Wednesday, March 27, 2013

‘INHUMANE’ THRASHING OF SCHOOLGIRL, 17

A 17-year-old Swaziland schoolgirl was thrashed with 22 lashes of the cane by a male teacher because her mother is too poor to pay her school fees.

 
Save the Children Fund Director Dumsani Mnisi called the action ‘inhumane’ and ‘a crime’.

Local media in Swaziland say the girl from Emtfonjeni High School was one of a group of school students who had been told to stay away from school until their school fees had been paid. When they nonetheless turned up for classes they were beaten.

 
The severity of the punishment breaks regulations in Swaziland that state students can only be given a maximum of six lashes with the cane and male teachers should not beat female students.

Save the Children Fund Director Dumsani Mnisi told the Swazi Observer newspaper, ‘This is really inhumane. Beating a child for the fact that he/she hasn’t paid school fees is a crime on its own.’ 

 
Mnisi added, ‘How can you beat someone for something beyond his/her control? This is very worrying. There are clear guidelines for corporal punishment.’

He said the teacher who did this should be arrested and relieved of his duties.

The schoolgirl told the Observer, ‘What is very painful is that my mother is unable to pay my school fees because she is unemployed.’

Minister of Education and Training Wilson Ntshangase told the newspaper he not believe there was a teacher who could treat a child this way. 

‘First of all no teacher is supposed to punish pupils. The guidelines for corporal punishment state that only the headteacher is responsible for punishing pupils,’ he said. 

This is not the first time children at Emtfonjeni High School have been whipped because their parents could not afford to pay school fees. In July 2011 media in Swaziland reported children were given up to 10 lashes each. The school principal at the time Themba Shongwe confirmed to the newspaper that the pupils were being beaten for coming to school without the fees.

‘We have been telling them over and over not to come to school without the money but they still come. We had no option but to give them punishment for not obeying the instruction to stay at home,’ the newspaper reported him saying.

When asked how true it was that the pupils were being given as many as 10 strokes he said, ‘If a pupil is told to stay at home but defies the instruction on the first day, you give that pupil a certain number of strokes. But if the same pupil comes to school again the following day, you have no choice but to increase the number of strokes.’

These are not the only examples of children being abused by their schools.  In October 2011, Swaziland was told by the United Nations Human Rights Periodic Review it must stop flogging children at school because it violated their human rights. But the fact that the practice of whippings is so ingrained in Swazi schools was demonstrated by Sibongile Mazibuko, President of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), who said at the time he was surprised that inflicting corporal punishment was against a child’s rights. 
 
Save the Children told the United Nations the treatment of children in Swaziland schools amounted to ‘torture’.

There are countless examples of extreme and often perverted use of corporal punishment in schools. At Mpofu High School girls are flogged by teachers on their bare flesh and if they resist they are chained down so the beating can continue. They get up to 40 strokes at a time.

At Phonjwane primary school teachers lined up to whip 20 children. Each child received 27 lashes as nine teachers took it in turn to give each one three cuts. The children’s crime? They had been watching two boys fighting.

See also
NO SCHOOL FEES SO CHILDREN WHIPPED
 
CHILDREN CHAINED AND FLOGGED BARE
PROBE VICIOUS SCHOOL BEATINGS
 
SCHOOL FLOGGINGS OUT OF CONTROL

SALE OF FOOD AID: GOVT ON DEFENSIVE

The Swaziland Government has been forced into making a public statement for the first time after news that it sold maize donated as food aid for hungry children in the kingdom on the open market and deposited the US$3 million takings in a special bank account. 

News of the scandal has circulated in media across the world over the past two weeks and the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, has been criticised for taking food from the mouths of the hungry.

In Swaziland one in three people are officially classified as malnourished and they rely on donated food from foreign donor agencies to stop from starving. In particular, the maize was intended to feed people in drought stricken areas of the kingdom.

But, instead of feeding King Mswati’s hungry subjects, the government decided to sell the maize on the open market to raise E25 million (US$3 million). This money has been deposited in a special account at the Central Bank of Swaziland.

The sale of nearly 12,000 tonnes of maize raised concerns in the international donor community because donations are expected to be used for their intended purpose. In the past large donor agencies, such as the European Union, have stopped giving money as ‘budget support’ to Swaziland: money that the government would be allowed to spend as it saw fit, because it could not be trusted to spend the money appropriately. 

Instead, donor agencies will now only fund specific projects where it is clear how the money, or goods donated, will be used.

In the case of the Japanese food aid, the maize was clearly intended to be used to feed the hungry.

Now, Government Spokesman Percy Simelane has issued a press release claiming that the sale of the maize was not illegal. 

He said the donors, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), were aware of the arrangement. This has not been confirmed by Japan.

Simelane stated that it was not the first time government had sold donated items: a consignment of fertilizer donated by the Japanese government had also been sold.

He said the money raised was put aside to assist in developing pro-poor programmes in agriculture. He did not say how the hungry people of Swaziland had been fed in the absence of the maize.

See also

SALE OF FOOD AID BY GOVT ‘NOT ANOMALY’
GOVT SELLS MAIZE DONATED FOR HUNGRY
GOVT-DONATED MAIZE SCANDAL WON’T DIE

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

MASSIVE GUARDHOUSE TO PROTECT KING

Swaziland taxpayers are being forced to spend E2.2 million (US$240,000) on a guardhouse to protect one of King Mswati III’s 13 palaces.

The guardhouse at Lozitha Palace.will house more than eight soldiers around the clock and it will connect to an underground bunker.

The cost of the building will come from the Ministry of National Defence and Security budget.
Principal Secretary in the ministry, Andrias Mathabela, said the guardhouse would accommodate male and female soldiers and would allow them to be on duty and on standby.

At present, the gate to Lozitha Palace has a guardhouse which is a basic room where two or three security personnel are stationed, but do not sleep there.

Mathabela refused to disclose the purpose of the underground bunker.

In Swaziland, seven in ten people live in abject poverty earning less than $US2 a day.

See also

KING ‘BUILDS UNDERGROUND BUNKER’
KING’S VANITY COMES BEFORE THE POOR

POLICE KILL SURRENDERING MAN

Swaziland police shot a man dead in front of his 11-year-old child as he held his hands up in an attempt to surrender to them.

Thokozani Mngometulu, aged 31, was killed as he got out of his car at his homestead in Dlakadla, in the Shiselweni region of Swaziland.

Thokozani’s family, who also witnessed the killing, say he was shot in the pelvis at close range by a police officer.

Thokozani’s sister Buyisile told local media they were at a homestead talking to some who were waiting for him.

They later discovered the men were police officers.

‘While we were talking, a bottle green car entered the yard. After parking, Thokozani stepped out of the car. One of the men ran towards him and pointed a gun at him. Thokozani raised his arms to show that he wasn’t armed. The officer then shot him twice in the pelvis without saying anything,’ the Swazi News reported her saying. 
 
The Swazi News reported, ‘As Thokozani, a father of four lay on the ground, one of the officers rushed to search him and found a gun tucked in his pants at the back.

‘“One of the men tried to fire a shot using the gun, but nothing happened. I think there were no bullets. He then tried to place it in his hands but we asked why he was doing that and the others threatened to assault us. 

‘“Fortunately, Thokozani, who I believe was already dead, could not grasp the gun. They then threw it about a metre or two away from his body,” she alleged.

‘While all the events unfolded, Buyisile said one of the deceased’s children (11 years old) and his grandmother watched.’

Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Inspector Khulani Mamba confirmed the shooting incident and said the police would hold an internal investigation into what happened.

This was not an isolated incident in Swaziland where police have a deserved reputation for shooting dead suspects in what appears to be a ‘Shoot-to-Kill’ policy.

In June 2012, a serial rapist suspect Bhekinkhosi Masina, popularly known as Scarface, was shot by police as they cornered him for arrest. Police say they only shot him in the thigh and he unexpectedly died of his injuries. The Times of Swaziland newspaper later revealed he had been shot six times, including in the head and back.

Since then it has been revealed that in a separate incident, a mentally ill man, Mduduzi Mngometulu, aged 34, was shot seven times by police and died of his injuries. He had four holes in his stomach, one in the leg and two bullet wounds on the left side of his chest.

These are not isolated incidents in Swaziland where police have a growing record of killing or maiming suspects before arrest. The cases have largely gone unreported outside of the kingdom itself.

In one example, police executed a suspect, Thabani Mafutha Dlamini, at Nkwalini in Hlatikulu in the presence of his colleagues and home boys in what local media called “cowboy style”. The Swazi Observer newspaper reported the incident in December 2011 saying: “Police had previously warned the mother of the dead man to ‘budget for funeral expenses’ as they intended to remove him. He was said to be on a police ‘wanted list’”. Dlamini was unarmed.

In a separate case in February 2011, a Swazi policeman shot Mbongeni Masuku, described in media as a Form IV pupil, in the head in what was later described as “an execution-style killing”.

The killing happened outside a bar in Matsapha, an industrial town in Swaziland.

Masuku’s uncle Sigayoyo Maphanga said Mbongeni had been dragged out of his car by police. He told the Swazi Observer, a policeman whom he named, “shot my nephew at the back of the left ear and he fell on the ground with blood oozing from his mouth and ears. We were all shocked and angered by such brutality from police officers.”

In a separate case in May 2011, Mathende Matfonsi was shot dead by police while he was attending a field of dagga, inside the remote forests of Lomahasha near the border with Mozambique.

His family accused the police of “cold-blooded murder”. Matfonsi was shot dead at Ebhandeni, the same area where Nkosinathi Khathwane had previously been shot dead by soldiers at night.

The police told residents that Matfonsi fired at them and they shot back. The family said he was unarmed.

In March 2010, police shot a man as he was trying to surrender to them. This time the victim, Mncedisi Mamba, did not die. His mother, Thoko Gamedze, said Mamba had his hands up and was surrendering to police, but they shot him anyway.

It is not only crime suspects who get shot. Legitimate protestors are also targets. In February 2012, a woman at a protest march in Siteki, called by vendors and transport operators over plans by the town hall to move the local bus rank, was shot in the hand as she walked away from police. Reports said she was only 2m away from police when they fired.

Police in Swaziland also shoot innocent bystanders. In May 2012, a student was shot in the leg by police as they tried to break up a protest at the Limkokwing private university in Mbabane. The 23-year-old was not part of the protest and was caught in crossfire, according to human rights activists in the kingdom.


See also

POLICE SHOOT TWO STUDENTS IN HEAD
POLICE SHOOT INNOCENT BYSTANDER

‘DOCTORS MUST REPORT STATE VIOLENCE’

Victims of police brutality in Swaziland cannot get treatment for their injuries in hospitals and health centres in the kingdom, unless they have written authority from the police themselves.

Medics are so scared of the consequences of helping patients without the authority of the police that injuries can go untreated. 

Even non-governmental organisations that support human rights are scared to help the injured, and when they suspect that police brutality is to blame they will not make detailed examinations and give medical reports that would help to provide evidence of abuse.  

Now, Musa Hlophe, the leader of one of Swaziland’s most prominent human rights organisations, is calling for doctors to be open and honest and report police abuse.

Writing in his weekly column in the Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland, Hlophe, the coordinator of the Swaziland Coalition for Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO), related the case of a group of young people who had been brutalised by police last week, after they were taken in for interrogation following incidents of criminal damage.

He wrote, ‘Some of the men were not only questioned but they also claim that they were quite severely physically threatened, beaten with an open hand and closed fists and they allegedly had their heads put inside plastic bags and were suffocated to the point of terror. 

‘All the time they were being questioned, they claim the police were continually telling them about the people who had already died in their cells when they did not cooperate. 

‘They claim the police boasted that nobody could prosecute them since they would simply find the dockets and tear them up. They allegedly said they feared nobody and were above the law.’

Hlophe and SCCCO later met the men. He wrote, ‘Obviously, we needed to get the men who had been beaten some medical attention, and this is where things get interesting. At Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital in Manzini, nobody was even prepared to treat them. 

‘When they told the medics of the nature of their injuries and their causes, they were sent from department to department and told to wait until it became obvious that they were not going to be treated. They eventually got the message and left. The problem in Swaziland with assault injuries is that you usually need a form from the police before the Medics can treat you. 

‘The police are not going to give you a form when they are the ones who assaulted you in the first place, will they?’

‘So, in exasperation, the men came to my office and we thought we could try some of the non-governmental organisations that also give medical services. We tried both Baylor Clinic in Mbabane and Médiciens Sans Frontièrs (Doctors Without Borders) in Matsapha. 

‘We were relieved that these organisations were prepared to treat the men for their injuries but we were shocked neither of them was prepared to go any further and provide a more detailed examination, which we could use to, not only heal these men’s bodies but to protect their human rights and find for them some sort of useable, independent evidence of the abuses they had suffered. 

‘We provided the MSF doctors with written advice from a colleague of ours who is an Independent Forensic Pathologist and who has expertise in dealing with exactly these sorts of cases. Our local NGO doctors flatly refused to carry out any of his suggested additional tests or examinations. They had “orders” from above.

‘We even went to a local Swazi doctor and offered to pay him but he refused: he simply did not want to get involved in any way with challenging the government in court.’

Hlophe said that NGOs in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, were no allowed to get involved in ‘politics’.

Hlophe wrote, ‘Now, in Swaziland, what we call “politics” is not really politics at all. In most countries ‘politics’ is the contesting for power by an organisation. 

‘Around here, any form of questioning of the government is deemed a political act. In any normal country, questioning the government is seen as an act of citizenship, not betrayal. However, questioning the government over policy is one thing, what we have here is ignoring some serious breaches of freedoms that are in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights and are attacks on the local defenders of these rights.’

He added, ‘I think the directors of these NGOs need to meet with some of us human rights defenders in the country to establish a protocol for medical examinations for victims of alleged state brutality. The government will then be placed in a position. If it wants to continue to ask for these organisations’ help in dealing with the worst HIV, AIDS and TB crises, the world has ever seen, it must allow them to report on allegations about its police officers’ abuses, beatings and strangling of suspects. 

‘If there is something or nothing, in the allegations, the doctors can, and must, say so. The people I work for want to deal with the truth, not propaganda. If the evidence of abuse is there, we need doctors to tell us so.’

He added, ‘It is not enough to heal the sick or the injured when you have an option to prevent them coming to harm.

‘To me, accurately reporting on injuries obtained as a result of human rights abuses is a valid public health intervention.’

See also

MORE POLICE TORTURE IN SWAZILAND
SWAZI STUDENT LEADER TORTURED

Friday, March 22, 2013

‘SWAZI OBSERVER’ EDITORS REINSTATED

Media Institute of Southern Africa - Swaziland Chapter
Media Alert, 22 March 2013

Reinstatement of Swazi Observer Editors

The Media Institute of Southern Africa - Swaziland Chapter welcomes the decision by the Swazi Observer Board of Directors to reinstate editors, Alec Lushaba and Thulani Thwala after the eight months of unjustified suspension. In a statement issued by the Swazi Observer Board Chairman Sthofeni Ginindza earlier this week, ‘there was no sufficient reason for the suspension of the Swazi Observer daily and Weekend Observer editors.’ 

We as MISA Swaziland commend the Swazi Observer board for dealing with this matter in the prudent manner they did. We further share the same belief with the board regarding the important role that professionals play in organizations; particularly members of the media profession. Media freedom is a right not only to be enjoyed by journalists but also by members of the public who depend on media reports to make informed decisions on their daily life, hence bad conditions for journalists will have negative impacts on the public.

Freedom of the press is a right guaranteed by the Constitution of the kingdom of Swaziland and other regional and international instruments to which Swaziland is a state party. The job security of journalists should be respected just like all other professionals who are treated with dignity and high esteem. Therefore the unjustifiable suspension and dismissal of journalists in media houses should be condemned to the highest order. We hope other media houses will take a leaf from the Observer Board and ensure the job security of journalists. MISA Swaziland strives to see an environment that is open for journalists to practise their profession.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

GOVT ‘SNEERS AT WORLD BANK REPORT’

Swaziland’s Government has dismissed a World Bank report showing how difficult it is to do business in the kingdom with sneering disdain.

Contacted for comment, by the Swazi Observer newspaper, Government Spokesperson Percy Simelane ‘could not provide a clear response as to what makes the country remain stagnant in the world rankings’. 

The newspaper added, ‘He only said it remains with the World Bank to explain how it arrived at the position and why the country’s position has not changed since last year.’

He went on to say that the World Bank report, called Doing Business in Swaziland, was not true because it was ‘based on perceptions’.

Obviously, Simelane has not read the report. If he had he would see that it was based on detailed analyses of what is actually happening on the ground and what business must go through if they want to set up in Swaziland.

Here are some examples from the report of how much time it takes to get things done in Swaziland.

If you want a construction permit to build a warehouse:

1 Submit plans to the local council and obtain approval: 42 days
2 Hire a Certificate of Environment Compliance to prepare an environmental impact assessment:  21 days
3 Request and obtain a Certificate of Environmental Compliance: 42 days
4 Obtain Certificate of Occupancy: 15 days
5 Request and connect to telephone: 14 days.

If you want electricity in your business:

1 Submit application to Swaziland Electricity Board and await estimate:  30 days
2 Get connected: 99 days.

And so it goes on.

The report concluded that there had been no change in Swaziland over the past year and the kingdom remained number 123 out of 185 countries surveyed.

The Swazi Government wants people to think the World Bank just makes up these reports out of thin air. But, if ministers bothered to read the report they would find that  questionnaires are sent to local experts, ‘including lawyers, business consultants, accountants, freight forwarders, government officials and other professionals routinely administering or advising on legal and regulatory requirements.

‘These experts have several rounds of interaction with the Doing Business team, involving conference calls, written correspondence and visits by the team.’

Simelane needs to stop sneering and get the government to start addressing how it could improve the business environment in Swaziland to attract much needed investment and jobs.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

EU TELLS KING ‘FREE PARTIES’

The European Union has told King Mswati III of Swaziland he must allow political parties to operate in his kingdom.

It said it was important that international principles of democracy were upheld in Swaziland, where the king rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The call came at the end of a two-day visit to Swaziland by an EU delegation. During the visit the EU met with the king, Barnabas Dlamini, the man the king appointed as his Prime Minister, cabinet ministers and representatives of civil society groups.

At the end of the visit, Koen Vervaeke, EU Director for Southern and Eastern Africa at the European External Action Service (EEAS), told a press conference it was important that Swaziland adhered to internationally-recognised principles on democracy.

At present political parties are banned in Swaziland and are not allowed to contest elections.

Vervaeke said, ‘Freedom of association is provided for in Section 25 of the Swaziland Constitution’.

Local media reported Vervaeke saying, ‘I have called on the country’s authorities to make this a reality for all civil society organisations, including political parties.’ 

Swaziland is to hold its national election later this year, at a date to be set by the king. Last time elections were held in 2008, the EU declined an invitation 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’.  He also said, ‘It is noted that the Prime Minister is not elected by Parliament.’

The Swazi election is internationally recognised as not meaningful. 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.

Monday, March 18, 2013

PAY COSTS TO SOAR AT GOVT OFFICES

The cost of salaries at the offices of Swaziland government ministers are set to soar from this year – in some cases increasing more than four fold.

This is despite pleas from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that the government should reduce its wage bills to help save the kingdom’s economy which is in free fall.

The cost of personnel in the various offices of government ministers are contained in the budget estimates for the coming year and are revealed here for the first time.

No details of the reasons for the huge increases are given, but they suggest that either substantial pay rises are on the cards for people already working in the offices or that large numbers of new jobs are to be created in a public service already criticised as being one of the most bloated in all of sub-Saharan Africa.

The biggest percentage increase is in the Ministry of Public Service where salaries in the minister’s office are set to increase four-and-a-half -fold from E0.79 million last year to E3.59 million in 2013 / 14. Another big winner is the Ministry of Sport, Culture and Youth Affairs which goes up more than four-fold from E0.80 million last year to E3.5 million in 2013 / 14.

Among the ministries with personnel costs rising more than three times are the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, the Tinkhundla Administration and Development office and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The increased salaries relate to at least 20 different ministries and are for people working as administrators in the government minister’s office, the money does not go to people who work in jobs on the front line delivering services.

All the increases in personnel costs are set to continue beyond 2013, the date of the next national election, meaning they are not connected to the massive pay outs government ministers will receive when the present parliament comes to an end later this year.

In his budget speech in February, Finance Minister Majozi Sithole said public sector wages and salaries would increase by E600 million compared to last year.

This was a deliberate snub to the IMF which has been trying to help Swaziland out of the financial mess created over the past decade by governments, hand-picked by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The IMF feels too much money is spent on public sector salaries and unnecessary capital projects such as the king’s pet, the construction of Sikhuphe International airport, and not enough has gone to help poor and disadvantaged people.

Nearly seven in ten of King Mswati’s subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day.

In the budget, Sithole announced elderly people would only get an increase of E20 per month in their subsistence grant, taking it up to E220.

Hidden in the budget, but unannounced by the government, was the information that the Swazi Royal Family ‘royal emoluments and the civil list’ rose to E238 million for the year 2013 / 14, from E210,000 in the previous year, despite a claim made earlier that the king would not increase his take from the budget, in solidarity with those of his subjects who were suffering because of the financial meltdown.

See also

DEFENCE EQUIPMENT SPENDING UP 50-FOLD
KING BREAKS PROMISE ON RESTRAINT
SWAZI BUDGET SNUBS IMF ADVICE

Saturday, March 16, 2013

SALE OF FOOD AID BY GOVT ‘ NOT ANOMALY’

A top civil servant in Swaziland has said that the sale by the government of maize donated by Japan to feed hungry people in the kingdom was not an anomaly.

It was revealed this week that nearly 12,000 metric tonnes of maize intended for humanitarian  purposes had been sold through the National Maize Corporation on the open market and the E24 million (US$3 million) raised was put in a special account at the Central Bank of Swaziland.

Now, Phephisa Khoza, editor of the Swazi News, reports that the sale was not considered by government to be unusual.

Writing in her own newspaper (16 March 2013) she reported Ministry of Economic Planning and Development Principal Secretary Bertram Stewart, saying that selling the maize donated by the Japanese Government was not an anomaly. 

The Japanese Government has not commented publicly on the sale, but Stewart claimed Japan knew about the sale. He said money raised was to be spent on subsidies for farm inputs for farmers.

In Swaziland three in ten people are officially classified as malnourished and they rely on humanitarian food aid to stop from starving.

What Stewart did not explain was why, if the Japanese Government wanted to assist farmers with subsidies, it did not do so openly.

Senior Royal, Prince Hlangusemphi, who is Minister for Economic Planning and Development, has yet to make a public statement on the sale, which is seen in some quarters as a scandal

Earlier this week, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, called the government decision to sell the maize ‘callousness’. In an editorial comment it said, ‘to let down its needy citizens is such a low down, dirty shame’.

See also

GOVT SELLS MAIZE DONATED FOR HUNGRY
GOVT-DONATED MAIZE SCANDAL WON’T DIE

Friday, March 15, 2013

DEFENCE EQUIPMENT SPENDING UP 50 FOLD

Secrecy surrounds Swaziland Government plans to increase its spending on defence equipment more than 50 fold to E63.19 million (US6.8 million) this year from E1.26 million last year.

And, there are plans to spend another E66.35 million on defence equipment in 2014/15 and a further E69.67 million in 2015 / 16.

The Swaziland Government, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, will not reveal what the money will be spent on, citing national security as an excuse.

On top of the spending on equipment, the government intends to spend a further E61.97 million on consumerable materials and supplies in the Ministry of Defence in 2013 / 14. The spending in 2014 / 15 will be E65.07 million, with a further E68.33 million in 2015 / 16. Last year spending on defence consumables was E61.41 million.

Since the Swazi Government is not telling us what it intends to buy with the budget, Swazi people are left to speculate on what it could be. The budget for ‘durable materials and equipment’ could be spent on anything from paper clips to tanks, but it is safe to assume that office supplies are not high on the list of King Mswati’s priorities.

We know from activities in the past that the Swaziland Government can get a lot of bang for its bucks. In 2008, it was revealed that King Mswati had authorised the spending of E25 million to purchase ‘hundreds of guns and millions of ammunition’, as well as ‘security gadgets’.

The Swazi News reported in May 2008, that assault rifles worth E1 million, pistols worth E500,000, bullets worth E14 million and E5 million of ‘security gadgets’ such as mine detectors had been bought to protect the eight heads of state and other overseas’ dignities who were due to attend Swaziland’s 40/40 celebrations in September 2008, to mark both the 40th birthday of King Mswati III and the 40th anniversary of independence from Great Britain.

Of course, nobody believed such equipment was needed to protect a small number of visitors. In the event, the celebration went off without trouble, so we can assume that the equipment is still stored in an arsenal somewhere in Swaziland.

Swaziland has been criticised for many years for the high level of its defence spending, which accounts for about 6 percent of the kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Last week, the Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland reported the Ministry of Defence was to be allocated a total of E867.29 million for the 2013/14 financial year.

It said overall the government would spend E1.9 billion on the three security forces: army, police and correctional services from a total budget of about E12.6 billion. It said this was just over 15 percent of the kingdom’s annual budget.

Mtiti Fakudze, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told the newspaper the budget allocation to the Ministry of Defence was too small.

The Times reported, ‘He said the department needed the money to beef up security of the country.’
It added, ‘He could not disclose which areas needed to be strengthened and how they would be fortified, because issues of national security were top secret.’

The Times reported, ‘The minister was quick to add that Swaziland was being menaced by cattle rustlers who forcefully took stock from owners. He said among other things more funds were required to deal with the issue of stock theft because it was becoming a threat to the nation’s peace.

‘The minister said cattle thieves were on the rampage along the country’s borders, where livestock is stolen and taken to countries like Mozambique. He said the army, among other things is presently dealing with this problem and it needed more resources to deal with this “war.”’.

Swaziland is in effect broke and has been struggling for the past three years to come up with a recovery package that could revive the economy. It has ignored advice from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cut its public service wage bill and to increase the amount of money it collects in taxation. The IMF wants moneys to be transferred from capital expenditure projects to help poor and disadvantaged people.

This week it was revealed that the Swazi government had sold US$3 million worth of maize donated by Japan as humanitarian aid to feed malnourished people, including children. It put the money raised in a special account at the Central Bank of Swaziland.

See also

SWAZILAND AND SECRET ARMS DEAL
SWAZILAND ARMY PREPARES FOR WAR
GOVT SELLS MAIZE DONATED FOR HUNGRY

Thursday, March 14, 2013

BILL LETS KING CONTROL BROADCASTING

King Mswati III of Swaziland will be given the powers to take over all radio and television stations in the kingdom, if a Bill before Parliament becomes law.

The Swaziland Broadcasting Bill 2013 gives the king, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, the authority to take over the stations if there is a ‘threatened public emergency’.

The Swaziland Broadcasting Bill says there would need to be a ‘proclamation of a state of public emergency or threatened public emergency’ before the king could intervene. The Bill allows him to appoint someone to take over any or all broadcasting stations and control and direct them, ‘for so long as the king considers it expedient’.

Media in Swaziland is largely censored, but the Bill extends the king’s powers. All broadcasting, except one TV channel and one radio station, are under state control. News and information broadcast are strictly censored and no criticism of the king and the ruling elite is allowed. 

The Media Institute of Southern Africa, Swaziland chapter, described the Bill’s provisions as ‘somewhat extreme’.

In a statement it said it was concerned at the extent the new law would give the king ‘absolute power’ over broadcasting. 

It added, ‘However, to give one person the opportunity to take unfettered control and direction over all broadcast media seems somewhat extreme and, it might be said, counter-productive. 

‘Moreover, MISA-Swaziland calls for a clear definition of “public emergency” and “threatened public emergency”, as it is not clear what these terms mean. There is a fear that these terms, and this Article, could be used to further entrench the control and influence already wielded by the state-owned and controlled broadcasters. 

‘Dictators in other parts of the world have used similar legal provisions to abuse power and take over the media.’

See also

BROADCASTING BILLS GO TO PARLIAMENT
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2013/03/broadcasting-bills-go-to-parliament.html

SWAZI YOUTH TO RALLY AGAINST ELECTION

Swazi youth to launch campaign against “undemocratic elections”
Kenworthy News Media March 13, 2013

“Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) calls upon all youth to a national rally at Msunduza, Mbabane on the 6th of April 2013 to launch an anti-Tinkhundla elections campaign – a call for multi-party democracy,” SWAYOCO said in a press release Wednesday, writes Kenworthy News Media. 

“This will be a day of action that will … send a clear message to the Tinkundla regime and the whole world that the youth are giving a red card to the undemocratic elections.”

According to the press release, the upcoming Tinkhundla elections in Swaziland are “undemocratic” and “meaningless” for a number of reasons, particularly because absolute monarch King Mswati III personally appoints part – and has to approve the rest – of the parliament, appoints most of the senate, and the whole cabinet, including the Prime Minister, and because political parties are banned.

For those who are unfamiliar with Swaziland’s traditionalistic Tinkhundla system, it is a system where candidates are elected through a public gathering at the village level under a local chief. All legislation can be vetoed by the king, which means that Swaziland’s elections reinforce “organised certainty, since they reproduce the prevailing political status quo in Swaziland … elections have increasingly become arenas for competition over patronage and not policy,” according to a report by African policy research institute, the Institute for Security Studies.

SWAYOCO more bluntly refers to Tinkhundla in the press statement as “a system of royal enforced exploitation that institutionalizes the looting national resources, corrupting the whole social fiber of our society … arresting, harassing, torturing and even murdering all those who are calling for a genuine people’s government.”

See also

ELECTION: WARNING NOT TO USE FACEBOOK
CALL TO BOYCOTT ELECTION GROWS
SWAZI ELECTION ‘WILL BE A FRAUD’

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SIKHUPHE DEALS WITH BOGUS AIRLINES

The Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA) has claimed that five airlines have signed deals to use Sikhuphe International Airport when it eventually opens – but two of the airlines named do not exist.

SWACCA, aided by the Times of Swaziland newspaper, have been talking-up the potential for success of the airport, dubbed King Mswati III’s ‘vanity project’.

The airport, which has been steeped in controversy since construction was first mooted 10 years ago, remains uncompleted. King Mswati confidently announced it would open in 2010 and various other completion dates have been given since.

No non-Swazi airline has announced that it will use Sikhuphe when it does eventually open.

Now, the Times reports that five airlines have signed Bilateral Air Service Agreements with SWACAA. But, two of those it names - Abu Dhabi Airways and Turkey Airways - do not exist.

The Times reported that Botswana Airways was the latest airline to join ‘the bandwagon’ and say it will use Sikhuphe.

Sabelo Dlamini, SWACAA’s Marketing and Corporate Affairs Director, is quoted saying four airlines had confirmed that they would connect through the airport which is expected to be operational before the end of the year.

The Times also quoted ‘an official from SWACAA’ saying the airport might be completed next month (April 2013). There would then be three months’ of testing before the airport received a licence to operate from the International Civil Aviation Authority.

The building of Sikhuphe has been controversial because there is no obvious need for it. Swaziland already has an underused airport at Matsapha and no needs-analysis was ever completed to demonstrate why another airport should be built.

Most of the impetus for the building of the airport has come from King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and is keen to show that his kingdom is on its way to becoming a ‘first world’ nation.

Estimates for the total cost of Sikhuphe – including the airport itself, roads that need to be built to reach it, and other expenditure associated with it, have reached US$1 billion. 

In the national budget last month, Finance Minister Majozi Sithole announced an extra E220 million (US$73 million) is to be spent in the coming year on Sikhuphe .

Meanwhile, only E125 million is to be spent on free primary education in Swaziland.

See also

AIRLINK FORCED TO USE KING’S AIRPORT


GOVT DONATED MAIZE SCANDAL WON’T DIE


The scandal of Swaziland Government taking US$3 million worth of maize donated for the hungry in the kingdom and selling it on the openmarket will not die down.

The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, called it ‘callousness’ and a ‘dirty shame’.

Senior Royal, Prince Hlangusemphi, who is Minister for Economic Planning and Development is under attack after it was revealed that 11,498 metric tonnes of maize had been donated by Japan to feed the hungry, but had been sold through the National Maize Corporation.

The Observer, in an editorial comment, said today (13 March 2013) the Prince, ‘better have plausible answers when he responds to the issue of a maize donation that ended up in a government account, instead of the tummies of thousands of impoverished Swazis who needed it the most.

‘In fact, it is still hard to believe that government decided to sell the maize so it could swell up its dwindling coffers, doing this at the expense of multitudes that go to bed without anything to eat as a result of the dire straits they live in on a daily basis.’

In Swaziland, three people in ten are malnourished and rely on humanitarian food aid to survive.

The Observer went on to call the government’s action ‘callousness’. It said, ‘to let down its needy citizens is such a low down, dirty shame’.

The Observer said the decision to sell the maize rather than give it to the intended recipients, ‘simply qualifies the assertion held by a larger segment of the populace that this government just does not care about the plight of the people at grass root level’.

It said the government had been, ‘hoarding donor food in a bid to make a quick buck, which is then stashed at the Central Bank, as to for whose benefit, only they know’.

It added, ‘This then clearly shows how greedy they can be.’

See also

GOVT SELLS MAIZE DONATED FOR HUNGRY