Search This Blog

Loading...

For more coverage follow us also on Twitter and Facebook


Sunday, 5 July 2015

COMMONWEALTH CALLS FOR DEMOCRACY

The Commonwealth has sent a special envoy to Swaziland in a bid to get the absolute monarch King Mswati III to democratise his kingdom.

The former Malawi president Bakili Muluzi is leading a team on a visit to Swaziland from 5 to 10 July 2015.

King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King chooses the government and top judges. The Suppression of Terrorism Act is used to suppress any attempt to discuss the need for democratic change.

The Commonwealth is pushing for the unbanning of political parties in Swaziland. It made a recommendation for this to happen after the 2013 nation election, but it has been ignored.

According to media reports in Malawi, Muluzi said he would hold discussions with a wide array of stakeholders, including the King, the King’s government ministers and civil society.

Commonwealth observers called for the Swazi Constitution to be rewritten after they concluded the kingdom’s national election in September 2013 was not entirely credible.

They said members of parliament ‘continue to have severely limited powers’ and political parties are banned.
The Commonwealth observers said there was ‘considerable room for improving the democratic system’.


In a report they said the Constitution needed to be revisited with an open debate on what changes were necessary.
It added, ‘This should ideally be carried out through a fully inclusive, consultative process with all Swazi political organisations and civil society (if needed, with the help of constitutional experts.’
It said, ‘The aim is to ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal.’

See also 

POLL OBSERVERS: REWRITE CONSTITUTION

PUBLIC FUNDS TO SUPPORT KING’S CUP

Nearly E6 million of public money is to be pumped into the controversial football tournament in Swaziland created to honour the kingdom’s absolute monarch King Mswati III.

The Swazi Ministry of Sport, Culture and Youth Affairs has been given E5.8 million (US$580,000) by government to fund the so-called King’s Super Cup.

The money will be diverted to the tournament scheduled for 18 July 2015 that features two of South Africa’s top clubs, the Orlando Pirates and the Kaizer Chiefs.

The money has been diverted from a number of government departments in the cash-strapped kingdom, where seven in ten of the 1.3 million population have incomes of less than US$2 a day.

According to local media in Swaziland the money will have to be repaid after the tournament, but this would only be possible if the event is a financial success.

The winner of the tournament will reportedly take E1 million prize money. The cheapest tickets will be E250, which is out of the reach of most Swazi people.

Meanwhile, one of the groups opposing the tournament on the grounds that it would be seen as supporting the King who has been criticised globally for the poor human rights in his kingdom, has promised what it calls a ‘revolution’ in Swaziland if the tournament goes ahead.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) was widely reported in South African media saying it had ‘underground’ plans to dispatch a revolution if the South African clubs went ahead.

Lucky Lukhele, the SSN spokesperson, was reported saying ‘All systems are in place underground and overground in South Africa and in Swaziland should they [Pirates and Chiefs] decide to ignore us.’

He added, ‘Our revolution will not be peed on by ignorant people. We have a network of people who are helping us and we are ready for anything.’

See also

CALL TO BOYCOTT KING’S SOCCER CUP
SWAZI KING’S CUP TICKET PRICES SKY HIGH
           
CAMPAIGN TO STOP KING’S CUP SPREADS

Friday, 3 July 2015

LATEST UPDATE ON SWAZI HUMAN RIGHTS


Swaziland: Striving for freedom Vol 18. April to June 2015

A Chief Justice sacked after allegations of abuse of power, the Justice Minister sacked and accused of bribery and corruption and the whole Swazi judiciary in crisis. These were the highlight events in the second quarter of 2015.

But that was not all, King Mswati III was revealed to have deceived his subjects when he bought himself a private jet aircraft in 2010. The plane was impounded by a court in Canada as the subject of a dispute over unpaid debts. Then, it was revealed that the King was buying himself another jet with a cost estimated at about $44 million.

Meanwhile, the international community were exploring ways to sanction the King and force a move towards democracy in Swaziland. 

Jailed journalists Bhekhi Makhubu and Thulani Maseko, both jailed for writing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary, had their convictions overturned by the Supreme Court.

This compilation available free of charge from scribd dot com brings together posts that originally appeared on the Swazi Media Commentary website. Swazi Media Commentary website has no physical base and is completely independent of any political faction and receives no income from any individual or organisation. People who contribute ideas or write for it do so as volunteers and receive no payment.
Swazi Media Commentary is published online – updated regularly.



‘ATTEMPTED COUP IN SWAZILAND’

The Swaziland Parliament attempted a coup-d’état in the kingdom, the Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Friday (3 July 2015).

It happened when the Swazi House of Assembly suspended its Speaker Themba Msibi after a number of allegations surfaced, including that he had been part of a plot to oust Prime Minister, Barnabas Dlamini.

The House of Assembly set up a select committee to investigate the allegations.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch, but the House of Assembly by-passed the King in taking its action.

Alec Lushaba, the editor of the Sunday Observer, wrote in the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, ‘Clearly, this was a coup-de-tat (sic).’

A coup d’état is defined as ‘a sudden and decisive action in politics, especially one resulting in a change of government illegally or by force’.

The Swazi Observer was described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a 2013 report on press freedom in the kingdom as ‘a pure propaganda machine for the royal family’.
 
It is widely considered to be the voice of King Mswati III.

After a four-hour meeting the House of Assembly referred the matter of the Speaker to the King.

Lushaba wrote, ‘Parliament which this week after a four hour caucus finally resolved to make presentations to the appointing authority [the King], had undermined his authority.’

Lushaba wrote, ‘For a moment, the MPs forgot that they were Swazis and failed to respect the institution of the Monarch, which is vested with authority to appoint and remove people from office.’

Msibi was appointed Speaker by the King following the national election in 2013. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King appoints the government, top political officials and top judges.

Lushaba added, ‘Parliament must be fined 10 cattle for bringing the name of the King and country into disrepute in its handling of the Speaker issue.’

See also

SWAZI HOUSE SPEAKER SUSPENDED

Thursday, 2 July 2015

HUGE SWAZILAND STATE SECURITY

More than one in three of the government workforce in Swaziland is employed in the police or security services, figures recently released reveal.

King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch, is the Commander-in-Chief of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF), holds the position of Minister of Defence, and is the Commander of the Royal Swaziland Police Service (RSPS) and His Majesty’s Correctional Service (HMCS). 

He presides over a civilian Principal Secretary of Defence and a Commanding General. 

In 2014, about 35 percent of the government workforce was assigned to security-related functions. 

The RSPS is responsible for maintaining internal security. The USDF is responsible for external security but also has domestic security responsibilities, including protecting members of the Royal Family. 

The HMCS is responsible for the protection, incarceration, and rehabilitation of convicted persons and keeping order within HMCS institutions. HMCS personnel, however, routinely work alongside police during protests and demonstrations.

This has been revealed in the United States Department of State report on human rights in Swaziland for the year 2014.

There are thought to be more than 35,000 people on the government payroll in Swaziland.

The report stated, ‘While the conduct of the RSPS, USDF, and HMCS was generally professional, members of all three forces were susceptible to political pressure and corruption. There were few prosecutions or disciplinary actions taken against security officers accused of abuses.’

Reviewing 2014, the report stated, ‘There were credible reports of use of excessive force by community police and security forces during the year. For example, on July 21, the Times of Swaziland reported that on July 13, three Malindza community police beat to death a mentally challenged man who had escaped from the National Psychiatric Center. The three were arrested, jailed, denied bail, and awaiting High Court trial at year’s end.

‘The Times of Swaziland of July 28 reported that during the first week of July correctional services officers from Big Bend correctional facility re-apprehended an escaped prisoner, beat him, and locked him overnight in a truck as punishment for escaping. The inmate died, reportedly due to lack of medical attention and exposure to the cold.’

The report also said the Swazi Government permitted very limited monitoring of prison conditions.

‘Independent monitoring groups found it difficult to access prison facilities during the year, and none issued public reports. The government routinely denied prison access to local human rights organizations, African Union Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Pansy Tlakula, and foreign diplomatic representatives.’

The report added, ‘Authorities generally did not allow journalists inside prisons. On April 12, the HMCS denied visitation rights to six journalists from different media houses seeking to visit incarcerated Nation magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and stated visitors must obtain permission from the commissioner of correctional services. Several international NGOs attempted to obtain permission without response from the commissioner.’

There were also arbitrary arrests in Swaziland.

The report stated, ‘Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, police arbitrarily arrested and detained numerous persons, primarily to prevent their participation in public protests. For example, on August 30, the Times of Swaziland newspaper reported police detained 25 residents of KaLuhleko for three days for their opposition to the authority of a certain chief. Residents, including persons over the age of 71, alleged police tied their hands and legs to benches and covered their heads for three days.’

The judiciary in the kingdom was not independent.

The report stated, ‘The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the King’s power to appoint the judiciary on recommendation of the Judicial Services Commission limits judicial independence.

‘The judiciary was generally impartial in nonpolitical criminal and civil cases not involving the Royal Family or government officials. In cases involving high-level government officials or Royal Family members, however, outcomes in favor of these individuals were predetermined. 

‘High Court judges who exercised a degree of independence were sidelined and blocked from ruling on political cases, including human rights cases.’

See also

TRIALS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED: AMNESTY
SWAZI HUMAN RIGHTS WORSEN: AMNESTY
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2015/02/swazi-human-rights-worsen-amnesty.html

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

COURT RULING CHANGES NOTHING

The Swaziland magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko had their jail sentences overturned by the Supreme Court after immense international pressure, but this will not change the judicial system in the kingdom.
 
The pair were convicted and sentenced to two years in jail for writing and publishing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary.

On Tuesday (30 June 2015) the pair was released by the Supreme Court after judges ruled their conviction by the High Court was unsupportable. They had been in jail since March 2014.

Now, two of the groups involved in the campaign to free the two men are warning that the overturning of the conviction does not mean the judicial system has changed in Swaziland.

King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and he picks the top judges. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King choses the Prime Minister and the government. Groups that campaign for democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Reacting to the release of Makhubu and Maseko, Sharan Burrow, International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary, said, ‘Their release just a couple of weeks before the end of their prison sentences should not be seen as a sign of progress in Swaziland. International pressure has helped get them released early, and needs to be sustained to bring about respect for fundamental rights in Swaziland, which is one of the worst countries for violations against workers’ rights.’

Pressure came from all over the world, including the United Nations and the European Parliament. Amnesty International had named the two men prisoners of conscience.
 
In June 2015, The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) called for the immediate release of the two men and said they should be paid ‘adequate compensation, enforceable by law’. 

Organisations within Swaziland and Africa as well as outside the continent demanded the release of the two who wrote and published articles in a tiny-circulation monthly magazine the Nation, critical of the Swazi judiciary and the then Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.

One of these groups, the Swaziland Solidarity Network, in a statement called the judiciary, ‘a tool of oppression of Mswati’s government. As long as the king remains an absolute monarch, there will never be any judicial independence in the country.’

It added. ‘This capitulation by the despot king is a direct result of the political pressure he has received from the Mass Democratic Movement, international institutions and foreign states. Without this pressure the two would still be languishing in prison. We therefore take the time to acknowledge the moral, financial and political support from those institutions.’

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.

See also

SUPREME COURT FREES JAILED WRITERS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/supreme-court-frees-jailed-writers.html

WORKING FOR DEMOCRACY IN SWAZILAND

Democracy on a silver plate 

Kenworthy News Media, 1 July 2015 

“When we got our independence from the UK in 1968 it was given to us on a silver plate. The people of Swaziland didn’t understand or have to fight for their democracy”, Linus Mavimbela tells me. Five years after independence, the Swazi king introduced a state of emergency, banned all political parties, and turned Swaziland into a repressive absolute monarchy, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Linus Mavimbela is a leading member of the People’s United Democratic Movement in Swaziland. He was in Copenhagen to follow the Danish elections that were held on June 18 [2015], invited by the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy and the Danish political party The Red-Green Alliance.

Politicians are servants, not masters

Amongst other things, Linus Mavimbela visited poll stations and joined the campaign tour of Red-Green Alliance MP Christian Juhl. He was above all impressed with the humility of the Danish politicians.


“You can see that Danish politicians are servants, whereas in much of Africa they are masters. Christian, in his campaign, responded to even the smallest communities and took the time to answer all questions honestly and patiently. And the Danish PM graciously accepted losing the election, which is rarely something you see in Africa”, he says.

Democracy cannot be transplanted

But Denmark is after all one of the richest countries in the world. In Swaziland, on the other hand, most of the population live in the rural areas, and two thirds of Swazis survive on less than a dollar a day. This state of affairs is kept in place by the fact that absolute monarch Mswati III has banned political parties, imprisons and tortures dissidents and generally controls all aspects of Swazi society, says Linus Mavimbela .


He therefore doesn’t believe that democracy can be transplanted wholesale from Denmark to Swaziland.
“The heart of what is wrong in Swaziland is lack of democracy, but if you look at the Danish and Swazi systems, there is nothing that we can immediately use. However, not all that long ago Denmark was also an absolute monarchy just like Swaziland, which shows that there is hope for us too”, he says.

Participants not spectators

Linus Mavimbela believes that democracy must be fought for and practised on a practical level as well as theoretically, and with the population at large as participants, not spectators.


“It is very important that the people of Swaziland understand the value of democracy. But it is equally important that that we build institutions and organisations that ingrain democracy in them and continue the debate about democracy after it has been won. When the people have experienced democracy hands-on they will defend it”, he says.

Win from within

But it is one thing to prepare for democracy by civic education and other means, which has been an ongoing process in Swaziland for many years and which is a necessary precondition for any successful democratisation. Actually winning the struggle against a brutal dictatorship is a different and a more dangerous matter altogether, says Linus Mavimbela.


“We therefore have to engage the regime from all angles. We need more pressure from the international community and governments such as the Danish and other EU governments on issues such as human rights abuses and lack of democracy, for sure. But in the end you can only do so much. We need to fight more vigorously to also win the struggle from within – also to show the international community that we are serious about democracy and worth supporting”, he says.

Danish support

Looking out of his hotel window on the vibrant if cool Copenhagen summer evening, Linus tells me that he is happy that Denmark is in fact doing a lot for the cause of democracy in Swaziland already.


“I hope that one day soon we will be able to repay the Danes by turning Swaziland into a democratic state. But as is the case all over the world, democracy is never granted or given. It must be taken and then fought for every day.”

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

SUPREME COURT FREES JAILED WRITERS

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

SWAZI HUMAN RIGHTS WORSEN: AMNESTY

‘SEX STARVED’ SWAZI MEN RAPE CHILDREN

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

SWAZI CHILD RAPE IS NOT UNUSUAL
‘INVESTIGATE PRINCE FOR CHILD SEX’

Monday, 29 June 2015

SWAZI SUPREME COURT NEPOTISM FEAR

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