Friday, October 31, 2008


I have often thought of public officials in Swaziland as a bunch of overgrown schoolchildren.

They squabble and bicker amongst themselves and sulk when they don’t get their own way. Sometimes, they even throw tantrums in the houses of parliament and get sent home to cool off.

Now I am beginning to understand why they behave like children – it’s because they are treated like kids.

Today’s newspapers in Swaziland contain reports of an ‘orientation’ that new members of parliament have been attending. Among other things they are being told how they should behave.

They have been told they mustn’t visit bars or other ‘watering holes’. Nor must they engage in nightlife or excessive partying. It sounds just like the restrictions a parent might put on their offspring: ‘Curfew at 10pm on school nights’ – that sort of thing.

According to the Times of Swaziland yesterday (30 October 2008), ‘Senate president Gelane Zwane said no MP was expected to be seen in bars and nightclubs as that could have an adverse effect on the image of Parliament, as well as that of the kingdom.’

‘“You should not be seen in places like Yemfo Bar drinking yourselves silly because you now have to be exemplary to the citizens out there, especially youngsters,”’ Zwane said.

(Zwane also said the MPs should be patient for the coming five years while they are legislators after which they could drink themselves till kingdom comes.)

The MPs were also urged to wear school uniforms. Well, all right I made that bit up, but the women were told they mustn’t wear ‘mini skirts’ defined as anything above the knee.

In a different report in the Times we were told the main reason for this ban was that the sight of female thigh would turn the male MPs on and they wouldn’t be able to concentrate on their work. No, really, I didn’t make that up.

It does make the male MPs out to be no better than adolescent boys who can’t keep control of their libido. It gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘upstanding member of parliament’.

Still on the theme of ‘parental advice’ to the children, the MPs were warned not to have sex (especially with ‘pupils and anyone under the age of 16’).

Again, according to yet another report in the Times, The legislators were strictly advised that should they engage in unruly sexual behaviour they were bound to be exposed by the media because members of the fourth estate were always on the lookout for such occurrences.’

The newspaper went on, ‘The MPs were further told to avoid sexual relations amongst themselves as that too could lead to trouble once the relationship hits the rocks.’

The whole ‘orientation’ would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. It demonstrates to me that the ruling elite do not see the new intake of MPs as responsible legislators ready to help Swaziland to tackle the problems it faces. Instead they are treated like a bunch of naughty schoolchildren, unable to think for themselves or decide on what is appropriate behaviour.

We have not been told what will happen to the MPs should they be found to break the rules, but they should remember that in Swaziland naughty children get spanked. Who will play headteacher? Somehow I think newly-appointed Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini wouldn’t think twice about wielding the stick.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


The fact that Swaziland isn’t a ‘poor’ country, even though seven in ten people live in the most abject poverty is becoming international news.

Following my report last Friday (24 October 2008) that Swaziland’s new resident United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Coordinator Musinga Timothy Bandora. reckons that if wealth were evenly distributed in Swaziland each person would be an emalangeni millionaire (about 100,000 US dollars), the news agency IRIN has returned to the subject.

IRIN reports, ‘In per capita income terms, Swaziland ranks somewhere between Armenia and Paraguay, with export earnings based on agriculture and textiles; but, in terms of the share of the national wealth, the richest 10 percent of Swazis control over 50 percent of the country’s income, a level of inequality worse than in Brazil or South Africa, and beaten only by Namibia.’

It goes on, ‘UNDP figures show that about 70 percent of Swaziland's one million people live in chronic poverty. A record 60 percent of the population relied on food assistance from the World Food Programme and other aid groups in the past year due to drought, and the country has the world’s highest HIV prevalence rate.’

IRIN adds, ‘The royal conglomerate, Tibiho TakaNgwane (wealth of the nation), owns shares in most of the significant business enterprises in Swaziland, and the king controls all mineral rights in the country.’

There is serious concern among democrats in Swaziland that poor people in the kingdom are suffering because international donor agencies do not see Swaziland as ‘poor’ (in development circles Swaziland is considered to be a ‘middle income’ nation). As a consequence less aid is sent to the kingdom than to some other countries.

The real problem is that a minority of people (mostly the Royal Family and its allies) are taking more than their share of resources, leaving ordinary people with the crumbs. The international community recognises this and doesn’t see why it should give aid when it knows that crooks are robbing the people blind.

The solution to this doesn’t rest with the donors, it rests with the people of Swaziland who need to make sure that they get their fair share and that means some people who have the most now must have less in the future.

PS After I wrote about Bandora’s ‘millionaire’ statement a reader wrote to say his arithmetic was way out. To read more click here and scroll to ‘comments’

To read more of the IRIN report, click here.

See also


It seems that Swazi Prince Masitela (often described by the Swazi media as a ‘senior’ prince) has only just discovered that people in Swaziland are going hungry.

The prince, who is the regional administrator of Manzini, Swaziland’s business capital, now wants the National Disaster and Management Agency to distribute food rations to the hungry.

Masitela said people in urban areas do not have land to plough, unlike people in the rural areas.

I don’t want to be unnecessarily hurtful to the prince but it is obvious to anyone who every visits an urban area that there are poor and hungry people. How is it that he has only just noticed? I wrote earlier this month about the children who had to give up school to collect tin cans to sell in order (mostly unsuccessfully) to put food on the table.

Any visitor to a shopping complex car park in Swaziland will be aware of the large numbers of often quite small children who ‘sell’ misshapen spoons. Anyone who buys these spoons isn’t making a purchase because they want spoons, it is generally recognised that the spoons are a ‘front’ for begging. Without the generosity of the buyers, these children and their families would starve.

It is well known that over the past year about 650,000 of Swaziland’s one million population have received food aid from international donors.

In the Swazi Observer yesterday (29 October 2008) Masitsela is quoted saying that if the people in urban areas are hungry, they start engaging in crime.

This is almost certainly true, but the bigger crime here is the way in which ordinary people are treated in Swaziland. As I wrote last Friday (24 October 2008) Swaziland isn’t a particularly ‘poor’ country by world standards. The problem is the wealth that is created goes to only a small group of people. And most of it goes to Prince Masitsela and the rest of the Royal Family.

Perhaps one way of solving the hunger problem is to force the prince and his family to give the Swazi people their fair shares.

See also




I am not the only one concerned about how many members of the Swazi Royal Family and the family Dlamini have been appointed to important political positions in Swaziland.

Newspaper columnist Vusi Sibisi has been writing about the ‘increasing stranglehold’ such people now have in Swaziland.

Last Wednesday (22 October 2008) I drew attention to the way that public life in Swaziland is effectively carved up by the king to ensure that everyone is singing his praises and the consequences this has on the dire state the kingdom finds itself in today.

Writing in the Times of Swaziland yesterday (29 October 2008) Sibisi says (in his characteristic robust style), ‘While everyone, at least progressive thinking non-grovellers, non-sycophants and non-praise singers, must have still been reeling from the increasing stranglehold by members of the royal family and traditional leaders on important and key political positions of power and authority, the makeup of the new Cabinet must have come as an even bigger shock.

‘As I see it increasingly this country is resembling some of the ruling elite’s newest friends in the Middle and Far East where institutional nepotism is accepted as a way of life with the ruling families most likely to allocate all Cabinet portfolios as well as other key positions of power and authority to themselves and their loyal cronies. Like the Kingdom of Eswatini, democracy is a foreign concept in the majority of these countries most of which, like this country, are ruled by family oligarchies.’

He goes on, ‘As I see it we should no longer be surprised by political appointments for a number of reasons, the least of which is that these governing structures are self-serving since they are not responsible to the people but to the ruling class. So the capacity, not to speak of the skills of the appointed officials, is irrelevant to the ordinary folks for the simple reason that whatever they are appointed to do or not do is also not so important to the people but to the same self serving ruling class. And it is largely for this reason that it no longer matters who is appointed and who is not appointed to positions of authority because it is not us, the ordinary people, that they are all about but are all about themselves, the ruling class.’

Click here to read more.

See also


Wednesday, October 29, 2008


South African police harassed Swazi journalists as they tried to cover a boycott of goods coming into Swaziland.

According to yesterday’s Swazi Observer (28 October 2008), the police were ‘heavily armed and uncompromising’.

Journalists from the newspaper were at the Ngwenya border post to observer the first day of a week-long boycott on the transportation of goods from South Africa to Swaziland.

The newspaper reported that police on the South African side of the border objected to being photographed.

‘They demanded answers from the photographer as to why he was taking their pictures,’ the Observer said.

Explanations by the pressmen fell on deaf ears as the cops claimed that only South African journalists are allowed to take pictures in SA.

The Observer continued, ‘“You are a Swazi and you should take picture on the Swaziland side, not here. Why are you taking our pictures wena Mswazi? Do you know that you can get into some serious trouble for taking our pictures? Only South African journalists are supposed to take our pictures?” roared one of the cops, with 10 others nodding in approval.’

The questioning was undertaken next to a police caspir fully loaded with other officers.

One of the officers then forcefully grabbed this newspaper's digital camera and threatened to take it away.

However, after several pleas, the Observer said, the seemingly uncompromising cops demanded that all pictures of them be deleted before the camera could be handed back.

The pictures were deleted and that was when the photo-journalist was released and told to return to the Swazi side without taking any pictures on the South African side.

For more Observer coverage of the boycott click here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Journalists in Swaziland are not against getting their own snouts in the trough when they can.

It is reported that many have been calling on newly appointed government ministers to offer their services as personal secretaries.

According to yesterday’s (27 October 2008) Swazi Observer – the newspaper that is the voice of power in Swaziland and is in effect owned by the king – journalists are ‘begging’ for jobs with ministers.

‘Journalists earn around E3000 (about 375 US dollars) to E5000 per month on average, and are queuing for the “plum job” of being private secretary, which is about three times what the newsrooms are paying.

‘New ministers have confirmed that they have been inundated with job applications from journalists and drivers.

‘Each minister said he had not received less than 50 calls from people who want jobs or favours.

‘Each of the ministers will have to hire own private secretary and their driver. Usually, the country’s media is the fishing pond for the new ministers’ private secretaries job,’ the Observer reports.

The newspaper doesn’t say whether the journalists are from all sectors of the media industry or only from the Observer.

You can’t really be surprised by the journalists. Most of them in Swaziland are propaganda mouthpieces for the king, the government and those in power, so why shouldn’t they come clean about this and move right into the government offices?