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486Swaziland Newsletter No. 481

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  • Richard Rooney
    2 Jun
      Swaziland Newsletter No. 481 –  2 June 2017

      News from and about Swaziland, compiled by Africa Contact, Denmark (www.afrika.dk) in collaboration with Swazi Media Commentary (www.swazimedia.blogspot.com), and sent to all with an interest in Swaziland - free of charge.
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      Mbabane crime threat critical: U.S. report
      Swazi Media Commentary, 26 May 2017
      The United States has assessed Swaziland’s capital city Mbabane as a ‘critical-threat location’ for crime in a report just published.

      Street robberies are prevalent and they happen at all times of the day. Criminals usually brandish knives or machetes. Swaziland experiences violent deaths on a frequent basis. ‘Some of the murders have been particularly gruesome.’ Rapes occur ‘frequently’.

      The report called Swaziland 2017 Crime & Safety Report from the Unites States State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security is published annually. It was updated on 8 May 2017.

      On crime threats, the report stated, ‘The general crime rate is above the U.S. national average. Although criminals considered Mbabane and Manzini prime grounds for operation due to the number of people, businesses, and affluent areas, the rate of crime reported in small towns and rural areas increased in 2016. There are some local crime gangs but no organized crime.

      ‘Congested urban areas are particularly dangerous at night; and occasional daytime larceny has been reported. The presence of pedestrians should not be taken as an indication of a secure/safe environment. Suspects have found themselves pursued and beaten by by-standers.

      ‘Residential burglary and petty theft are the most commonly reported crimes, with street robberies being the most prevalent. They occur at all locations regardless of the time. Criminals are generally interested in cell phones and cash.’

      The report added, ‘Criminals usually brandish edged weapons (knife, machete) and occasionally firearms and will resort to deadly force if victims resist. The general modus operandi of robbers is to target residences or businesses that have little/no security measures in place. They will use force if necessary but rely on the threat of force to commit the act.

      ‘While the number of murders per capita remains lower than some African countries, Swaziland experiences violent deaths on a frequent basis. Some of the murders have been particularly gruesome. Victims have been found decapitated, and body parts were mutilated or removed. Some are a result of disputes among criminal groups.
      ‘Rapes occur frequently and tend to be perpetuated on isolated/desolate urban and rural areas or roads.’

      The response time of Swazi police to incidents is described as, ‘slow, if at all, unless the police are in the general area where the incident occurred. Police consider a 30-minute response time adequate, even in urban areas. Police are generally willing to assist but often lack transportation and resources to properly respond to, or investigate, crimes.’

      In March 2017, the Times of Swaziland reported there was a great deal of concern in neighbouring South Africa about crime in Swaziland.

      The newspaper reported that Swaziland’s main commercial city Manzini was considered, ‘a haven for International crime kingpins who have become so sophisticated that they are supplying shops with fake cosmetics and counterfeit drugs’.

      It added, ‘Human trafficking is also a crime regarded as a serious problem in the country, which led to a Parliament probe being launched following a high number of nationals from Asian countries being found in the country without legal documentation while others suspected of obtaining citizenship illegally.’

      The growing of dagga [marijuana] was another crime that refused to go away, the Times reported.

      It added, ‘These incidents suggest that there is a whole lot more criminal activity taking place than what meets the eye. As a country with one of the highest expenditure on national security, Swaziland should be a country no criminal should dare to set foot.’

      In 2015, Swaziland was came bottom among 100 nations on factors that included crime rates, life expectancy and national police presence, in a survey by ValuePenguin, a New York-based global consultancy, according to a report in the Observer on Saturday newspaper.

      See also


      Swazi Police ‘torture’ inquiry
      Swazi Media Commentary, 29 May 2017
      A United Nations group is investigating the use of torture by police in Swaziland.

      It comes as another suspect alleges he was tortured while in custody and had to have hospital treatment.

      Swaziland ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2004 and its initial report on progress was due by 2005, but 13 years later it has failed to report. After such a long delay, the Human Rights Committee (HRC) has scheduled a review of the kingdom in the absence of report. This review will take place in July 2017.

      In a wide-ranging document the HRC poses a number of questions to the Swazi Government which was not elected by the people but hand-picked by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

      On the use of police torture HRC asks the government, ‘Please state whether torture is specifically criminalized in the State party, with appropriate  penalties, and provide information on whether an independent body exists to investigate complaints and prevent abuse and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials.’

      The inquiry also asks for information on the permissible grounds for deprivation of liberty and there is a way to address instances of unlawful arrest or detention.

      HRC says, ‘Please also provide information on the rights of persons in police custody, including their right to have access to a lawyer, the stage at which a suspect is allowed access to a lawyer and the maximum period of detention before an individual is brought before a judge.’

      It asks for data on the number of law enforcement officials that have been: (a) investigated; (b) prosecuted; (c) convicted or acquitted; and (d) punished, and the nature of the sanctions imposed.

      The inquiry comes as Suspected killer Lucky Matsenjwa told a court in Swaziland he had been tortured by police so badly that he needed hospital treatment. The Observer on Saturday newspaper (27 May 2017) reported he had been taken to hospital in neighbouring South Africa for treatment.

      In March 2017, police were alleged to have suffocated Elangeni alleged serial killer and rapist Vusi Kunene with a tube to coerce him to confess to the crimes. The Times of Swaziland reported at the time, ‘According to Dlamini, the interrogation and torture by the police lasted for 11 days before he was brought before a magistrate to record a confession.

      ‘He was allegedly not only suffocated and tortured but was also assaulted all over the body.  As a result of the assault, Dlamini reportedly sustained serious injuries in some parts of his body.’

      There are numerous reports of police torture in Swaziland. In January 2017, local media reported police forced a 13-year-old boy to remove his trousers and flogged him with a sjambok, to make him confess to stealing a mobile phone.

      In September 2016, women were reportedly ambushed by armed police and ‘brutally attacked’ by police during a strike at the Plantation Forest Company, near Pigg’s Peak.

      In June 2016, a United Nations review panel looking into human rights in Swaziland was told in a joint report by four organisations, ‘In Mbabane [the Swazi capital], police tortured a 15-year-old boy after his mother had reported him for stealing E85.00 (US$6). The boy alleges that he was beaten with a slasher (metal blade tool for cutting grass) and knobkerrie (club) for five hours. While enduring the pain, he alleges that he was made to count the strokes aloud for the police to hear. Instead of being charged, the boy was physically assaulted and made to sit in a chair for thirty minutes before he was sent back home.’

      The report was submitted to the United Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland by the Swaziland Multi-Media Community Network, Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and Constituent Assembly – Swaziland.

      They also reported the case of Phumelela Mkhweli, a political activist who died after an alleged assault by police after they arrested him.

      The report also stated, ‘In April 2011, a 66-year-old woman was confronted by three police officers regarding the wording on her t-shirt and headscarf. The police allegedly pulled off her T-shirt, throttled her, banged her head against the wall, sexually molested her, kicked her and threw her against a police truck. 

      ‘The US Department of State reported on many allegations of torture and ill-treatment by police; including beatings and temporary suffocation using rubber tube tied around the face, nose, and mouth, or plastic bags over the head,’ the report stated. 

      See also




      ‘No terror threat in Swaziland’
      Swazi Media Commentary, 30 May 2017
      There are no known terrorist groups operating in Swaziland, but even so the government has banned several local organisations as terrorist groups, a new report from the United States has revealed.

      Police see no difference between protestors and bystanders and will fire teargas and rubber bullets at close range to disperse protestors.

      These insights were contained in a report from the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security, just published. It is aimed at American diplomats in Swaziland.

      The report assessed the Swaziland capital Mbabane as a ‘low-threat location for political violence’. It stated, ‘In 2016, there were no acts of terrorism in Swaziland and no known terrorist organizations. Through the Swazi Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008, the government deemed several local political organizations as terrorist groups.’

      Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King choses the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers and senior judges among others.

      In September 2015, Amnesty International reported the Swazi government continued to use ‘repressive laws, including the 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSA Act) and the 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) as a tactic to silence its critics and suppress their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.’

      It added, ‘Critics of Africa’s last remaining absolute monarchy, who regularly advocate for the opening up of the political space in the country and the respect for human rights, are put in jail or face other forms of harassment, including persecution and surveillance. The government is also misusing its criminal justice system to criminalize and stigmatise their activities, imposing charges like contempt of court or sedition.’

      The report from the United States called Swaziland 2017 Crime & Safety Report also said civil unrest in Swaziland was limited to public protests. It added, ‘Civil servant demonstrations and strikes are fairly common. These demonstrations, which are widely advertised in local media, are usually in response to labor/political disputes.’

      It said, ‘When a demonstration is pending, the Royal Swaziland Police Service (RSPS) is called out to monitor. Americans are cautioned to stay away from demonstrations, as the police use non-lethal force to control and disperse protestors; teargas and rubber bullets (shot at close range) are the most common forms of crowd control. Police have also shot warning shots in the air to disperse protestors.

      ‘Police do not distinguish between bystanders and protestors, and the possibility of becoming a collateral casualty should be of concern to anyone in proximity to a demonstration.’
      See also


      ‘Army among most corrupt in world’
      Swazi Media Commentary, 31 May 2017
      Swaziland’s army is one of the most corrupt in the world, according to a report published by a Swazi newspaper.
      There was no oversight of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) as the army is known, according to rankings made by the government defence organisation.org, a division of Transparency International, according to the Times of Swaziland.

      The Times reported, ‘There is no formal provision for effective and independent legislative scrutiny of defence policy. While the Constitution provides for a Parliament and freedom of speech to parliamentarians, the legislature is neither independent nor constitutionally in charge of defence scrutiny.’

      The Times added the report, ‘further highlighted that the country did not have an identifiable and effective parliamentary defence and security committee (or similar organisation) to exercise oversight.’

      The Times which is the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom also reported, ‘Swaziland is an absolute monarchy where the King has final authority over all branches of government. Although parliament includes both appointed and elected members and a prime minister, international observers have concluded that the September 2013 parliamentary elections did not meet international standards - it can, therefore, not be considered independent. US State Department reporting notes authorities have failed at times to maintain effective control over the security forces.

      ‘There is nonetheless a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for the Ministry of Defence that reviews the budgets and performance reports of the ministry.’

      The King is in effect the head of the USDF.

      The USDF is responsible for external security but also has domestic security responsibilities, including protecting members of the royal family. According to numerous annual reports on human rights in Swaziland published by the United States State Department the USDF, along with police and correctional officers ‘were susceptible to political pressure and corruption’.

      AS recently as April 2017 corruption in army recruitment in Swaziland was exposed with at least 40 recruits expelled during basic training.

      Among allegations circulating in newspapers in the kingdom was that top army officers were bribed. Families were reported to have sold livestock and other belongings to get their men in uniform.

      The Swazi News reported that corrupt practices had been known about for several years, but this was the first time that recruits had been expelled.

      The Times of Swaziland reported that about 40 recruits were shown the exit door from the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) Infantry School in Mbuluzi. It said recruits had failed to prove that they used the legal route to be recruited into the military.

      The Swazi Observer reported the army said action was taken following complaints from throughout Swaziland ‘about abnormalities which happened during the recruitment exercises’. 

      In February 2017, during the recruitment drive it was reported that several men who tried to cheat during exercises were tortured by army personnel. The Army was recruiting 495 additional soldiers from across the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
      See also