Thursday, January 31, 2013


Ten Swaziland police officers threw a woman into a kombi, drove her to a forest and tortured her for six hours. One woman police officer kicked her in the private parts.

This is the latest in a string of torture cases involving the Swazi police.

The woman told local media in Swaziland she was in bed at 11pm when police arrived at her home demanding she tell them the whereabouts of her husband who was wanted on criminal charges.

‘I explained to them that I did not know where he was and this seemed to irk them and they got violent,’ the woman said.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported, ‘They then dragged her out of the house and threw her inside the kombi.  She said she was not given a chance to dress up and she found herself leaving from the house with only a kanga around her waist and was barefooted.’

She told the Observer, ‘I cried for mercy to no avail. I was pushed, kicked, slapped and shoved around while being threatened with death if I did not co-operate.

‘They later tied me against a tree and told me to say my last prayers. I even wet myself due to fear as the officers took turns torturing me.’

The newspaper reported, ‘She said among them was a female police officers who kicked her in her private parts and other sensitive parts of her body.  She was also “showered” with a bucket full of cold water, which made her shiver more and she felt like vomiting.’

She said, ‘After about six hours of serious torture the police realised that I did not know my husband’s whereabouts and then untied and drove me back to my house.’

Police in Swaziland have the reputation for torturing people with impunity. In May 2012 the US State Department investigated the use of torture in Swaziland and found, ‘Security officers reportedly used torture during interrogation, assaulted citizens, and used excessive force in carrying out their duties. Reported practices included beatings and temporary suffocation using a rubber tube tied around the face, nose, and mouth, or plastic bags over the head.’

See also



The Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland has come under renewed criticism for its sensationalist journalism after it published a photograph of a blackmail victim and gave intimate details of her love life.

Under a headline ‘The naked truth’ it revealed that the former boyfriend of the woman had put nude pictures of her on Facebook and sent copies to her work colleagues and others who would know her.

The Times Sunday did not name the woman but did name her ex-boyfriend and published a photograph of the couple with their arms around each other. Although the newspaper put a black strip across the woman’s eyes she would be clearly identifiable to people who knew her and her ex-boyfriend. The newspaper also gave enough details of her place of work to make identification easy.

Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, national director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter, in a statement to Swazi Media Commentary said, ‘It is wrong and it is obscene. We have a constitution that should protect against this sort of thing. Article 18 speaks of “protection from inhuman or degrading treatment”. In MISA’s view, the publication of the photo is in direct violation of the Swaziland Constitution.’

The ex-boyfriend told the Times Sunday his intention was to get the woman to pay him 9,000 British pounds – money he claimed she owed him. When she refused to pay, he published the photographs.

The ex-boyfriend told the paper said that by publishing the photographs, he wanted to make sure that his ex-girlfriend lost her job. He threatened that he would not stop spreading them until this happened.

‘He will not stop exposing her dirty linen until she paid the money,’ the newspaper said.

He told the newspaper, ‘I warned her of the consequences of going public. She did not care, so here we are now.’

The Times Sunday quoted an email the man had sent to his ex-girlfriend’s sister in which he said, ‘You have seen nothing yet. Days and weeks to come videos will be circulating in Swaziland and everywhere.’

By publishing his story, the Times Sunday in effect became an accessory to his blackmail.

This is not the first time the Times Sunday has been criticised for its sensationalist and misogynist reporting. In December 2012, readers boycotted the newspaper and complained to the paper’s advertisers after it published an article from one of its regular columnists that, among other criticisms, called women who leave their physically abusive partners ‘bitches’.

The Times of Swaziland’s reader’s representative, the ombudsman, dismissed the complaints and said the newspaper always followed the kingdom’s journalism codes of ethics.

But, clearly it does not. The latest report violates a number of the Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ) code of conduct.

Article 5 is about ‘ Respect for Privacy and Human Dignity’ and it breaks down into five sections: (i) ‘Journalists should respect the right of the individual, privacy and human dignity; (ii) Inquiries and intrusions into a person’s private life can only be justified when done in the public interest; (iii) a journalist should guard against defamation, libel, slander and obscenity; (iv) a journalists shall avoid identifying the exact place of survivors in sexual offences;(v) a journalist shall seek consent of the survivor before taking pictures or conducting interviews with survivors of sexual offences.

If we substitute the word ‘blackmail’ for ‘sexual offences’, the Times breaks all five of the sections in Article 5.

The story has no public interest: it is basically a tale about two people who had a relationship that broke down and then disagreed about dispersal of their assets. The Times intrudes on many aspects of the woman’s private life for no other reason than dwell on the sexual allegations made by her ex-boyfriend.

The Times took the opportunity to turn an ordinary private matter into a public spectacle, drooling over naked pictures and descriptions of the couple’s sex lives.

Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, of  MISA, summed up the criticism of the Times, ‘The reason why this happens - obscene and unethical photos get published - is because there is a lot of repression and censorship when it comes to “real” and “hard” news, therefore the media has resorted to tabloid journalism, which thrives on scandals.

‘In other words, it is this soft and superficial news which is increasingly creeping into our media. MISA urges the Swazi media to be courageous enough to tackle issues which are in the public interest, rather than focusing on scandals and stories of insignificance.’

See also


Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Swaziland’s Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku has claimed that human rights and democratic principles are adhered to in the kingdom in a newspaper interview that denies evidence to the contrary amassed over several years.

He told the South African Sunday Independent this week (27 July 2013) that Swaziland adhered to 29 international and regional protocols, charters and conventions, the majority of which addressed basic human rights.

This flies in the face of evidence supplied by human rights observers.

In 2011, the US State Department reporting on human rights in Swaziland, said, ‘The three main human rights abuses were police use of excessive force, including use of torture and beatings; a breakdown of the judiciary system and judicial independence; and discrimination and abuse of women and children.

‘Other significant human rights problems included extrajudicial killings by security forces; arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly, and association; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community; harassment of labor leaders; restrictions on worker rights; child labor; and mob violence.

‘In general, perpetrators acted with impunity, and the government took few or no steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses.’

It is also clear that in Swaziland, King Mswati who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is in complete control.

In October 2012, the kingdom’s House of Assembly passed a vote of no-confidence in the government by a three-fifths majority. According to the constitution King Mswati was required (he had no discretion in the matter) to sack the Prime Minister and Government.

This he did not do, instead the king put pressure on members of parliament to run the no-confidence vote again, this time ensuring it did not pass. In this way King Mswati ensured that the government he himself handpicked stayed in power. 

On this subject the Sunday Independent quoted Masuku saying, ‘Our constitution contains a Bill of Rights. Recently some members of parliament used parts of it to push a no confidence vote on cabinet. That is democracy at play. The government did not thwart the process. It’s just that the process was flawed.’

Masuku told the newspaper that child rights legislation in Swaziland was world-class. This came two weeks after Timothy Velabo (TV) Mtetwa, one of the leading traditionalists among the king’s supporters and who is commonly known as the ‘traditional prime minister’ said it was all right for children to be taken as brides.

He said this despite a newly-enacted Children’s Protection and Welfare Act, 2012, that aims to make the practice known as kwendzisa illegal. 

Mtetwa was quoted by a local newspaper saying traditionalists would apply for a review of the Act if it was felt to collide with Swazi customs and traditions.

Masuku seems to be on a charm offensive on behalf of the Swazi ruling elite in an attempt to convince international opinion that Swaziland is a fully-fledged democracy.

This year national elections are to be held, on a date yet to be set by the king, and already international democracy watchers have concluded that they will be a fraud. 

The parliament has no powers, as evidenced by the king’s refusal to abide by the constitution and sack the government after the vote of no confidence.

The king selects the Prime Minister in contravention of the constitution which insists that the PM should be a member of the kingdom’s senate. There are two chambers of parliament, the House of Assembly and the Senate. Of the 65 members of the House, 10 are chosen by King Mswati and 55 are elected by the people. In the Senate, King Mswati chooses 20 of the 30 places. The other 10 are chosen by members of the House of Assembly. None are elected by the people.

At the last Swaziland national election in 2008, the Commonwealth Election Team, which has global experience monitoring national elections, declared that the voting was so badly flawed Swaziland needed to rewrite its constitution, if it ever wanted to ‘ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal’.

The European Union declined even to send a delegation to monitor the election, declaring that it could not be free and fair if political parties were banned. In 2008 Peter Beck Christiansen, the EU Ambassador to Swaziland, told a press conference there were ‘shortcomings in the kingdom’s democracy’.

In his interview with the Sunday Independent, Masuku claimed that the pro-democracy protests that have been taking place across Swaziland over recent years had been hijacked by ‘criminals’.

He said, ‘Such clashes happen all over the world. We don’t condone it, but some protest actions are hijacked by criminals.’

But if anyone is behaving like ‘criminals’ it is the Swazi state. In its annual report on Swaziland for 2012, Amnesty International said, ‘Arbitrary and secret detentions, political prosecutions and excessive force were used to crush political protests.’

It also reported, ‘Arbitrary and secret detentions, unlawful house arrests and other state of emergency-style measures were used to crush peaceful anti-government protests over several days [in 2011].’

See also



Swaziland’s Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku has announced that the national elections this year will take place in August.

Usually only the Swazi King, Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, decides on the date and announces it formally to his subjects.

But, Masuku told the Sunday Independent newspaper in South Africa this week (27 January 2013), ‘We hold regular elections and the next one’s billed for August.’

He went on to tell the newspaper that political parties were legal in Swaziland and could fight the election. This statement goes against commonly held belief that political parties are banned.

He told the newspaper, ‘It is inaccurate to say political parties are unwanted because Chapter 3 of our constitution guarantees freedom of association. If someone does not want to exercise that right it is not the problem of the state.’

He went on to say that political parties would have to go to the local government centres, known as tinkhundla, ‘sell their programmes to the people and not fear going to the polls’.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


One in ten people in Swaziland will go hungry this year as the kingdom struggles to feed its population as the economy remains in the doldrums.

A total of 115,712 people face food shortages in 2012/2013, according to the Swaziland Vulnerability Assessment Committee in a report. The number has increased by 88,511 from 2011.

The report highlights problems with the Swazi economy as a major factor. It says that the kingdom is too dependent on food imports and because of high price inflation in Swaziland people cannot afford to buy food.

The report predicts that more people will fall into hunger as prices continue to rise.

People in Swaziland do not have enough choices for food supply and many are dependent on subsistence farming and this makes families vulnerable to hunger.

‘The country’s dependence on commodity imports for consumption requirements is not encouraged as price shocks may reduce households’ access to food and increase food insecurity,’ the report says.

Poor rains played a part in the food crisis which meant less cereal was grown than is needed. The lack of support services to help agricultural production contributed to the problem, the report says.

In July 2012, Nkululeko Mbhamali, Member of Parliament for Matsanjeni North, said people in the Swaziland lowveld area had died of hunger at Tikhuba when crops failed.  

Matsanjeni South MP Qedusizi Ndlovu also said at the time that wherever he went people begged him for food.

In September 2012 the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the Institute for Security Studies in separate reports said the Swazi government was largely to blame for the economic recession and subsequent increasing amount of Swazis who have to skip meals was its fault.

The reports listed low growth levels, government wastefulness and corruption, and lack of democracy and accountability as some of the main reasons for the economic downturn that has led to as increasing amount of hungry Swazis.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Richard Rooney, Pambazuka News 24 January 2013 Issue 614

As Swaziland prepares for elections this year, international expectation is that the process will be a mockery of democracy in the kingdom where King Mswati has the sole say

The tiny kingdom of Swaziland in southern Africa is getting ready for a national parliamentary election this year, amid expectations that the outcome will be a fraud on democracy.

All political parties are banned in the kingdom where King Mswati III is generally considered to be the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa.

Elections are held every five years. At the last vote in 2008, the Commonwealth Election Team, which has global experience monitoring national elections, declared that the voting was so badly flawed Swaziland needed to rewrite its constitution, if it ever wanted to ’ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal’.

In a report on the elections it said: ’It is widely accepted internationally that democracy includes the right of individuals to associate with and support the political party of their choice.’

It added: ‘Yet in practice this right currently does not exist.’

For full article click here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Banned political party criticizes State newspaper group executive
Media Institute of Southern Africa, Swaziland
Statement21 January 2013

The Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC), a banned political party in the kingdom of Swaziland, has spoken out against the managing director of the state-owned Swazi Observer Newspaper Group, Alpheous Nxumalo, for suppressing diverse views and violating the Constitution.

In a letter published by the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only privately-owned newspaper, party leader Dr Alvit T. Dlamini pointed out that Swaziland’s Constitution has a Bill of Rights which protects freedom of speech and assembly.

Dlamini was responding to a recent column written by Nxumalo in which he vowed not to allow pro-democracy voices to be published in state-owned media. In the same breath, Nxumalo accused the media and non-governmental organisations of undermining the stability and prestige of the monarchy.

The column appeared in the Swazi Observer of Friday, 11 January 2013.

Wrote Nxumalo, in part: “It is absolutely true that most of the so-called democracy activists find it ‘democratic’ to insult the heads of state and government in the media as a strategy of democratising Swaziland. It is preposterous and fallacious….I will not submit to a mandate in contradiction with the mandate of the Swazi monarchy and its subsidiary institutions.”

Responding to this in the letter, Dr Dlamini said “Nxumalo must know that there is supposedly a Constitution that has a Bill of Rights, which speaks about freedom of speech…the very freedom he exercised when writing his article. This freedom is supposedly for all Swazis and not just for him alone.”

He added: “Unless Nxumalo can prove the allegations he is making, he must apologise to the nation for attempting to subvert the provisions of the Constitution, which is a grave offence.”

The Swaziland chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Swaziland has also asked Nxumalo to clarify his claims and to name the people and organisations he accuses in his article. Neither an explanation, nor an apology, has been forthcoming from him.

The NNLC also said it is “particularly troubled” by Nxumalo’s invocation of the former apartheid South Africa president, F.W de Klerk. In his column, Nxumalo wrote that he agreed with de Klerk’s analysis that “all revolutionary forces sought to overthrow incumbent governments by mobilising the masses, by making countries ungovernable, by fomenting strikes, by involving churches, trade unions and civil society in their campaigns, by using propaganda to destroy the image and undermine the confidence of governments; by eliminating opposition through the use of terrorism and intimidation and by applying underhand and dirty political tactics to distract their perceived enemies”.

Said Dlamini in response to the above: “Those words were said by de Klerk when he was defending Apartheid, which the whole world had declared a crime against humanity”.

King Mswati III, Sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarchy, has ruled Swaziland since 1986. His regime has fervently resisted efforts towards democratisation and although the country’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression and assembly, political parties are banned and mass action is often met with violence.

MISA-Swaziland has since written a letter to the chairperson of the Swazi Observer Newspaper Group, S’thofeni Ginindza, to register its concerns with Nxumalo’s column and allegations contained therein.

See also



A women who is seven months pregnant was jailed in Swaziland, even though there were no allegations of wrongdoing or pending convictions against her, after her mother told a magistrate her daughter needed correcting.

Vuyesihle Magagula, aged 21, was sent to the Mawelawela Correctional Facility before being released by a High Court judge.

The Swazi Observer reported today (22 January 2013) that her mother went to the magistrate’s court and sought the order which confined her own daughter to prison.  

Her father, Zephaniah Magagula went to the High Court to have her released. He told the court that on 21 December, 2012 he was informed by her boyfriend that his daughter had been taken to custody at the behest of her mother, the newspaper reported.

He stated that it was his belief that Vuyesihle had been unlawfully detained against her will. Magagula had met with the Deputy Commissioner of His Majesty Correctional Services who informed him that there was a lawful order sanctioning the detention of his daughter.

Magagula said that the Correctional Services refused him permission to see his daughter.

Justice Bheki Maphalala ordered that Vuyesihle be released.

This is not the first case in Swaziland where a person has been placed in custody although they had not committed a crime.

Last month (December 2012) it was revealed children in Swaziland were being locked up in juvenile detention, even though they had committed no crime and Isaiah Mzuthini Ntshangase, Swaziland’s Correctional Services Commissioner, was encouraging parents to send their ‘unruly children’ to the facility if they thought they were badly behaved.

Ntshangase said the action assisted ‘in the fight against crime by rooting out elements from a tender age’. He was reported saying the children ‘will be locked up, rehabilitated and integrated back to society’.

See also


Monday, January 21, 2013


(Repost of article posted 1 January 2013)

Cynicism eats away at Swazi journalism

One thing that shines out about journalists and their editors in Swaziland as we come to the start of a new year is the deeply cynical way they operate.

Swazi journalists claim to be upholders of fine ethical traditions of honesty and inquiry, but instead they are often publishing lies or playing with readers’ emotions to boost company profits.

There are only two newspaper groups in Swaziland, the Swazi Observer, which is in effect owned by King Mwsati III, through the Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, a conglomerate of companies he holds ‘in trust’ for the Swazi nation, and the commercially-independent Times of Swaziland group.

I am leaving out TV and radio journalists from this discussion because nearly all of them work for the state-controlled SBIS radio or Swazi TV. These stations come under direct editorial control of the government of the day and their staffs are civil servants and not independent journalists. The one radio station and one TV channel not under direct government control either carry no news or openly support the king and the kingdom’s traditionalists.

The Swazi Observer is open about its role in the kingdom. From time to time the editors state in their papers that their job is to support the king and the traditionalists come what may. We shouldn’t confuse this with support for the government of the day, because as everyone knows the government has no power: that rests with King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The Swazi Observer is honest in its purpose: although it doesn’t say it in so many words it is not meant to be ‘journalism’; it is propaganda for the king. Even if readers miss the occasional ‘mission statements’ from the editors they only have to read the content of the Swazi Observer and Weekly Observer to see how the land lies. Only this week the Observer published what it called the ‘philosophy’ of King Mswati.

This was neither a news story nor a feature / comment article; it was simply a statement with a list of the King’s beliefs. The article began with these words, ‘His Majesty King Mswati III, Ingwenyama yemaswati, believes in dialogue, respect and honest engagement as a way to resolve any differences on any issue.’

Anybody following events in Swaziland will recognise the falsity of the statement.

Many people in Swaziland know the Observer is a propaganda rag and so don’t buy it. It is impossible to get any independently-audited figures for newspaper sales in Swaziland, but the evidence of our own eyes at shops and roadside news vendors suggests that for every 10 copies the Observer sells, the Times probably sells 15.

The Times of Swaziland is published Monday to Friday. Its companions, the Swazi News comes out on Saturday and there is also a separate title, the Times Sunday. In these papers it is possible to find the work of the most cynical journalists and editors.

They claim in their own columns to be upholders of journalist standards of the highest order and go on public record to defend themselves against complaints from critics. But the evidence shows us they are nothing of the sort.

Here’s an example. Just before Christmas (2012) the Times Sunday published an article from a regular columnist that stated that when it came to gender-based violence women abused men more than the other way round and ‘most’ women who were beaten up by men brought it upon themselves. He then spent his entire article attacking women and defending men. He went so far as to say that married women who left abusive relationships were ‘bitches’.

After the article was published it generated an unprecedented outcry from readers. The Times’ top editors and the newspapers’ ‘readers’ representative’ (ombudsman) all leapt to the writer’s defence.
The ombudsman (who is in fact a woman) wrote in the Times Sunday in response to the critics that the newspaper was, ‘justified in strongly advocating our own views on controversial topics provided that the readers are treated fairly by making fact and opinion clearly distinguishable, not misrepresenting or suppressing relevant facts and not distorting such facts.’

And, there’s the cynicism. The article was not based on any ‘facts’. In no country in the world are more women accused and convicted of gender-based violence than men. Nor, is there evidence that ‘most’ women who are attacked bring it upon themselves.

The Times’ editors took a similar line to the ombudsman on the article, highlighting their beliefs that they were entitled to publish articles that generated debate and to stop them doing so was to curtail freedom of speech.

But, if we follow the Times’ own ombudsman’s reckoning the article should never have been published because it did not distinguish clearly between fact and opinion and it misrepresented ‘facts’. What the writer wrote was demonstrably not true.

This was an example of what I call ‘flat-Earth journalism’ – the Times newspapers publish a lot of this.

This is how it works: you get somebody to write that the Earth is flat – it helps if he is so ignorant he doesn’t realise that he’s ignorant and actually believes it. You give him 1,000 words to say why all those people who disagree with him are wrong, devoid of intelligence, have never read a book in their lives, they come from Botswana, etc. He doesn’t have to give any facts, but he must argue strongly for his case. It helps greatly if he can quote a verse or two from the Bible that he claims supports his stand.

Once the article is published and the complaints come in, the writer can dismiss the complainants as ignorant, racists, donor-funded, neo-colonialists etc. – or a combination of these. The editors can say the writer is entitled to his views even if the newspaper doesn’t necessarily agree with them and the writer can claim to be a beacon of honesty and he will stand up and say whatever he believes in the name of media freedom, even under pain of death.

It’s all baloney of course. No matter how much a writer and the editors huff and puff about it, the fact is that the Earth is not flat, it is round.

So, what’s happening at the Times? We might conclude that the editors are incredibly stupid and really believe the Earth is flat, or indeed they believe that more women really do beat up men rather than the other way round. Therefore, the editors can’t see what all the fuss from their critics is about. If this is the case, there is not much hope for them, or for the readers of the Times.

However, if we assume they are not stupid, then they must be cynical. The Times simply publishes articles, no matter how devoid of fact or reasoning, so they can get a response from readers – and that keeps them buying the papers day after day. Lots of interest is generated and column centimetres of the paper are filled (at no cost to the newspapers’ publisher).

This is something the Times does all the time.

One example will suffice here. On 12 December 2012 the Times published a letter from a reader calling for ‘rights’ for zombies because they were subjected to forced labour. This letter provoked responses from other readers, including one that said, ‘zombies do exist and the practice is widespread’.  

I’d like to think this discussion was a spoof, but it was no more devoid of fact or reason than the article on gender violence. So if the gender article wasn’t a spoof, there’s no reason to assume the zombie letters were either. This must lead us to the conclusion that the editors believe they can publish any old nonsense in the Times, so long as it gets a response.

So, although the practice shows intense disrespect for the reader, it suggests that the journalists and editors at the Times are following a deliberate cynical commercial policy.

The Times claims it upholds journalism ethics by allowing unpopular or controversial topics to be discussed, such as the one on gender. But, actually the Times newspapers stifle more discussion than they allow.

The most obvious example concerns the reason for Swaziland’s decline in recent years. Anyone who studies the kingdom can see that major factors in this decline are the activities of the monarchy (presently topped by King Mswati and his mother) and the traditionalists who group around them. It is possible to trace most of the kingdom’s economic, political and social problems back to its feudal structure, with the king and his mum at the top of the pile.

The only possible way to map a way forward for Swaziland is to have a long, detailed, discussion about what has to change and why. The Times does not allow this discussion because it is scared of King Mswati and it knows he will hurt the newspapers’ profitability if it does so.

We know this for a fact because in April 2007 the Times Sunday published a minor criticism of King Mswati, sourced from an international news agency. The king went ballistic and told the Times publisher Paul Loffler he would close the paper down unless people responsible for the publication at the paper were sacked and the newspaper published an abject apology to the king. These things were done.
The Swazi Observer is at least honest in publicly nailing its colours for the king to the mast, but the Times is not. Loffler, whose family is from Namibia, is on record saying in a South African newspaper that Swaziland doesn’t need democracy, but you won’t hear him say that in his own papers. Could this be because to let this be generally known would be bad for business? People unhappy with the propaganda in the Observer would not to buy the Times instead because they would know both papers were as bad as each other.  

It is not only in the area of comment that the journalists are cynical. Defending the gender article, the Times’ ombudsman said the papers upheld the kingdom’s journalism codes of ethics. Article one of the code states, ‘The duty of every journalist is to write and report, adhere to and faithfully defend the truth. A journalist should make adequate inquiries, do cross-checking of facts in order to provide the public with unbiased, accurate, balanced and comprehensive information.’

Not only does the Times publish inaccurate articles, it also tells its readers outright lies.

Here’s just one example from the past year to illustrate this. On 21 October 2012 the Times Sunday published a report about a petition sent by a group in the United Kingdom called the Swaziland Vigil to the UK Prime Minister David Cameron. 

According to the Times Sunday, the petition read in part, ‘Exiled Swazis and supporters urge you to put pressure on (the Swazi government) to allow political freedom, freedom of the press, rule of law, respect for women and affordable AIDS drugs in Swaziland.’

The newspaper inserted the words ‘the Swazi government’ into the petition to make it seem that it was Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini and his cabinet that was being criticised.

In fact, the petition sent to Cameron actually read, ‘Petition to the British Government: Exiled Swazis and supporters urge you to put pressure on absolute monarch King Mswati III to allow political freedom, freedom of the press, rule of law, respect for women and affordable AIDs drugs in Swaziland.’  

The Swaziland Vigil made it very clear that it was criticising ‘absolute monarch King Mswati III’. The Times Sunday deliberately distorted the petition to deflect criticism away from King Mswati – or put another way, it told a clear unambiguous lie to its readers.

Once this lie became public there was not a squeak from the Times’ editors, or the papers’ ombudsman, defending their right to deceive their readers. Instead, they kept their collective heads down and pretended nothing had happened and hoped it would all blow over.

Which for the most part it did. 

This behaviour demonstrates that editors cannot be trusted to tell their readers the truth, even at the most basic level. 

So what hope is there for the future of journalism in Swaziland? Not much if truth be told. 

While the editors remain cynical and journalists are content to do their bosses bidding nothing can change. New journalists entering the job (we can’t call it a ‘profession’ or ‘calling’ in Swaziland) who genuinely believe in the journalists’ code of ethical conduct will soon find the rotten elements presently in control driving them out: either literally, by sacking them, or by making life so hard for them they have to quit or sink to the same depths as their colleagues.

That’s what cynicism does, like cancer it rots away at a healthy body until it’s completely eaten up and it can do nothing else but die.


Senate president insults journalists, threatens censorship
Media Institute for Southern Africa Swaziland
Sunday, 20 January 2013

Swaziland Senate president Gelane Zwane has insulted and threatened journalists for turning up to a meeting to which they were invited, according to reports in the Times of Swaziland, the country’s oldest privately-owned newspaper.

Zwane, who was in attendance at the meeting, held Thursday, 17 January 2013, to prepare for the opening of parliament, allegedly uttered rude words in the direction of journalists. The alleged insult was uttered in the local language, SiSwati.

“F****** ngalabantufu betindzaba,” she said, much to the shock of all, including the Speaker of Parliament, Prince Guduza, who was seated next to her, reported the newspaper.

Loosely translated, the insult reads as: “F*** off news people”.

The Times of Swaziland article also reported:
“Zwane further went on to say if anything that had been discussed yesterday [Thursday] was published in the media then she would ensure that those journalists were banned from covering the 2013 State Opening of Parliament slated for next month.”

Zwane’s outburst apparently came after the clerk of parliament, Ndvuna Dlamini, who had convened the meeting, said he wanted to say something but couldn’t because the media were present.

“It was at this point that Zwane interjected and said she was glad Dlamini has mentioned this. ‘Last year the media came here and published all that was discussed at this meeting, said Zwane’.”

The Times of Swaziland article, written by Sibongile Sukati, went on to say that “the media was invited by the office of the Clerk of Parliament and no instructions were given that the event should not be covered”.

The Swaziland chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Swaziland) has repeatedly spoken out against this kind of treatment of the country’s journalists.

MISA-Swaziland National Director, Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, has appealed to Zwane to use the Editors Forum, Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ), or MISA to address whatever grievances she may have against the media.

“No matter what might have happened you don’t address other professionals like that. Journalists are responsible for information dissemination in the country. Swazis in positions of power need to learn that no one is more Swazi or patriotic than other Swazis,” said Hlatshwayo.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Swaziland’s Finance Minister Majozi Sithole has backtracked on his claim that the kingdom’s economy is no longer in crisis, after international observers proved he was not telling the truth.

Sithole claimed earlier this month (January 2013) that receipts of E12.2 billion (US$1.1 billion) due this year to Swaziland, mostly from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), meant, ‘I can safely say the economy is now under control. We have survived the worst economic challenges ever.’

Media in Swaziland took him at his word – all broadcast news in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is state-controlled and one of the two national newspaper groups is in effect owned by the king.

But once news travelled beyond the Swaziland borders, economists, bloggers, journalists and expert observers on the kingdom pointed out the truth: nothing had changed with the economy.

Swaziland is tied with Somalia as having the worst performing economy in Africa and the government continues to have the highest public sector wage bill per capita in sub-Saharan Africa. It cannot fund health and social welfare projects, but continues to waste millions of emalangeni bankrolling King Mswati, his 13 wives and a Royal Family so large, no one is sure how many members it has.  

The king’s vanity project, Sikhuphe international airport, remains uncompleted and unnecessary, but is still a black hole sucking in millions of US dollars a year.

Now, Sithole has been forced to go back to the Swazi media to change his story.

The Weekend Observer, one of the Swazi king’s newspapers, reported him saying the receipts from SACU and money collected internally from taxes did not necessarily mean that the kingdom had overcome its financial woes but only that this came as some form of relief. 

The Observer reported that Sithole granted the newspaper after, ‘Commentators from outside our border, also said the minister’s pronouncements were not in tandem with the obtaining situation on the ground.’

The newspaper reported Sithole saying, ‘Swaziland was not out completely from the economic quagmire but this was an opportunity to use resource sparingly in order for the economy to sustain itself. He further said he was worried about the growth rate, being the lowest in the SACU.’

See also


Saturday, January 19, 2013


King Mswati III’s Swaziland government is in search of a hangman so prisoners presently on death row may be executed.

The Swazi Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze said a job vacancy advert would be placed as soon as possible.

Gamedze told the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, an advert had been placed last year but no suitable applicants had put their name forward.  

The Observer reported that taxpayers, who they did not name, had complained about the cost of keeping death-row inmates in prison.  

Gamedze said his ministry was waiting for permission to place the hangman’s advert again. Immediately they got the instruction, they would definitely re-advertise the post, the Observer reported him saying.

The Observer said, ‘Some of the concerned members of the public’ (again, who they did not name) wanted to see David Simelane, who had been sentenced to death last year (2012) for killing 28 people, executed. At least five other people are thought to be waiting execution in Swaziland.

The Observer said families to victims (who they did not name) ‘who were murdered by the convicts … said they were comforted when the courts issued the [death] sentences but it pained them to see that the convicts were still enjoying full benefits for inmates at the correctional institutions’.

In October 2011, Swaziland was heavily criticised at the UN Universal Periodic Review  into human rights in the kingdom for continuing to have the death penalty. Gamedze told the UN that although the death penalty existed in Swaziland the last execution had been in 1983. He said this showed that the kingdom was abolitionist in practice. 

See also


Thursday, January 17, 2013


The Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) has criticized traditionalists in the kingdom who insist that underage girls can be made to marry.

The group says most of these so-called marriages are forced on the girl and sometimes it happens after she has been raped or fallen pregnant.

SWAGAA was reacting after media reported King Mswati III’s right-hand man Timothy Velabo (TV) Mtetwa said it was acceptable for girls aged 15 to take part in traditional marriage known as kwendzisa if their parents agreed and the child wanted to. 

Mtetwa said this knowing that in 2012 the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act was passed in Swaziland which made it illegal to engage in sexual relationships with girls under the age of 18.

In September 2012, he was reported saying traditionalists would apply for a review of the Act if it was felt to collide with Swazi customs and traditions.

Mtetwa, who is Ludzidzini Governor and popularly known as the ‘traditional prime minister’ of Swaziland, is considered in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, to be the ultimate authority on traditional law and custom in the kingdom. 

SWAGAA, in a media statement, said, ‘What is most disturbing is the fact that most of these “marriages” are forced, with the young girls having little or no say in being married to much older men. 

‘The situation is often forced because the family wants to receive payment and if sexual relations have occurred (usually forced upon the girl), the family wants to save face. We have seen tragic stories in the newspaper recently involving these types of marriages, from girls being forced to marry after being raped, to getting pregnant and dropping out of school, to attempting suicide.’

It added, ‘What these young girls are enduring in the name of “traditional marriage” is a human rights violation. Swaziland has signed the Human Rights Declaration and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2012 received assent from King Mswati III to protect the lives and dignity of all children in Swaziland.

‘Protecting young Swazi girls from traditional marriages that they don’t want is a matter of principle. It is not a complicated legal issue; it is simply a matter of upholding human rights and Swazi law.’

SWAGAA added that international conventions stated, ‘Where one of the parties getting married is under 18, consent cannot always be assumed to be “free and full”’.

SWAGAA said there were a number of ‘negative’ reasons why girls were forced into traditional marriages, ‘such as the importance attributed to preserving family “honour” usually where the girl child has fallen pregnant before marriage or whilst at school. 

‘There is a belief that marriage safeguards against “immoral” or “inappropriate behavior” which results in parents pushing their daughters into marriage well before they are ready. A lot of it, though, is due to the failure to enforce laws. Sometimes families are not even aware they are breaking the law.’

See also


Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Opponents of Swaziland’s non-democratic national poll this year could face a charge of treason and the death penalty, a senior election official said.

Many prodemocracy groups and individuals are campaigning for a boycott of the election because political parties are banned in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and the parliament has no real powers.

Mzwandile Fakudze, deputy chair of the Elections Boundaries Commission (EBC), told the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, those who seek to stand in the way of elections, which is tantamount to treason, will face the wrath of the law.

The newspaper quoted him saying, ‘Committing the offence of treason entails when a person subverts or shows potential to subvert the activities of the state even if it is without the use of arms, weapons or military equipment.’

People convicted of treason in Swaziland face the death penalty.

He was supported by EBC chair Prince Gija who said those who sought to sabotage the election would face the wrath of the law.

Fakudze said the betrayal of one’s own country by waging war against it or by consciously opposing or purposely acting to aid its enemies, amounted to the crime of treason.

The Observer defined treason as ‘the violation by a subject of allegiance to the state’.

Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Principal Secretary Thembinkosi Mamba told the newspaper in terms of the law, whoever threatened to cause a disarray towards the state and where his / her intentions caused one to believe that there would be such a disarray, they would have to answer to the courts why they should not be charged with the crime of treason.

Swazi Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Inspector Khulani Mamba said threats to the state were not taken lightly, especially if such threats were of intent to sabotage national elections because then it becomes the country’s security concern.

‘We will be watching closely at such purported actions but will not divulge our reaction plan as it is a concern of security,’ he said.

See also



News that Swaziland’s autocratic ruler King Mswati III wants the kingdom’s constitution amended so that things he has done illegally in the past become legal will surprise no one who observes the way he operates.

In particular, the king illegally appointed Barnabas Dlamini Prime Minister in 2008. The constitution states the PM must be a member of the Swazi Senate, but Dlamini was not.

The Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland reported the amendments would ‘incorporate, among other things; prerogatives of His Majesty the King, which were mistakenly omitted’.

Who says they were ‘mistakenly omitted’ is not reported by the newspaper.

Prince Guduza, Speaker in the House of Assembly, told the newspaper there were moves afoot to amend the constitution, but he would not be drawn on which parts.

The newspaper reported the Prince ‘said he would not disclose the provisions that should be amended. He hinted though that those provisions were political in nature.’

Observers of Swaziland’s recent history know that the constitution of 2005 is not worth the paper it is written on. The king chooses to ignore it whenever he wishes.

The most recent and most stark example of this happened in October 2012 when the House of Assembly passed a vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. According to the constitution the king was obliged to sack the government (he had no discretion in the matter).
However, King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, ignored the vote. Instead, through his traditional structures he put pressure on the House to re-run the vote, this time ensuring it did not pass and the government survived.

Many organisations have called for Swaziland’s constitution to be rewritten in the past, but their intentions were to make the kingdom more democratic, not less.

In July 2008, the European Union declined an invitation to monitor the Swaziland national election 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).’

There was very little credibility in the way in which the constitution was originally drawn up. King Mswati invited the International Bar Association (IBA) to review the first draft of the constitution and the IBA’s verdict was damning.

The report called the constitution ‘flawed’ and went so far as to cite one critic who called the constitution ‘a fraud.’

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 said that the judiciary and NGOs were not allowed to contribute to the drafting process and 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.

Considering how the ‘consultation’ of the Swazi people was conducted it is no surprise they reached this conclusion.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


King Mswati III’s right-hand man Timothy Velabo (TV) Mtetwa said it is all right for under-aged girls to be taken into traditional marriages.

This is despite a newly-enacted Children’s Protection and Welfare Act, 2012, that aims to make the practice known as kwendzisa illegal.

Mtetwa, who is Ludzidzini Governor and popularly known as the ‘traditional prime minister’ of Swaziland, said girls aged 15 can marry if their parents agree and the child wants to.

Mtetwa is considered in Swaziland to be the ultimate authority on traditional law and custom in the kingdom. He was responding to a question from the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati.

He admitted that the law existed which made it illegal to engage in sexual relationships with girls under the age of 18. But, he said in the past kwendzisa was allowed and he was not aware of any order that stated that it was now banned.

‘What I know is that if the parents and the girl have agreed, the authorities never penalised anyone,’ he told the newspaper.

The Children’s Protection and Welfare Act was endorsed by King Mswati in September 2012. The law states that all practices that are likely to affect the child’s life, health, welfare, dignity or physical, emotional, psychological, mental and intellectual development are illegal.

Offenders can be fined up to E10,000 (US$1,000).

Although the Act has been passed, it is not clear when it will come into force.

In September, the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom reported that Swaziland ranked 45 out of 60 countries, according to the international ratings of children’s friendliness and rights protection report.

At the time of enactment of the Act, Mtetwa was quoted by the Times saying traditionalists would apply for a review of the Act if it was felt to collide with Swazi customs and traditions.

There have been a number of controversial cases in Swaziland recently where girls have been forced into having sex. Swaziland’s Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku criticised men who had sex with girls under the age of 18 after media reports that a soccer star claimed he was in a relationship with a 14-year-old girl after being arrested for allegedly raping her.

In the recent past, the Deputy Prime Minister’s office has rescued a number of underage girls, who had to drop out of school because they had been ‘forced’ into marriage by their parents, the Observer reported.


A row is brewing between media houses in Swaziland and the Swazi Observer newspaper group, which is in effect owned by King Mswati III. Last Friday (11 January 2013), Observer managing director Alpheous Nxumalo wrote in his own newspaper accusing Swazi media of undermining traditional authorities in Swaziland and by extension the king himself.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa, Swaziland chapter, has already issued a statement demanding that Nxumalo gives evidence to back his accusations.

Now it has written to S’thofeni Ginindza, Chairman of the Observer Group of Newspapers (below) demanding a written letter with answers from Nxumalo or failing that ‘we demand an apology within 14 days’. 

14th January 2013
Mr. S’thofeni Ginindza
Observer Group of Newspapers
P.P. Box A
Swazi Plaza

Dear Sir

As a media freedom watchdog organisation, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)–Swaziland Chapter registers its grave concerns at the following serious allegations made by Mr. Alpheous Nxumalo, as Managing Director of Swazi Observer, in his column titled The Diplomat on Friday last week:

  • I also agree with the observation that the media in Swaziland may be and is being turned into an object for donors, activist and NGOs, who seem to have a voice and right to vent their rage and intimidation.

  • The media has been used as lillipads to attack the government and other subordinate institutions with impunities. This has all been done in the name of freedom of the press. 

  • I submit that media freedom should not be an instrument for subversive manipulation of society. The freedom of the media should not be an instrument for unleashing insults and disrespect but to educate/inform the public while promoting mutual respect and mutual responsibility. It should not be an instrument to undermine legitimately constituted authority. 

  • I submit today that as a Swazi patriot, I will not submit to those brutal and heartless cabals, who subvert the national institutions such as the monarchy and the government in order to advance the agenda of radicalising the Swazi nation against bukhosi nahulumende weMaSwati. 

  • I agree with F.W. de Klerk that all revolutionary forces sought to overthrow incumbent Governments by mobilising the masses, by making countries ungovernable, by fermenting strikes, by involving churches, trade unions and civil society in their campaigns; by using propaganda to destroy the image and undermine the confidence of governments; by eliminating opposition through the use of terrorism and intimidation and by applying underhand and dirty political tactics to distract their perceived enemies. 

  •  All these are perpetrated through the media and other avenues. 

  • Media freedoms without media responsibilities are media witchcraft (butsakatsi). 
  • These pawns destroy the infrastructures, bomb bridges and government institutions, maliciously damage property, insult the Monarchy, vilify the national flag and intimidate political figures and even violently attack their homes with petrol bombs. Violence will never democratise Swaziland. Insulting the monarchy and radicalising the Swazi nation against the institutions of the Monarchy, will never Democratise Swaziland.
  • Some of us are better off sitted at home than being ‘pawns’ or ‘political zombies’ through which certain political forces and elements serve their compromised and perverted mandates.
We view the above as serious allegations against the media and NGOs to be made by a senior executive of a national newspaper which serves the nation. As a media NGO, we also take an exception to such unfounded allegations. 

Mr. Chairman, you may have heard of our journalism mantra Name and Shame Them.  We, MISA Swaziland, implore you to tell the Swazi Observer Managing Director Alpheous Nxumalo to substantiate and clarify his allegations. Let him name and shame the sponsored ‘pawns’, lillipads, media and NGOs pushing the terrorist agenda. As a media watchdog organisation and our partners, we are ready to weed out the corrupt people from the NGOs and media houses with his assistance.  

We demand a written letter with answers from Mr. Nxumalo. Failing which we demand an apology within 14 days. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours truly
Vuyisile S. Hlatshwayo

See also