Friday, February 28, 2014


The Swazi Observer has not said if it will pay the eight alleged rape victims it identified financial compensation.

Meanwhile, an international media ethics watchdog, iMediaEthics, has joined the growing outcry against the newspaper that later apologised to the women but shrugged the incident off as a ‘boo-boo’.

iMediaEthics has written to the Observer demanding an explanation or its huge lapse in media ethics. It also wants the newspaper to respond to a call from Swazi Media Commentary for the editor to resign.

The intervention comes after the Observer published the names of the victims as part of its coverage of the start of a trial of an alleged serial rapist. The newspaper named the women and gave details of how each of them was allegedly attacked.

After an outcry by readers the Observer published an apology to the women but said it had made a ‘boo-boo’ and a ‘snafu’ by naming the women.

It did not say whether it would pay the women compensation for publishing their names. The newspaper has not announced that it will discipline the editor or other staff member for the error. Unlike in Swaziland, in many countries it is a serious offence to name alleged rape victims. For example, in England an editor would be taken before a judge on a contempt of court charge.

The women named by the newspaper are all too poor to be able to afford to take the Observer to court. However, if they had been able to, the compensation that the paper, in effect owned by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, might be required to pay out could be enough to bankrupt it.

iMediaEthics, under the headline Seriously? 8 Rape Victims IDed, Error called a 'Boo-Boo', said it had written to the Swazi Observer to ask if any of the victims complained or threatened legal action. 

See also



Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Youth league President acquitted of terrorist charges in absolute monarchy
Kenworthy News Media 25 February 25, 2014

Bheki Dlamini, President of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), the youth wing of Swaziland’s largest illegal political party PUDEMO, and former education and mobilizing officer of the Foundation for Socio Economic Justice, has been acquitted of charges of terrorism and released from prison today after a protracted trial that saw him spending over three years in prison, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Speaking to a crowd that had gathered at Sidwashini Prison, waiting for his release, Bheki said “me walking out of prison does not mean freedom. This was a small jail and I’m walking out to a bigger jail until we attain freedom. Comrades let’s go work.”

Whilst happy that Bheki had been released, one of his lawyers, Mary Da Silva, called it a “tragedy that Bheki has been robbed of so many years while he remained imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.” Bheki’s co-accused, Zonke Dlamini, was found guilty and will be sentenced on Friday (28 February 2014).

The state had charged Bheki (and Zonke) under the Swaziland Terrorism Act – an act that defines terrorism in very broad terms – for planting petrol bombs in police officers and MP’s houses between April and June 2010. SWAYOCO and the rest of the democratic movement were convinced of his innocence and had claimed all along that he was being framed.

Bheki was refused bail in 2010 because the state claimed that the trial would be swift, but the trial ended up taking well over three years, not least because of several dubious postponements. He went on a hunger strike in July 2013 to protest the many delays to his case.

Many other political prisoners like Bheki remain either imprisoned awaiting trial, where many of them are tortured, or on seemingly indefinite bail in Swaziland.

Bheki Dlamini for one maintains that he was tortured by the police in order to make him confess. “For over an hour, or even more, I would be suffocated by use of a rubber tube, plastic bag and surgical gloves. I was suffocated to the extent that I soiled myself and I was in no position to deny anything I was told to admit,” he said in 2010. Amnesty International also specifically mentioned Bheki Dlamini’s torture by the police in its 2011 annual report.

But Swaziland’s youth are adamant that they will continue to struggle until they have achieved democracy and socio-economic justice.  “Peace, justice and human dignity is what we seek. As we do so, we are prepared to face the consequences of speaking that we deserve to be in charge of our destiny,” SWAYOCO member Mcolisi Ngcamphalala said, commenting on the acquittal of his President.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Fewer than 270,000 people voted at the Swaziland national election in 2013: only 44 percent of those entitled to do so.

The percentage turnout was lower than in the previous election in 2008.

The low turnout casts doubts on claims by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, that his subjects support what he calls his kingdom’s ‘unique democracy’.

Political parties are not allowed to take part in elections and most of the political groupings in Swaziland that advocate for democracy have been banned under the King’s Suppression of Terrorism Act.

The Swazi people are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, the other 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swaziland Senate are elected by the people: the King appoints 20 members and the other 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly.

Neither the House of Assembly nor the Senate are independent of King, who can, and does, overrule decisions he does not like.

The people do not elect the government; the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers are handpicked by the King.

Immediately before the national election in September 2013, King Mswati announced that the political system in Swaziland that had until then been called tinkhundla would in future be known as ‘Monarchical Democracy.’ He said this would be a partnership between himself and the people. 

The supporters of King Mswati saw the election as a way for the Swazi people to endorse the King’s version of democracy. At the same time prodemocracy groups urged people to boycott the election.

The full results of the election have not been made public by King Mswati. This is not unusual in Swaziland where ordinary people are starved of information about the Royal Family and how the government is run.

Information about the turnout in September’s election slipped out in a report from the African Development Bank. In its Southern Africa Quarterly Review and Analysis for the fourth quarter of 2013, the Bank devotes a mere seven lines to the election but manages to reveal, ‘Swaziland held its parliamentary elections in September 2013 and the voter turnout was 65 percent.’

If that was the case it means that about 267,000 of the 411,000 people who registered to vote actually did so. It also means that only 44.5 percent of the 600,000 people Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) said were entitled to vote did so.

This compares to the 47.4 percent of people entitled to vote in the previous election in 2008 who actually did so. At that election 189,559 people of the 400,000 entitled to vote did so.

The vote for the 2013 election contradicts King Mswati, who in a speech at the opening of parliament in February said, ‘We wish to thank the nation for going out in their numbers to elect a new government in a highly successful election.’

It also exposes the Weekend Observer newspaper, which is in effect owned by the King and is considered to be a propaganda operation for the monarchy. Immediately after the vote in September it reported the turnout of people on election day was ‘about 400,000’ which would have equated to a turnout by voters of about 97 percent.

It is impossible to tell whether the low turnout in the 2013 election was in support of the boycott call by prodemocracy advocates. It could easily have been because ordinary Swazi people saw no point in voting as it would change nothing in their lives.

The power wielded by King Mswati was criticised by two independent international groups which observed the Swazi election in 2013. Both the African Union and the Commonwealth Observer Mission suggested the kingdom’s constitution should be reviewed to allow political parties to contest elections.

The Commonwealth Observer Mission added that, ‘The presence of the monarch in the structure of everyday political life inevitably associates the institution of the monarchy with politics, a situation that runs counter to the development that the re-establishment of the Parliament and the devolution of executive authority into the hands of elected officials.’

Whatever the reason for the low turnout in the 2013 election, King Mswati and his supporters can no longer claim with justification that the Swazi people wholeheartedly support the political system in Swaziland.

Monday, February 24, 2014


It may take up to three years before international airlines use Swaziland’s Sikhuphe Airport that is set to open on 7 March 2014. If they decide to use it at all.

No airlines have signed agreements to fly in and out the airport that is estimated to have cost at least E3 billion (US$300 million) to build and is at least four years behind schedule opening. Critics have dubbed the airport a ‘vanity project’ for King Mswati III.

The King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, will conduct the opening ceremony himself, but global dignitaries are not expected to attend.

It has been known for some years that airlines are not willing to use Sikhuphe once it opens. And, if there had been interest from airlines outside Swaziland, it would take them at least three years before they could be ready to use the airport.

Sabelo Dlamini, the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA) Marketing and Corporate Affairs Director, revealed in June 2012 that it could take three years for an airline to actually start using the airport once it had decided to do so. ‘Normally, airline operators need about three years to prepare for such an exercise.’ He said at the time that Swaziland had approached three potential airlines, which he declined to name, and they were ready to operate at Sikhuphe. 

Nothing has happened since Dlamini made his statement in 2012 and no airline outside Swaziland has announced it will use Sikhuphe.

Dlamini also revealed in 2012 that no agreement had been reached with Swaziland’s neighbours South Africa and Mozambique about which routes planes would be allowed to take in and out of Sikhuphe.  Again, no announcement has been made that this issue has been resolved.

The only airline expected to use the airport is Swazi Airlink, which presently flies out of Swaziland’s existing airport at Matsapha. Airlink is a joint venture between the Swazi Government and South African Airlines and flies one route into Johannesburg.

In February 2013 Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s Prime Minister, said, ‘Swazi Airlink will have to use Sikhuphe as it will be our international airport.’ 

However, in 2011 Airlink had said it did not want to use Sikhuphe, preferring to stay at Matsapha.

There is no news on what will happen to Matsapha Airport after Sikhuphe opens. Matspaha is an underused airport situated minutes away by road from Manzini, Swaziland’s commercial capital. It is also close to Mbabane, the Swazi capital. Sikhuphe, meanwhile, is in the wilderness of eastern Swaziland, about 80km from Mbabane.

Critics of Sikhuphe, who have dubbed the multi-million dollar airport project ‘King Mswati’s vanity project’, have argued for years that there is no potential for the airport. Major airports already exist less than an hour’s flying time away in South Africa with connecting routes to Swaziland and there is no reason to suspect passengers would want to use the airport at Sikhuphe as an alternative. 

Completion of the airport has been delayed for years. King Mswati had announced it would be open in time for the FIFA World Cup, played in neighbouring South Africa in 2010.

As long ago as 2003, the International Monetary Fund said Sikhuphe should not be built because it would divert funds away from much needed projects to fight poverty in Swaziland. About seven in ten of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 per day. 

Meanwhile, the King lives a lavish lifestyle, including a personal fortune, once estimated by Forbes magazine to be US$200 million, 13 palaces, a private jet and fleets of top-of-the range Mercedes and BMW cars.


The United States has made it perfectly clear to Swaziland: make democratic reforms by May or lose a preferential trade agreement.

An estimated 20,000 Swazi people could lose their jobs in the textile industry if the US acts.

But, we should not expect King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, to care: every time in the past the international community has told him to democratise the kingdom, he has ignored them. There’s no reason to suppose this time will be different.

The United States has given Swaziland until 15 May 2014 to make significant changes to laws in the kingdom that restrict political and workers’ rights.

At stake is Swaziland’s continued ability to export textile goods to the US without having to pay tariffs under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA).

US Ambassador to Swaziland Makila James told local media that Swaziland had been given eight years to comply with the requirements but nothing significant had happened. Now, things had to change. ‘We are not negotiating. The terms are clear,’ she told the Observer Sunday newspaper. 

The Observer reported, ‘Listing the conditions, she said they include full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA); full passage of amendments to the Public Order Act; full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act relating to civil and criminal liability to union leaders during protest actions; and establishing a code of conduct for the police during public protests.’
She added that there needed to be greater accountability of the police force in Swaziland. ‘There is a need to give police better guidance so they can do proper law enforcement.’

The Observer estimated that if AGOA benefits were removed from Swaziland 20,000 jobs would be lost in the textile industry as firms moved out of the kingdom to other countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region that continued to have preferential tariff agreements with the US.

The US has been criticising the lack of democracy in Swaziland for several years. In a public statement in April 2013, the US Embassy in Swaziland said it had ‘deep concern’ about the way police engaged in ‘acts of intimidation and fear’ against people seeking their political rights.

The statement came after armed police, acting without a court order, barricaded a restaurant in Manzini to stop people attending a public meeting to discuss the national election in Swaziland.

The US embassy said it had deep concern about the manner in which representatives of political organisations and lawyers for human rights were treated by police.

The police blockade of the restaurant took place on 12 April 2013 and was intended to mark the 40th anniversary of the Royal Decree in 1973 by King Sobhuza II that tore up the constitution and allowed the king to introduce any law he wished and to change existing ones.

The decree has never been rescinded and his son, Mswati III today rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch.

The US embassy said it was, ‘[C]oncerned that a group of people were prevented from entering a restaurant, where they had planned to hold their meeting and were forcibly removed from the premises by police’.

The statement added that the 2005 Swaziland Constitution guaranteed freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

It further said Swazi security forces had a duty to protect the rights of citizens to, ‘communicate ideas and information without interference’.

This was not the first time the US embassy in Swaziland has criticised the Swaziland ruling regime. A year earlier in April 2012it said, ‘We urge the Swazi government to take the necessary steps to ensure the promotion and protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Swazi citizens as outlined in the Swazi constitution, including freedom of conscience, of expression, of peaceful assembly and association, and of movement.’

The statement went on, ‘The United States government is deeply concerned about increasing infringements on freedom of assembly, as evidenced by the recent actions taken by Swazi security forces to prevent peaceful citizens from gathering for a prayer meeting on Saturday, April 14 in Manzini as well as reports of those same forces preventing people from gathering in groups of more than two people in Manzini and Mbabane on April 11 and 12.’

There is little expectation that Swaziland will comply with the latest US requirements. In the past King Mswati has refused to make democratic reforms in return for assistance. In 2011 he refused to accept a R2.4 billion (US$ 240 million) donation from South Africa to help his bankrupt kingdom and avert a humanitarian crisis because it had demands for democratic reform attached. 

See also