Thursday, August 30, 2012

KING’S BATTLE FOR THRONE ‘TOP SECRET’

A ‘Top Secret’ document allegedly found in the pocket of convicted bomber Amos Mbedzi was at the centre of evidence leading to his conviction on sedition, murder, and other charges at the Swaziland High Court this week.
 
Media in the kingdom told us that it helped to show that Mbedzi and fellow conspirators were intent on advocating a violent revolution. They had, the court heard, wanted to blow up a bridge near the Lozitha royal residence, but the bomb they had in their car detonated prematurely. 

But, the media did not tell us what the document actually said. Why not? It was another case of media self-censorship. The document told the story of how King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, came to the throne. Unlike in other monarchies, his was not a clear succession from father to son. He came to power after deadly infighting at the palace and the ‘Top Secret’ document said so.

Here’s what High Court judge Bheki Maphalala said in his judgement.  ‘The document portrays a bitter political rivalry, division and deadly infighting within the Royal Household over the succession to King Sobhuza II, the Royal factions that emerged leading to the removal of Queen Regent Dzeliwe and the appointment of Queen Regent Ntombi, the emergence of PUDEMO [the now banned People’s United Democratic Movement] and its relationship with disgruntled Princes who were ambitious for the throne, the ongoing clandestine remnants of political maneouvers within the Royal House and a detailed critique of the country’s political dispensation as lacking in democratic governance.  

He went on, ‘The Top Secret Document was authored by PUDEMO and it exposed its relationship with the South African Communist Party and certain elements of the Royal House. The document concludes by calling for a violent revolution to remove the leadership from political power.’

See also

AMOS MBEDZI FULL JUDGEMENT

SWAZILAND IN CRISIS PUBLIC MEETING

Swaziland: A Kingdom in Crisis: public meeting
Wednesday, 5 September, 2012, 6.00-7.30pm
Committee Room 7, Houses of Parliament, London, UK, SW1A 0AA
Admission free
Nearest tube Westminster, enter via Cromwell Green Visitor Entrance


The 6 September is Swaziland’s Independence Day. It should be a day for celebration but for most Swazis it is a time of crisis.

Swaziland is Africa’s only absolute monarchy. Two thirds of the population live in absolute poverty, hit hard by massive cuts to jobs, education and health; worsened by the highest HIV and TB rates in the world. The King and his friends live in immense luxury, protected by a vast military might.

Political parties and the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland have been banned and protestors beaten with batons and teargas. The growing movement for democracy, rights and decent pay is being met with brutal repression.

Hear about the deepening crisis in Swaziland, the campaign for democracy and rights and what unions, NGOs and parliamentarians are doing and what we can do, in solidarity with the people of Swaziland.

Speakers:
Ivan Lewis, Shadow Secretary of State for International
Development

Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON (invited)

Thobile Gwebu, Swaziland Vigil

Tony Dykes, Director, Action for Southern Africa

For further info and to register contact ACTSA
Tel 020 3263 2001 Email: campaigns@actsa.org www.actsa.org

AMOS MBEDZI FULL JUDGEMENT

News media are reporting on the Swaziland High Court case in which Amos Mbulaheni Mbedzi was convicted of a number of offences relating to an attempt to blow up a bridge near the Lozitha royal residence in September 2008. Some people are concerned that the news reports might not be giving adequate details of what was said in court.

To read the full 82-page judgement yourself click here

GOVT BOWS DOWN TO KING’S ORDER

The Government of Swaziland has buckled under pressure from King Mswati III and reinstated teachers it sacked for striking for more pay.

Two weeks ago King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, ordered teachers to return to work after a six-week strike. He also ordered the Swazi Government, which he handpicks, to negotiate a settlement with teachers. The teachers immediately returned to work, but the government refused to reinstate about 200 teachers who had been sacked for taking part in the strike.

This led to a crisis in Swaziland because once the king pronounces on a subject no one - not even his government ministers – is allowed to discuss the matter further. In this case the Swazi cabinet of ministers met and decided that the king had not meant to allow the sacked teachers back to class.

Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, who is known in the kingdom as the ‘traditional prime minister’ and who speaks for the king, publicly criticised the government for defying the king’s wishes. It was even said that the Minister of Education Wilson Ntshangase might be forced to pay a fine for disobeying the king.

The government responded by claiming its actions had been misinterpreted by the media.
Now, the King, through his advisors, has made it known that he wants the sacked teachers reinstated and meekly the government has followed his instructions.

The Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku told a press conference, ‘The government has decided that all the sacked teachers should report back to work with immediate effect.’

Masuku, who is acting PM, added there had been, ‘regrettable misinterpretation of the government’s actions’ towards implementing the ‘Royal Command’.

He said, ‘We are all grateful as a nation to have a revered monarch who listens to his people and continues to display unique leadership qualities.’

He went on to say pronouncements made by the king were beyond reproach. He said government embraced this custom and was, therefore, collectively obligated to observe and implement each and every pronouncement.

This is an embarrassing climb-down for the government, but it is trying to pretend it was always going to reinstate the sacked teachers.  It has been blaming news media for misinterpreting its actions.

The about-turn by the government also puts to rest the claim from supporters of King Mswati that he is not an absolute monarch. The teachers demonstrate clearly that the king is willing and able to overturn any government decision as he chooses. It also shows that no one dares to contradict the king once the ‘Royal Command’ has been made.

See also

WE MUST OBEY THE KING – SWAZI PM
‘THE SWAZILAND KING’S WORD IS LAW’
GOVERNMENT IGNORES KING’S RULING

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

TRIBUTES ON DEATH OF BISHOP NDLOVU

Tributes are coming in for the Swaziland Catholic Bishop and human rights activists Ncamiso Louis Ndlovu who died this week.

Ndlovu had a long history of helping activists in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Even the Swazi Observer newspaper, which is a mouthpiece for King Mswati, called Ndlovu ‘a staunch advocate for human rights [who] was loved by all’.

It said he would be remembered for the part he played in a historic hunger strike by University of Swaziland students in the early 1990s. The students, who were then weak from hunger, were given shelter at the Bishop’s House in Manzini and he prevented police from entering to arrest them.

Musa Hlophe, of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations, said, ‘Bishop Louis was highly respected by the broader civil society movement in the country not only for his passionate commitment to the mission of the church and dedication to the plight of the poor through his many programmes ranging from schools, training centres, clinics, homes for the sick and the dying, support for poor communities among many others.  He was also admired for his courageous  and unshakable campaigns for peace, democracy and human rights.’

The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), which is banned in Swaziland, said in an official statement, ‘Bishop Ndlovu was a father figure to us as can best be attest[ed] by many of our young activists whom he protected when they were hunted down like ruthless criminals by the Tinkhundla regime. True to his outstanding humanity, the Bishop housed and fed the activists making them feel at home away from home. More than anything he provided them with safe refuge away from the charging police officers who wanted to arrest these activists for daring to question the dictatorial leadership of the government.’

The Swaziland Solidarity Network, also banned in Swaziland, said in a statement, ‘The Bishop was able to present a strong and dedicated voice which spoke truth to power. This obviously made him unpopular with the Royal family such that an attempt to silence him was once made in the nineties as armed men kidnapped him, only to release him.’

Phakama Shili of the Centre for Human Rights, Swaziland, said, ‘As an organisation we acknowledge the role that he has played for human rights advocacy in the country. The church under his leadership has been able to introduce initiatives aimed at promoting social justice.’

Ntombi Nkosi.  Chair of the Manzini Council of Catholic Women, said, ‘As women in the church we are heartbroken as he was our father and leader.’

Bishop Absalom Mnisi, of the Lutheran Church and Chairman of the Council of Churches, said, ‘He is remembered for his contribution during the evictions at Ka-Mkhweli area where he provided counselling for those that had been affected as well as food and tents for shelter. As a founding member of the Council of Churches, Bishop Ndlovu always reminded the council to provide for the spirit and also the body as many people living in the rural communities were doing so in abject poverty.

‘The council thus established 48 emadladla where these communities would be fed by the church.’

 Ndlovu died of heart failure in the intensive care unit at Mkhiwa Clinic, aged 67.

Monday, August 27, 2012

CULTURAL REED DANCE TURNS POLITICAL

Children attending Swaziland’s Reed Dance next week are to be ordered to sing a song vilifying political parties as part of a clampdown on dissent in the kingdom, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

This is believed to be the first time that maidens in the Reed Dance have been used in this way.

The Reed Dance is usually described as one of Swaziland’s main cultural events at which ‘maidens’ dance (often semi-naked) before the king. In past years as many as 100,000 maidens, many as young as nine-years-old, have taken part in the dance. King Mwsati, who has 13 wives, has been known to use the event to choose himself an additional bride.

This year the maidens are being taught a song to sing at the dance which says political parties ‘set people against each other’ and claims that with parties the king’s people ‘could start fighting each other’.

Political parties are banned in Swaziland, but ahead of next year’s national election 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.

About 500 maidens were chosen from all 350 chiefdoms in Swaziland to attend rehearsals at Ludzidzini Royal Residence and the Correctional Services Institution in Matsapha to learn the song. They have been ordered to return to their homes and teach the words to other girls in their chiefdoms.

The Times Sunday, one of the few media voices in Swaziland independent of the king’s control, reported the song was composed by traditional authorities solely to be sung before the king the Reed Dance ceremony on Monday (3 September 2012).

The newspaper reported that traditional authorities believed that in South Africa during the apartheid period the youth drove the struggle in that country’s politics and therefore the youth in Swaziland should be made to push the agenda against political parties.

Lobayeni Dlamini, who worked with the maidens on the song told the Times, there were fewer people who stood up to defend the present political system in Swaziland and therefore there was a strong need to send a message.

Nothando Ntshangase, a notably traditionalist with strong links to the Reed Dance, said, ‘Those who are still not conversant with the lyrics are being taught by the ones already inducted in the song. During the main day of the reed dance, all the maidens are expected to showcase their talent in song before Their Majesties.’

The Swaziland Solidarity Network, a pro-democracy group banned in Swaziland, said the song proved ‘Swazi children are being brainwashed’. It said it was ‘shocking as it exposes the blatant abuse of innocent children to further political ends’.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

‘COUP D’ÉTAT TAKEN PLACE’ - KING’S MAN

The temperature in the dispute between traditional authorities in Swaziland and the official government has been raised by the Chairman of the King’s Advisory body Liqoqo who said a ‘coup d’état’ had taken place against the monarch.

Prince Logcogco said that state-controlled radio and television in Swaziland had refused to broadcast a press conference hosted by the ‘traditional’ Prime Minister Timothy Velabo Mtetwa.

During the conference Mtetwa lambasted the government for not obeying King Mswati III’s instructions on ending a five-week-long teachers strike in the kingdom. The king ordered all teachers to return to work and told the government to enter into discussions to settle the dispute. The teachers went back to work, but the government refused to reinstate teachers who had been sacked for striking, thereby seeming to defy the king.

In Swaziland, where King Mswati is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, the king’s word is law and nobody is allowed to disagree with him. Mtetwa said as much in his press conference.

Now, Prince Logcogco has told the Swazi News, one of the few media outlets in the kingdom not under government control, that SBIS radio and STVA television were ordered not to broadcast Mtetwa’s criticism of the government.

Mtetwa has the official title of Ludzidzini Acting Governor, but he is commonly known as the ‘traditional Prime Minister’. He is said to speak for the king and is considered to be more powerful than the nominal Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini.

Prince Logcogco told the Swazi News a ‘government official’ who he chose not to name ordered the radio and TV not to broadcast Mtetwa’s comments. He is reported saying, ‘They were merely ordered by a known person under some threat of harm. To me it is the culprit who must face trial for a case of treason. These institutions belong to the state. What was done is a coup. He must be punished. It will set a wrong example to let such an act go unpunished.’

He said that Mtetwa was conveying a message from the monarch at the press conference. ‘Consider further that SBIS and STVA are state institutions. If the blocking of the broadcasts is not a criminal act punishable as treason, then Swaziland has had a successful coup,’ the newspaper reported him saying.

Later, Chief Executive of the Swaziland Television Authority (STVA) Bongani ‘S’gcokosiyancinca’ Dlamini said all enquiries regarding the gagging of Mtetwa should be directed to the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology, which controls broadcasting in the kingdom.
See also

WE MUST OBEY THE KING – SWAZI PM
‘THE SWAZILAND KING’S WORD IS LAW’

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

BOYCOTTING STUDENTS CLOSE UNIVERSITY

Protesting students have forced the closure of Swaziland’s only state university after they refused to attend classes in a dispute over scholarships.

Three students were shot with rubber bullets at close range by police, including two who were hit in the head, when they attempted to march on the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to deliver a petition last week.

Students had been boycotting classes at the university since the present semester began eight days ago.

The dispute is over the number of scholarships the Swazi Government is paying this year. Students say 700 people who were granted places to study at Uniswa and other colleges in Swaziland have been denied scholarships.

The government previously said it would not grant scholarships for a number of courses it felt were not priorities for the kingdom’s needs, including many in the humanities and journalism.

Uniswa announced yesterday (20 August 2012) that it would close indefinitely and ordered students from two of its three campuses to go home, which they did. The university says the students’ boycott is illegal.

See also

POLICE SHOOT TWO STUDENTS IN HEAD
ARMED POLICE STOP STUDENTS PROTEST

Monday, August 20, 2012

GLOBAL ACTION FOR SWAZILAND FREEDOM

Stiffkitten blog August 19, 2012
Global week of action for democracy in Swaziland

Swaziland’s democratic movement will hold its Global Week of Action, which has become the biggest campaign for democracy in Swaziland, between September 3 and 7 – in the wake of the several weeks of protests by Swaziland’s public sector employees.

According to a press release from one of the many Swazi organisations that have pledged to participate in the event, the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice, they are “demanding a Swaziland that is socio-economically and politically empowering to all Swazis.”

The thousands of marchers in the two previous years that the event has been held were met by riot police firing teargas and rubber bullets, and several of the foreign participants were rounded up, detained, man-handled, and deported.

And this year’s week of action will almost certainly be marred by police violence, says Swaziland United Democratic Front coordinator Wandile Dludlu. “The regime is definitely going to strengthen its smash and crush policy, but we are going to try our best to minimize the effect of brutally as much as possible by trying to bring huge numbers and employ strictest crowd control marshals. But of course that won`t guarantee violence free march.”

This year’s campaign, which is coordinated by the Swaziland Democracy Campaign, is to include marches, seminars, workshops and a people’s summit within Swaziland itself, and a range of meetings and demonstrations in countries around the world.

The democratic movement hopes that they will be able to reach segments of the Swazi population in areas that haven’t been reached before. “We hope for increased participation of new towns like Piggs Peak and Mankayane which have never been invaded before,” says Wandile Dludlu. “We also aim to produce a people’s charter framework as an immediate outcome of the global week which will help moving forward in unity.”

For further information please contact:

Inside Swaziland: Wandile Dludlu, SUDF,  +268 76111676  and Mary Da Silva, SDC,  +268 76030076

In South Africa: Stephen Faulkner, SDC,   +27 82 817 5455  and Philani Ndebele, SDC,  +27 76 942 3565

Read more:
Swaziland: uprising in the slip-stream of North Africa

WE MUST OBEY THE KING – SWAZI PM

Swaziland’s Prime Minister has confirmed that King Mswati III is an absolute monarch whose word has to be obeyed to the letter.

Barnabas Dlamini, who was not elected to office but personally appointed PM by the king, was reacting to news that his cabinet of ministers had defied the king who instructed all schoolteachers who were on strike to return to work. King Mswati also ordered his government to talk with teachers and solve their dispute over pay.

But, the cabinet reportedly refused to allow teachers who had been sacked for going on strike return to work, thereby going against the king.

Now, Dlamini has denied that his cabinet went against the king’s word and instead blamed the heavily-censored media in Swazi for misreporting the situation.

The Times Sunday newspaperin Swaziland reported him saying government belonged to His Majesty and it took instructions from him to implement them to the letter, without questioning them.

He told the newspaper, ‘Government listens when His Majesty speaks and we will always implement the wishes of the King and the Queen mother.’

The PM said Cabinet’s position on the matter was that it respected His Majesty’s position on all matters he spoke about.

He said Cabinet just like the nation, heard what the King said and his wishes would be implemented.

See also
‘THE SWAZILAND KING’S WORD IS LAW’

Friday, August 17, 2012

POLICE SHOOT TWO STUDENTS IN HEAD

Three university students in Swaziland were shot by police – two in the head – while security forces stopped a protest march against scholarship cuts.

Reports from the Centre for Human Rights and Development, Swaziland, say several other students were injured by police batons and kicks.

The students from the University of Swaziland had hoped to march to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to deliver a petition calling on the Swazi Government to pay all tuition fees and allowances for government-sponsored students.  No first year students have received sponsorships this year.

The students are also continuing a class boycott that started earlier this week.

The Centre reported Xoli Mdluli, General Secretary of the university’s Students’ Representative Council (SRC) saying more than 10 police officers attacked the SRC chairperson of Kwaluseni Campus, Sibusiso Dlamini.

He said police assaulted Dlamini with batons and kicks. The students retaliated by pelting stones at the police officers in an attempt to save their colleague.

The Centre reports three students were shot with rubber bullets and several other students were injured during the confrontation. Sibusiso Dlamini was injured in the head after he was assaulted with batons.

Two of the shot students suffered severe head injuries from the rubber bullet shots.

Later, it was reported that police arrested University of Swaziland Luyengo Campus Student Representative Council (SRC) Chairperson, Bonginkhosi Dlamini.

Police Public Relations Officer, Superintendent Wendy Hleta, told local media, Bonginkhosi Dlamini allegedly pelted the police officers with stones and assault charges would be preferred against him. He was released and will appear in court at a date to be decided. 

She also denied any students were shot by police.

See also

ARMED POLICE STOP STUDENTS PROTEST

Thursday, August 16, 2012

ARMED POLICE BLOCK STUDENTS PROTEST

Heavily-armed state forces stopped students in Swaziland from marching on government to protest about the non-payment of tuition fees and scholarships.

More than 100 students today (16 August 2012) gathered at the University of Swaziland campus in the kingdom’s capital Mbabane, but they were blocked from leaving for about four hours by police and prison wardens. Eventually the students gave up and went home.

The students hoped to march on the Labour and Social Security to deliver a petition concerning a continuing scholarship crisis.

The students resolved to continue a class boycott that started this week until the Swaziland Government pays all tuition fees and allowances for government-sponsored students.  No first year students have received sponsorships this year.

The students are also demanding that all first year and transferring students be allowed to register by the university pending government’s response to the demands.

The Centre for Human Rights and Development, Swaziland, reported, ‘The University of Swaziland which opened in the beginning of this week has been marred with protests and class boycotts which have disturbed the beginning of lectures. The students’ protest action follows many other similar activities by civil servants and teachers who demand a salary increase from the cash stripped Swaziland government. Protesters have been met with violence and brutality in most of these protest activities.’

See also

STUDENTS BOYCOTT CLASSES

GOVT BECOMING ISOLATED FROM KING

Swaziland’s Queen Mother the Indovukazi has turned up the heat in a dispute between King Mswati III and his government over sacked teachers.

Last week, during a ‘people’s parliament’ session, the King, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, ordered teachers who had been on strike for more than five weeks to return to work. He also told his government to talk to the teachers and solve the dispute over pay.

The teachers did as they were told, but, the Swazi Cabinet refused to reinstate more than 200 teachers who had been sacked for striking. The Minister of Education Wilson Ntshangase said the king had not meant that sacked teachers could have their jobs back.

This caused a crisis in the kingdom where nobody is allowed to dispute the king’s rulings and it put the government on a collision course with the monarch.

Now, the Indovukazi is reported in the Times of Swaziland saying that the king did mean the striking teachers should have their jobs back.

The Indovukazi, who is considered by many observers to be the real power behind King Mswati’s throne, met a delegation from the teachers’ union, SNAT.

Timothy Mtetwa, the traditional Prime Minister, who speaks for the king, was at the meeting.

He later told the Times that the Indlovukazi said all teachers should return to class in accordance with the king’s order.

‘His Majesty said during Sibaya that all teachers, including the fired ones, should return to work. This is what the Queen Mother said she heard the king pronouncing during the People’s Parliament,’ Mtetwa said.

The President of SNAT, Sibongile Mazibuko, who was also at the meeting told the newspaper, ‘The Queen Mother cordially welcomed us. We were overwhelmed. We then reported to her that we were shocked that there were people who were ignoring His Majesty’s call that all teachers should return to work to end the impasse in schools.’

She added, ‘The Queen Mother was equally shocked that there were people defying the King’s pronouncement. Her Majesty said she did not know where those people were getting that mandate from. She promised she would warn those people to stop expelling teachers.’

Earlier in the week it was reported that Ntshangase could face a fine from a traditional court for defying the king.

See also
GOVERNMENT IGNORES KING’S RULING

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

GOVERNMENT ‘IGNORES KING’S RULING’

Swaziland’s government could be on a collision course with King Mswati III over the sacking of striking teachers.
 
King Mswati pronounced last week that a national teachers’ pay strike that has crippled schools for more than five weeks should end; that teachers should go back to work and the government should enter into talks to end the dispute.

In Swaziland, where King Mswati is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, his word is law. When he pronounces on something there is no further discussion, people are expected to just do as they are told.

The teachers union, SNAT, immediately told its members to go back to work and classes resumed on Monday (13 August 2012).

But, Education Secretary Wilson Ntshangase said that teachers who had been sacked by the government for striking would not be allowed to go back to work.

Traditional authorities, led by Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, who is known as the ‘traditional Prime Minister’, and who is said to speak for the king, rebuked the minister, and said no individual had the right to overturn anything promulgated by the king.

Mtetwa, told local media, ‘We cannot afford to have a Kingdom where citizens will act against the orders of the authorities.’ 
 
It was earlier suggested that Ntshangase might be brought before a traditional court where he could face a fine.

Then, Swazi Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini said only Cabinet had the authority to reinstate the teachers. 

Yesterday, the Cabinet met and confirmed the sacked teachers would not be allowed back to work. This was despite an Industrial Court ruling earlier this month that the teachers were fired illegally.  

The Swazi Government is saying it listened to a recording of the king’s speech in which he told the teachers to go back to work and cannot find where he said the dismissed teachers could have their jobs back.

King Mswati is presently on an official trip to Sri Lanka and cannot be asked to confirm his position.

The government ministers, all appointed by the king, are taking a risk in second-guessing what the king really meant. It may all be semantics, because what is clear is that the king wanted the teachers’ dispute ended now. By not reinstating the sacked teachers, the government has gone against the king’s wishes.

 See also

‘THE SWAZILAND KING’S WORD IS LAW’
TEACHERS MARCH ON MINISTRY
GOVT SACKS TEACHERS’ STRIKE LEADER

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

STUDENTS BOYCOTT CLASSES

Students at the University of Swaziland are boycotting classes after government officials refused to meet their leaders to discuss the crisis over scholarships.
The university term started this week and no classes have taken place.
The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) at the university is reporting that no government scholarships have been given to first year students. Class boycotts have begun in an attempt to force the government to address the problem.
The Centre for Human Rights and Development, Swaziland, reported SRC President Sibusiso Nhlabatsi saying there were no first year students at the university and students transferring from other colleges and universities were also being denied scholarships.
Nhlabatsi said the Swazi Government had on numerous occasions refused to meet with the students.
The Centre reported that in 2011 the government turned back more than 700 students who had been admitted by the university and other colleges due to the financial crisis presently gripping the kingdom.

Monday, August 13, 2012

‘THE SWAZILAND KING’S WORD IS LAW’

If anyone is in doubt that King Mswati III is the absolute ruler of Swaziland and his word cannot be challenged look at the events this weekend surrounding the striking teachers.

At the Sibaya (‘people’s parliament’) held last week King Mswati made it clear that teachers who have been on strike for five weeks should return to work and government must start talks with them to solve the 4.5 percent wage claim that is at the heart of the dispute. The King ordered all teachers to go to school today (13 August 2012).

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) immediately announced it would obey the king and ordered teachers to return to the classrooms.

But, yesterday (12 August 2012), Minister of Education and Training, Wilson Ntshangase, said teachers who had been sacked for taking part in the strike should not return to work. It was up to the Swazi Cabinet to decide their fate.

Now, Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, acting Ludzidzini Governor, otherwise known as the ‘traditional’ prime minister, has said no one has a right to further deliberate on an issue that the king has already pronounced on.

Mtetwa is considered in traditional Swazi society to be more important than the nominal Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini. Mtetwa is said to speak for the king and his word is law.

Upon hearing of the Education Minister’s statement Mtetwa told local media, ‘My understanding of Swazi culture and etiquette is that the king’s word is final. Once the king issues an order regarding anything, the order has to be implemented by the relevant structures.’

He told the Times of Swaziland, ‘It doesn’t matter which position you could be occupying, the truth is no one is allowed to defy the King’s order. There is no exception to this long held Swazi cultural ethic.’

STUDENT LEADER ‘DENIED SCHOLARSHIP’


Swazi student leader denied scholarship for being politically active?

Stiffkitten blog August 12, 2012

It would seem that Swazi student leader Maxwell Dlamini is being punished doubly for having actively engaged himself in Swaziland’s democratic movement. Maxwell, a commerce student, was detained and tortured by Swazi police and sat his last exams from prison where he was remanded until February accused of possession of explosives. Now he is in effect being denied the possibility to continue his studies.

“I have been readmitted at the university. The only problem I currently face now is the issue of scholarship. I did apply for government scholarship a month ago and still I haven’t received any correspondence. I have also did make a follow up but still there have been no correspondence,” Maxwell Dlamini told Africa Contact yesterday [August 11].

“What is surprising though is that all those whom I am supposed to be in class with and those I applied with had been successfully given scholarships. It’s pretty bad that lectures are beginning this week while am still unofficial registered as a student because I haven’t yet paid the tuition and book fees.”

Maxwell is set to return to court on Friday the 17th of August in a court case that has failed to produce any concrete evidence against him in over a year.

Read more:

Friday, August 10, 2012

CHEATED MINERS BLAME CORRUPT REGIME

Stiffkitten blog August 9, 2012

Cheated Swazi Ex-mineworkers link their poverty to corrupt undemocratic regime
SOURCE 

Imagine having worked a long life deep down in the mines in a foreign country just to make ends meet for you and your family. And then imagine that your pension, or the compensation for your disability, that you thought you and your family were to live on when you retired, was lost somewhere between the company that was meant to pay it to you and your own corrupt government.

This is what has happened to thousands of Swazi mineworkers – and 50.000 mineworkers from other countries throughout Southern Africa – who have for decades worked in South Africa’s gold and diamond mines.

To try and get their compensation or their pensions back, the ex-mineworkers formed the Swaziland National Ex-mineworkers Association (SNEMA) in 2007. SNEMA’s coordinator, Cebisamadoda Nxumalo, has been in Denmark over the last couple of weeks where he amongst other things spoke at a public meeting.

Here Cebisamadoda very clearly linked the poverty of the ex-mineworkers to the lack of democracy and basic rights in Swaziland. “There are rising poverty levels [two third of the Swazi population survive on under a dollar a day], HIV/Aids prevalency [which is the highest in the world] and inequality in Swaziland. The King has absolute power and Swaziland is a dictatorship. This is why we are in such a situation,” he said. “We don’t believe that the problems of the ex-mineworkers can be addressed in a dictatorship.”

And SNEMA therefore continues to play an important part in the consciousness-building that has helped people in the rural areas – who are subdued by police intimidation and brutality as well as threats of land evictions by their local chiefs, who are mostly loyal to the monarchy – dare to stand up to the regime. Amongst other things, SNEMA educates people in their branches on human rights, democracy and poverty eradication.

“We believe in empowering the people so that they know their rights,” says Cebisamadoda. “We use our rootedness in the rural communities to empower and capacitate all Swazis, not only ex-mineworkers.” And by doing so SNEMA, and the democratic movement as a whole, has managed to pressure the King and his government into actually discussing democracy and poverty, as the King did at the recent annual royal cultural event.

“This shows that the king is scared of the democratic movement and its success in instilling democratic and socio-economic consciousness in the Swazi population, and there is therefore real hope that the situation will improve in the near future,” says Cebisamadoda.

“The public sector unions are on strike in Swaziland. We hope that the strike will help keep the momentum going. The time for change is near and democracy will not take long from now. But we need to double our efforts, and so do those who work in solidarity with us.”

Thursday, August 9, 2012

PM MISLEADS ON ECONOMIC RECOVERY

Swaziland’s Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini was not telling the truth when he told Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Shama in a speech that the kingdom’s economic recovery strategy was ‘proceeding to plan’.


In fact, the opposite is the case. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) that had been supporting Dlamini and his government to put into place its financial and economic recovery plan withdrew from Swaziland because the government would not stick to it.

Dlamini told Shama at a dinner in his honour following a visit to the kingdom, that Swaziland faced economic difficulties. But, he added, ‘We have a Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap and an Economic Recovery Strategy proceeding to plan.’ 


But that is not true. In April 2012 the IMF withdrew its support for Swaziland’s economic recovery plan. The IMF had been working since 2010 closely with the Swazi Government supporting its ‘fiscal adjustment roadmap (FAR)’ – a plan for recovery that included getting more revenue through taxes and reducing the public sector wage bill.

The Swazi Government drew up the plan and was aided by the IMF in its implementation through a procedure known as the staff-monitored programme.

But, even though the FAR was the work of the Swazi Government and was completely under its control, the government failed abysmally to implement it.

Central to the plan was to reduce the public sector wage bill – that of teachers, nurses and other civil servants – by 10 percent. This it failed to do.

Joannes Mongardini, head of the IMF mission to Swaziland, confirmed that it was no longer working with Swaziland on the staff-monitored programme. He said in April, ‘Government has yet to propose a credible reform programme that could be supported by a new IMF Staff-Monitored Programme.’

He added that the national budget announced in February 2012 included, ‘recurrent expenditures that are higher than what can sustainably be financed over the medium term’.

He said the budget did not provide sufficient resources to repay all domestic arrears.

‘Finally, the budget allocates an increasing share of resources to some sectors at the expense of education and health,’ he said.

Swaziland sought the help of the IMF because it was nearly broke and needed loans from international banks, such as the African Development Bank and World Bank, to survive. It could not get these loans until it proved its economy was in order and IMF support in the form of a ‘letter of comfort’ would enable it to do this.

Following the IMF withdrawal, the African Development Bank said it would not pay US$100 million (E800 million) budget support due to the kingdom, because Swaziland has failed to tackle problems with its economy.

Prime Minister Dlamini’s dishonesty with the Commonwealth Secretary-General is nothing new.  In April 2011 he called a press conference to announce that he had received the letter of comfort from the IMF that would allow Swaziland to get loans from international banks. The news was greeted as a triumph and published all over the world. 
 
But it was not true. There was no IMF support and the Swazi economy has declined even further since then.

See also

SWAZI ECONOMY SET TO HIT ROCKS
 
SWAZILAND LOSES MORE BUDGET SUPPORT
 
IS IMF LETTER LOST IN THE POST?

SWAZI STUDENTS TO MEET AMID CRISIS

Stiffkitten blog
7 August 2012

Swazi students to hold conference amidst national crisis

The Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) – one of the most dynamic organisations in the Swazi democratic movement – is to hold their general conference between October 12 and 14 amidst mounting economic and social crisis in Swaziland.

SNUS has invited foreign delegations, including student organisations, unions and others from around the world to take part in the conference that will include presentations, discussions, and workshops on the role of education in development.

The government of Swaziland’s absolute monarch, King Mswati III, has reacted with increased brutality to any protests against its rule. SNUS President Maxwell Dlamini has himself felt this brutality on several occasions, most recently when he was detained, tortured and wrongfully charged last year.

He has since been released on bail and no credible charges have been brought against him during his court case.  In a mail to Africa Contact, he said that SNUS “especially seeks to invite all those that were involved in the Free Maxwell Dlamini-campaign” that he says played an important role in him being released on bail.

The invitation to the conference states that the conference in to revolve around the theme “building a united, vibrant and radical student movement in Swaziland to transform education and society,” and that delegates – local and international – are urged to join in the discussion of these matters in regard to both Swaziland and internationally.

SNUS has always insisted that their role, apart from being to deal with concrete students issues, is to help bring about a political system in Swaziland that upholds the rights and welfare of students and other citizens alike.

“We are members of the community before we are students,” as SNUS motto goes. But Swaziland is presently a community where King Mswati III rules by decree and spends excessively of the national coffers, where two thirds of the population live in absolute poverty, where secondary and tertiary education is well beyond the means of most people, and where the scholarships of those who have somehow been able to afford further education have been lowered as a consequence of Swaziland’s financial quagmire that is mainly due to government corruption, overspending and financial mismanagement.

To contact the organisers of the conference:

Maxwell Dlamini, SNUS President, 00268 7816 3172, maxwelldlamini@yahoo.com

Palesa Dlamini, SNUS Secretary for Gender and International Affairs, 00268 7636 2273, dlaminipale@gmail.com

Monday, August 6, 2012

KING BLAMES FOREIGNERS FOR TROUBLE

The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reports King Mswati opened the national sibaya today (6 August 2012) and blamed foreign elements for stirring up trouble and dissent so that “Swaziland descends into chaos". He also blamed the world economic crisis for the fall in the number of tourists visiting Swaziland.


Other reports say that the king said Swazis should come in their numbers again to the Ludzidzini Royal Kraal at 8am and bring solutions to the current challenges faced by the kingdom.

Contrary to rumours circulating over the past few days, he did not sack the Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini, or anyone else. Nor, did he announce any new hirings.

Friday, August 3, 2012

TEACHERS MARCH ON MINISTRY

Teachers in Swaziland are marching in the streets of the capital Mbabane today (3 August 2012) following their successful court action to stop the government sacking striking teachers.

The Industrial Court ordered the immediate reinstatement of the fired teachers and the restraint of government from continuing with the dismissals. The court ruled that the government did not follow legal procedure before firing the striking teachers.

The Centre for Human Rights, Swaziland, reports that close to 200 teachers are singing and chanting struggle songs as they march from the Industrial Court to the Ministry of Education. They want to deliver a petition calling on the Swazi Government to stop further sackings and to hold talks with the teachers.

The teachers were fired for participating in a strike for a 4.5 percent salary increase.

STRIKING TEACHERS WIN COURT CASE


NEWS FLASH: Teachers win their court case against dismissals by government. Government interdicted from firing teachers for strike – the Swazi Diaspora Platform is reporting this morning (3 August 2012).

NEW RADIO CENSORSHIP RULES RELEASED

Radio in Swaziland is to be banned from broadcasting news and information that does not support the government’s own agenda.


All radio in the kingdom, except one Christian station that does not broadcast news, is state-controlled and already suffers from high levels of censorship.

Now, in advance of national elections due next year, the government has barred all coverage of events, ‘except those authorised by relevant authorities’.

New guidelines released this week, also bar ‘public service announcements’ unless they are ‘in line with government policy’ or have been authorised ‘by the chiefs through the regional administrators’ or deputy prime minister’s office’.

The guidelines say the radio stations, which fall under the control of the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS), cannot be ‘used for purposes of campaigning by individuals or groups, or to advance an agenda for political, financial popularity gains for individuals or groups’.

Media in Swaziland already suffer severe censorship. There are only two TV stations in the kingdom, the state-controlled Swazi TV and the independent Channel S, which has a publicly-stated policy of supporting King Mswati III, who rules the kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

There are only two national newspaper groups in Swaziland: one, the Swazi Observer, is in effect owned by the king and the other, the Times of Swaziland, censors itself heavily so as to avoid anything that might be interpreted as critical of the king.

There is a long history of censorship on SBIS. Strikes and anti-government demonstrations are usually ignored by the radio. Sometimes live 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 is now the government’s official spokesperson, personally stormed the radio studio and cut the programme.

In April 1 2011, Welile Dlamini, a long-time news editor at SBIS, challenged Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini at an editors’ forum meeting on why the state radio station was told by the government what and what not to broadcast. Dlamini said that at the station they were instructed to spike certain stories such as those about demonstrations by progressives and strike action by workers. The PM responded by saying editors should resign if they were not happy with the editorial policies they are expected to work with.

In March 2011, SBIS stopped broadcasting the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme after it carried reports critical of King Mswati III. In the same month, SBIS failed to cover the march by nurses that forced the Swazi Government into paying them overdue allowances.

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 Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (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.’ The police directive came to light when the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) tried to get an announcement aired about one of its meetings.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

GOVT SACKS TEACHERS’ STRIKE LEADER

The President of the Swaziland Association of Teachers (SNAT) Sibongile Mazibuko has been fired by the Swaziland Government.


Mazibuko who was deputy principal of SOS Primary in Mbabane was together with more than 100 other SNAT members dismissed for engaging in the teachers’ pay strike that has just entered its fifth week.

The sacking comes as the Swazi Government cracks down on the strikers. Despite the intimidation of the Ministry of Education, teachers have refused to be forced back to work. They want a 4.5 percent pay increase.

The Centre for Human Rights, Swaziland, reports that in some schools in Swaziland the majority of teachers have been fired and the schools have been closed. Minister of Education Wilson Ntshangase said he had newly-qualified and unemployed teachers ready to take the place of the sacked workers.
Meanwhile, a hearing to get the Industrial Court to order the government to halt the dismissals was postponed today (2 August 2012) and will resume tomorrow, when teachers are also expected to march on the Ministry of Education to demand the reinstatement of all sacked teachers.

See also
STRIKING SWAZILAND TEACHERS SACKED

STRIKING SWAZILAND TEACHERS SACKED

Teachers in Swaziland are to march on the Ministry of Education tomorrow (3 August 2012) to demand the reinstatement of 110 teachers who were sacked by the government for taking part in a pay strike.


The Swazi Ministry of Education made good on its threat to sack teachers if they did not stop their five-week old strike and return to work.

Members of the Swaziland National association of Teachers (SNAT) are defying orders to return to work and the strike is continuing. They are seeking a 4.5 percent pay rise.

In the past month peacefully-protesting teachers have endured teargas, rubber bullets and baton charges from police and state forces in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The government is now sending local chiefs and headmen into schools to spy on teachers. They are required to report names of teachers who are not working normally.

Wilson Ntshangase, the Minister of Education, told local media that so far 110 teachers have been fired for not teaching between Monday and Tuesday. The figure is expected to rise as information is collected about Wednesday. Ntshangase said a pool of newly-qualified teachers was ready to take over the classes of the sacked teachers.

See also
POLICE ON STREETS AS STRIKE GOES ON
TROOPS ON STANDBY TO BREAK STRIKE

PRIVATE TRUTHS ABOUT KING MSWATI

Earl Irvine, who is leaving his post as US Ambassador to Swaziland, reported many home truths about King Mswati, while he was in office – but only in private.

Irvine, ever the diplomat made no adverse comments about the king in public, but in private he sent messages to his bosses in Washington painting a poor picture of him.  They eventually became public when a series of cables he wrote were published by Wikileaks.

Irvine reported views that King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was ‘not intellectually well developed’ and ‘is not a reader’. He also said the king was thought to be ‘imbalanced’. 

He wrote a confidential cableto Washington in February 2010 in which he quoted an informant saying, the king is ‘not a reader, and will not review documents left for him. [The informant] called the king “not intellectually well-developed,” and contrasted the current sovereign's scant educational background with Sobhuza II, who was educated at Lovedale College in South Africa alongside future leaders of South Africa's African National Congress (ANC).

Irvine quoted his informant calling King Mswati ‘imbalanced’. He gave an anecdote to illustrate this. ‘The king, [the informant] said, invited about forty officials and advisors to a basement in one of his palaces, where they all sat on the floor to attend to him. King Mswati III turned up the heater, which warmed the floor first, until the temperature in the room reached about 40 degrees Celsius, and told inconsequential stories to those gathered while they sweated, merely to show them he was in power.’

In a separate cable to Washington Irvine wrote about what he called ‘Witchcraft and More: A Portrait of Influences on King Mswati III’.

In the cable marked ‘confidential’, Irvine said ‘traditional leaders, superstition, and members of the royal family’ are the major influences on the king. His ministers, however, ‘remain his servants’.
Irvine wrote, ‘The king's wives’ opinions matter to the king, especially his third wife, LaMbikisa, who has an advanced degree and is the only wife to whom the king proposed.’

Irvine goes on, ‘King Mswati III believes in muti (traditional medicine used to cast spells or curses), and attempts to use muti to attack the king are taken seriously’.

He wrote that ‘muti people’ hold great sway within the royal family, and that the king must eat and drink whatever they give him during traditional ceremonies, particularly when in seclusion. ‘If they are unhappy with the direction the king is taking the country, then the king has cause to worry.’

He added, ‘According to [informant], Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini is the king's “loyal hangman,” a relationship that dates to the prime minister's alleged attempted suicide in 1990 or 1991.’

Irvine also wrote about King Mswati’s dubious business deals. In October 2009 he wrote,  ‘Royal politics and King Mswati's business interests appear to have caused the ouster of Mobile Telephone Network (MTN) CEO Tebogo Mogapi and halted parastatal Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) from selling the MTN shares it owns to raise money for a Next Generation Networks (NGN)cell phone project.

‘Industry and press observers privately indicated that the king, who already owns many MTN shares, had wanted to purchase the MTN shares himself at a cheaper price than the buyer, MTN, was offering SPTC.’

See also
US SAYS SWAZI KING ‘IMBALANCED’
 
US FRANK ASSESSMENT OF SWAZI KING
 
US DECRIES KING ON MTN DEAL