Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Zonke needs help to appeal unfair 15-year sentence
Kenworthy News Media, 28 February 2017 

Where is the campaign and help for the appeal of Swazi activist Zonke Dlamini, who was tortured and sentenced to 15 years under repressive terror laws three years ago, asks his co-accused, Bheki Dlamini, who was released without charge? Writes Kenworthy News Media.
Activist Zonke Dlamini was sentenced to 15 years in prison three years ago, on 28 February 2014, for allegedly petrol bombing the houses of two Swazi officials, an MP and a high-ranking police officer.

He denies the charges and says he was tortured during his interrogation, but his case has been more or less forgotten and he has subsequently not been able to appeal his sentence, says his co-accused, Swaziland Youth Congress President Bheki Dlamini.

In the 28 July 2010 edition of the Swazi Observer, Zonke Dlamini said he was interrogated and tortured by 18 officers upon arrest. “I declared my innocence but was punched in the face … and told to admit my role as one of the operatives of an operation mastermind by the banned SWAYOCO to bomb houses of prominent people.”

Charged under ‘inherently repressive’ terror act
Both Zonke Dlamini, who is also a member of SWAYOCO, and Bheki Dlamini, were charged under Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act. Both dissociated themselves from the petrol bombings.

Zonke was found guilty on two of the three counts of petrol bombing while Bheki was acquitted and released, in what the judge referred to as “evil” and “indefensible acts” of “terrorism” that “threatened national security” and “peace and stability” in Swaziland, including “its tourism and economy generally.”

The sentences “will send out a message to others,” the judge concluded.

Amnesty International has called Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act, which defines terrorism in sweeping terms, an “inherently repressive” act that is “used to suppress dissent.”

Amnesty furthermore wrote in their 2011 Annual Report that the court was informed that Zonke and Bheki had been “subjected to suffocation torture” and that Zonke’s confession (that led to the arrest of Bheki Dlamini) was allegedly “extracted under duress.”

A humble and dedicated man
According to Bheki Dlamini, Zonke Dlamini is a politically astute and humble man who never complained about his fate and who is dedicated to the struggle for freedom and democracy is Swaziland. He got to know Zonke when at court and by them smuggling letters to each other’s cells.

When Zonke Dlamini was arrested, he left a three-month-old baby and an extended family that he was economically responsible for. He is also an epileptic who needs constant supervision.

– My heart is bleeding when I remember the pain of prison and what Zonke is still going through. When Zonke was arrested, he was badly tortured by the Swazi police. Now he suffers from a persistent headache because of the torture, says Bheki Dlamini, who was himself tortured after his and Zonke Dlaminis arrest in June 2010.

Both went on a hunger strike in 2013 to protest against the prison conditions and the fact that their case was yet to be concluded three years after they were arrested.

Desperately needs appeal, help
But while there was a campaign for the release of Bheki Dlamini, who was eventually released, after having spent nearly four years in prison, and his story was told in an award-winning Danish documentary, Swaziland – Africa’s last monarchy, Zonke Dlaminis case does not get the attention it deserves, Bheki Dlamini says.

– The tragedy about Zonke’s case is that it doesn’t get the necessary attention, be it amongst the Swazi Civil Society, the political parties and the Swazi media. When the EU called for the release of political prisoners, Zonke’s name was missing from the list of four political prisoners that were eventually released, says Bheki Dlamini.

Bheki Dlamini believes that while Zonke Dlamini faced injustice by the Swazi High Court, few came to his rescue. This should have been the role of Swaziland’s civil society and members of the international community, but their inaction has had serious consequences for Zonke, he says.

– As Zonke was convicted in 2014, he was not able to file an appeal because he has no lawyer to take up his case. Where are the NGO’s claiming to be fighting for human rights, where are Lawyers for Human Rights, where is our conscience as a people when we watch such gross injustice happening to someone who is trying to fight the very same regime we claim to be against?

– He desperately needs to appeal his conviction and sentencing. I have been part of the trial and know that he has a high chance of an acquittal because he was sentenced unfairly. There is no direct evidence linking him to the crimes he is accused of. He was made a sacrificial lamb by the judge, who decided to acquit me and convict Zonke to appease the powers that be, Bheki Dlamini says.


Private as well as public schools in Swaziland are to be forced to conduct lessons in siSwati, the mother tongue of Swazi people, and applicants to universities and tertiary colleges will be made to take an application test in the language.

This follows an edict from Swaziland’s unelected Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini.

The unexpected announcement is already causing confusing in education circles in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The Times of Swaziland reported that Dlamini told a gathering to mark International Mother Language Day on Wednesday (22 February 2017), ‘In all public and private primary schools in Swaziland, up to and including Grade IV, a child’s education will be conducted in siSwati. 

‘In the later grades of primary education, and in all high schools, siSwati will be one of the compulsory subjects in the curriculum. And before admission to tertiary education, all applicants will be required to take a competency test in siSwati.’

Later, Phineas Magagula, the Swaziland Minister of Education and Training, clarified the PM’s statement. Magagula said Swaziland was not doing away with other languages in schools but siSwati would be a core subject. 

Later, in a further clarification, the Prime Minister said the new policy would not be implemented overnight. The Ministry of Education would appoint a ‘siSwati Board’ to oversee it, he said.

There is still no clarification about the role of siSwati in colleges and universities. If the language is compulsory it would almost certainly made it impossible for students from outside Swaziland to enrol for programmes.

See also


Monday, February 27, 2017


King Mswati III, the autocratic ruler of Swaziland appointed seven judges to the Supreme Court in contravention of the kingdom’s Constitution, Amnesty International has reported.

As a result, the Law Society of Swaziland boycotted the November Supreme Court session and demanded the appointment of permanent judges in line with Section 153 of the Constitution, which stipulates that judges be appointed in an open, transparent and competitive process.

Amnesty said in its just published annual report on human rights in the kingdom that in other legal developments, the High Court ruled that sections of the 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSA) and the 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) were invalid as they infringed on constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The judgment came after provisions in the laws were challenged in the applications filed in 2009 by human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko. Thulani Maseko was charged under the SSA in 2009. 

Another application was filed in 2014 by Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini, leaders of the banned opposition People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), who were charged under both Acts in 2014; and by Mlungisi Makhanya and seven others, who were also charged under the Acts in 2014. 

Amnesty also reported that a Public Order Bill, going through Parliament, if passed, would undermine rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. 

‘Among other things, it would criminalize the act of organizing a public gathering without prior notification to the authorities. The bill, which was expected to be passed by the kingdom’s unelected Senate, before being ratified by the King, remained in draft form at the end of the year,’ it stated.

See also


Thursday, February 23, 2017


Swaziland’s main opposition political party PUDEMO has refuted media reports that it is ready to contest the national elections in 2018.

PUDEMO (the People’s United Democratic Movement) is the best-known opposition group in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as an absolute monarch. Political parties are not allowed to contest elections and PUDEMO, along with other groups that advocate for democracy in the kingdom, are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom reported on Monday (20 February 2017) that PUDEMO and its youth wing SWAYOCO, ‘have been instructed by their donors to look into changing their strategy for bringing democracy into the country’.

The Times added, ‘After years of denouncing the country’s elections and branding them “not free or fair”, the proscribed entities are considering taking part in the 2018 national elections where Members of Parliament representing the 55 constituencies in the country are chosen by the people.’

PUDEMO responded in a stinging statement and rejected, ‘with the contempt they deserve’ the media reports. It said it had no donors or funders who were forcing it to participate in the elections.

It added, ‘PUDEMO is not afraid of elections, and remains committed to taking part in Swaziland National Elections, that will be conducted under conditions that guarantee a democratic, free, fair, meaningful and transparent process, not the current royal sham.’

The Swazi people have no say in who their leaders are. They 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.

The King choses the Prime Minister and cabinet members. Only a man with the surname Dlamini can, by tradition, be appointed as Prime Minister. The King is a Dlamini.  

He also choses senior civil servants and top judges. 

PUDEMO added, ‘The current Tinkhundla elections has no effect in the political life of the country, as power remains concentrated in royal hands, and all meaningful decisions are made through royal command. PUDEMO has no intention, now or in the future to associate its glorious name and record of struggle with such a royal grand scam to defraud our people of their right to democratically and freely elect a government of their own.’

See also