Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Swaziland’s Supreme Court on Tuesday (30 June 2015) ordered the release of magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer, who had been jailed for two years for writing and publishing magazine articles critical of the Swazi judiciary.

The Supreme Court said the jailing by the Swazi High Court was unsupportable. The pair had been in jail since March 2014.

The decision follows a massive international campaign to have Makhubu and Maseko released that included the United Nations and the European Parliament. Amnesty International had named the two men prisoners of conscience.
The Supreme Court upheld their appeal against their convictions in the High Court last year on two charges of contempt of court and their two-year prison sentences, and ordered their immediate release from prison. The two had written and published articles that appeared in the Nation magazine, a tiny-circulation monthly magazine that circulates in Swaziland.

Media are mostly state-controlled or in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The articles had been critical of the Swazi judiciary in particular and the then Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.

Ramodibedi was sacked from his post on 17 June 2015 after a Judicial Service Commission hearing found him guilty of abuse of power.  Ramodibedi left Swaziland for his home country of Lesotho. A warrant for his arrest has been issued in Swaziland.

The two men’s criminal trial in the Swazi High Court was presided over by Judge Mpendulo Simelane, who has since been charged with corruption and defeating the ends of justice. 

South Africa’s Independent on Line reported that at the Swazi Supreme Court the State had indicated that it was not opposing the appeal against conviction and sentence as the Directorate of Public Prosecutions believed that the convictions were unsupportable and that Judge Simelane should have recused himself from the case at the start of the trial. 

Caroline James, a freedom of expression lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which has been supporting Makhubu and Maseko’s legal fight, said, ‘The Crown’s concession that grave errors were made during the trial is a vindication for Maseko and Makhubu. The recognition by the prosecution and the court that the role of the prosecution is to prosecute and not persecute is extremely welcome in Swaziland where the law has been applied at the whim of individuals in the recent past.’

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which was one of the organisations from across the world that protested the sentences, welcomed the release and said the prosecutions had been ‘vindictive from the start’.

See also



Swaziland police reported there were nearly 1,000 cases of child sex abuse reported between January 2014 and May 2015.

But this nothing new. Swazi culture condones sex abuse of children, especially young girls, and there is little evidence that this is going to change.

In the twisted culture that is Swaziland, child rapists often blame women for their action.

The State of the Swaziland Population report revealed that women who ‘sexually starve’ their husbands are responsible for the growing sexual abuse of children.

Men who were interviewed during the making of the report said they ‘salivate’ over children wearing skimpy dress codes because their wives refused them sexual intercourse.

In Swaziland it is estimated that one in three girls suffer sexual abuse, but it is thought that fewer than half of sexual assaults and other abusive crimes are reported to the authorities. 

The State of the Swaziland Population report went on to say that Swazi men also blame ‘modernisation’ for giving women and girls the idea that they do not need to obey their menfolk.

The report stated, ‘They blamed the current generation of children for their inquisitorial minds, saying they always ask why? and why not? They were not content with counselling words from adults. They concluded that these were the negative impacts of education on behaviour.’

In Swaziland rape is against the law but there is no specific law about rape within marriage.

The United States Department of State report on human rights in Swaziland looking at 2014 stated, ‘Rape was common, and the government did not always enforce the law effectively. 

‘According to the Swaziland Action Group against Abuse (SWAGAA), one in three girls and women between the ages of 13 and 24 had been the victim of sexual violence. Although legally defined as a crime, many men regarded rape as a minor offense. According to the 2013 RSPS [Royal Swaziland Police Service] annual report, 495 rape cases were reported that year. There were no data available on the number of prosecutions, convictions, or punishments. 

‘The number of reported cases was likely far lower than the actual number of cases, as many cases were dealt with at the family level. A sense of shame and helplessness often inhibited women from reporting such crimes, particularly when incest was involved. 

‘The maximum sentence for aggravated rape is 15 years in prison, but the acquittal rate for rape was high, and sentences were generally lenient.

‘Prosecutors reported difficulty obtaining the evidence required to bring rape and domestic violence cases to trial because witnesses feared testifying against accused rapists. There were few social workers or other intermediaries to work with victims and witnesses in order to obtain evidence.’

See also



Monday, June 29, 2015


A raft of appointments of judges to Swaziland’s Supreme Court has raised questions about nepotism in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch, King Mswati III.

Even one of the newspapers in Swaziland that he in effect owns has raised doubts about the wisdom of appointing judges who are related to one another.

And, the Swazi Attorney-General Majahenkhaba Dlamini has been appointed a temporary Supreme Court judge for the month of July 2015, raising questions about the independence from government of the judiciary.

On Friday (26 June 2015), seven acting judges to the Supreme Court were announced, which the Sunday Observer newspaper reported, ‘resulted in the kingdom’s judiciary turning into a close knit family affair of spouses and siblings’.

The newspaper reported, ‘Newly-appointed Judge of the Supreme Court Majahenkhaba Dlamini joins his wife High Court Judge Mumcy Dlamini as members of the judiciary.

‘Former High Court Judge Qinisile Mabuza and her brother Sipho Nkosi have both been appointed Judges of the Supreme Court – the latter’s appointment is on an acting basis while the former’s is permanent.

‘There is also High Court Judge Nkululeko Hlophe whose wife is Supreme Court Registrar and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Secretary Lorraine Hlophe.

‘With Majahenkhaba and his wife Judge Mumcy, questions have been raised on what would happen should the former, in his capacity as acting Supreme Court Judge, find himself having to review cases that were decided by the latter at the High Court.

‘There are suggestions that there are strong possibilities of this scenario coming true.’

There are also concerns that some of the new judges might not be suitably qualified.

The Observer reported, ‘A senior judicial expert who spoke to the Sunday Observer, though stating clearly not being opposed to the appointments, was worried that Acting Judges Nkosi and Cloete were appointed straight to the Supreme Court without any experience of presiding in the lower courts, especially the High Court.

‘“There is a lot that they need to learn, which they can do by presiding at the High Court before they are elevated to the Supreme Court,” said the expert.’

 The appointment of Attorney-General Majahenkhaba Dlamini to the Supreme Court for one month has raised doubts about King Mswati’s commitment to the separation of powers between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. 

Dlamini is a member of the Swazi Government that was hand-picked by King Mswati, an ex-official member of the House of Assembly and now a judge. That gives him a place in all three branches of government.

The full list of Supreme Court Judges:

• Acting Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala
• Dr. Ben Odoki JA
• Justice Stanley Maphalala JA
• Justice Jacobus Annandale JA
• Justice Qinisile Mabuza JA
• Justice Mbutfo Mamba JA
• AG Majahenkhaba Dlamini JA
• Lawyer Robert Cloete AJA
• Lawyer Sipho Nkosi AJA

Sunday, June 28, 2015


A new report shows Swaziland spent US$259.8 million on its military in the past three years. 

In 2014 military spending amounted to 5.9 percent of all government, spending in Swaziland, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in its Military Expenditure Database for 2015.

The military spending amounted to 2.2 percent of Swaziland’s entire gross domestic product (GDP).
Swaziland has a population of nearly 1.3 million people. Seven in ten of them live in abject poverty, with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

In the calendar year 2014, Swaziland’s military spending was estimated to be US$80.6 million; about the equivalent of US$62 for every person in the kingdom.

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 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.’ 

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.

Swaziland is in effect broke and has been struggling for the past four 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.

In March 2013 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