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Sunday, 26 October 2014

1 MILLION VISITS TO HUMAN RIGHTS SITE

Swazi Media Commentary, the social media site about human rights in Swaziland, has received its one-millionth hit. 

It is one of the longest running social media sites concentrating on the struggle for democracy in Swaziland.

The one million visits are to the Swazi Media Commentary main blogsites. An additional uncountable number of people have also accessed the site’s material on two Facebook pages and a Twitter feed. A separate site also exists with information and commentary about the Swazi elections that took place in 2008. 

The news aggregator All Africa dot com also distributes most of the site’s output to websites across the word. 

Items from Swazi Media Commentary are also contained in the weekly newsletter on human rights in Swaziland that is sent by email free-of-charge to subscribers by Africa Contact.

Annual, quarterly and monthly compilations of items from the Swazi Media Commentary site are also gathered together and are available free-of-charge on a Scribd account

The website is compiled entirely by volunteers and receives no financial backing.

One of its strengths, according to Richard Rooney, who set up the site when he was Head of the Journalism and Mass Communication Department at the University of Swaziland in 2007, is that it has no base and exists entirely in Cyberspace. This means that the authorities in Swaziland, where mainstream media are heavily censored and two journalists are in jail for writing articles critical of the kingdom’s judiciary, are powerless to stop it.

The site can be updated from anywhere in the world. 

In April 2011 prodemocracy campaigners failed in an ‘uprising’ to unseat King Mswati III, who rules the kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Rooney said, ‘I spent the day of the uprising in a settlement called Karaoglanoglu, which is hardly a dot on the map of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, at the other end of the world from Swaziland. 

‘Equipped with only a laptop and an Internet dongle I was able to receive information from people on the ground, process it and have it on the website within minutes. That day Swazi Media Commentary was being read by journalists and activists across the world, all anxious to find the latest news on the uprising.’
 
Swazi Media Commentary started as a website containing articles about local media for journalism students in Swaziland - hence its name. But, Rooney said, after he wrote about a strike by textile workers in Swaziland it became clear that people with no connection to the university were reading the site.
Gradually, the website expanded its interest to include all human rights in Swaziland. 

Today, there are more than 3,600 items on the website dating back to 2007. SMC is used as a resource by journalists, researchers, students and activists from across the world, as well as within Swaziland itself. A large proportion of readers are in the United States and Europe, but there are also regular visitors from across Asia and the Middle East.

‘It puzzles me sometimes who these people are and I wonder why somebody in, say, Slovenia would be interested in reading about the maltreatment of Swazi children or King Mswati’s latest spending spree,’ Rooney said.

‘But, they are and the fact that there are people all over the world who want to see democracy come to Swaziland, should encourage campaigners to keep up the fight.’

See also

TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT SWAZILAND
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US
SOCIAL MEDIA SITES PROMOTE FREEDOM

Friday, 24 October 2014

KING’S ‘ABDUCTION’ OF SCHOOLGIRL



The case of Swaziland’s King Mswati III’s alleged abduction of an 18-year-old schoolgirl to be his bride has resurfaced in the kingdom 12 years after the event as a local newspaper reported that a former attorney-general was to face a sedition charge for allowing a court case against the King to proceed.

The case dates from 2002 when the King ordered the Swazi High Court to drop a case brought against himself alleging that he had ordered the kidnapping of the teenager so that she could become his bride.

Reports at the time could not agree whether she would become his 10th or his 11th bride. In 2014, the King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is believed to have at least 14 wives.

International news media reported at the time that widow and single mother Lindiwe Dhlamini, 39, had provoked the challenge to the King by not accepting the kidnapping of her daughter, Zena Mahlangu, who was taken away by agents of the King on 9 October 2002. Ms Dhlamini went to court to demand that King Mswati return Zena to her.

The Afrol news agency reported,Putting such a case to the courts is unheard of in Swaziland, where the playboy King merely follows tradition when abducting virgins to see whether they please him and eventually may marry them. Mswati has already married nine Swazi girls in this way. Nevertheless, there is no legal basis for these abductions, not even in Swaziland.’

The IRIN news agency reported in 2002 that Chief Justice Stanley Sapire agreed that court papers filed by Mahlangu’s mother indicated she was abducted. At a hearing presided over by a full bench of High Court Judges, including Justices Josiah Matsebula and Thomas Masuku, he asked, ‘I want to know what happens in a case where something is sanctioned by customary law yet it is a crime under common law.’

IRIN continued, ‘The Swazi King and Queen Mother cannot be sued, arrested or prosecuted. The lawsuit filed by Mahlangu’s mother seeking the return of her daughter names the two men who took her away from school. The strategy of government as stated in the Attorney-General’s affidavit is to have King Mswati named as defendant.’ [If the King were named as defendant the case would not be able to continue as he is immune from prosecution.]

‘“(The plaintiff) seeks an order that the two (defendants) return the child forthwith, yet it is clear they were agents of the Royal Kraal. This was cowardly of the applicants. Their attacking the messengers is clear cowardice. The Ingwenyama (King) must be joined in the matter because it is clear he is the principal,” stated the Attorney-General.’

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (21 October 2014) that the Attorney-General at the time Phesheya Dlamini was now to be tried for sedition, obstructing the course of justice and contempt of court.

The newspaper, which is in effect owned by King Mswati, did not report that the King himself was the subject of the court case in question.

The Observer reported the case emanated from a letter dated 1 November, 2002, which the former AG had addressed to then Chief Justice Stanley Sapire, Justices Jacobus Annandale and Stanley Maphalala.

The newspaper reported, ‘Dlamini, in the letter, informed the three presiding justices that they were free to proceed with the case in question, but should tender their resignations immediately upon handing down judgment on this matter.

‘This was after the former AG, in the company of army commander Major General Sobantu Dlamini, Commissioner of Police Edgar Hillary, as he then was, and Commissioner of Correctional Services Mnguni Simelane, as he then was, had informed the three judges in an impromptu meeting that they should drop the case because it had tarnished the image of the country internationally or resign.’

News reports in 2002 said the judges continued to hear the case as scheduled and in open court the Chief Justice stated that they would preside over the case despite the threat which had been issued against them.

At the time, the AG’s action was seen in some quarters as an assault on the rule of law in Swaziland.

The court case was halted when the 18-year-old schoolgirl announced that she wanted to marry the King.

Within weeks King Mswati sacked Chief Justice Stanley Sapire for ignoring his decree to drop the case.

Phesheya Dlamini was also removed from office and he became a diplomat. He is presently Swaziland’s High Commissioner to South Africa.

In a twist to the story, the Times of Swaziland, the only daily newspaper rival to the Observer, published a report saying there was no intention to prosecute Dlamini for sedition. On Wednesday (22 October 2014), it reported Registrar of the High Court Fikile Nhlabatsi saying the Observer’s story was not true. 

The Times reported, ‘According to impeccable sources, the matter was erroneously included in the over 200 old cases that were recently recalled by the High Court.’

It said the matter was long withdrawn and it is not in the roll of cases to be heard at the High Court.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

SWAZI JUSTICE CAMPAIGN LAUNCH

A video in support of two jailed Swaziland journalist has been released as part of a new social media campaign to draw attention to human rights failings in the kingdom.

As a start #swazijustice is focussing on the case of Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko, who were jailed for two years for writing and publishing articles in the Nation magazine critical of the Swazi judiciary.

The video uses a speech Maseko, who is also a human rights lawyer, made from the dock at his trail. It appears on a number of social media platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and #swazijustice’s own website.

In a commentary on the video #swazjustice says, ‘Thulani Maseko is a Swazi human rights lawyer. Bheki Makhubu is a prominent journalist and the editor of the Nation magazine. These two men were arrested, detained, convicted of contempt of court, and sentenced to two years in prison, for exercising their fundamental human rights to freedom of expression in writing and publishing articles criticizing the judiciary in Swaziland.

‘The trial of Mr. Maseko and Mr. Makhubu violated their human rights to a free and fair trial by an impartial judiciary. Moreover, the imprisonment of Mr. Maseko and Mr. Makhubu is a violation of their rights to liberty and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.’

A number of prominent human rights activists, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu read out Maseko’s words, ‘The thrust of my defense is that I am not in contempt of court, but that the people of Swaziland are treated with contempt and disgusting disregard. … The people of Swaziland have a right to determine and shape their destiny.

‘If truth be told, this trial is about the prosecution and persecution of the aspirations of the people of this land to determine their own destiny, democratically and freely… When freedom is taken away, it becomes the onerous and supreme duty of men to reclaim it from the oppressor. For giving up freedom is tantamount to giving away man’s right to dignity. One can have no dignity without his or her freedom.

‘Without our freedom we are a people without a soul.

‘I am willing to pay the severest penalty, even if it means spending more days, or even more years in jail. It is well with my soul. I accept the penalty with a clean and a clear conscience that I did no wrong.
‘Human rights … are inherent, inalienable, indivisible and inviolable. This is clearly not the case in Swaziland.

‘It is our respectful contention that the issue here is not and has never been contempt of court…The issue is the abuse of the courts to silence dissenting voices in order to suppress aspirations for democratic change …. The people are yearning for freedom, democracy, and justice.

Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go way.” Of course, they will never go away even if brutal force, arrests and other forms of suppression and repression are used to silence dissent.

‘I do not for one moment believe that in finding me guilty and imposing a penalty on me for the charge I face, the court should be moved by the belief that penalties deter men from a cause they believe is right. History shows that penalties do not deter men and women when their conscience is aroused …The path to freedom goes through prison, but the triumph of justice over evil is inevitable.

‘Nothing this Court can do will shake me from my commitment to simple truth and simple justice.’


See also

JAILED EDITOR WINS FREEDOM AWARD
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/10/jailed-editor-wins-freedom-award.html

JOURNALISTS JAILED TO DETER OTHERS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/07/journalists-jailed-to-deter-others.html

US BACKS CONVICTED SWAZI JOURNALISTS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/07/us-backs-convicted-swazi-journalists.html

JUDGE RESTRICTS PRESS FREEDOM
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/07/judge-restricts-press-freedom.html

SUPPORT FOR CONVICTED JOURNALISTS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/07/global-support-for-convicted-journalists.html

WHAT CONVICTED JOURNALISTS WROTE
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/07/convicted-journalists-what-they-wrote.html

COURT CONVICTS EDITOR AND WRITER
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/07/court-convicts-editor-and-writer.html

Monday, 20 October 2014

JAILED EDITOR WINS FREEDOM AWARD

Bheki Makhubu, the Swaziland editor jailed for two years for publishing articles critical of judges has won the Press Freedom Award at the CNN / Multichoice journalism awards.

Makhubu, editor of the Nation, a small-circulation monthly comment magazine, was jailed with Thulani Maseko, a writer and human rights journalist in July 2014. 

The judge’s citation for the award said, ‘Bheki Makhubu is in jail. Where a journalist should not be. One of far too many journalists on the continent.

‘Bheki and his columnist and human rights lawyer colleague, Thulani Maseko, remain in jail facing sedition charges.

‘Their crime: They annoyed Swaziland’s chief justice after penning columns supporting a state clerk who was charged for trying to put right the system that allowed judicial officers to misuse public cars.

‘Their jailing is part the continuum of Swaziland’s long tale abuse of civil rights and free expression. This editor of The Nation, Makhubu is a long-standing practitioner who is known for his fair hand and balanced reporting: even in circumstances where fairness and balance are tough acts.

‘The Nation has become a talisman and assembly point, one of the last, in the fight for democracy in Swaziland.’

Makhubu and Maseko have also been nominated by more than 50 trade unions and civil society organisations from across the world for the 2014 Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Award.

The conviction of the two journalists was condemned by pro-democracy voices across the world. Sue Valentine, Africa Program Coordinator of the Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) in Cape Town, said, ‘[The] ruling is an indictment of the thin-skinned Swazi judiciary that serves a monarch and denies citizens the basic right of freedom of expression.’
In a statement she said, ‘We call on authorities in Swaziland to release Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko immediately.’
CPJ reported, ‘CPJ research shows that most of Swaziland’s principal media outlets are controlled by the state or choose to self-censor. King Mswati III owns one of the two daily newspapers and employs the editor of the other as an adviser. Media freedom advocates regard The Nation, which is owned and published by Swaziland Independent Publishers, as the only independent voice in Swaziland.’
Freedom House, in Washington, called the conviction a ‘show trial’. Jenai Cox, program manager for Africa programs at Freedom House, said, ‘The judiciary has become an instrument of repression, as King Mswati attempts secure his grip on power.’
Cox added, ‘After a three-month show trial, Swaziland’s High Court conviction of two of the country’s most prominent human rights activists shows that Swaziland’s court system has lost its last shred of credibility.’
In a statement the organisation said, ‘Freedom House joins opposition groups, civil society organizations and international organizations in demanding authorities swiftly and unconditionally release Maseko, Makhubu and all of Swaziland’s political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.’
See also
 
WHAT CONVICTED JOURNALISTS WROTE
COURT CONVICTS EDITOR AND WRITER

Thursday, 16 October 2014

SWAZI POLICE BAN UNIONS MARCH

Police in Swaziland have banned a proposed march by trade unionists against the government’s banning of their federation saying it is not in the interest of security, peace and public order’. 

The Swaziland Manufacturing and Allied Workers Union (SMAWU), the Swaziland Amalgated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA) and Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) had planned to deliver petitions at different government ministries on Friday (17 October 2014).

The police took the decision to ban without obtaining a court order.

On 8 October 2014 the Swazi Government banned all trade union and employers’ federations in the kingdom and said the government would no longer listen to their views on any matters. New amendments to the existing Industrial Relations Act will outline how the federations can apply to be registered.

The trade unions intended to deliver petitions to government ministries to protest the ban.

Police Deputy National Commissioner - Operations Khisimusi Ndlovu told the Swazi Observer, a newspaper owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, ‘As a law enforcement and security agency, we have found the declared march not to be in the interest of security, peace and public order, hence it cannot be allowed to take place. 

‘The organisers or others who may wish to join the march in whatever capacity are warned against engaging in such actions.’

ATUSWA Secretary General Wonder Mkhonta and TUCOSWA Secretary General Vincent Ncongwane said they would continue with their proposed march.

The ban also includes the Federation of Swaziland Employers and Chamber of Commerce (FSE&CC) and the Federation of the Swazi Business Community.

See also

OFFICIAL: FEDERATIONS ARE ILLEGAL

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

HUNGER INCREASES IN SWAZILAND

More than three in ten people in Swaziland are undernourished, a new report reveals.

And, unlike many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa where hunger has been decreasing, Swaziland is an exception, the Global Hunger Index reveals.

Swaziland suffered the biggest increase in a Global Hunger Index score among any African country between 1990 and 2014.

The report published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), defines undernourishment as an inadequate intake of food - in terms of either quantity or quality.

The proportion of people who are undernourished more than doubled in Swaziland since 2004–2006 and in 2011-2013 was 35.8 percent of the kingdom’s 1.3 million population or about 455,000 people.

IFPRI reported that since 1990, life expectancy in Swaziland fell by ten years, amounting to only 49 years in 2012.

IFPRI reported, ‘In Swaziland, the HIV / AIDS epidemic has severely undermined food security along with high income inequality, high unemployment, and consecutive droughts. Swaziland’s adult HIV prevalence in 2012 was estimated at 26.5 percent - the highest in the world.’

The latest report underscores numerous previous surveys demonstrating the state of hunger in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Seven in ten of the population live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 a day. The King has 14 wives, 13 palaces, a private jet and fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars.

In January 2013 the Swaziland Vulnerability Assessment Committee in a report predicted a total of 115,712 people in Swaziland would go hungry in 2013 as the kingdom struggled to feed its population as the economy remained in the doldrums.

The report said problems with the Swazi economy were major factors. The kingdom was too dependent on food imports and because of high price inflation in Swaziland people could not afford to buy food. About seven in ten people in Swaziland live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day.

This was not an isolated statement. In 2012, three separate reports from the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the Institute for Security Studies all concluded the Swazi Government was largely to blame for the economic recession and subsequent increasing number of Swazis who had to skip meals.

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 led to an increasing number of hungry Swazis.

The Swazi Government was also accused in May 2013 of deliberately withholding food donated from overseas as aid from hungry people as a policy to induce them to become disaffected with their members of parliament and blame them for the political situation in the kingdom. Newspapers in Swaziland and abroad reported the government wanted to punish the kingdom’s MPs for passing a vote of no confidence against it.

It was also revealed that the Swaziland Government had sold maize donated as food aid by Japan for hungry children in the kingdom on the open market and deposited the US$3 million takings in a special bank account.

A report in July 2013 called The Cost of Hunger in Africa, which was prepared by the Government of Swaziland working together with World Food Programme, found that around 270,000 adults in the kingdom, or more than 40 percent of its workers, suffered from stunted growth due to malnutrition. As a result, they were more likely to get sick, do poorly in school, be less productive at work and have shorter lives.

Poverty is so grinding in Swaziland that some people, close to starvation, are forced to eat cow dung in order to fill their stomachs before they can take ARV drugs to treat their HIV status.  In 2011, newspapers in Swaziland reported the case of a woman who was forced to take this drastic action.

In July 2012, Nkululeko Mbhamali, Member of Parliament for Matsanjeni North, said people in the Swaziland lowveld area had died of hunger at Tikhuba.

See also

GOVT ‘DELIBERATELY STARVING PEOPLE’
CORRUPTION ‘LEADS TO STARVATION’
FEAR OF MASS HUNGER IN SWAZILAND

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

OFFICIAL: FEDERATIONS ARE ILLEGAL

Trade union and business federations have not been banned in Swaziland, but they are illegal, according to Winnie Magagula, the kingdom’s Minister of Labour and Social Security.

Her statement has led to confusion in the kingdom and condemnation from trade unions and pro-democracy organisations across the world.

On 8 October 2014 Magagula called a press conference and without first informing the organisations concerned announced that the Swazi Government would not recognise the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), Federation of Swaziland Employers and Chamber of Commerce (FSE&CC), Federation of the Swazi Business Community (FESBC) and the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Swaziland (ATUSWA).
  
Local media reported Magagula saying, ‘All federations are non-existent in terms of the Industrial Relations Act and should stop operating immediately until the amendment of the Industrial Relations Act has been passed by Parliament.’

She added the amendment would outline the qualification or criteria for eligibility to be registered as a federation.

The Government of King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has been in conflict with the trades unions in the kingdom for many years. It has failed to properly recognise the legitimacy of TUCOSWA and this is one of the reasons Swaziland has been expelled from membership of the lucrative African Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) that allows goods from the kingdom to be imported into the United States tariff free.

The announcement that TUCOSWA was banned was criticised across the world, by organisations including Freedom House, the Trades Union Congress, UK, the International Trade Union Confederation and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) said the ban was disappointing and of great concern.
‘The role of employer and trade union federations is important in any developing economy and they play a key role in not only representing their members but also providing input into the labour market debates,’ it said in a statement.

Following the outcry, Magagula, defended her action and said the federations had not been banned.

She said, ‘We did not ban anyone, we only issued a statement that stopped them from partaking in our activities, where they would sit and engage government on a number of issues touching on the general welfare of workers. The federations are unlawful and do not exist according to the Act, however, they do exist outside the legislation.’

‘KING’S MINE’ OWES $4m, 700 JOBS LOST

Salgaocar, a mining company in Swaziland half-owned by King Mswati III, has suspended operations, owing creditors approximately E42 million (US$4.2 million).

An application has been filed in the Swazi High Court to place the company under provisional judicial management. It is reported that 700 jobs could be lost.

Salgaocar Swaziland began operations in October 2011 in controversial circumstances.

Salgaocar, an Indian-based global conglomerate, was granted a licence to mine iron ore at Ngwenya in Swaziland, within a protected area inside the Malolotja Game Reserve, despite fears that its work would pollute the water supply of many rural people and also the population of Mbabane, the kingdom’s capital.

But, the licence was granted and a company called Salgaocar Swaziland was formed with 50 percent of it owned by Swaziland, according to MetalBulletin, an industry journal. 

In Swaziland, King Mswati III is an absolute monarch and he keeps all mineral royalties in trust for the nation. In practice, he chooses how the money is used and it is mainly spent to finance his lavish lifestyle that includes 13 palaces, fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars and high-class international travel for himself, his 14 wives and other members of the Royal Family.

Salgaocar Mozambique Chief Executive Officer Ron Herman said in 2010  that he expected 200 million tonnes of ore to be extracted. Salgaocar Swaziland Chief Executive Officer Sivarama Prasad Petla said Swaziland would get a royalty of 50 US cent per tonne. 

On this basis the King stood to get US$100 million.

Now, it seems the prospects for the company might have been over-stated.

In documents filed at the Swazi High Court the company’s Director Sihle Dlamini said in December 2013, the price of iron ore started to fall ‘and this impacted negatively’ on Salgaocar’s ability to continue its operations.

He said its current liabilities amounted to approximately E42 million. He added more than 700 people could lose their jobs but this did not include the employees of ancillary service providers.

Liquidator and accountant Paul Lubenga Mulindwa has been appointed Judicial Manager of Salgaocar.

See also

PRIVATE FIRM GAVE KING HIS JET
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2012/04/private-firm-gave-king-his-jet.html