Wednesday, February 25, 2015


The rule of law, access to effective remedies and protection of human rights in Swaziland continued to deteriorate in the past year as a consequence of the further undermining of judicial independence, Amnesty International said in its annual report.

‘Activists were also detained and charged in several separate trials involving charges under the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) and the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act,’ Amnesty stated. 

The report published on Tuesday (24 February 2015) said the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, revived a 2009 sedition charge against Thulani Maseko. His trial on this charge was scheduled to be heard in 2015. A challenge to the constitutionality of the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act, as well as the STA, was also pending in 2015. 

Amnesty reported, ‘The challenge was brought by veteran activist and leader of the opposition People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), Mario Masuku, and eight others facing charges under both laws in three separate trials. The application was due to be heard in the High Court in March 2015.’

The trial of Mario Masuku and youth leader Maxwell Dlamini was due to begin in February 2015. They were charged with sedition and remanded in custody in connection with slogans they allegedly shouted at a 2014 May Day rally. 

Amnesty reported, ‘There was considerable concern at Mario Masuku’s deteriorating health after he was remanded into custody. At the end of October there was a renewed attempt to secure his and Maxwell Dlamini’s release on bail. On 31 October the High Court judge scheduled to hear the application was withdrawn. The application was heard and rejected in November by Judge Mpendulo Simelane.’

Seven members of PUDEMO, which is banned under the STA, were also facing trial at the end of the year on charges under the STA following their arrest at the High Court during the trial of Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu in April, who were later jailed for contempt of court for writing and publishing articles in the Nation magazine critical of the Swazi judiciary.

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Monday, February 23, 2015


King Mswati III of Swaziland has instructed the kingdom’s revenue authority to pursue people who live lavish lifestyles to ensure they are paying their tax.

The King, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, himself has 13 palaces, a private jet and fleets of top-of-the-range Mercedes and BMW cars. He and his royal family regularly take expensive international trips.

The King pays no tax.

In a speech opening the Swazi Parliament on Thursday (19 February 2015), the King said, ‘Time has also come for the authority to fast track the programme of lifestyle audits.’

After the King’s speech was delivered, the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom reported, ‘[Swaziland Revenue Authority] General (CG) Dumisani Masilela told this reporter that qualified personnel had been recruited to carry out the lifestyle audit function aimed at cracking the whip on those involved in corrupt ways of generating income.’

The source of much of King Mswati’s income remains secret. In 2009, Forbes magazine estimated that the King himself had a personal net fortune worth US$200 million. Forbes also said King Mswati was the beneficiary of two funds created by his father Sobhuza II in trust for the Swazi nation. During his reign, he has absolute discretion over use of the income. The trust has been estimated to be worth US$10 billion.  

In August 2014 the Sunday Times newspaper in South Africa reported King Mswati personally received millions of dollars from international companies such as phone giant MTN; sugar conglomerates Illovo and Remgro; Sun International hotels and beverages firm SAB Millerto.

It reported that MTN, which has a monopoly of the cell phone business in Swaziland, paid dividends directly to the King. He holds 10 percent of the shares in MTN in Swaziland and is referred to by the company as an ‘esteemed shareholder’. It said MTN had paid R114 million (US$11.4 million) to the King over the past five years.

The newspaper also reported that the King was receiving income from Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, which paid dividends in 2013 of R218.1 million. The newspaper reported ‘several sources’ who said it was ‘an open secret’ that although money generated by Tibiyo was meant to be used for the benefit of the nation, Tibiyo in fact channelled money directly to the Royal Family.

Meanwhile, seven in ten of Swaziland’s tiny 1.4 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 a day; three in ten are so hungry they are medically diagnosed as malnourished and the kingdom has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world.

At the last national budget in Swaziland in 2014 the King’s annual household budget increased by more than 10 percent to US$61m, this was on top of the 13 percent increase he had in 2013.

The AFP news agency reported in May 2014 that the figure also included provisions for construction work on palaces that would cost the tax payer about $12.6m.

Observers note that the King has had many chances in the past to cut back on his spending and reduce the amount of money he takes from his subjects, but so far he has increased his budget, rather than reduced it. In 2011, as Swaziland hurtled towards financial meltdown, Majozi Sithole, the then Finance Minister, in his budget demanded 10 percent budget cuts (later increased further) from government departments, but in the same budget the amount of money given to the King increased by 23 percent.

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Friday, February 20, 2015


Newspapers in Swaziland lost their critical faculties when they reported that King Mswati ‘would personally’ eradicate HIV and AIDS in the kingdom by 2022.

The King made his statement while opening the Swazi Parliament on Thursday (19 February 2015).

In a confused passage in his speech, King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, said, ‘I wish to assure the nation that I will personally see to it that the first world Swaziland is HIV /AIDS free.’

Both the Swazi Observer and the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only two daily newspapers, reported this to mean the King had set himself a deadline of 2022; he has many times in the past said Swaziland would be a ‘First World’ nation by 2022.

The newspapers reported the King’s promise prominently.  The Observer, which is in effect owned by the King, reported, ‘There was unprecedented clapping of hands in the House of Assembly as His Majesty King Mswati III assured the Swazi nation that he would personally see to it that the First World Swaziland is HIV and AIDS free. 

‘Ordinarily, parliamentarians and invited guests shout Bayethe when the King sends a message they fully support, but the gathering was besides itself as the King made this commitment.’

The Times, a privately-owned paper, called it a ‘bold declaration’. It added, ‘This means that the country will be free of the epidemic in seven years’ time.’

The King gave no further information about how he would achieve this goal. The newspapers reported the King’s announcement without criticism. At present there is no cure for HIV, so it could be interpreted that the King personally intends to find that cure.

With 26 percent of adults in the 15-49 age group HIV positive, Swaziland has the world’s highest estimated prevalence rate of HIV-infected adults. In addition, Swaziland’s tuberculosis (TB) incidence rate is the highest in the world and 80 percent of TB patients are co-infected with HIV. 

The catastrophic effect of HIV and AIDS on Swaziland's mortality rates has created a society in which about 15 percent of the 1.2 million population are orphans and vulnerable children, many of whom live in child-headed households.

King Mswati has a long history of unusual responses to the HIV pandemic. In 2014, it was reported his kingdom would pay teenaged girls E200 (about US$20) per month if they refused to have sex. 

The South African news organisation IoL reported Thabsile Dlamini, a health care worker in Manzini, saying, ‘The government will pay girls the allowances so they will have money to purchase necessities and can turn down money offered to them for sex.’

In 2001, King Mswati banned ‘young maidens’ from having sex for five years to halt the spread of HIV/Aids. Any man who contravened the maidens' chastity rule was to be fined one cow. 

Later, the BBC reported, ‘King Mswati transgressed the ban when he took a 17-year-old girl as his ninth wife just two months after imposing the sex ban in September 2001, sparking unprecedented protests by Swazi women outside the royal palace.’


King Mswati III of Swaziland has spoken publicly for the first time about the closure of the Ngwenya Iron Ore Mine, but he did not say why he took US$10 million from the company that ran the mine shortly before it went out of business or what he did with the money.

The King made a passing reference to the Ngwenya Iron Ore Mine, but did not mention it by name, during his speech opening the Swazi Parliament on Thursday (19 February 2015).

The King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, said ‘The effect of falling global prices of minerals, such as iron ore, was also evident in the mining sector where production was halted in the last quarter of 2014, following a plunge in international prices.

‘This problem has affected many services which resulted in job losses.’

The King has been at the centre of international attention after it was revealed that he took a US$10 million loan from SG Iron (formerly known as Salgaocar Swaziland) the company he awarded a licence to mine at Ngwenya. The King and Sihle Dlamini, his personal representative on the board of directors, were at the heart of events that led to SG Iron’s collapse.

It had debts of US$4 million when it was forced to cease trading in August 2014 and more than 700 jobs were lost. King Mswati took the loan from the company less than six months after it started trading which he refused to repay when the company hit difficulties.

The King, through his representative Dlamini, blocked the company from selling its iron ore, which meant the company had no income. It had reserves stockpiled that could have fetched at least US$5.5 million (more than enough to clear its debts) if sold when the company folded.

Despite repeated requests from SG Iron, the King’s personal representative, refused to allow the ore to be sold. 

A compensation claim for at least US$141 million has been prepared by SARL against the Kingdom of Swaziland at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

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