Sunday, November 30, 2014


Swaziland is the seventh hungriest country in the world, according to a United Nations report.

A total of 35.8 of Swaziland’s 1.3 million population are undernourished, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said.

The report is just one in a long list to draw attention to the plight of ordinary Swazi people. About seven in ten of the population, in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, live in abject poverty, with incomes of less than US$2 a day.

In October 2014, the Office of the Swaziland Deputy Prime Minister Paul Dlamini reported that 223,249 people were estimated to require interventions aimed at maintaining their livelihood and at least 67,592 of the Swazi population required immediate food assistance. This was contained in a report from the kingdom’s Vulnerability Assessment Committee.

Earlier in 2014, the Global Hunger Index report published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) revealed the proportion of people who were undernourished more than doubled in Swaziland since 2004-2006 and in 2011-2013 was 35.8 percent of the kingdom’s 1.3 million population or about 455,000 people.

IFPRI reported that since 1990, life expectancy in Swaziland fell by ten years, amounting to only 49 years in 2012.

IFPRI defines undernourishment as an inadequate intake of food - in terms of either quantity or quality.
The latest reports underscore numerous previous surveys demonstrating the state of hunger in the kingdom. While seven in ten of the population live in abject poverty, the King has 14 wives, 13 palaces, a private jet and fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars.

In 2012, three separate reports from the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the Institute for Security Studies all concluded the Swazi Government was largely to blame for the economic recession and subsequent increasing number of Swazis who had to skip meals.

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 led to an increasing number of hungry Swazis.

Poverty is so grinding in Swaziland that some people, close to starvation, are forced to eat cow dung in order to fill their stomachs before they can take ARV drugs to treat their HIV status.  In 2011, newspapers in Swaziland reported the case of a woman who was forced to take this drastic action. Once the news went global, apologists for King Mswati denounced the report as lies.

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

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Saturday, November 29, 2014


Armed police were sent to deal with striking workers at a coal mine in Swaziland partly-owned by the kingdom’s autocratic monarch King Mswati III.

About 250 workers went on strike on 24 November 2014, after the Maloma colliery mine management refused to meet a claim for between E425 (US$42) and E800 a month housing allowance.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported, ‘The workers were surrounded by police equipped with riot shields, protective headgear, guns and teargas.’

It added, ‘During the strike, management refused the workers access to water, toilets and medical facilities.’

The Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa reported, ‘Maloma colliery produces anthracite, and is the last remaining official mine in Swaziland and an important source of revenue for the country. Chancellor House Holdings, which was started as an investment arm of the ruling ANC [African National Congress] in South Africa, own 75 percent of the mine, while the remaining 25 percent is owned by the Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, a billion-rand trust effectively controlled by Swaziland’s King Mswati III.’

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, ‘The Swazi dictatorship is well-known for its absolute intolerance of trade unions, or any other form of democratic activity. These workers simply want justice and have done nothing to justify the threat of violence from the Swazi King’s security forces.’

The Mail and Guardian reported, ‘Mswati’s regime has clamped down heavily on trade union activity in Swaziland, which critics say is thanks to the King’s stake in every major business in the country. The newly formed Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) was effectively declared illegal in 2013 following protests demanding greater democratic mechanisms.’

Dumezweni Dlamini, programme manager at the Foundation For Social Economic Justice, told the newspaper that police response to strike action had become a regular feature in Swaziland.

‘The royalty has shares in most of the major companies in Swaziland so it is a case of protecting of those interests,’ the newspaper quoted Dlamini saying. ‘The trade unions have been banned because there were coming together and challenging as a united force’

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


A new report shows Swaziland spent about US$112 million on the military in 2013 and US$478 million over the past four years. 

In 2013 military spending amounted to 8.6 percent of all government, spending in Swaziland, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in its Military Expenditure Database for 2014.

King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and the government he handpicks, refuse to publicly discuss military spending citing ‘national security’ issues as an excuse.

Swaziland is a tiny landlocked kingdom with a population of 1.3 million people and is not at war and there are no potential enemies at the borders ready to invade. Swaziland’s international obligations in the military arena are few, and Swazi troops are not expected to be deployed abroad anytime soon.

Despite the reluctance of the King and Government to discuss military spending it is possible to piece together a picture of what might be behind the large spending.

In 2011, the Swazi Government set aside more than E1 billion (US$100 million) for spending on the army and police force and the then Finance Minister Majozi Sithole admitted that the army was prepared for an uprising by the population in Swaziland.

This followed a series of prodemocracy uprisings in North Africa, leading to what became known as the ‘Arab Spring’. King Mswati was fearful something similar could happen in his kingdom.  A Facebook group calling itself the April 12 Uprising had already called for an overthrow of the king.

In February 2011, Sithole told an open stakeholder dialogue on the 2011-2012 budget and Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap, ‘Yes, we are spending a lot on the army but we are not anticipating what is happening in North Africa to come here,’ he said.

He added, ‘However, the army is there to avoid such situations.’ 

Sithole was responding to a question about why so much money was being spent on the army and police – the total budget for Swaziland in the year was only E10.7 billion. The budget for the army and police was the equivalent of about half the national budget deficit (E2.243 billion for the 2011/12 fiscal year). 

In 2009, the Swazi Government was revealed to be engaged in arms dealing by the United States. A diplomatic cable written by Maurice Parker, the then US Ambassador to Swaziland, and later published by WikiLeaks revealed that the UK Government had blocked an arms deal between a UK company Unionlet and the Swaziland Government because it feared their ‘possible use for internal repression’. 

The Swazi Government wanted to buy equipment worth US$60 million.

Among items listed for purchase were, ‘3 Bell Model UH-1H helicopters, FN Herstal 7.6251mm Minimi light machine guns, blank and tracer ammunition, armored personnel carriers, command and control vehicles including one fitted with a 12.7x99mm M2 Browning heavy machine gun and others fitted with the FN Herstal light machine guns, military ambulances, armored repair and recovery vehicles, weapon sights, military image intensifier equipment, optical target surveillance equipment, 620 Heckler & Koch G36E assault rifles, 240 Heckler & Koch G36K assault rifles, 65 Heckler & Koch G36E rifles, 75 Heckler & Koch UMP submachine guns 9x19mm, and 35 Heckler & Koch USP semi-automatic pistols’.

The Swaziland Government said it wanted the items to fulfil its United Nations ‘peacekeeping’ obligations in Africa.

The UK Government did not believe it and thought either the weapons would be used against the Swazi civilian population, or they were being bought in order to sell on to another country, possibly Iran. The UK Government blocked the deal.

In his diplomatic cable, Parker said, ‘The array of weapons requested would not be needed for the first phases of peacekeeping, although it is possible someone tried to convince the Swazi government they were required. The GKOS [Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland] may have been attempting to build up domestic capability to deal with unrest, or was possibly acting as an intermediary for a third party such as Zimbabwe or a Middle Eastern country that had cash, diamonds or goods to trade.’

The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom, which first broke the story, reported at the time, Swaziland had a poor human rights record which was criticised by the US state department in its 2009 report (the year the deal was to have taken place).

‘Government agents continued to commit or condone serious abuses, and the human rights situation in the country deteriorated. Human rights problems included inability of citizens to change their government; extrajudicial killings by security forces; mob killings; police use of torture, beatings, and excessive force on detainees,’ the report said.

In the months before the attempted arms sale, Swaziland's government declared the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) the main opposition political party a terrorist organisation, and arrested its leader, Mario Masuku.

Once the cable became public in 2011, John Kunene, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, who signed the original deal in 2008, said the kingdom had never given up trying to buy the weapons.

The Swazi News, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, reported (26 February 2011) that Kunene was still trying to broker a deal. 

In March 2011 Lutfo Dlamini, who was then Minister of Defence, denied the Wikileaks report and, according to a report in the Times of Swaziland, told the Swazi Senate there was at no stage where the country spoke of purchasing guns.  

The Swazi Observer reported him saying, ‘We never bought any guns anywhere and never spent E429 million. The information leaked was misleading, it was written by someone who had his own agendas.’

Clearly, Lutfo Dlamini was not telling the truth since Kunene had already confirmed that he was still trying to broker the deal.

In March 2011 Kunene was sacked from his job after a disclosure that the Umbutfu Swaziland Defence Force (the army) had run out of food to feed its soldiers. 

A month after the Wikleaks revelation about possible arms sales to the Middle East, the AFP news agency reported Swaziland was importing two containers of firearms through a Mozambican port. 

AFP quoted Mozambican state daily newspaper Noticias as its source. It reported the arms arrived in Maputo, the Mozambican capital, on a Panamanian vessel on 28 February 2011 from an unspecified country.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014


There are an estimated 6,700 people in Swaziland living in slavery, according to a global survey.

And, the response by the Swazi Government to the problem is ‘inadequate’, according to report publishers, the Walk Free Foundation, a global human rights organisation dedicated to ending modern slavery.

The Global Slavery Index 2014 estimates that in Swaziland, ‘The government response to modern slavery is inadequate, with limited and/or few victim support services, a weak criminal justice framework, weak coordination or collaboration, while little is being done to address vulnerability. There are government practices and policies that facilitate slavery. Services, where available, are largely provided by IOs/NGOs with little government funding or in-kind support.

The report said, ‘Modern slavery involves one person possessing or controlling another person in such as a way as to significantly deprive that person of their individual liberty, with the intention of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal.

It added, ‘Modern slavery is a hidden crime. It takes many forms, and is known by many names: slavery, forced labour, or human traffcking. All forms involve one person depriving another person of their freedom: their freedom to leave one job for another, their freedom to leave one workplace for another, their freedom to control their own body.

This is the second annual Global Slavery Index. In 2013 it reported there were an estimated 1,302 people living in slavery in Swaziland. The reports publishers said the increase in numbers from last year were probably due to an improvement in the way information was collected, rather than an increase in slavery.

A separate report, the 2014 Trafficking in Persons, revealed that King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, uses forced child labour to work in his fields. ‘Swazi chiefs may coerce children and adults—through threats and intimidation—to work for the king. Swazi boys and foreign children are forced to labor in commercial agriculture, including cattle herding, and market vending within the country,’ the report from the US State Department said.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014


A trade union leader in Swaziland whose house was raided by 30 armed police officers has been charged with sedition after they allegedly found pamphlets from banned organisations.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), which is also banned in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and political parties are not allowed to contest elections, reported, that Sifiso Mabuza, the Deputy Secretary of Siteki Branch of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), appeared at Siteki Magistrates Court on Wednesday (12 November 2014) and was remanded back into custody until 24 November 2014.

The Swazi Observer newspaper, which is in effect owned by King Mswati, reported Mabuza was charged with contravening the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA). 

The newspaper said Mabuza was charged with supporting the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), which it described as ‘terrorists groups’. The charge said Mabuza was in possession of 87 pamphlets of SWAYOCO, and 71 pamphlets of PUDEMO.

PUDEMO is one of a number of organizations that are making a legal challenge to the STA to have it declared unconstitutional. The case is expected to be heard in Swaziland High Court in December 2014.

In the past people have been charged under the STA for a number of alleged crimes, including carrying banners displaying the names of banned organisations, wearing berets or T-shirts with slogans written on them, and praising individuals who have stood up for democracy.

The STA was introduced in November 2008 following an attempted bombing of the Lozitha Bridge, near one of the King’s 13 palaces in September that year.  

Shortly after the STA came into force Amnesty International and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBA-HRI) called for its immediate repeal or amendment.
More recently in June 2014, the United States withdrew preferential trade rights from Swaziland because, among other things, it had not amended the STA.

In 2009, Amnesty and IBA-HRI said a number of provisions in this Act were ‘sweeping and imprecise’.

They said in a statement that the Swazi Government warned of heavy penalties for ‘associating’ with certain groups, which had been declared to be terrorist ‘entities’ under the law. They said this was ‘contributing to an atmosphere of uncertainty and of intimidation amongst a wide range of civil society organizations’.

The statement read, ‘Amnesty International and the IBA-HRI are gravely concerned that key provisions in this anti-terrorism law are inherently repressive, breach Swaziland’s obligations under international and regional human rights law and are already leading to the violation of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.’

The statement also said the offences under the STA were ‘defined with such over-breadth and imprecision that they place excessive restrictions on a wide range of human rights – such as freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly – without adhering to the requirements of demonstrable proportionality and necessity.’

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Swaziland is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children who are subjected to sex trafficking, domestic servitude, and forced labour in agriculture, the 2014 Trafficking in Persons report revealed.

Swazi girls, particularly orphans, are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude primarily in the cities of Mbabane and Manzini; at truck stops, bars, and brothels in Swaziland; and in South Africa and Mozambique, the report from the United States State Department said.

King Mswati III uses forced child labour to work in his fields. ‘Swazi chiefs may coerce children and adults—through threats and intimidation—to work for the king. Swazi boys and foreign children are forced to labor in commercial agriculture, including cattle herding, and market vending within the country,’ the report added.

It added, ‘Traffickers utilize Swaziland as a transit country for transporting foreign victims from beyond the region to South Africa for forced labor. Some Swazi women are forced into prostitution in South Africa and Mozambique after voluntarily migrating in search of work.’

It concluded, ‘The Government of Swaziland does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.

The report shows little has changed in Swaziland in human trafficking. In 2009 the US State Department reported that women and children in the kingdom were bought and sold for sex, domestic servitude and forced labour. 

Mbabane and Manzini were again identified as the centres of trafficking of girls, particularly orphans, for sex. Swazi boys were trafficked for forced labour in commercial agriculture and market vending. Some Swazi women were forced into prostitution in South Africa and Mozambique after voluntarily travelling to these countries in search of work. 

In 2009, the The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported that a form of serfdom existed in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The report said Swazis were forced to work without pay on projects determined by local chiefs (who are appointed by the king). These included agricultural work, soil erosion and construction and maintenance.

Swazis, seven in ten who live in abject poverty and earn less than two US dollars a day, are forced to work under the Swazi Administration Order, No. 6 of 1998, which makes it a duty of Swazis to obey orders and participate in compulsory works; participation is enforceable with severe penalties for those who refuse.

In October 2013 it was reported there were an estimated 1,302 people living in slavery in Swaziland.

The report called the Global Slavery Index 2013 and published by the Walk Free Foundation stated, ‘Modern slavery includes slavery, slavery-like practices (such as debt bondage, forced marriage, and sale or exploitation of children), human trafficking and forced labour.’

See also