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Friday, 31 July 2015

HUMAN RIGHTS DOCUMENTARY AIRS ON TV

The documentary, Swaziland: Africa’s last Absolute Monarchy, which reports on human rights abuses in the kingdom is to be aired on national Danish television channel DR2 on Sunday 2 August 2015 at 11 pm, local time.

It was written and directed by Tom Heinemann and Produced by Borgen & Heinemann (2015).

The documentary, part of the series A Heart That Never Dies features Bheki Dlamini. 

A summary of the documentary released by the programme makers says, ‘Bheki Dlamini is a young, political activist from the tiny African country, Swaziland. He spent almost four years in imprisonment for something that he didn’t do. Shortly after his release he had to flee his country.’

This was because he wore a t-shirt demanding democracy and political reforms – which is considered an act of terrorism in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The programme makers say Bheki is just one out of many others that are harassed, tortured and jailed, including editors, lawyers and political opponents of the King’s regime.

Swaziland – Africa’s last absolute monarchy premièred in May 2015 in Copenhagen. It has been submitted to several film festivals, including the Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival and Movies That Matter.

Bheki Dlamini is the President of the Swaziland Youth Congress, the youth wing of PUDEMO. He currently lives in exile at a secret location in South Africa. The Swazi police’s torture of him by way of “severe beatings and suffocation torture” was mentioned in Amnesty International’s 2011 Annual Report.

Tom Heinemann has won the Danish Outstanding Investigative Journalist of the year award twice, and has been runner up for Journalist of the year in Denmark three times. In 2007 he won the Prix Italia in the current affairs selection.

See also

DOCUMENTARY ON FREEDOM STRUGGLE

SWAZI KING SNUBS HIS OWN AIRPORT

King Mswati III of Swaziland has so little faith in the new international airport that has his name that he does not use it. 

Instead, he travels in his private jet from Matsapha, the airport that closed to make way for the King Mswati III International Airport (KM111) that was built in a wilderness about 70 km from any major town.

Matsapha remains open from 08.00 to 17.00 Monday to Friday to service the King’s needs and also to be available for any emergencies.

The Airport closed to commercial airlines in September 2014, when KM111 became operational.

The information is contained in a report from the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA). 

According to the Observer on Sunday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati the airport also accommodates the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) Air Wing, but, ‘in most cases now services royal movement as Their Majesties and members of the royal family use it as seen during their departures and arrivals’.

The newspaper also reported, ‘The only planes that frequently use the airport are local ones, which according to information gathered, are those from the Flight Academy based at the airport, the army and those from Simunye, Big-Bend, Ngonini and Usuthu forests. 

Meanwhile, KM111 (formerly known as Sikhuphe) only has three commercial flights a day leaving the airport, taking a maximum of 150 passengers a day to Johannesburg, South Africa.

The airport, considered a white elephant and vanity project for King Mswati who rules as an absolute monarch cost an estimated E2.5 billion (US$250 million) to build.

See also

U-TURN ON SUCCESS OF KING’S AIRPORT
KING PARTIES WHILE CHILDREN DIE
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/08/swazi-king-parties-while-children-die.html

Thursday, 30 July 2015

US CABLE SAYS SWAZI KING ‘IMBALANCED’

The US Embassy in Swaziland said King Mswati III was ‘not intellectually well developed’ and ‘is not a reader’. It also called him ‘imbalanced’. 
 
The comments about the Swazi King came from Earl Irvine in February 2010, when he was the US Ambassador to Swaziland.

In a confidential cable to Washington released by Wikileaks, Irvine said King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, had a ‘lack of wisdom’.

Quoting an informant, Irvine wrote the king was ‘not a reader, and would not review documents left for him. [The informant] called the king ‘not intellectually well-developed,’ and contrasted his poor educational background with his father Sobhuza II, who was educated at Lovedale College in South Africa alongside future leaders of South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC). 

Irvine wrote, ‘Essentially a bastard outsider to the royal family, King Mswati III was plucked from relative obscurity when members of the royal family could not come to an agreement on a successor to King Sobhuza II. 

‘After Mswati III was selected to be the next king, a posthumous marriage of Sobhuza II to Ntombi [the Queen Mother] was quickly arranged, according to our interlocutor.’

Irvine wrote, ‘Unlike in his early years, the king now identifies and pushes specific projects, and will look to replace ministers or employees who are unable to provide progress on those projects.’

Irvine quoted his informant calling King Mswati ‘imbalanced’. He gave an anecdote to illustrate this. ‘The king, [the informant] said, invited about 40 officials and advisors to a basement in one of his palaces, where they all sat on the floor to attend to him. King Mswati III turned up the heater, which warmed the floor first, until the temperature in the room reached about 40 degrees Celsius, and told inconsequential stories to those gathered while they sweated, merely to show them he was in power.’

Irvine also reported that the king’s mother had a sexual affair with Lutfo Dlamini, Swaziland’s former Foreign Minister. 

And the Queen Mother Ntombi’s ‘associations with men’ had undermined the power she had to influence King Mswati’s decision-making.

Irvine called the cable he wrote to Washington ‘Witchcraft and More: A Portrait of Influences on King Mswati III’.

In the cable Irvine said, ‘traditional leaders, superstition, and members of the royal family’ were the major influences on the king. His ministers, however, ‘remain his servants’.

Irvine wrote, ‘The king’s wives’ opinions matter to the king, especially his third wife, LaMbikisa, who has an advanced degree and is the only wife to whom the king proposed.’

Irvine goes on, ‘King Mswati III believes in muti (traditional medicine used to cast spells or curses), and attempts to use muti to attack the king are taken seriously’.

He wrote, ‘In 1989 Prince Mfana Sibili was accused of high treason when he allegedly used muti to try to take away the king’s powers. When a foreign judge, brought in to hear the case, dismissed it after hearing the charges, a traditional court was installed to convict the prince.’ 

He said that ‘muti people’ hold great sway within the royal family, and that the king must eat and drink whatever they give him during traditional ceremonies, particularly when in seclusion. ‘If they are unhappy with the direction the king is taking the country, then the king has cause to worry.’ 

Irvine went on ‘Although Queen Mother Ntombi is considered by many observers to be a powerful figure within the royal family, [name of informant] indicated that her authority has been undermined by her “associations with men,” including the then Foreign Minister Lutfo Dlamini.

Irvine wrote, ‘Mswati III uses the investment company African Alliance to move his money around internationally.’

The informant indicated that ‘the king has become more decisive during his years in office, especially where his interests are at issue, and he views ministers and officials who tell him he cannot do something as cowards’.

Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini is the king’s loyal ‘hangman,’ Irvine wrote, an assertion that suggests that the king placed absolute trust in Barnabas. 

‘Instead of looking to influence the king, the Prime Minister acts as the king's steadfast servant, a relationship that dates back to a suicide attempt by Barnabas in 1990 or 1991. 

‘According to [informants] in an unsuccessful attempt kept secret from the public, Barnabas tried to commit suicide after his involvement in a corruption scandal during his tenure as Minister of Finance became known. 

‘As part of making amends to the king, Barnabas reportedly prostrated himself before the king, giving himself over as the king’s servant.’

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

SWAZI KING’S BUDGET RISES BY 25pc

The budget for Swaziland’s King Mswati III and his family has increased by 25 percent and now makes up five percent of the overall national budget for Swaziland.

These figures that are never debated in the Swazi Parliament or in the kingdom’s mainstream media have been published by the Nation magazine, a small circulation monthly publication.

The magazine reported that for the year 2015/16, ‘every budget of the royal household, except for the subvention to the King’s Office, reflects a generous increase.’

The Nation report has been uploaded to the Internet.
 
The Nation reported, ‘The overall budget for King Mswati and the royal household took a significant increase of about 25 percent from E630 million [US$63 million] to E792 million. This reflects a staggering E162 million increase and accounts for just about five percent of the overall national budget. This has been the trend for some years.

‘Government increased the Royal Emoluments and Civil List by 21.9 percent from E279 million last year to E340 million. This reflect an increase E61 million. 

‘The Swazi National Treasury, a royal unit responsible for national courts and advisory committees such as Liqoqo, the idle Border Restoration Committee and others, has its budget handsomely increased by E77 million from E200 million. This is a 38.9 percent increase.

‘Government further increased budget for construction of State houses by E13 million from E131 million to E144 million. This is an increase of about 10 percent. The state houses are mainly palaces for the royal household. This budget has become a common feature in the national budget.

‘The budget for link roads to royal residence has been increased by E5 million from E25 million last year to E30 million this year. This reflects a 20 percent increase. The status of the project has never been publicly disclosed. This is another budget that has become a common feature in the national budget. 

‘Government cut down subvention to the King’s Office by E3.4 million from E5 million to E1.6 million. This is a decrease of about 68 percent. A budget of E252 million has been made for the link road to KMIII Airport and to Hlane. 

‘At the opening of the KMIII airport last year (2014), government blew over E5 million on a bash for the royal project.’

The Nation magazine is edited by Bheki Makhubu, who along with writer and journalist Thulani Maseko, were released from jail on 30 June 2015 after serving 15 months for contempt of court after writing and publishing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary.

The magazine has a long-standing reputation for covering stories about people in power in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati, who is an absolute monarch.

The Nation reported, ‘The budget for the royal household is not debated in parliament. Not because there is any law against it but simple because it is considered unSwazi and a taboo for commoners to discuss anything pertaining to the esteemed family. 

‘Parliament is also in the dark as to how the funds are used as audited reports are only for the eyes of the king.’

The magazine said Parliament just approves what the government, which is handpicked by the King, has budgeted.

SWAZI SOLDIERS TORTURE OLD LADIES

Swaziland soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows, a member of the Swazi parliament has reported.

Titus Thwala said that elderly women were among the local residents who were regularly beaten by soldiers at informal crossing points between Swaziland and South Africa.

Thwala said the soldiers made people do push ups and other exercises.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported Thwala made his comments in parliament to the Minister of National Defence and Security Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze.

The newspaper reported Gamedze saying, ‘If that happened we are sorry and it will not happen again.’

This was not the first time soldiers in Swaziland have been accused of beating and torturing people. A man was reportedly beaten with guns and tortured for three hours by soldiers who accused him of showing them disrespect.

He was ordered to do press ups, frog jumps and told to run across a very busy road and was beaten with guns every time he tried to resist.

His crime was that he tried to talk to a man whose vehicle was being searched by soldiers at Maphiveni.

The man, December Sikhondze , told the Swazi Observer in 2011, ‘I only asked for a lift but they told me I was being disrespectful and that I should have waited for them to finish. They took my cell phone and ordered me to do press ups.’

He said that he did more than 50 press ups and he was beaten with guns every time he asked to rest.

The incident was one of many examples of soldiers being out of control in Swaziland. The Army, in effect, has a shoot-to-kill policy. In May 2011, three unarmed South African men were shot dead by Swazi soldiers when they were caught trying to smuggle four cows from Swaziland into the Republic.

In July 2011, three armed soldiers left a man for dead after he tried to help a woman they were beating up. And in a separate incident, a woman was beaten by two soldiers after she tried to stop them talking to her sister.

Soldiers have been out of control in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch for a very long time. In January 2010 they were warned that their attacks on civilians amounted to a ‘shoot to kill’ policy and this was unconstitutional. 

There have been many accounts of soldiers killing or beating up civilians, including a cold-blooded murder of two women accused of smuggling a car across the border with South Africa; a man who had five bullets pumped into his body after being beaten to a pulp; an attack on sex workers after three soldiers refused to pay them for their services; an attack by a bus load of soldiers on a security guard after he asked them to move their vehicle; and five drunk soldiers who terrorised two boys, smashing one of them to a pulp

See also

SWAZI ARMY’S IDEA OF PEACE
ROUGH JUSTICE FOR SEX WORKERS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2010/01/rough-justice-for-sex-workers.html

Saturday, 25 July 2015

EX-SWAZI CHIEF JUSTICE REPORT LEAKED


Swaziland’s sacked Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi was ‘generally corrupt’ and acted in a ‘highly disreputable way’, an official report leaked to a South African newspaper has revealed.

Ramodibedi was sacked by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, after three charges of abuse of office were found against him.

Ramodibedi had barricaded himself in his home in the Swazi capital Mbabane for 38 days after an arrest warrant was issued.

Eventually, the Swazi Judicial Service Commission (JSC) heard a case against Ramodibedi in his absence and found him guilty.

The charges were:

1. Abuse of office – In the allocation of the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) matter which was heard to hear a case brought by Ramodibedi  against the SRA for taxing his gratuity to the amount of E128 000 (US$12,800).

2. Abuse of office – In the hearing of the Impunzi Wholesalers (PTY) Ltd v The Swaziland Revenue Authority, in which it is alleged wealthy businessmen offered judges E2 million to help them win their case against the SRA involving the importation of goods into the kingdom.

3. Abuse of office in order to achieve an ulterior motive – In the hearing of the Estate Policy matter, where it is alleged Ramodibedi appointed three acting High Court judges to hear the case when their terms of office had expired.

The Mail and Guardian newspaper revealed a report by the Swazi Judicial Service Commission (JSC) which has not been officially released also said Ramodibedi had threatened to shoot at police if they tried to arrest him at his home.

The JSC report found Ramodibedi:

·         ‘Had “a generally corrupt relationship” with the former Swazi justice minister, Sibusiso Shongwe, who has also been sacked and charged with corruption. When Shongwe was arrested, investigators found a high court file relating to the application for a warrant of arrest against him. “Evidence tendered … in a bail application revealed that the file had been given to Shongwe by the registrar of the high court on the instruction of the chief justice,” the JSC noted;

·         ‘Appointed another judge, Mpendulo Simelane, to hear Ramodibedi’s personal dispute with the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) over the taxation of a gratuity, knowing Simelane was conflicted. His aim, it says, was “unlawfully to obtain a judgment in his favour from the [SRA] … in an amount of R128 800”;

·         ‘Acted in a “highly disreputable way” by reinstating an application in an estate policy dispute, although it had been withdrawn. His aim was to serve the interests of Shongwe, a respondent. He had also allowed Shongwe to address the judges presiding over the matter; and
·         ‘“Employed all delaying tactics” to stall the impeachment process, including bringing four court applications aimed at forcing the commission JSC to recuse itself.’

The JSC also criticised Ramodibedi’s role in presiding over a dispute between the SRA and Impunzi Wholesalers over duty on imported blankets, while he was in conflict with the revenue authority.

The newspaper reported that Shongwe told him ‘a wealthy businessman’ was willing to hand over R2 million (US$200,000) – R200,000 for Simelane, R500,000 for Ramodibedi and the balance for the minister – ‘if we can help them win the case’.

Ramodibedi allegedly insisted Simelane should be part of the supreme court bench that was to hear an appeal in the matter. This was despite the latter’s protests that he was not eligible for appointment to the supreme court.

Following the JSC hearing King Mswati fired Ramodibedi on 17 June 2015.

Ramodibedi who is a native of Lesotho was allowed to leave Swaziland following his sacking and is now believed to be living in Ladybrand in the Free State, South Africa. The arrest warrant was subsequently reissued.

See also

SWAZI CHIEF JUSTICE’S HISTORY OF ABUSE

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

PUDEMO LEADER DEFIES BAIL CONDITION

Mario Masuku, President of the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), has defied a condition of his bail and addressed a public gathering.

Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini, Secretary-General of the PUDEMO youth wing, SWAYOCO, were released on bail on 14 July 2015 after serving 14 months on remand on sedition charges.

One of the conditions of their bail was that they did not address public gatherings. They had been arrested in May 2014 for allegedly making public statements in support of PUDEMO.

Masuku spoke at a special service at the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in his home area, Makhosini.

He gave an account of life in prison.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported, ‘When he took to the pulpit, the congregants were filled with joy as both young and old welcomed him with applause.’

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom reported, Masuku ‘told the congregants that he would not compromise his values and ideologies in fear of being punished’.

PUDEMO is one of a number of prodemocracy organisations in Swaziland banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. In Swaziland political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King chooses the government and top judges.

See also

RELEASE OF LEADERS ‘CHANGES NOTHING’
DEMOCRACY LEADERS FREED ON BAIL

BOTSWANA SUPPORT FOR SWAZI FREEDOM

Botswana’s National Front has called for political parties in Swaziland to be unbanned.

Swaziland is the only country in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) where political parties are banned.

In Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, political parties are banned by the kingdom’s constituion from taking part in elections. The King chooses the government and top judges.

Parties and other oganisations that advocate for democracy are banned in the kingdom under the Suppression of  Terrorism Act.

The Botswana National Front (BNF) has pledged solidarity with banned political organisations in Swaziland. It said the banning of political was the same as total suppression of freedom of association.

Swaziland also has a number of people in jail for peacefully opposing the present undemocratic system.

In May 2015, the European Parliament called for all political prisoners in Swaziland to be freed. The Swazi Government denies there are any political prisoners in the kingdom, saying that the only people in jail are those who have broken the kingdom’s laws.

Duma Boko, BNF president, who is also the leader of coalition of opposition parties in Botswana, said, ‘We stand with the people of Swaziland in their quest for democracy, in their quest for justice and human rights.

‘We stand with them solidly and we pledge our support to them. We call on the Swazi government to open the democratic space and enable political parties to contend in different view-points, to participate in the political market space of ideas.’
 
See also


FREE POLITICAL PRISONERS: EURO MPS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/free-political-prisoners-euro-mps.html

Monday, 20 July 2015

SWAZI KING’S CUP A FINANCIAL DISASTER

King Mswati III’s vanity soccer tournament that flopped with fans may have cost millions of emalangeni from public funds.

At least E5.8 million (US$580,000) had been diverted from government department budgets to underwrite the cost of the tournament, but it is unlikely that all this money will be recovered.

Fewer than 10,000 spectators attended the King’s Super Cup at Somhlolo National Stadium on Saturday (18 July 2015), although organisers predicted 30,000 people from Swaziland and abroad would attend. 

The E5.8 million that was diverted from government departments to the Ministry of Sport, Culture and Youth Affairs might be an under-estimate. The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported the figure might have been higher. This was denied by Swazi Government spokesperson Percy Similane.  The money was considered a loan and was expected to be repaid from income generated from the tournament. 

Not all costs and income for the tournament are publicly available, but what is available suggests the tournament was a financial disaster.

To break-even financially, the tournament would need to generate E5.8 million to repay government departments, plus a further E1 million, which was widely reported to be the prize money available to the contesting teams.
 
In addition to this E6.8 million, the four participating clubs, which included the Kazier Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, two top teams from South Africa, would presumably require fees to play. The cost of this has not been made publicly available.

In addition to this, there would have been incidental costs for opening up the stadium and paying workers on the day. There were also undisclosed costs ahead of the tournament for such as publicity.

It is impossible to make accurate calculations for all of these costs, but even at a conservative estimate that the tournament needed to recoup only E6.8 million (the government loan plus the prize money), the income for the tournament falls far short.

It was widely reported in the Swazi media that fewer than 10,000 spectators attended the tournament. Reports on social media after the tournament finished suggested that many spectators were allowed to enter the stadium free-of-charge when it was realised attendance was so low and the King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, would be embarrassed.

Assuming that 10,000 people did attend and they all paid the E250 entrance fee; there would have been E2.5 million generated (assuming that none of the cash receipts were stolen on the day).

The E2.5 million is still E4.3 million short of the E6.8 million combined cost of loans and prize money.
Other reported income for the tournament comprised E750,000 in sponsorship from companies and individuals, including Inyatsi Construction, Stefanutti Stocks and Kukhanya Construction. 

This leaves E3.55 million still to find.

Tickets to attend a dinner prior to the tournament at which King Mswati was guest of honour cost E15,000 per table. It was not publicly reported how many tickets were sold, but it would need 236 tickets to be sold to meet the E3.55 million, shortfall.

Other income for the tournament came from DSTV, the satellite TV channel that broadcasts SuperSport. The fee paid to broadcast the tournament has not been publicly disclosed, but it was unlikely to be high. The matches were broadcast on SuperSport 4, which is not a premium channel and does not require viewers to pay a premium fee to receive. The channel generally broadcasts local soccer from countries across Africa, which has little appeal to viewers across the continent.

It is unlikely, therefore, that the fee for broadcast went too far in recovering the ‘missing’ E3.5 million.

Other income included the E550 each vendor at the tournament was required to pay in order to set up stalls.

Ahead of the tournament, the King’s Super Cup was widely reported inside Swaziland and abroad to be the personal idea of King Mswati.

The King’s Super Cup, which ran for the first time this year, was controversial from the start. Prodemocracy campaigners called on the South African clubs to boycott the tournament as it would be seen as supporting King Mswati, who has a poor record on human rights.

Political parties are not allowed to contest elections and opposition groups are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

See also

SWAZI KING’S CUP FLOPS WITH FANS
CALL TO BOYCOTT KING’S SOCCER CUP
SWAZI KING’S CUP TICKET PRICES SKY HIGH
PUBLIC FUNDS TO SUPPORT KING’S CUP
ELDERLY UNPAID AS CASH GOES TO SOCCER
ORGANISERS TALK-UP SWAZI KING’S CUP