Sunday, May 31, 2015


The refusal by King Mswati III, the absolute monarch in Swaziland, to accept democratic change in his kingdom has cost at least 3,000of his subjects their jobs.

This is because the United States withdrew Swaziland’s trading privileges under the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA).

Swaziland had previously been able to export to the United States without having to pay tariffs. This privilege ended on 1 January 2015.

In the six months since, at least 3,000 jobs have been lost in the textile industry, dominated by Taiwanese companies.

The Observer Sunday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati reported the job losses and the difficulties faced by workers who had been retrenched or laid-off. But, it did not make the connection between the plight of the former workers and King Mswati’s refusal to give up his power in the kingdom of 1.2 million people.

All political parties are banned from taking part in elections, the King chooses the Prime Minister and the government and the top judges. All public discussion for democratic reforms is crushed by police and state forces and democrats languish in prison in remand awaiting trial on sedition charges under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

The King has a personal stake in great swathes of the Swazi economy and he uses dividends and royalties from these to finance a lavish lifestyle which includes a private luxury jet aircraft, a fleet of top-of-the-range Mercedes and BMW cars and at least one Rolls Royce. He also has 13 palaces in his kingdom which is about the same size as the US state of New Jersey.

Meanwhile, seven in ten of his subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day. More than a third of the population rely on international food aid in any given year.

The Observer on Sunday reported this week (31 May 2015), ‘The loss of AGOA, effectively at the beginning of this year, resulted in two major textile factories closing down. These are Tex Ray and Leo Garments. Knitwear also closed down but for less than a month as they re-opened a few weeks later.

‘Close to 3,000 lost their jobs when these factories closed shop a few months ago. Some of these were fortunate as they managed to get employment in other factories while others migrated to South Africa. However, a majority of these workers were left unemployed and had to seek alternative employment.

‘About five factories have conducted these lay-offs, which have seen a number of workers sitting at home without getting paid. The factory owners have attributed these lay-offs to non-availability of a market for their products. Some of the factories include Union Washing, Kasum Investments, New Life and Kang-Fa at Siteki.’

The Observer interviewed some of the workers. One of them said, ‘The money we earn is very little and it being deducted means nothing but poverty for most of us.’

Another said, ‘We have really suffered because of this issue and are hoping that government will meet all the requirements needed for us to get it back. Our lives were turned upside down and some of us had to relocate and find much smaller houses to rent because I could no longer afford the two-room I rented before.

‘We are also being subjected to degrading treatment from our employers. What is saddening however is that we have, through our union, tried to engage labour officials but there isn’t much that has been done to address our concerns.’

The US had wanted Swaziland to implement the full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to the Suppression of Terrorism Act; 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.

In June 2014, announcing the withdrawal of AGOA, a White House spokesperson said, ‘The decision to withdraw Swaziland’s AGOA eligibility comes after years of engaging with the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland on concerns about its implementation of the AGOA eligibility criteria related to worker rights.’

The statement said after an ‘extensive review’ the US, ‘concluded that Swaziland had not demonstrated progress on the protection of internationally recognized worker rights. In particular, Swaziland has failed to make continual progress in protecting freedom of association and the right to organize. Of particular concern is Swaziland’s use of security forces and arbitrary arrests to stifle peaceful demonstrations, and the lack of legal recognition for labor and employer federations.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman, said, ‘The withdrawal of AGOA benefits is not a decision that is taken lightly.

‘We have made our concerns very clear to Swaziland over the last several years and we engaged extensively on concrete steps that Swaziland could take to address the concerns. We hope to continue our engagement with the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland on steps it can take so that worker and civil society groups can freely associate and assemble and AGOA eligibility can be restored.’






Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Swazi democrats are urging two of South Africa’s premier soccer teams Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates not to take part in a football tournament to honour King Mswati III.

A new tournament which is variously being called the Super King’s Cup  or the King’s Super Cup is due to be played on 18 July 2015 at the Somhlolo National Stadium in Lobamba.

The two Sowetan soccer clubs have announced they will take part in the tournament named in honour of King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a non-violent pro-democracy group banned in Swaziland under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, has called on both clubs to withdraw from the tournament.

In an open letter to Irvin Khoza, Chairman of Orlando Pirates Football Club and Kaizer Motaung, Executive Director, Kaizer Chiefs Foodball Club, the SSN said, ‘It is clear from the name of the event that this is not just a sporting event meant to promote goodwill but rather a political event meant to legitimise a despot who has lost credibility in the eyes of the world and the country that he rules with an iron fist.’

Political parties are banned from contesting elections in Swaziland, the King choses the government and top judges. Pro-democracy campaigners are jailed, often for more than a year before coming to trial.

In its letter, SSN said, ‘It has long been widely known in South Africa and beyond that Swaziland’s government has no respect for human rights and that the country has no political freedom. Swaziland is a dictatorship. It continues to evade the international media radar mainly because the country is so miniscule, with even less prestige internationally. 

‘The country has no democracy at all. All power is vested in the monarchy, which rules by decree despite the existence of a worthless constitution which was imposed on the citizens ten years ago. As an absolute monarch the King only delegates his judicial, executive and legislative powers to powerless institutions which may make one believe that the country is run like modern state when it is in fact run like the king’s personal farm.

‘While there is no law that explicitly bans the formation and functioning of political parties, they are effectively rendered useless by the fact that they cannot contest state power as that power is vested exclusively in the King who appoints the prime minister, deputy prime minister, all cabinet ministers, a third of parliament, all senior civil servants and members of the diplomatic corps. As another King’s appointee, the country’s Senate President recently pointed out, the king is the state.

‘With all this power vested in him, the King of Swaziland has not held back on abusing it to fulfill his selfish personal greed. This has resulted in him forcing all major investments in the country to guarantee him and his family’s trust fund, Tibiyo, shares in their businesses. As a result of this he owns virtually half the country’s economy. Despite his hold on so much personal wealth the King still draws royal emoluments from the state which is over a fifth of the nation’s budget.

‘It is these kleptocratic tendencies which have resulted in the country’s economy growing sluggishly while the rest of the region’s economies make major strides. It is worth pointing out for example that the country remains the only one in the region with a sole mobile phone operator, MTN Swaziland, a company that retains its monopoly primarily because the King has substantial shares in it. All attempts by other companies to break into the market have been futile. This is perhaps the reason why some mobile phone operators may wish to sponsor an event like the Super King’s Cup in order to gain favour with the country’s despot.

‘Human rights abuses in Swaziland are endemic because the people have no government of their own. At every level of society people are denied basic human rights. Political dissenters are detained arbitrarily or with spurious charges levelled against them. 

‘Like the Apartheid regime, King Mswati’s regime has gone to great lengths to tarnish the image of those who call for democracy in the country and there are legal instruments that are used to achieve this end such as the infamous Suppression of Terrorism Act, which gave the country’s government legal authority to declare any entity as a terrorist organisation. Once declared terrorist organisations such formations are proscribed and any association with them results in severe sanction including harsh prison sentences.

‘It was due to this act that one political activist by the name of Sipho Jele was arrested in 1 May 2010 for merely wearing a T-shirt inscribed with the name of one proscribed entity, PUDEMO. He never lived to see his day in court as he died in custody possibly from police torture.

‘There are other oppressive laws also used to suppress dissent such as the law against sedition. The president of the same organisation (PUDEMO), Mario Masuku, and the Secretary General of its youth league, Maxwell Dlamini, were also arrested in 2014 for what the state claims were seditious statements made at a Workers’ Day rally.

‘In the same year their arrest was followed by that of two columnists, Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko who were charged and later convicted for criticizing the manner in which the then country’s Chief Justice had handled the detention of a government cars inspector. 

‘They remain behind bars while ironically the Chief Justice and the presiding judge in that case have been arrested by the country’s authorities for abuse of power and corruption. The manner in which this arrest was conducted was also flawed as it saw the country’s prime minister appointing himself the state prosecutor withdrawing and reinstating charges against those who had been arrested in the state’s publicity stunt.

‘Political activists are not the only ones denied basic human rights as even those who choose to shy away from political involvement end up on the wrong end of the country’s suppressive institutions. Poor Swazis are evicted annually for one reason or another without compensation from their ancestral lands. All their attempts to seek redress from the courts are futile as the King is effectively above the law and therefore immune from prosecution or civil charges.’

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


The inquiry into the alleged abuse of power of Swaziland’s Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi opened on Monday (25 May 2015) and was postponed to allow him more time to prepare his defence.

Ramodibedi was first issued with a warrant for his arrest on 17 April 2015. He faced 23 charges and he has been under self-imposed house arrest since.

He did attend the inquiry set up by the Swazi Judicial Service Commission and successfully argued he was not ready to go ahead. The inquiry has been postponed to 3 June 2015.

The original 23 charges have been consolidated into eight new charges.

 As published by the Swazi Observer, the charges are:

 1. Abuse of office – In the allocation of the Swaziland Revenue Authority matter

The Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi is guilty of serious misbehaviour in that he allocated his case against SRA to Justice Mpendulo Simelane in full knowledge that Judge Simelane, in his then capacity as Registrar of the High Court of Swaziland had made both written and oral representations to the SRA on behalf of the chief justice in the same matter and was accordingly conflicted. This the chief justice did unlawfully and with the intention to obtain a judgement in his favour and or an undue benefit from the SRA in an amount of E128 800.75 


The Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi is guilty of serious misbehaviour in that he allocated his personal court case against the Swaziland Revenue Authority to Justice Mpendulo Simelane in full knowledge that Judge Simelane in his then capacity as Registrar of the High Court had made oral and written representations to the Swaziland Revenue Authority on behalf of the chief justice in the same matter prior to the institution of the court proceedings. By doing so the CJ eroded the confidence of the public.

 2. Abuse of office – In the hearing of the Impunzi Wholesalers (PTY) Ltd v The Swaziland Revenue Authority

The Chief Justice Michael Mathelira Ramodibedi is guilty of serious misbehaviour in that he undermined the confidence of the public in the country’s justice system by sitting as the presiding Judge in the appeal of Impunzi Wholesalers (Pty) Ltd v Swaziland Revenue Authority at a time when he was personally engaged in pending litigation against SRA and as such was conflicted.

 3. Abuse of office in order to achieve an ulterior motive – In the hearing of the Estate Policy matter.

The Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi is guilty of serious misbehaviour in that contrary to the integrity expected of a judicial officer he directed that the application of Wezzy Ndzimandze and Others v Titselo Ndzimandze and others (Estate Policy Case) be heard and proceed to

3.1 Frame the issues for determination by the court
3.2 Personally enrolled the application when the applicants had withdrawn the matter 
3.3 Insisted on the application proceeding in circumstances where the applicant’s attorney had withdrawn as attorneys of record
3.4 Manipulated the outcome of the matter by giving instructions to the presiding judges

This demonstrated vested interest in the outcome of the matter in order to achieve an ulterior motive and constituted serious misbehaviour. 


The Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi is guilty of serious misbehaviour in that he unlawfully directed the application of Wezzy Ndzimandze and others v Titselo Ndzimandze and Others (Estate Policy case) be heard well aware that this was contrary to Constitutional provision S34 (2) which required that such matters be dealt with through the promulgation of a legislation in order to achieve an ulterior motive. 
 4. The Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi is guilty of serious misbehaviour in that on or about the year 2014 in his capacity as Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission he advised on and or authorised the reappointment of Lillian Zwane, Deputy Commissioner Operations of the Anti Corruption Commission for a third term in breach of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 2006 which provides for a maximum of two terms in respect of that position.

5. The Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi is guilty of serious misbehaviour in that on or about the year 2014 he unlawfully obstructed investigations by the ACC into allegations of misconduct of Lillian Zwane, the Deputy Commissioner of the ACC by failing and or neglecting and or refusing to take action on a report filed by the commissioner of the ACC. 

6. The Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi is guilty of serious misbehaviour in that on diverse occasions he instructed his government appointed chauffer to drive him out of the country when the driver, contrary to Cabinet Circular No1/2009 and government policy on external travel had not been authorised by the head of government to leave Swaziland and further caused his chauffer and security officers to incur or claim travel and subsistence allowances in respect of trips not authorised by government contrary to the said circular and policy. 

7. The Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi is guilty of serious misbehaviour in that on or about January 2015 and contrary to the integrity expected of a judicial officer and in contravention of the Government Stores Regulations he travelled to the Republic of South Africa in a Swaziland government issued motor vehicle without his designated chauffer.

 8. The Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi is guilty of serious misbehaviour in that on about August 2014 contrary to the integrity expected of a judicial officer and in breach of the principle of the independence of the Judiciary he unlawfully directed Acting High Court Justices Dlamini B.S. Dlamini A AND Simelane M to decide the matter wherein the Law Society of Swaziland sought the removal from office of Justice Mpendulo Simelane in favour of the Swaziland Government.  

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