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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

LEGAL CHALLENGE TO SWAZI TERROR LAW

A legal challenge is to be made in Swaziland to declare the kingdom’s Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) unconstitutional.

People who have protested for democratic change in Swaziland have been arrested and charged under the act for ‘sedition’. No political Party is allowed to contest elections in Swaziland and all organisations that call for democratic change have been branded ‘terrorists’ under the STA.

People have been charged under the STA for a number of alleged crimes, including carrying banners displaying the names of banned organisations, wearing berets or T-shirts with slogans written on them, and praising individuals who have stood up for democracy.

The STA was introduced in November 2008 following an attempted bombing of the Lozitha Bridge, near one of the King’s 13 palaces in September that year.  

Shortly after the STA came into force Amnesty International and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBA-HRI) called for its immediate repeal or amendment.

More recently in June 2014, the United States withdrew preferential trade rights from Swaziland because, among other things, it had not amended the STA.

In 2009, Amnesty and IBA-HRI said a number of provisions in this Act were ‘sweeping and imprecise’.

They said in a statement that the Swazi Government warned of heavy penalties for ‘associating’ with certain groups, which had been declared to be terrorist ‘entities’ under the law. They said this was ‘contributing to an atmosphere of uncertainty and of intimidation amongst a wide range of civil society organizations’.  

The statement read, ‘Amnesty International and the IBA-HRI are gravely concerned that key provisions in this anti-terrorism law are inherently repressive, breach Swaziland’s obligations under international and regional human rights law and are already leading to the violation of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.’

The statement also said the offences under the STA were ‘defined with such over-breadth and imprecision that they place excessive restrictions on a wide range of human rights – such as freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly – without adhering to the requirements of demonstrable proportionality and necessity.’

In June 2014, the United States withdrew a preferential trade agreement from Swaziland under the Africa African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) after the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, failed to make reforms on political and workers’ rights, which included amendments to the STA.

The legal challenge which is spearheaded by the People’s United Democratic Party (PUDEMO) is expected to be heard at the Swaziland High Court on 1 December 2014.

See also

AMNESTY CALLS FOR TERROR PROTEST

Monday, 8 September 2014

MAXWELL FREED, MUSA FOUND GUILTY

Kenworthy News Media, 5 September 2014
According to the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice and PUDEMO, Swaziland Youth Congress Secretary General Maxwell Dlamini has been acquitted of the 2011 charges of contravening Swaziland’s Explosives Act, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Maxwell Dlamini’s co-accused in the 2011 case, Musa Ngubeni, was found guilty on circumstantial evidence and will appear before the magistrate again on September 10.

Maxwell Dlamini is still charged under section 4 and 11 of the Suppression of Terrorism Act for criticising the Swazi regime on May Day 2014, where he could face 15 years in prison if convicted.

He is also charged with sedition and participating in an unlawful activity for allegedly organising and participating in a campaign that advocated the boycott of Swaziland’s 2013 elections, that the Commonwealth Observer Mission referred to as being “not credible”.

Maxwell Dlamini was tortured during questioning in 2011, a fact mentioned in Amnesty International’s 2012 annual report, and subsequently received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

See also

TERROR CHARGE FOR SHOUTING SLOGAN
DANES SUPPORT JAILED SWAZI ACTIVISTS

POISON VICTIMS DENIED TREATMENT

Hospitals in Swaziland refused to treat poverty-stricken workers affected by poisonous fumes at a textile factory because they could not afford to pay.

Meanwhile, the Swaziland Government said the number of workers exposed to the fumes was 1,600 – more than treble the number previously reported by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA). 

Hospitals were inundated with sick people after the incident at the Taiwanese-owned Tex-Ray factory in Matsapha, near Manzini, on Friday (5 September 2104).

Jim Wang, a spokesperson for Tex-Ray was quoted by the Observer on Sunday newspaper in Swaziland saying that the doctors had refused to give medical attention to some of the workers because they did not have money. 

Wang said ‘I told them we would give them the cash after they had attended to the employees.’ 

Minister of Labour and Social Security Winnie Magagula was quoted in local media saying, ‘We have received a report on the catastrophe at the factory. A total of 1,600 employees were exposed to the fumes from a spilled chemical.’ 

She added, ‘Currently we do not have more information on the deadly substance, we are yet to conduct thorough research on its effects and the cause of its spill.’ 

Magagula also told the newspaper the chemical was spilled in the clothing mixture room and that a full report that would disclose its name, effects and the extent of damage it had caused was awaited. 

See also 

‘POISON FUMES STRIKE 500 WORKERS’

Saturday, 6 September 2014

‘POISON FUMES STRIKE 500 WORKERS’



About 500 workers at a textile factory in Swaziland needed medical treatment after inhaling poisonous chemicals, according to the kingdom’s trade union federation.

The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) said the incident happened at the Taiwanese-owned Tex-Ray factory in Manzini, the kingdom’s main commercial city on Friday (5 September 2014).

According to a TUCOSWA press statement doors at the factory were locked making it difficult for workers to escape the fumes. It said, ‘close to 500 workers collapsed and had to be treated in various medical institutions’.

Mduduzi C. Gina, TUCOSWA First Deputy Secretary General, said, ‘It is more disturbing to learn that the management of the company locked the exit points of the factory shell when workers wanted to escape from inhaling the lethal substance.’

Gina said the incident happened at the same time that TUCOSWA had announced it wanted to address Tex-Ray workers on workers’ rights and the lack of political freedom in Swaziland.

Last week, police prevented TUCOSWA and the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) from holding a prayer meeting outside Tex-Ray. Swazi media reported at the time that 1,500 workers had gathered.

The workers are concerned for their jobs after the United States dropped Swaziland from the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) which allowed the kingdom to export goods at preferential rates. The US made the move because Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has a poor record on political and workers’ rights.

Media in Swaziland have predicted that as many as 20,000 jobs in the kingdom’s textile industry could be lost as a result of the withdrawal of AGOA benefits that comes into force on 1 January 2015.

There are about 25 Taiwanese-owned factories operating in Swaziland, mostly textile and garment manufacturers, paying salaries described by workers as close to slave wages. There have been numerous strikes by workers trying to get decent wages, where the pay is so poor that many women workers are unable to feed themselves properly and have to resort to prostitution

Wages in textile factories in Swaziland are so low that companies in South Africa threatened to move their factories to the kingdom to avoid paying the minimum wage in that country. 

A report in 2010 stated that employees in Matsanjeni typically earned E160 a month and were forced to turn to prostitution to survive.

Some women textile workers reported they earned E5.50 per hour (about 85 US cents) and had to live six to a room and three to a bed to get by. They tried to share food as the cheapest meal for one person costs E10 and a piece of fruit costs E1. 

But, wages in Swaziland were still too high, according to Mason Ma, director and vice president of Tex-Ray. He told reporters in 2010 that recent increases had pushed ‘wage levels higher than in some Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia’.

In August 2010, Lutfo Dlamini, who was then Swazi Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, told Taiwan journalists that all profits made in the textile factories for Taiwan-owned companies could be taken out of the kingdom. He said that this made Swaziland a better place to set up factories than anywhere else in Africa.

And, the then Taiwanese ambassador to Swaziland Peter Tsai told reporters a distinguishing feature of Swaziland in terms of investment ‘is that it allows full repatriation of profits and dividends of enterprises operating in the country’. 

Dlamini said in Swaziland, ‘We believe in this country. You invest your money. You make profits and you are able to take the profits away.’

See also

MINISTER RAIDS TEXTILE FACTORY

SWAZI TEXTILE PAY STRIKE ILLEGAL

Monday, 1 September 2014

KING, 46, TAKES VIRGIN, 19, AS 14th WIFE

Swaziland’s King Mswati III has finally married the 19-year-old former beauty pageant contestant dubbed by foreign media as ‘Naughty Sindi’

The King, aged 46, chose the teenager as his wife from among thousands of young virgin girls who danced semi-naked in front of him at the kingdom’s annual Umhlanga or Reed Dance in 2013.

The Observer on Sunday (31 August 2014), a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported that Sindiswa Dlamini had been seen in public at the opening of a trade fair and this indicated that she was now officially the King’s wife. It had been announced in September 2013 that Dlamini had been chosen to be the King’s 14th wife.

Media in Swaziland predictably reported the event as if it were quite natural for a middle-aged man to wed a ‘virgin’ who was younger than many of his daughters.

But outside the kingdom, which King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, the media have been more candid.

They reported Dlamini as the king’s 14th bride, although some counted her as wife number 15. The confusion was excusable since the number of wives the king has is considered a state secret in Swaziland and it is considered ‘un-Swazi’ to talk openly about King Mswati’s polygamy.

Media outside Swaziland reported that ‘Naughty Sindi’, as the Sunday Sun newspaper in South Africa described her, has had affairs with two of King Mswati’s sons, Prince Majaha and Prince Bandzile, who are both in their early twenties.

One unnamed source told the newspaper, ‘Sindi has dated both these boys. She’s a party girl used to having fun.’

Another informant told the Sunday Sun, ‘Sindi is no virgin. She drinks and smokes a lot and has tattoos on parts of her body I cannot mention.’

One source told the newspaper, ‘She is only doing it [marrying the king] because she comes from a poor background.’

The media in Swaziland never report about the King without his permission. This means people across the world are better informed than the King’s subjects, the Swazi people. Most media in the kingdom are under direct state control, opposition political parties are banned as ‘terrorist’ organisations and any political dissent is quickly crushed by police and the army.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

‘HUGE DROP IN NUMBERS AT REED DANCE’



At least 40,000 fewer young Swazi women are taking part in this year’s annual Umhlanga or Reed Dance ceremony than in 2013 if newspaper reports in Swaziland are correct.

Newspapers reported on Thursday (28 August 2014) that 80,000 young women, known as ‘Imbali’, had registered to take part in a series of ceremonies that end on Monday when they dance bare-breasted in front of King Mswati III.

But, last year the same newspapers in Swaziland reported 120,000 had taken part. In 2009, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, put the number of women at 130,000.  

The Reed Dance is considered by traditionalists to be the most important event on the Swazi calendar. Unmarried Swazi women, called ‘maidens’, make their way through the Ezulwini Valley during a week of ceremonial activities culminating with a mass dance in front of the King.

The newspapers in Swaziland have not told their readers about the apparent steep decline in support for the Reed Dance. King Mswati rules the kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and most media are strictly controlled. Even, the independent Times of Swaziland newspapers do not criticise the King.

See also

SWAZI GIRLS FACE PUBLIC WHIPPING

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

POLICE STOP WORKERS FROM PRAYING

Police in Swaziland stopped an open-air prayer meeting because leaders of workers’ unions were present.

They said the gathering was illegal.

It happened outside the textile firm Tex Ray in Manzini on Tuesday (26 August 2014) where local media reported about 1,500 textile workers had gathered to hear a local pastor, Zandile Hlophe, preach.

The workers are concerned for their jobs after the United States dropped Swaziland from the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) which allowed the kingdom to export goods at preferential rates. The US made the move because Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has a poor record on political and workers’ rights.

Media in Swaziland have predicted that as many as 20,000 jobs in the kingdom’s textile industry could be lost as a result of the withdrawal of AGOA benefits that comes into force on 1 January 2015.

The Times of Swaziland newspaper reported the prayer meeting was ‘supposed to last for an hour. The prayer was organised by the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) in partnership with the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) and the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA)’. 

The newspaper, which is the only daily newspaper in the kingdom independent of the state, said, ‘While the pastor was preaching the word of God to the workers, the police came and ordered them to vacate the venue within two minutes. The first reason that the police gave to the organisers was that the gathering was illegal and it could not be regarded as a prayer because of the presence of union leaders.’

It added, ‘SUDF Coordinator Wandile Dludlu, who was with TUCOSWA Secretary General Vincent Ncongwane and ATUSWA Secretary General Wonder Mkhonza, questioned the police’s reason of stopping the prayer. Dludlu asked why they regarded the gathering as illegal and not a prayer because there was a pastor preaching.’

Police regularly break up prayer meetings in Swaziland, claiming they are ’political’. Political parties are barred from contesting elections in the kingdom and most are banned outright under an anti-terrorism law.

In the run up to the 2013 national election a number of prayer meetings were broken up by police and state forces.

In February 2013, about 60 armed police forced their way into the Our Lady of Assumption cathedral while a prayer meeting was taking place. They gave the congregation seven minutes to vacate the building. The prayer was jointly organised by SUDF and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC). It had originally been scheduled to take place at the Bosco Skills Centre in Manzini. The venue was changed to the cathedral at the last minute after organisers realised the police intended to block people entering Bosco.

In March 2013, the Swazi Government banned a prayer meeting due to take place in Manzini to mark the first anniversary of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA). Without recourse to the law courts, the government announced that the intended meeting was illegal because the Industrial Court had recently decided that TUCOSWA could not be a registered federation in the kingdom.



See also

POLICE BREAK UP DEMOCRACY PRAYERS
CHRISTIANS CONDEMN PRAYERS RAID
RAID ON PRAYERS UNCONSTITUTIONAL
ANOTHER PRAYER MEETING BANNED
RIOT POLICE FORCE HALT TO PRAYER

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

SWAZI GIRLS FACE PUBLIC WHIPPING

Girls who do not turn up for King Mswati III at the forthcoming annual Umhlanga Reed Dance in Swaziland will be publicly whipped.

They have been told that if they travel to the event in which tens of thousands of bare-breasted girls dance in front of the King, but do not attended the ceremony, they will be beaten on the buttocks when they return to their homesteads in Mbilaneni.

Thami Thikazi, the headman of the Mbilaneni chiefdom, said if parents disagreed with the punishment they would be forced to wield the lash themselves.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported Thikazi saying, ‘In case parents distance themselves from such, we are going to order them to be the ones administering the punishment in the form of strokes on the buttocks should it be found that they (girls) did something intolerable. The punishment will take place in full view of everyone.’

Tens of thousands of girls and young women known as ‘maidens’, from all over Swaziland attend the ceremony at Ludzidzini each year. It is billed as a tribute to the King and his mother, but in past years it has been noticed that many of the maidens do not attend the ceremony, preferring instead to go off to have fun with their friends.

More than 50 maidens from Mbilaneni have been chosen to attend the Reed Dance this year. Thikazi said in order to be chosen to represent the chiefdom they had to ‘be of good morals and upbringing.’

He added, ‘We therefore have to see to it that they face the music once they misbehave and parents should be ready to discipline.’

The sinister nature of the Reed Dance was revealed in 2012 when about 500 children were ordered to sing a song vilifying political parties. This was part of a clampdown on dissent in the kingdom, where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The children were taught a song to sing at the dance which had lyrics that when translated into English said political parties ‘set people against each other’ and said that if political parties were allowed to exist in the kingdom the king’s people ‘could start fighting each other’.
Political parties are banned in Swaziland, but there is increasing pressure from pro-democrats for this to change. Some traditional authorities also believe that support for the present system that puts them in control is on the wane. In Swaziland pro-democracy demonstrations have been attacked by police and state security forces.

This was not the only year in which children were compelled to sing the king’s praises. In 2009, the South Africa Press Association reported, ‘During the four-hour event, children sang songs which glorified Mswati and condemned his enemies.

‘“This land is your land our king, your enemies want to destroy you,” they sang.’

See also

CULTURAL REED DANCE TURNS POLITICAL
SWAZIS FORCED TO DANCE FOR KING

TERROR CHARGE FOR SHOUTING SLOGAN



Charged with terrorism for shouting ‘viva PUDEMO’

SOURCE Kenworthy News Media, 25 August 2014.

Swazi activists Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini face terrorism charges and could serve 15 years in prison for expressing support for pro-democracy party the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), writes Kenworthy News Media.

“If we have to go inside the prisons and be charged, I am the first one”. This was the prophetic statement of the Mario Masuku, the President of PUDEMO, on May Day in the tiny absolute monarchy of Swaziland.

Mario Masuku and youth leader Maxwell Dlamini, Mario Masuku were arrested shortly after having given speeches to approximately 7,000 people at the 2014 May Day event in Swaziland’s main commercial city, Manzini.

They were charged under section 4 and 11 of the Suppression of Terrorism Act, an act that Amnesty International has called “inherently repressive” and claims “continues to use the sweeping provisions of the 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act to detain and charge political activists”. They could serve as long as 15 years in prison if convicted.

Mario Masuku had expressed support for his own organization, PUDEMO, and Maxwell Dlamini had shouted “viva PUDEMO” along with hundreds of others at the May Day event and allegedly sung a song that included the words “the king must go”.

The state prosecution has argued that these utterances are “very serious” and “threatening to the leadership of the country and the nation at large”. Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini for their part vigorously deny being terrorists or that their alleged offenses constitute acts of terrorism.

Both Masuku and Dlamini have been denied bail and are remanded in custody at Zakhele Remand Centre, where Mario Masuku has contracted pneumonia, which has exacerbated by his diabetic condition and led to drastic weight loss and poor eye sight. His legal team is filing a new bail application to try and ensure that he gets the proper medical attention that he has been refused in prison.

According to several members of the democratic movement in Swaziland both Masuku and Dlamini are also facing financial difficulties because of the legal costs of the trial. Their trial will continue in September.

They have both previously faced both harassment and lengthy spells in custody for similar charges from Swaziland’s police and legal system, none of which they have ever been convicted of. Maxwell Dlamini has given a vivid account of his torture at the hands of Swazi police in 2011 and was receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder before his arrest.

Swaziland is one of the most unequal countries in the world with nearly 70 per cent of its population living under the poverty line of US$1 a day. King Mswati III of Swaziland is ranked amongst the richest royals in the world.

See also

DEMOCRAT LEADER ‘CRITICALLY ILL’ IN JAIL