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Thursday, 31 May 2012

BUS STRIKE: UNION LEADERS DETAINED


Three trade union leaders were detained by Swaziland police as a public transport strike entered its second day.

The three, executive committee members of the Swaziland Transport and Allied Workers Union (STAWU), were locked in a cell all day at Mafutseni Police Station.

They were picked up by 15 officers close to their union offices in Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland.

One of the detained men, Petros Ndzabandzaba, chief negotiator of STAWU, told local media they were on their way to an arranged meeting with police Regional Commander Richard Tsabedze when they were picked up.

Transport workers in Swaziland were on their second day of a strike that has brought much of the public transport out of Manzini to a halt. Workers are protesting about being forced to use a new bus rank in Manzini that has led to a reduction in passengers.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported police released the three men without charges after seven hours following a request from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Minister.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

STUDENT SHOT IN LEG BY SWAZI POLICE


A university student in Swaziland was shot with a live bullet by police following campus disturbances, human rights activists report.

The 23-year-old student at the Limkokwing private university in Mbabane was reportedly an innocent victim of the shooting.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) said, ‘The student was on his way to his dormitory when he was struck by the live bullet in his leg.’

SSN reported, ‘According to witnesses, one policeman claimed to have been hit by a stone. In retaliation, one of his colleagues let out a shot in the direction of the student who was walking
past the police contingent.’

Linkokwing has been the scene of disturbances for more than a week as students protested against lack of equipment such as computers, laptops and cameras, at the university.

Authorities closed the university, but it reopened yesterday, but some students are boycotting classes.

The student was taken to hospital where he was treated for his wounds.

The Times of Swaziland,  reporting the same incident, said the student was hit with a rubber bullet, ‘which was lodged below the knee of his right leg’. It said the student bled profusely and the bullet was extracted at the hospital. 

Sunday, 27 May 2012

NEWSPAPER COMMENT MUST BE ETHICAL


There have been posts on Facebook recently about the standards of newspaper journalism in Swaziland and whether comment writers need to abide by ethical codes.

Some people are saying writers of ‘my opinion’ pieces aren’t ‘journalists’, so the ethical rules that apply to full-time employees of newspapers don’t apply to them. This isn’t the case.

The word ‘journalist’ covers a multitude of newspaper tasks and not just news reporting. So, feature writers, opinion writers, photographers, the people who write the headlines, the editors, and so on are all ‘journalists’.  The term applies to people whether they work full-time for a media house or only contribute the occasional piece. It doesn’t matter if comment writers have day-jobs somewhere else: when they write for the newspapers they are ‘journalists’ and they are expected to stick to the rules like everyone else.

Some Facebook posters also think that comment writers are allowed to say anything they want and it doesn’t necessarily have to be true, because it’s the writer’s own ‘opinion’.

That isn’t true. Comment writers have to abide by the same laws and ethical codes as anyone else. Take the defamation (libel) law, for example, that protects people from false attacks on their character. Suppose a comment writer says in his column that a person he names was sacked from his job, even though this isn’t true. When he is accused of libel it’s no use him telling the court, ‘It was an honestly-held opinion’. It was not true (even if the writer thought it was, but did not check his facts) and he and the newspaper that published the article would have to pay damages to the person libelled.

Libel laws differ from country to country, and many of them allow that writers should be allowed to have opinions, but there are limits. If a writer were to be accused of libel, the main defence he might have would be that what was written was ‘fair comment’ or ‘honestly believed’. But, for this defence to succeed, the writer must show that the comment was made without malice or disregard for the truth.

The Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ) code of ethical conduct says something on this.  Article 12 on separating comment from facts states, ‘While free to take positions on any issue, journalists shall draw a clear line between comment, conjecture and fact.’

SNAJ also has this to say about facts. ‘The duty of every journalist is to write and report, adhere to and faithfully defend the truth. A journalist should make adequate inquiries, do cross-checking of facts in order to provide the public with unbiased, accurate, balanced and comprehensive information.’

So, opinion writers must beware – they have no special privileges and must stick to the same rules as all other journalists.

SWAZI QUEEN’S SHOES COST 3 YEARS’ PAY


It would take seven-out-of-ten Swazis at least three years to earn the price of the shoes trimmed with jewels worn by one of King Mswati III’s 13 wives at a lunch in the UK.

Inkhosikati LaMbikiza, the King’s first wife, wore shoes that cost £995 (US$1,559) to a lunch hosted by the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II to mark her Diamond Jubilee, earlier this month (May 2012).

Her shoes were described by reporters as a ‘rather eye-catching pair of Pearly Queen-style shoes with feathery pom-poms on the toes and heels.’ They were trimmed with jewels, sequins and feathers. 

She also wore a black and white spotted dress with feathery trimmings to match her shoes and a grey clutch bag.

The King is regularly criticised in media across the globe for his extravagant lifestyle. Media in Swaziland, where King Mswati is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, dare not criticise him. Last week the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, featured a report about LaMbikiza’s shoes, gushing that she had received ‘rave reviews’ for her dress sense while in the UK. 

In Swaziland, seven-in-ten of King Mswati’s subjects are so poor they cannot afford shoes of any kind. They earn less than US$2 a day and it would take them at least 779 working days, or three years, to earn the price of LaMbikiza’s shoes.

While more than half of Swaziland’s 1.1 million population rely on some form of food aid to keep them from hunger, King Mswati has 13 palaces in Swaziland, one for each of his wives; fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars and at least one Rolls Royce. Last month, for his 44th birthday he received a private jet worth US$17 million as a gift. He refused to reveal who bought it for him, leading to speculation that it was paid for out of public funds.

The cost of the King’s five-day trip to the UK for the Diamond Jubilee has been estimated to be at least US$794,500. 



Picture of LaMbikiza’s shoes: The Daily Beast 


See also

KING’S TRIP TO LONDON ‘COST US$794,500’

SWAZILAND LOSES MORE BUDGET SUPPORT


The African Development Bank (AfDB) has followed the IMF’s lead and withdrawn support for Swaziland.

The AfDB will not pay US$100 million (E800 million) budget support due to the kingdom, because Swaziland has failed to tackle problems with its economy.

Last month (April 2012), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) withdrew support for the Swazi Government’s plan for financial recovery, because Swaziland had failed to reign in public spending and had presented a national budget that took money away from education and poverty reduction and diverted it to other areas, widely understood to include spending on King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Majozi Sithole, Swaziland’s Finance Minister, said this week that the AfDB would not pay the annual E800 million budget support it had promised over three years because the government had not met targets it agreed with the IMF. 
 
Sithole said that the government was now hoping to reduce its annual public service salary bill by E300 million, but he said this would be difficult as the government had already failed in a previous attempt to cut it by E241 million.

The Swazi Government would have received a ‘letter of comfort’ from the IMF if it had been able to control its economy, thereby enabling it to get loans from the AfDB and the World Bank.