.’

That summit is about to start and the university remains a pipe-dream.

On Monday (14 August 2017) the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation reported the King saying about the university, ‘We are still looking at strategies and all that in terms of mobilising resources.’

The King and the media in Swaziland that enthusiastically and uncritically reported his initial statement, gave no indication of where the money would come from for the project, who would teach at the university, what academic programmes it would run, and how programmes would be administered.

The University of Swaziland (UNISWA), the kingdom’s largest and oldest university, has been unable to start teaching first year students this academic year because the government has delayed in awarding scholarships. Over many years students have been protesting against cuts in scholarships and lack of resources.

Shortly after his announcement of the new university the King said it would be hosted by Limkokwing University, a private institution which has come under fire for its poor standards.
 
According to its website, Limkokwing in Swaziland only offers ‘associate degrees’ which are at a level below Bachelor degrees and in many universities are known as diplomas.

In June 2012, Bandile Mkhonta, Head of Human Resource for Limkokwing in Mbabane, Swaziland, told local media that of 53 professional staff at the university only one had a Ph.D doctorate. A Ph.D is usually considered by universities to be the minimum qualification required to be given the rank of senior lecturer.

Limkokwing in Swaziland had no staff at professor rank and no record of conducting scholarly research.

The failure to deliver the university is one of a long line of broken promises made by the King. In November 2009, King Mswati announced a plan partly financed from in the oil state of Qatar to build an E35bn (US$4.8bn at the then exchange rate) ‘world class facility’ that would store at least a three-month supply of fuel for Swaziland. It did not happen. 

In November 2012 the king returned from a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Taiwan, claiming that he had secured Taiwanese investment to build a pharmaceutical plant, a food processing plant, a bottled water plant, a cosmetics plant and a granite and marble venture – which, according to a report in the Times of Swaziland newspaper, were expected to create more than 3,000 jobs. It has not happened. 

In April 2009 King Mswati III announced the building of a multi-billion emalangeni Swazi City, financed by international money and comprising a 25,000 sq m shopping, entertainment and ‘wellness’ centre ‘to rival the world’. There would be a Science and Technology Park, a hi-technology industrial Site and an expansion of the Matsapha Industrial Site. It would be completed by 2012, creating 15,000 new jobs. It did not happen. 

In October 2009 the government the King handpicked promised an E1.5bn ‘facelift’ for the Swazi capital city Mbabane. That money would buy a civic centre and a shopping mall, described at the time as a ‘fully fledged state of the art 21st Century Civic Centre befitting a country’s capital city’. Work was expected to start in June 2010 and take three years to build. It did not happen.

In October 2010, the Swazi Government announced its ‘fiscal adjustment roadmap’ to save the kingdom’s economy. This would include attracting investment to create, ‘between 25,000 and 30,000 new jobs’ in the private sector. These jobs have not materialised. 

In 1998 King Mswati was said to have teamed up with pop singer Michael Jackson to bring a ‘Netherland-style’ theme park to Swaziland.


See also

KING’S NEW UNWORKABLE UNIVERSITY
ABSOLUTE KING TAKES CHAIR OF SADC
‘DICTATOR KING NOT FIT TO CHAIR SADC’
KING TO PARTY WHILE SWAZIS GO HUNGRY