You are on page 1of 35

0

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom


As seen through the pages of Swazi Media Commentary, compiled by Richard Rooney
Volume 1: January 2013

richard

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom

INTRODUCTION
This year, 2013, may prove to be a pivotal one in the campaign for freedom in Swaziland. A national election is due sometime in the next twelve months (we must wait for King Mswati III to tell us when it can take place) and this will focus some international attention on the tiny kingdom. King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africas last absolute monarch and the parliament that will come into effect after the election is simply his plaything. He chooses the Prime Minister, the cabinet and most of the people who will sit in the Senate or House of Assembly. He has control of the judiciary and despite a constitution that came into effect in 2006 that purports to offer his subjects a Bill of Rights he enjoys complete control. No decisions can be taken without his permission. As a consequence, political parties are banned and freedoms of speech, the media and association are severely curtailed. Seven in ten of the kings one million subjects live in abject poverty earning less than US$2 a day, while he has13 palaces and a private fortune of at least US$200 million. The US State Department reporting on human rights in Swaziland in 2011 said, The three main human rights abuses were police use of excessive force, including use of torture and beatings; a breakdown of the judiciary system and judicial independence; and discrimination and abuse of women and children. Other significant human rights problems included extrajudicial killings by security forces; arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly, and association; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community; harassment of labor leaders; restrictions on worker rights; child labor; and mob violence. Clearly, there is lot of work for democracy activists to do. But, there is a growing campaign inside Swaziland for democracy and this is getting noticed on an international scale. As each month passes it becomes more difficult for the king and his traditionalist supporters in the kingdom to maintain the fiction that Swaziland is free. The election is a perfect opportunity for prodemocracy advocates to focus the attention of those who rarely notice Swaziland and point out the deficiencies in the kingdom and to gather support for change. Social media will play a large part in getting the message for freedom out. One of these is Swazi Media Commentary which was launched in 2007 and is one of the longest running blog or social media sites supporting the campaign for democracy in Swaziland. Swaziland: Striving For Freedom is the first volume of information, commentary and analysis on human rights taken from articles first published on the Swazi Media Commentary blogsite in 2013. Each month throughout the coming year a digest of articles will be published bringing together in one place material that is rarely found elsewhere.

Page 1

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom

In this first volume you can read about how the Swazi state wants to prosecute for treason those campaigners who advocate a boycott of the non-democratic national election (the death penalty is available for those convicted); how traditionalists want to continue forcing children into marriages (something that is called paedophilia in civilised countries) and how, because King Mswati has ruined the kingdoms economy, one in ten of his subjects will go hungry this year. Also, available are reports on attacks by the state on women who wish to wear mini-skirts (they face jail time under a law made in 1889); how a pregnant woman was sent to prison because her mother thought she needed to be punished, although she had committed no crime, and how police routinely use torture. This month there is also an extensive look at press standards in Swaziland and how newspapers deliberately lie to their readers in pursuit of profits. Swazi Media Commentary 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 will continue to be published online updated most days bringing information, comment and analysis unavailable elsewhere. We hope you find this compilation of articles useful and will want to visit us online. Richard Rooney

Swazi Media Commentary Containing information and commentary about human rights in Swaziland Click Here

Page 2

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom

CONTENTS

1 2 3 4 5

National Election Economics and Industry Human Rights The Constitution Media

4 7 11 22 24

Page 3

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom

1. NATIONAL ELECTION
Election Boycotters Face Treason Charge Wednesday, 16 January 2013 Opponents of Swazilands non-democratic national poll this year could face a charge of treason and the death penalty, a senior election official said. Many prodemocracy groups and individuals are campaigning for a boycott of the election because political parties are banned in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africas last absolute monarch, and the parliament has no real powers. Mzwandile Fakudze, deputy chair of the Elections Boundaries Commission (EBC), told the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, those who seek to stand in the way of elections, which is tantamount to treason, will face the wrath of the law. The newspaper quoted him saying, Committing the offence of treason entails when a person subverts or shows potential to subvert the activities of the state even if it is without the use of arms, weapons or military equipment. People convicted of treason in Swaziland face the death penalty. He was supported by EBC chair Prince Gija who said those who sought to sabotage the election would face the wrath of the law. Fakudze said the betrayal of ones own country by waging war against it or by consciously opposing or purposely acting to aid its enemies, amounted to the crime of treason. The Observer defined treason as the violation by a subject of allegiance to the state. Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Principal Secretary Thembinkosi Mamba told the newspaper in terms of the law, whoever threatened to cause a disarray towards the state and where his / her intentions caused one to believe that there would be such a disarray, they would have to answer to the courts why they should not be charged with the crime of treason. Swazi Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Inspector Khulani Mamba said threats to the state were not taken lightly, especially if such threats were of intent to sabotage national elections because then it becomes the countrys security concern. We will be watching closely at such purported actions but will not divulge our reaction plan as it is a concern of security, he said.

See also OPPOSITION TO SWAZI ELECTIONS GROWS SWAZI UNION TO BOYCOTT ELECTIONS

Page 4

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom Swaziland elections predicted to be a fraud (First published in Pambazuka News 24 January 2013 Issue 614) The tiny kingdom of Swaziland in southern Africa is getting ready for a national parliamentary election this year, amid expectations that the outcome will be a fraud on democracy. All political parties are banned in the kingdom where King Mswati III is generally considered to be the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa. Elections are held every five years. At the last vote in 2008, the Commonwealth Election Team, which has global experience monitoring national elections, declared that the voting was so badly flawed Swaziland needed to rewrite its constitution, if it ever wanted to ensure that Swazilands commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal. In a report on the elections it said: It is widely accepted internationally that democracy includes the right of individuals to associate with and support the political party of their choice. It added: Yet in practice this right currently does not exist. The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) also denounced the poll because political parties were not allowed to take part. Mary Mugyenyi, the head of the PAP mission, said at the time: The non-participation of political parties makes these elections extraordinary from any others but we hope with time things will change. The European Union declined even to send a delegation to monitor the election, declaring that it could not be free and fair if political parties were banned. In 2008 Peter Beck Christiansen, the EU Ambassador to Swaziland, told a press conference there were shortcomings in the kingdoms democracy. He said: It is noted that the Prime Minister is not elected by Parliament. He added: The same applies to Cabinet Ministers, theyre not appointed by Cabinet. He also said: Its clear that the [Swazi] constitution has some shortcomings. Following the election, the International Commission of Jurists criticised the Swaziland Supreme Court for siding with the Swaziland state and confirming a constitutional right to ban political parties in the kingdom. In January 2012, Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in the Swaziland Government, confirmed that there would be no changes from previous years to the way the national elections would be run and political parties would remain banned. King Mswatis supporters dismiss criticisms that the kingdom is un-democratic, saying Swaziland has a unique democracy. This is built on a system of 55 Tinkhundla (local councils) and all candidates for election are required to stand as individuals and if elected personally represent the ordinary people in their local constituencies.

Page 5

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom There are two chambers of parliament, the House of Assembly and the Senate. Of the 65 members of the House, 10 are chosen by King Mswati and 55 are elected by the people. In the Senate, King Mswati chooses 20 of the 30 places. The other 10 are chosen by members of the House of Assembly. None are elected by the people. Despite the claims that ordinary Swazi have representation in parliament, King Mswati is in complete control of his kingdom. Last August, at the Sibaya Peoples Parliament (a quaint idea of democracy where people turn up at a cattle byre and voice their opinions on topics of concern to them) speakers overwhelmingly called on the government to resign, citing its inability to control an economy spiralling out of control as a major reason. In October, the House of Assembly passed a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister and cabinet. In such circumstances the constitution requires the monarch to sack the government (he has no discretion in the matter), but King Mswati ignored this and put pressure on the House to re-run the vote, this time ensuring that it did not have the required majority to pass. Members of the House did as they were told and the government continued in office. A number of prodemocracy groups have called for a boycott of this years election. These include the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) and the Swaziland United Democratic Front, which describes the Swazi system of governance as illegitimate, unpopular and a mockery to democracy. King Mswati has yet to set a date for the election. He has sole say over its timing. In 2008 he kept people waiting for most of the year before declaring the poll would be in September, leaving only three days for people to declare their candidacy and there was no voter roll to determine who was eligible to vote. While we await the election, the king continues to live a lavish lifestyle. He has 13 palaces, one for each of his wives, and owns fleets of BMW and Mercedes Benz cars and a private jet aircraft. Forbes magazine estimated that he has a personal fortune of US$100 million. Meanwhile, seven in ten of the 1 million population of Swaziland live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day. Swaziland also has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world.

Page 6

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom

2. ECONOMICS AND INDUSTRY


Economy Fails, One in Ten Go Hungry 29 January 2013 One in ten people in Swaziland will go hungry this year as the kingdom struggles to feed its population as the economy remains in the doldrums. A total of 115,712 people face food shortages in 2012/2013, according to the Swaziland Vulnerability Assessment Committee in a report. The number has increased by 88,511 from 2011. The report highlights problems with the Swazi economy as a major factor. It says that the kingdom is too dependent on food imports and because of high price inflation in Swaziland people cannot afford to buy food. The report predicts that more people will fall into hunger as prices continue to rise. People in Swaziland do not have enough choices for food supply and many are dependent on subsistence farming and this makes families vulnerable to hunger. The countrys dependence on commodity imports for consumption requirements is not encouraged as price shocks may reduce households access to food and increase food insecurity, the report says. Poor rains played a part in the food crisis which meant less cereal was grown than is needed. The lack of support services to help agricultural production contributed to the problem, the report says. In July 2012, Nkululeko Mbhamali, Member of Parliament for Matsanjeni North, said people in the Swaziland lowveld area had died of hunger at Tikhuba when crops failed. Matsanjeni South MP Qedusizi Ndlovu also said at the time that wherever he went people begged him for food. In September 2012 the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the Institute for Security Studies in separate reports said the Swazi government was largely to blame for the economic recession and subsequent increasing amount of Swazis who have to skip meals was its fault. The reports listed low growth levels, government wastefulness and corruption, and lack of democracy and accountability as some of the main reasons for the economic downturn that has led to as increasing amount of hungry Swazis.

Minister Comes Clean on Economy 20 January 2013 Swazilands Finance Minister Majozi Sithole has backtracked on his claim that the kingdoms economy is no longer in crisis, after international observers proved he was not telling the truth.

Page 7

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom

Sithole claimed earlier this month (January 2013) that receipts of E12.2 billion (US$1.1 billion) due this year to Swaziland, mostly from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), meant, I can safely say the economy is now under control. We have survived the worst economic challenges ever. Media in Swaziland took him at his word all broadcast news in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africas last absolute monarch, is state-controlled and one of the two national newspaper groups is in effect owned by the king. But once news travelled beyond the Swaziland borders, economists, bloggers, journalists and expert observers on the kingdom pointed out the truth: nothing had changed with the economy. Swaziland is tied with Somalia as having the worst performing economy in Africa and the government continues to have the highest public sector wage bill per capita in sub-Saharan Africa. It cannot fund health and social welfare projects, but continues to waste millions of emalangeni bankrolling King Mswati, his 13 wives and a Royal Family so large, no one is sure how many members it has. The kings vanity project, Sikhuphe international airport, remains uncompleted and unnecessary, but is still a black hole sucking in millions of US dollars a year. Now, Sithole has been forced to go back to the Swazi media to change his story. The Weekend Observer, one of the Swazi kings newspapers, reported him saying the receipts from SACU and money collected internally from taxes did not necessarily mean that the kingdom had overcome its financial woes but only that this came as some form of relief. The Observer reported that Sithole granted the newspaper after, Commentators from outside our border, also said the ministers pronouncements were not in tandem with the obtaining situation on the ground. The newspaper reported Sithole saying, Swaziland was not out completely from the economic quagmire but this was an opportunity to use resource sparingly in order for the economy to sustain itself. He further said he was worried about the growth rate, being the lowest in the SACU. See also MINISTER WRONG ON ECONOMIC RECOVERY IMF REPORTS GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC FAILURES Slave Labour at Textile Factory 9 January 2013 Working conditions at a Swaziland textile factory are worse than slavery, the kingdoms Labour Minister Lutfo Dlamini said.

Page 8

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom And, Dlamini told the company Kang Fa, headquartered in Taiwan, he would report it to the Taiwan Embassy if it continued to disregard Swazilands labour laws. Dlamini told Kang Fa Managing Director, Chang Iming, What you are doing here is worse than slavery. You are running the factory using your own labour laws. I will report you to the Taiwan Embassy because you are misrepresenting Taiwanese investors in the country. Local newspaper Times of Swaziland said Dlamini was on a courtesy visit to the factory when he made his remarks. The Times reported a workers representative saying, Sometimes we are informed at 3pm that salaries, which were due an hour later, would be paid at a later date. Also, when you go on leave you are either replaced or made to reapply when you return to work. Dlamini said, When this factory was constructed, we lied to the King that Swazis would be employed thus reducing poverty, but what is happening here is not employment. The minister gave the director an ultimatum to either improve working conditions or have its operating licence revoked. There have been numerous problems in Taiwanese textile factories in Swaziland. There are about 25 Taiwanese-owned factories operating in Swaziland, mostly textile and garment manufacturers, employing about 15,000 people, many at close to slave wages. There have been numerous strikes by workers trying to get decent wages, but the pay is so poor that many women workers are paid wages so low they 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 have threatened to move their factories to the kingdom to avoid paying the minimum wage in that country. It is believed that many workers in textile factories at present in Swaziland do not receive even the kingdoms minimum wage that varies between E420 (US$57) a month for an unskilled worker and E600 (US $81) a month for a skilled worker. 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, a large Taiwanese textile business with factories in Swaziland. He told reporters in 2010 that recent increases had pushed wage levels higher than in some Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia.

Page 9

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom In March 2012, the Swaziland High Court supported textile company Zheng Yong when it refused to pay its workers paid leave, after it claimed it could not afford to do so. See also EXPLOITATION BY TAIWAN TEXTILES COST OF FRIENDSHIP WITH TAIWAN SWAZI TEXTILE PAY STRIKE ILLEGAL

Security officers reportedly used torture during interrogation, assaulted citizens, and used excessive force in carrying out their duties. Reported practices included beatings and temporary suffocation using a rubber tube tied around the face, nose, and mouth, or plastic bags over the head. US report on torture in Swaziland

Page 10

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom

3. HUMAN RIGHTS
Government Misleads On Mini-skirt Law 1 January 2013 A claim from the Swaziland Government that Swazi women have the protection of the constitution if they want to wear mini-skirts is misleading. A statement from the Swaziland Police that women found wearing a mini-skirt in public would be arrested and face a fine or imprisonment sparked off a frenzy of reporting across the world during the Christmas holiday period. It started when Swazi Police official spokesperson Wendy Hleta told the Times Sunday newspaper that it would only take one complaint for a woman in a mini-skirt to be arrested. She said police would use a law dating from 1889. She was commenting after police stopped a march by women protesting at the harassment they received from men when they wore mini-skirts or other clothes such as low-cut jeans or crop tops that displayed their stomachs. The men want them to wear clothes they feel are more appropriate to Swazi tradition. The bus rank in Manzini, Swazilands main commercial city, has become a place where women are especially vulnerable. In the course of the interview Hleta said that men might be tempted to rape women who wore skimpy clothes. The comment about rape was picked up by the international media and the story went viral: most reports were critical of the law and of Swaziland. Rather late in the day, Percy Simelane, the official spokesperson for the Swaziland Government, issued a statement saying women would not be arrested because they were protected by the kingdoms constitution of 2005. He said that Section 28 (1, 2 & 3) protected the freedom and rights of women to wear what they wished. He also said Section 2 (1) made any law that did not conform to the constitution void, so the 1889 law no longer was in force. What Simelane said was strictly correct and it made it look as if women were safe to wear what they wished. Therefore, the negative reports were incorrect and all was well in the Kingdom of Swaziland. But, the reality is somewhat different. It is true that Section 2 makes laws that do not conform to the constitution void, but in practice it has never been used. For example, there are about 30 laws in Swaziland that one way or another restrict freedom of speech in the kingdom and they all contradict with the constitution, but not one of them has been repealed. Section 28 of the constitution does say that women cannot have any custom imposed on them in which they were in conscience opposed, but the daily reality is different. But, rather than protecting women, the police are themselves harassers. By coincidence as the mini-skirts row flew around the world, the Times of Swaziland published a letter from a Page 11

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom woman who recounted a trip she and her female friend made to Manzini police station to report a crime. She was wearing a miniskirt and her friend shorts. She said five male officers verbally attacked them. Among the comments made by the police officers were, You b******, go and get dressed or remove yourselves from our presence. Cant you hear that we are telling you to go and dress appropriately first? Or have you come to solicit here? This is not a prostitution site. And , Go before we do you harm. The two women left the police station in tears. The letter writer wrote, This happened at a place where we thought we were safe. At a place where we are supposed to be protected, a place where the law is supposed to be upheld! The Constitution gives us equal rights with men. It says we are equal and the police should uphold that law. However, we were violated and sexually harassed in a place of law. Those cops have no sense of respect whatsoever for women. They define their own women and how they should behave. Then one wonders if women are still regarded as second class citizens in the police force? If we are to believe the Swaziland Government that the constitution protects womens rights to dress as they please we should now expect two things to happen. First, an inquiry should be made into the conduct of the police officers in Manzini and if found guilty they should be punished. Second, next time women in miniskirts are harassed on the streets, police should not move them along, they should arrest and prosecute the men doing the harassing. Only then will we know the Swaziland Government really believes in the constitution. See also WOMEN IN MINI-SKIRTS FACE ARREST Police Harass Student Leader 7 January 2013 Maxwell Dlamini, Swazilands best known student leader, was arrested by police and detained for four hours after allegations that he did not stick to bail conditions. Prodemocracy supporters are saying Dlamini is being harassed by police. Dlamini faces charges that he was in posession of explosives in April 2011. He had spent nearly 10 months in jail on remand before being released on bail in February 2012, after an international campaign. Dlamini denies the charges and says he was tortured by police into making a confession.

Page 12

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom Dlaminis rearrest sparked anger among supporters. The Swaziland Youth League (SWAYOCO), writing on Facebook called it disgusting. Dlamini told readers of Facebook, the police had told him he had not been keeping to the conditions of his bail, which included reporting to Mbabane Police station three times a week. Dlamini, who is president of the Swaziland National Union of Students, said he had kept to all bail conditions, but the police were so inefficient they had failed to keep proper records of his visits. It has always been the state which has failed to keep proper records and their inefficiencies on their part that I was not captured on the records book at times. This was because either the record book was missing or the office responsible was absent from work, he wrote. See also INDEFINITE BAIL FOR STUDENT ACTIVISTS STUDENT LEADER ESCAPES ARREST POLICE TORTURE STUDENT LEADER

Government Ministers Who Gamble Face sack 10 January 2013 Cabinet ministers, public servants and MPs who go to casinos face the sack, the Swaziland Governments official spokesperson, Percy Simelane said. He said there was a law specifically banning public servants from gambling and if they were found in casinos they will face the full wrath of the law. The public servants are covered by the Casino Act No.53 of 1963 a law from the days before Swaziland became independent from colonial rule. Simelane was reacting to a claim from the Times of Swaziland newspaper that two cabinet ministers, a number of members of the Swazi Parliament and had been spotted numerous times at gaming houses. There were also many civil servants who are avid gamblers, it reported. Simelane told the newspaper, they would all be fired if found gambling. He said government leaders were expected to lead by example through adhering to all the laws of the kingdom. The Casino Act states, A public officer who participates in the playing of a game in a gaming room or a casino shall be guilty of an offence. The Times reported Simelane saying, No one follows civil servants around to check whether they adhere to the Casino Act or not, but if they are caught, they will face the full wrath of the law.

Page 13

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom This is the second time in a month Swaziland has been at the centre of controversy over laws dating from before independence. Before Christmas the police warned women they would be arrested if they wore mini-skirts, under a law dating from 1889. After an international outcry, Simelane issued a statement saying that Swazilands Constitution of 2005 overruled this law, citing a womens right to choose to wear what they wished. Simelane might yet come unstuck on gambling. S14 of the 2005 Constitution guarantees an individuals freedom of peaceful association and movement. S20 states people cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of their social standing.

More Police Torture in Swaziland 31 January 2013 Ten Swaziland police officers threw a woman into a kombi, drove her to a forest and tortured her for six hours. One woman police officer kicked her in the private parts. This is the latest in a string of torture cases involving the Swazi police. The woman told local media in Swaziland she was in bed at 11pm when police arrived at her home demanding she tell them the whereabouts of her husband who was wanted on criminal charges. I explained to them that I did not know where he was and this seemed to irk them and they got violent, the woman said. The Swazi Observer newspaper reported, They then dragged her out of the house and threw her inside the kombi. She said she was not given a chance to dress up and she found herself leaving from the house with only a kanga around her waist and was barefooted. She told the Observer, I cried for mercy to no avail. I was pushed, kicked, slapped and shoved around while being threatened with death if I did not co-operate. They later tied me against a tree and told me to say my last prayers. I even wet myself due to fear as the officers took turns torturing me. The newspaper reported, She said among them was a female police officers who kicked her in her private parts and other sensitive parts of her body. She was also showered with a bucket full of cold water, which made her shiver more and she felt like vomiting. She said, After about six hours of serious torture the police realised that I did not know my husbands whereabouts and then untied and drove me back to my house. Police in Swaziland have the reputation for torturing people with impunity. In May 2012 the US State Department investigated the use of torture in Swaziland and found, Security officers reportedly used torture during interrogation, assaulted citizens, and used excessive force in carrying out their duties. Reported practices included beatings and temporary

Page 14

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom suffocation using a rubber tube tied around the face, nose, and mouth, or plastic bags over the head. See also SWAZI STUDENT LEADER TORTURED http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2011/10/swazi-student-leader-tortured.html

Swaziland Wants to Appoint Hangman 19 January 2013 King Mswati IIIs Swaziland government is in search of a hangman so prisoners presently on death row may be executed. The Swazi Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze said a job vacancy advert would be placed as soon as possible. Gamedze told the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, an advert had been placed last year but no suitable applicants had put their name forward. The Observer reported that taxpayers, who they did not name, had complained about the cost of keeping death-row inmates in prison. Gamedze said his ministry was waiting for permission to place the hangmans advert again. Immediately they got the instruction, they would definitely re-advertise the post, the Observer reported him saying. The Observer said, Some of the concerned members of the public (again, who they did not name) wanted to see David Simelane, who had been sentenced to death last year (2012) for killing 28 people, executed. At least five other people are thought to be waiting execution in Swaziland. The Observer said families to victims (who they did not name) who were murdered by the convicts said they were comforted when the courts issued the [death] sentences but it pained them to see that the convicts were still enjoying full benefits for inmates at the correctional institutions. In October 2011, Swaziland was heavily criticised at the UN Universal Periodic Review into human rights in the kingdom for continuing to have the death penalty. Gamedze told the UN that although the death penalty existed in Swaziland the last execution had been in 1983. He said this showed that the kingdom was abolitionist in practice. See also DEATH PENALTY TEST FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Page 15

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom She Committed No Crime, But Pregnant Woman Jailed Tuesday, 22 January 2013 A women who is seven months pregnant was jailed in Swaziland, even though there were no allegations of wrongdoing or pending convictions against her, after her mother told a magistrate her daughter needed correcting. Vuyesihle Magagula, aged 21, was sent to the Mawelawela Correctional Facility before being released by a High Court judge. The Swazi Observer reported today (22 January 2013) that her mother went to the magistrates court and sought the order which confined her own daughter to prison. Her father, Zephaniah Magagula went to the High Court to have her released. He told the court that on 21 December, 2012 he was informed by her boyfriend that his daughter had been taken to custody at the behest of her mother, the newspaper reported. He stated that it was his belief that Vuyesihle had been unlawfully detained against her will. Magagula had met with the Deputy Commissioner of His Majesty Correctional Services who informed him that there was a lawful order sanctioning the detention of his daughter. Magagula said that the Correctional Services refused him permission to see his daughter. Justice Bheki Maphalala ordered that Vuyesihle be released. This is not the first case in Swaziland where a person has been placed in custody although they had not committed a crime. Last month (December 2012) it was revealed children in Swaziland were being locked up in juvenile detention, even though they had committed no crime and Isaiah Mzuthini Ntshangase, Swazilands Correctional Services Commissioner, was encouraging parents to send their unruly children to the facility if they thought they were badly behaved. Ntshangase said the action assisted in the fight against crime by rooting out elements from a tender age. He was reported saying the children will be locked up, rehabilitated and integrated back to society. See also KIDS WHO COMMIT NO CRIME LOCKED UP

Deputy PM Misleads on Human Rights 30 January 2013 Swazilands Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku has claimed that human rights and democratic principles are adhered to in the kingdom in a newspaper interview that denies evidence to the contrary amassed over several years.

Page 16

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom He told the South African Sunday Independent this week (27 July 2013) that Swaziland adhered to 29 international and regional protocols, charters and conventions, the majority of which addressed basic human rights. This flies in the face of evidence supplied by human rights observers. In 2011, the US State Department reporting on human rights in Swaziland, said, The three main human rights abuses were police use of excessive force, including use of torture and beatings; a breakdown of the judiciary system and judicial independence; and discrimination and abuse of women and children. Other significant human rights problems included extrajudicial killings by security forces; arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly, and association; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community; harassment of labor leaders; restrictions on worker rights; child labor; and mob violence. In general, perpetrators acted with impunity, and the government took few or no steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses. It is also clear that in Swaziland, King Mswati who is sub-Saharan Africas last absolute monarch, is in complete control. In October 2012, the kingdoms House of Assembly passed avote of no-confidence in the government by a three-fifths majority. According to the constitution King Mswati was required (he had no discretion in the matter) to sack the Prime Minister and Government. This he did not do, instead the king put pressure on members of parliament to run the noconfidence vote again, this time ensuring it did not pass. In this way King Mswati ensured that the government he himself handpicked stayed in power. On this subject the Sunday Independent quoted Masuku saying, Our constitution contains a Bill of Rights. Recently some members of parliament used parts of it to push a no confidence vote on cabinet. That is democracy at play. The government did not thwart the process. Its just that the process was flawed. Masuku told the newspaper that child rights legislation in Swaziland was world-class. This came two weeks after Timothy Velabo (TV) Mtetwa, one of the leading traditionalists among the kings supporters and who is commonly known as the traditional prime minister said it was all right for children to be taken as brides. He said this despite a newly-enacted Childrens Protection and Welfare Act, 2012, that aims to make the practice known as kwendzisa illegal. Mtetwa was quoted by a local newspaper saying traditionalists would apply for a review of the Act if it was felt to collide with Swazi customs and traditions. Masuku seems to be on a charm offensive on behalf of the Swazi ruling elite in an attempt to convince international opinion that Swaziland is a fully-fledged democracy.

Page 17

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom

This year national elections are to be held, on a date yet to be set by the king, and already international democracy watchers have concluded that they will be a fraud. The parliament has no powers, as evidenced by the kings refusal to abide by the constitution and sack the government after the vote of no confidence. The king selects the Prime Minister in contravention of the constitution which insists that the PM should be a member of the kingdoms senate. There are two chambers of parliament, the House of Assembly and the Senate. Of the 65 members of the House, 10 are chosen by King Mswati and 55 are elected by the people. In the Senate, King Mswati chooses 20 of the 30 places. The other 10 are chosen by members of the House of Assembly. None are elected by the people. At the last Swaziland national election in 2008, the Commonwealth Election Team, which has global experience monitoring national elections, declared that the voting was so badly flawed Swaziland needed to rewrite its constitution, if it ever wanted to ensure that Swazilands commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal. The European Union declined even to send a delegation to monitor the election, declaring that it could not be free and fair if political parties were banned. In 2008 Peter Beck Christiansen, the EU Ambassador to Swaziland, told a press conference there were shortcomings in the kingdoms democracy. In his interview with the Sunday Independent, Masuku claimed that the pro-democracy protests that have been taking place across Swaziland over recent years had been hijacked by criminals. He said, Such clashes happen all over the world. We dont condone it, but some protest actions are hijacked by criminals. But if anyone is behaving like criminals it is the Swazi state. In its annual report on Swaziland for 2012, Amnesty International said, Arbitrary and secret detentions, political prosecutions and excessive force were used to crush political protests. It also reported, Arbitrary and secret detentions, unlawful house arrests and other state of emergency-style measures were used to crush peaceful anti-government protests over several days [in 2011]. See also SWAZI ELECTION WILL BE A FRAUD SWAZILANDS BRUTAL REGIME AMNESTY KING PROVES CONSTITUTION IS WORTHLESS DEPUTY PM ANNOUNCES DATE OF ELECTION

Page 18

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom Kings Man Supports Child Brides 13 January 2013 King Mswati IIIs right-hand man Timothy Velabo (TV) Mtetwa said it is all right for underaged girls to be taken into traditional marriages. This is despite a newly-enacted Childrens Protection and Welfare Act, 2012, that aims to make the practice known as kwendzisa illegal. Mtetwa, who is Ludzidzini Governor and popularly known as the traditional prime minister of Swaziland, said girls aged 15 can marry if their parents agree and the child wants to. Mtetwa is considered in Swaziland to be the ultimate authority on traditional law and custom in the kingdom. He was responding to a question from the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati. He admitted that the law existed which made it illegal to engage in sexual relationships with girls under the age of 18. But, he said in the past kwendzisa was allowed and he was not aware of any order that stated that it was now banned. What I know is that if the parents and the girl have agreed, the authorities never penalised anyone, he told the newspaper. The Childrens Protection and Welfare Act was endorsed by King Mswati in September 2012. The law states that all practices that are likely to affect the childs life, health, welfare, dignity or physical, emotional, psychological, mental and intellectual development are illegal. Offenders can be fined up to E10,000 (US$1,000). Although the Act has been passed, it is not clear when it will come into force. In September, the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom reported that Swaziland ranked 45 out of 60 countries, according to the international ratings of childrens friendliness and rights protection report. At the time of enactment of the Act, Mtetwa was quoted by the Times saying traditionalists would apply for a review of the Act if it was felt to collide with Swazi customs and traditions. There have been a number of controversial cases in Swaziland recently where girls have been forced into having sex. Swazilands Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku criticised men who had sex with girls under the age of 18 after media reports that a soccer star claimed he was in a relationship with a 14-year-old girl after being arrested for allegedly raping her. In the recent past, the Deputy Prime Ministers office has rescued a number of underage girls, who had to drop out of school because they had been forced into marriage by their parents, the Observer reported.

Page 19

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom Child Brides: Abuse Group Speaks Out 17 January 2013 The Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) has criticized traditionalists in the kingdom who insist that underage girls can be made to marry. The group says most of these so-called marriages are forced on the girl and sometimes it happens after she has been raped or fallen pregnant. SWAGAA was reacting after media reported King Mswati IIIs right-hand man Timothy Velabo (TV) Mtetwa said it was acceptable for girls aged 15 to take part in traditional marriage known as kwendzisa if their parents agreed and the child wanted to. Mtetwa said this knowing that in 2012 the Childrens Protection and Welfare Act was passed in Swaziland which made it illegal to engage in sexual relationships with girls under the age of 18. In September 2012, he was reported saying traditionalists would apply for a review of the Act if it was felt to collide with Swazi customs and traditions. Mtetwa, who is Ludzidzini Governor and popularly known as the traditional prime minister of Swaziland, is considered in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africas last absolute monarch, to be the ultimate authority on traditional law and custom in the kingdom. SWAGAA, in a media statement, said, What is most disturbing is the fact that most of these marriages are forced, with the young girls having little or no say in being married to much older men. The situation is often forced because the family wants to receive payment and if sexual relations have occurred (usually forced upon the girl), the family wants to save face. We have seen tragic stories in the newspaper recently involving these types of marriages, from girls being forced to marry after being raped, to getting pregnant and dropping out of school, to attempting suicide. It added, What these young girls are enduring in the name of traditional marriage is a human rights violation. Swaziland has signed the Human Rights Declaration and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Childrens Protection and Welfare Act of 2012 received assent from King Mswati III to protect the lives and dignity of all children in Swaziland. Protecting young Swazi girls from traditional marriages that they dont want is a matter of principle. It is not a complicated legal issue; it is simply a matter of upholding human rights and Swazi law. SWAGAA added that international conventions stated, Where one of the parties getting married is under 18, consent cannot always be assumed to be free and full.

Page 20

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom SWAGAA said there were a number of negative reasons why girls were forced into traditional marriages, such as the importance attributed to preserving family honour usually where the girl child has fallen pregnant before marriage or whilst at school. There is a belief that marriage safeguards against immoral or inappropriate behavior which results in parents pushing their daughters into marriage well before they are ready. A lot of it, though, is due to the failure to enforce laws. Sometimes families are not even aware they are breaking the law.

In July 2008, the European Union declined an invitation to monitor the Swaziland national election because, it said, it was clear the kingdom was not a democracy. Later, it suggested a wholesale review of the constitution was in order.

Page 21

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom

4. THE CONSTITUTION
Kings New Threat to Constitution Wednesday, 16 January 2013 News that Swazilands autocratic ruler King Mswati III wants the kingdoms constitution amended so that things he has done illegally in the past become legal will surprise no one who observes the way he operates. In particular, the king illegally appointed Barnabas Dlamini Prime Minister in 2008. The constitution states the PM must be a member of the Swazi Senate, but Dlamini was not. The Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland reported the amendments would incorporate, among other things; prerogatives of His Majesty the King, which were mistakenly omitted. Who says they were mistakenly omitted is not reported by the newspaper. Prince Guduza, Speaker in the House of Assembly, told the newspaper there were moves afoot to amend the constitution, but he would not be drawn on which parts. The newspaper reported the Prince said he would not disclose the provisions that should be amended. He hinted though that those provisions were political in nature. Observers of Swazilands recent history know that the constitution of 2005 is not worth the paper it is written on. The king chooses to ignore it whenever he wishes. The most recent and most stark example of this happened in October 2012 when the House of Assembly passed a vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. According to the constitution the king was obliged to sack the government (he had no discretion in the matter). However, King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africas last absolute monarch, ignored the vote. Instead, through his traditional structures he put pressure on the House to re-run the vote, this time ensuring it did not pass and the government survived. Many organisations have called for Swazilands constitution to be rewritten in the past, but their intentions were to make the kingdom more democratic, not less. In July 2008, the European Union declined an invitation to monitor the Swaziland national election because, it said, it was clear the kingdom was not a democracy. Later, it suggested a wholesale review of the constitution was in order. In November 2008, the Commonwealth Expert Team, which had monitored the election called for a review because the elections were not credible since political parties were banned in Swaziland. It said that the review should be carried out through a process of full consultation with Swazi political organisations and civil society (possibly with the support of constitutional experts).

Page 22

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom There was very little credibility in the way in which the constitution was originally drawn up. King Mswati invited the International Bar Association (IBA) to review the first draft of the constitution and the IBAs verdict was damning. The report called the constitution flawed and went so far as to cite one critic who called the constitution a fraud. One of the IBAs main conclusions was that the position and powers of some stakeholders in Swaziland, including the Monarchy are in effect actually placed above the constitution and its principles. The IBA said that the judiciary and NGOs were not allowed to contribute to the drafting process and individual Swazi people were interviewed in the presence of their chiefs. As a result the overwhelming majority wanted the king to keep all his powers and wanted the position of traditional advisers to the king to be strengthened. They also wanted Swazi customs to have supremacy over any international rights obligations. Considering how the consultation of the Swazi people was conducted it is no surprise they reached this conclusion.

Page 23

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom

5 MEDIA
Cynicism Eats Away at Swaziland Journalism 1 January 2013 One thing that shines out about journalists and their editors in Swaziland as we come to the start of a new year is the deeply cynical way they operate. Swazi journalists claim to be upholders of fine ethical traditions of honesty and inquiry, but instead they are often publishing lies or playing with readers emotions to boost company profits. There are only two newspaper groups in Swaziland, the Swazi Observer, which is in effect owned by King Mwsati III, through the Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, a conglomerate of companies he holds in trust for the Swazi nation, and the commercially-independent Times of Swaziland group. I am leaving out TV and radio journalists from this discussion because nearly all of them work for the state-controlled SBIS radio or Swazi TV. These stations come under direct editorial control of the government of the day and their staffs are civil servants and not independent journalists. The one radio station and one TV channel not under direct government control either carry no news or openly support the king and the kingdoms traditionalists. The Swazi Observer is open about its role in the kingdom. From time to time the editors state in their papers that their job is to support the king and the traditionalists come what may. We shouldnt confuse this with support for the government of the day, because as everyone knows the government has no power: that rests with King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africas last absolute monarch. The Swazi Observer is honest in its purpose: although it doesnt say it in so many words it is not meant to be journalism; it is propaganda for the king. Even if readers miss the occasional mission statements from the editors they only have to read the content of the Swazi Observer and Weekly Observer to see how the land lies. Only this week the Observer published what it called the philosophy of King Mswati. This was neither a news story nor a feature / comment article; it was simply a statement with a list of the Kings beliefs. The article began with these words, His Majesty King Mswati III, Ingwenyama yemaswati, believes in dialogue, respect and honest engagement as a way to resolve any differences on any issue. Anybody following events in Swaziland will recognise the falsity of the statement. Many people in Swaziland know the Observer is a propaganda rag and so dont buy it. It is impossible to get any independently-audited figures for newspaper sales in Swaziland, but the evidence of our own eyes at shops and roadside news vendors suggests that for every 10 copies the Observer sells, the Times probably sells 15.

Page 24

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom The Times of Swaziland is published Monday to Friday. Its companions, the Swazi News comes out on Saturday and there is also a separate title, the Times Sunday. In these papers it is possible to find the work of the most cynical journalists and editors. They claim in their own columns to be upholders of journalist standards of the highest order and go on public record to defend themselves against complaints from critics. But the evidence shows us they are nothing of the sort. Heres an example. Just before Christmas (2012) the Times Sunday published an article from a regular columnist that stated that when it came to gender-based violence women abused men more than the other way round and most women who were beaten up by men brought it upon themselves. He then spent his entire article attacking women and defending men. He went so far as to say that married women who left abusive relationships were bitches. After the article was published it generated an unprecedented outcry from readers. The Times top editors and the newspapers readers representative (ombudsman) all leapt to the writers defence. The ombudsman (who is in fact a woman) wrote in the Times Sunday in response to the critics that the newspaper was, justified in strongly advocating our own views on controversial topics provided that the readers are treated fairly by making fact and opinion clearly distinguishable, not misrepresenting or suppressing relevant facts and not distorting such facts. And, theres the cynicism. The article was not based on any facts. In no country in the world are more women accused and convicted of gender-based violence than men. Nor, is there evidence that most women who are attacked bring it upon themselves. The Times editors took a similar line to the ombudsman on the article, highlighting their beliefs that they were entitled to publish articles that generated debate and to stop them doing so was to curtail freedom of speech. But, if we follow the Times own ombudsmans reckoning the article should never have been published because it did not distinguish clearly between fact and opinion and it misrepresented facts. What the writer wrote was demonstrably not true. This was an example of what I call flat-Earth journalism the Times newspapers publish a lot of this. This is how it works: you get somebody to write that the Earth is flat it helps if he is so ignorant he doesnt realise that hes ignorant and actually believes it. You give him 1,000 words to say why all those people who disagree with him are wrong, devoid of intelligence, have never read a book in their lives, they come from Botswana, etc. He doesnt have to give any facts, but he must argue strongly for his case. It helps greatly if he can quote a verse or two from the Bible that he claims supports his stand. Once the article is published and the complaints come in, the writer can dismiss the complainants as ignorant, racists, donor-funded, neo-colonialists etc. or a combination of these. The editors can say the writer is entitled to his views even if the newspaper doesnt necessarily agree with them and the writer can claim to be a beacon of honesty and he will

Page 25

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom stand up and say whatever he believes in the name of media freedom, even under pain of death. Its all baloney of course. No matter how much a writer and the editors huff and puff about it, the fact is that the Earth is not flat, it is round. So, whats happening at the Times? We might conclude that the editors are incredibly stupid and really believe the Earth is flat, or indeed they believe that more women really do beat up men rather than the other way round. Therefore, the editors cant see what all the fuss from their critics is about. If this is the case, there is not much hope for them, or for the readers of the Times. However, if we assume they are not stupid, then they must be cynical. The Times simply publishes articles, no matter how devoid of fact or reasoning, so they can get a response from readers and that keeps them buying the papers day after day. Lots of interest is generated and column centimetres of the paper are filled (at no cost to the newspapers publisher). This is something the Times does all the time. One example will suffice here. On 12 December 2012 the Times published a letter from a reader calling for rights for zombies because they were subjected to forced labour. This letter provoked responses from other readers, including one that said, zombies do exist and the practice is widespread. Id like to think this discussion was a spoof, but it was no more devoid of fact or reason than the article on gender violence. So if the gender article wasnt a spoof, theres no reason to assume the zombie letters were either. This must lead us to the conclusion that the editors believe they can publish any old nonsense in the Times, so long as it gets a response. So, although the practice shows intense disrespect for the reader, it suggests that the journalists and editors at the Times are following a deliberate cynical commercial policy. The Times claims it upholds journalism ethics by allowing unpopular or controversial topics to be discussed, such as the one on gender. But, actually the Times newspapers stifle more discussion than they allow. The most obvious example concerns the reason for Swazilands decline in recent years. Anyone who studies the kingdom can see that major factors in this decline are the activities of the monarchy (presently topped by King Mswati and his mother) and the traditionalists who group around them. It is possible to trace most of the kingdoms economic, political and social problems back to its feudal structure, with the king and his mum at the top of the pile. The only possible way to map a way forward for Swaziland is to have a long, detailed, discussion about what has to change and why. The Times does not allow this discussion because it is scared of King Mswati and it knows he will hurt the newspapers profitability if it does so. We know this for a fact because in April 2007 the Times Sunday published a minor criticism of King Mswati, sourced from an international news agency. The king went ballistic and told the Times publisher Paul Loffler he would close the paper down unless people responsible for

Page 26

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom the publication at the paper were sacked and the newspaper published an abject apology to the king. These things were done. The Swazi Observer is at least honest in publicly nailing its colours for the king to the mast, but the Times is not. Loffler, whose family is from Namibia, is on record saying in a South African newspaper that Swaziland doesnt need democracy, but you wont hear him say that in his own papers. Could this be because to let this be generally known would be bad for business? People unhappy with the propaganda in the Observer would not to buy the Times instead because they would know both papers were as bad as each other. It is not only in the area of comment that the journalists are cynical. Defending the gender article, the Times ombudsman said the papers upheld the kingdoms journalism codes of ethics. Article one of the code states, 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. Not only does the Times publish inaccurate articles, it also tells its readers outright lies. Heres just one example from the past year to illustrate this. On 21 October 2012 the Times Sunday published a report about a petition sent by a group in the United Kingdom called the Swaziland Vigil to the UK Prime Minister David Cameron. According to the Times Sunday, the petition read in part, Exiled Swazis and supporters urge you to put pressure on (the Swazi government) to allow political freedom, freedom of the press, rule of law, respect for women and affordable AIDS drugs in Swaziland. The newspaper inserted the words the Swazi government into the petition to make it seem that it was Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini and his cabinet that was being criticised. In fact, the petition sent to Cameron actually read, Petition to the British Government: Exiled Swazis and supporters urge you to put pressure on absolute monarch King Mswati III to allow political freedom, freedom of the press, rule of law, respect for women and affordable AIDs drugs in Swaziland. The Swaziland Vigil made it very clear that it was criticising absolute monarch King Mswati III. The Times Sunday deliberately distorted the petition to deflect criticism away from King Mswati or put another way, it told a clear unambiguous lie to its readers. Once this lie became public there was not a squeak from the Times editors, or the papers ombudsman, defending their right to deceive their readers. Instead, they kept their collective heads down and pretended nothing had happened and hoped it would all blow over. Which for the most part it did. This behaviour demonstrates that editors cannot be trusted to tell their readers the truth, even at the most basic level. So what hope is there for the future of journalism in Swaziland? Not much if truth be told. While the editors remain cynical and journalists are content to do their bosses bidding nothing can change. New journalists entering the job (we cant call it a profession or

Page 27

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom calling in Swaziland) who genuinely believe in the journalists code of ethical conduct will soon find the rotten elements presently in control driving them out: either literally, by sacking them, or by making life so hard for them they have to quit or sink to the same depths as their colleagues. Thats what cynicism does, like cancer it rots away at a healthy body until its completely eaten up and it can do nothing else but die. Government Tightens Grip on Censorship 8 January 2013 The Swaziland Government has tightened its grip on censorship in the kingdom, a local media watchdog reported. In 2012, the government tabled the Public Service Announcement (PSA) Guidelines in the Swazi Parliament. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter said, The sole objective is to tighten the grip of unbridled censorship on the media. MISA in a review of 2012 also reported the government banned Acting Ludzidzini Governor Timothy Velabo Mtetwa (considered to be the leading traditionalist in the kingdom) from making a national statement on state media, Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (SBIS) radio and Swazi Television. In Swaziland most radio and television is state-controlled and news and features are heavily censored. King Mswati III rules the kingdom as sub-Saharan Africas last absolute monarch. In its report on government censorship, MISA said, It has banned blacklisted civil society groups, ministers and legislators from using the state media. Chiefs have to sanction the opinions of their subjects before they can be aired on the radio. By enforcing the PSA Guidelines, Government violates the rights of Swazi citizens to media freedom. It added, MISA is concerned that Government continues to violate freedom of expression though it is party to regional and international human rights instruments. There is a long history of censorship on SBIS. Strikes and antigovernment demonstrations are usually ignored by the radio. Sometimes live programmes are censored on air. In July 2011, the plug was pulled on a phone-in programme when listeners started criticising the government for its handling of the economy. Percy Simelane, who was then the boss of SBIS, and is now the governments official spokesperson, personally stormed the radio studio and cut the programme. In April 1 2011, Welile Dlamini, a long-time news editor at SBIS, challenged Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini at an editors forum meeting on why the state radio station was told by the government what and what not to broadcast. Dlamini said that at the station they were

Page 28

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom instructed to spike certain stories such as those about demonstrations by progressives and strike action by workers. The PM responded by saying editors should resign if they were not happy with the editorial policies they are expected to work with. In March 2011, SBIS temporarily stopped broadcasting the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme after it carried reports critical of King Mswati III. In the same month, SBIS failed to cover the march by nurses that forced the Swazi Government into paying them overdue allowances. In 2010, Swazi police told SBIS it must stop allowing people to broadcast information about future meetings unless the police had given permission. Jerome Dlamini, Deputy Director of the SBIS, said this was to stop the radio station airing an announcement for a meeting that was prohibited. No Press freedom at Swazi Observer - MD 12 January 2013 The managing director of the Swazi Observer group Alpheous Nxumalo has told his newspapers readers that he will not allow prodemocracy voices to be published. This comes at the end of a year when editors at the newspaper, in effect owned by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africas last absolute monarch, were suspended from duty after claims from bosses they had not been following the original mandate of the newspaper. Nxumalo, writing in the Observer on Friday (11 January 2013), said democracy activists were trying to subvert the national institutions such as the monarchy and the government in order to advance the agenda of radicalising the Swazi nation. He said that media had been used to attack the government and other subordinates institutions with impunities. This has all been done in the name of freedom of press. I submit that media freedom should not be an instrument for subversive manipulation of society. He added, I will not submit to a mandate in contradiction with the mandate of the Swazi monarchy and its subsidiary institutions. Writing about what he called press freedom, he said, It should not be an instrument to undermine legitimately constituted authority. He added, However, the media house that I work for shall never be part of the networks whose agenda is to undermine, denigrate and subvert the minds and the hearts of the Swazis no, not under our watch. Media freedoms without media responsibilities are media witchcraft (butsakatsi). He went on, Insulting the monarchy and radicalising the Swazi nation against the institutions of the monarchy, will never democratise Swaziland. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter, a media monitoring organisation that promotes freedom of speech, last month criticised the Observer for failures in press freedom.

Page 29

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom

In a statement, it said during 2012, The Swazi Observer Group of Newspapers proprietor also suspended editors of its daily and weekly papers on the allegation of not carrying out the newspapers original mandate. Six months later, MISA and stakeholders are still waiting with bated breath for the findings of the investigations and closure of the matter. The continued extension of their suspension amounts to violation of their constitutional right to media freedom. In his article Nxumalo said, So, in 2013, we will continue to safeguard the original mandate of the institutions that we have been deployed to safeguard and shall do so without fear or favour. See also OBSERVER ROW APOLOGY DEMANDED EDITORS ATTACK KINGS NEWSPAPER BOSS Times Sunday Encourages Blackmail 31 January 2013 The Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland has come under renewed criticism for its sensationalist journalism after it published a photograph of a blackmail victim and gave intimate details of her love life. Under a headline The naked truth it revealed that the former boyfriend of the woman had put nude pictures of her on Facebook and sent copies to her work colleagues and others who would know her. The Times Sunday did not name the woman but did name her ex-boyfriend and published a photograph of the couple with their arms around each other. Although the newspaper put a black strip across the womans eyes she would be clearly identifiable to people who knew her and her ex-boyfriend. The newspaper also gave enough details of her place of work to make identification easy. Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, national director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter, in a statement to Swazi Media Commentary said, It is wrong and it is obscene. We have a constitution that should protect against this sort of thing. Article 18 speaks of protection from inhuman or degrading treatment. In MISAs view, the publication of the photo is in direct violation of the Swaziland Constitution. The ex-boyfriend told the Times Sunday his intention was to get the woman to pay him 9,000 British pounds money he claimed she owed him. When she refused to pay, he published the photographs. The ex-boyfriend told the paper said that by publishing the photographs, he wanted to make sure that his ex-girlfriend lost her job. He threatened that he would not stop spreading them until this happened. He will not stop exposing her dirty linen until she paid the money, the newspaper said.

Page 30

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom He told the newspaper, I warned her of the consequences of going public. She did not care, so here we are now. The Times Sunday quoted an email the man had sent to his ex-girlfriends sister in which he said, You have seen nothing yet. Days and weeks to come videos will be circulating in Swaziland and everywhere. By publishing his story, the Times Sunday in effect became an accessory to his blackmail. This is not the first time the Times Sunday has been criticised for its sensationalist and misogynist reporting. In December 2012, readers boycotted the newspaper and complained to the papers advertisers after it published an article from one of its regular columnists that, among other criticisms, called women who leave their physically abusive partners bitches. The Times of Swazilands readers representative, the ombudsman, dismissed the complaints and said the newspaper always followed the kingdoms journalism codes of ethics. But, clearly it does not. The latest report violates a number of the Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ) codes of conduct. Article 5 is about Respect for Privacy and Human Dignity and it breaks down into five sections: (i) Journalists should respect the right of the individual, privacy and human dignity; (ii) Inquiries and intrusions into a persons private life can only be justified when done in the public interest; (iii) a journalist should guard against defamation, libel, slander and obscenity; (iv) a journalists shall avoid identifying the exact place of survivors in sexual offences;(v) a journalist shall seek consent of the survivor before taking pictures or conducting interviews with survivors of sexual offences. If we substitute the word blackmail for sexual offences, the Times breaks all five of the sections in Article 5. The story has no public interest: it is basically a tale about two people who had a relationship that broke down and then disagreed about dispersal of their assets. The Times intrudes on many aspects of the womans private life for no other reason than dwell on the sexual allegations made by her ex-boyfriend. The Times took the opportunity to turn an ordinary private matter into a public spectacle, drooling over naked pictures and descriptions of the couples sex lives. Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, of MISA, summed up the criticism of the Times, The reason why this happens - obscene and unethical photos get published - is because there is a lot of repression and censorship when it comes to real and hard news, therefore the media has resorted to tabloid journalism, which thrives on scandals. In other words, it is this soft and superficial news which is increasingly creeping into our media. MISA urges the Swazi media to be courageous enough to tackle issues which are in the public interest, rather than focusing on scandals and stories of insignificance.

Page 31

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom ABOUT THE AUTHOR Richard Rooney was associate professor at the University of Swaziland 2005 2008, where he was also the founding head of the Journalism and Mass Communication Department. He has taught in universities in Africa, Europe and the Pacific. His academic research which specialises in media and their relationships to democracy, governance and human rights has appeared in books and journals across the world. His writing regularly appears in newspapers, magazines and on websites. He was a full-time journalist in his native United Kingdom for 10 years, before becoming an academic. He has published the blog Swazi Media Commentary since 2007 and also has other social media sites that concentrate on human rights issues in Swaziland. He holds a Ph.D in Communication from the University of Westminster, London, UK. He presently teaches at the University of Botswana, Gaborone.

Page 32

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom OTHER PUBLICATIONS FROM RICHARD ROONEY The following publications about media in Swaziland are available free-of-charge online. 2013. The Beginning of the End? 2012, a year in the struggle for democracy in Swaziland. 2012. The End of the Beginning? 2011, a year in the struggle for freedom in Swaziland. 2011. Voices Unheard: Media Freedom and Censorship in Swaziland. 2008. The New Swaziland Constitution and its Impact on Media Freedom, Global Media Journal, Africa Edition, Vol. 2. (Stellenbosch University, South Africa). 2008. Swazi Newspapers and the Muslim Threat. Lwati: A Journal of Contemporary Research, Vol. 5. 2008. The Existence of Censorship in Newsrooms in Swaziland, report prepared for Media Institute of Southern Africa. 2007. Suffer The Children Reporting of Minors by the Swazi Press. Lwati: A Journal of Contemporary Research (Swaziland), Vol. 4. 2007. The Swazi Press and its Contribution to Good Governance, Global Media Journal African Edition, Vol. 1. (Stellenbosch University, South Africa).

Page 33

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom

Swazi Media Commentary


Containing information and commentary about human rights in Swaziland Click Here

Page 34