Swaziland Newsletter 24 December 2010
News from and about Swaziland, compiled by Africa Contact (Denmark) in collaboration with Swazi Media Commentary (www.swazimedia.blogspot.com), and sent to all with an interest in Swaziland - free of charge.
Thursday, 23 December 2010
If you want to learn how journalism should be done in Swaziland you have to turn to the Nation magazine, a small independent monthly journal of comment. Alone among the news media in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, it fearlessly publishes news and information to assist readers to make informed decisions – the very thing, Thwala claimed for himself.
I’ve written before with admiration about the way the Nation reported in April 2008 about how King Mswati and the Royal Family were milking their subjects and illegally taking ‘obscene’ amounts money that was not due to them. It also covered in full the documentary Without the King that exposed the huge cavern between the king’s lifestyle and those of his subjects.
Bheki Makhubu, the Nation’s editor, writes in the December 2010 edition about how the Prime Minister is stealing from the people of Swaziland.
You will see also that the Nation is not afraid to refer to the Royal Family sex scandal of August 2010 that was reported throughout the world but ignored by the rest of the Swaziland media.
It is a crying shame that the Nation does not have a website so that its journalism can be seen throughout the world. Instead, it can only be purchased in Swaziland.
Below is the article from Makhubu, published in full. I am posting this for the benefit of readers outside of Swaziland, May I urge those of us who are inside Swaziland to support the Nation by buying it each month – and those of us who can, to support it by buying advertising space.
SPEAKING MY MIND
by Bheki Makhubu
The heat was unbearable, sweltering hot on that Thursday, October 16, 2008 when King Mswati III, arriving in the late afternoon to Ludzidzini Cattle byre told a stunned Swazi nation that he was returning Barnabas Dlamini as the prime minister of this country.
In the speech preceding the announcement, the monarch had thundered for some 35 minutes, complaining about the state of politics in the country. There is no doubt that His Majesty did not appreciate the lack of high-handedness in A.T. [Themba] Dlamini’s running of government before.
From that speech, A. T. came out looking weak, a man who had let His Majesty down terribly. What was needed, was a man like the present premier, someone who brooked no nonsense and would deal with the political madness the king saw in the country.
We all shouted ‘Bayethe’ when the king made the announcement. We all knew, though, that the decision was wrong. We knew it because we had all seen what the cantankerous man from KuKhanyeni was capable of when given power. But, we were helpless because the monarch had spoken.
Exactly, two years into office, the prime minister has shown his hand. This time, he is stealing from the people, abusing the trust His Majesty bestowed on him. It is worth noting that this is the second time in a few months that King Mswati III has been betrayed by a person he trusted completely. Earlier this year, then Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ndumiso Mamba was exposed for having an affair with an Inkhosikati [wife of the king].
The Prime Minister and his cabinet team cut a deal for themselves, taking land in Mbabane at discounted prices. This is a city so broke the Municipal of Mbabane cannot even fix potholes.
Yet, our Prime Minister sees nothing wrong with it. He argues that the deal was not illegal. If that is the case, then why has he suspended such deals so that the law is changed to conform to the constitution.
A little lecture here would suffice. If a law is inconsistent with the constitution, it has no force of law the day it purports to come into effect and, if it existed when the constitution came into effect, then it becomes ineffective the day constitution came into force.
That’s the law.
I know, I know. The law is a foreign concept with our premier.
The Minister responsible for facilitating the deal, a woman who masquerades as a pastor, Lindiwe Dlamini, told Christians at a meeting recently that cutting land deals was what she did as a hobby. For her, therefore, stealing from the public to secure her longevity in cabinet comes as second nature to her.
And she calls herself a woman of God, anointed by the Holy Spirit to spread the word? What rubbish!
But then, this is what you get when you let people who have not been elected by the people to run the government. You know when I see the prime minister now, I see Hastings Kamazu Banda of Malawi. I see Mobuto Sese Seko of the then Zaire. I see Idi Amin of Uganda. All these were Africa’s despots who plunged their countries into economic and political quagmire while they lived the lives of kings.
These are men we have all learnt never to emulate if we want to be men and women of honour. No, not our Prime Minister. He thinks they were real men. Men of honour he can learn from.
They were unashamed to silence those who questioned what they did because they wanted to feed their greed without disturbance. In our Prime Minister, I see General Sani Abacha of Nigeria, a latter-day despot who plundered the riches of that oil rich country simply because they allowed him to run the country.
My take is that our Prime Minister is beyond caring what the people of our country think or say about him. He is doing what he wants as and when it pleases him.
Our country has collapsed into an economic mess under his watch.
He thinks nothing of it except making sure than his children and grandchildren will be taken care of when he is gone.
When he had an interview with the Times, he has cancelled the usual breakfast meeting with editors under the guise that the Incwala season had started. As if Incwala is a new concept that has come with him.
In cancelling the breakfast meeting, the premier showed he is a coward to boot. But bullies are like that. They can’t face those willing to take them on.
While he is quick to boast that he is the first and only prime minister with a university degree this country has ever had, he does not have the courage to meet editors, uneducated as they are, and explain his ‘brilliant’ idea of stealing from the people.
Instead, he found a lackey in the editor of the Times of Swaziland and tried to cleanse himself. It is a crying shame that Mbongeni Mbingo [the Times editor] listened to the balderdash and fed it to the public. He too should be ashamed of himself.
Anyways, let Sibusiso have his way. Akadle uMlangeni! Inkhosi iphakele.
As a thinker once said: “In a society in which there is little real economic productivity, power relationships are defined by conspicuous material wealth”.
Dlani Nkhosi!! Dlani, umngani wema khosi!
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
We should not believe the recently-appointed editor of the Swazi Observer when he claims his newspaper refuses to be anyone’s lapdog.
Thulani Thwala reckons the Observer publishes ‘news and information to assist [readers to] make informed decisions’.
Writing in his own newspaper today (22 December 2010), he makes the outlandish claim that the Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, is ‘getting closer and closer to our target of being the best read in the country’.
Nonsense. It is impossible to get official figures about the number of newspapers the Observer and its rival, the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily in the kingdom, sell each day. But anyone in Swaziland with eyes to see and ears to hear knows that the Observer sells a fraction of the number of copies of the Times. And the reason for this is simple: people in Swaziland see the Observer for what it is: the mouthpiece of the king and ruling power in the kingdom.
Thwala should talk to his boss Musa Ndlangamandla, the Observer Chief Editor. Ndlangamandla was proud to state in March 2010, ‘... our collective stand as a newspaper is that the integrity of Swaziland as a democratic State and His Majesty King Mswati III as the legitimate leader of the Swazi nation, must never be compromised in any way.’
Thwala himself stated, in his article ‘We are a proud watchdog for King and country and refuse to be anyone’s lapdog.’ He is so wrong, the newspaper shouldn’t be a watchdog for the king, it should be a watchdog for the people.
If Thwala wants the Observer to be an independent newspaper that publishes ‘news and information to assist them make informed decisions’, let him publish details of the Swazi Royal Family sex scandal from August 2010 that was reported around the world but not in Swaziland.
Let him also explain to his readers how it is that King Mswati has a personal fortune, estimated by Forbes in 2009 to be US$ 2 million, when seven in ten of his subjects have to exist in abject poverty, earning less than US1 a day.
Once those reports appear in the paper we can believe the Observer is independent. Until then we should continue to see it merely as a propaganda sheet for the king.
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Nobody will be surprised to learn that the cost of celebrations in 2008 to glorify King Mswati III overran by E32.6 million (about US$5 million).
The so-called 40/40 celebration to mark both the king’s 40th birthday and the 40th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence from Great Britain were supposed to cost the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, E17 million but ended up costing ‘at least’ E50.2 million.
We have to say ‘at least’ because the sad truth is that nobody can be sure (or ever will be sure) exactly how much the extravaganza for the king cost.
The news of the massive waste of money is revealed just as Swaziland is reeling under the pressure of savage financial cuts, imposed by the International Monetary Fund, after years of mismanagement of the economy by successive Swazi governments – handpicked by King Mswati.
The massive waste has come to light in the ‘Comprehensive Project Completion Report’ (CPCR), written by Luke Mswane, chair of the double celebrations committee that oversaw the 40/40 celebration that took place on one day – 6 September 2008.
The CPCR highlights a catalogue of mismanagement. Next to no time was made available to set a proper budget for the events and it became impossible to keep track of the money. At least E1.8 million was spent on capital projects without any formal written authority.
The CPCR also states that E500 000 was budgeted for labour costs, but overtime paid to civil servants amounted to E5 million.
Tellingly, since the world was led to believe that King Mswati’s joy at his 40th birthday and the independence anniversary was shared by his subjects, Mswane’s report states that there was actually a lack of interest in the event and it was impossible to attract sponsors. They had expected sponsors to pay E0.8 million but in fact only E104,000 was given.
(At the celebration, the King said, ‘I am aware that the world might be wondering as to why we are so excited in celebrating 40 years of our independence. The answer is simple, we are celebrating our nationhood and also thanking God almighty for preserving us as a nation. We are celebrating the unity, peace, stability and progress that we have enjoyed for the past 40 years.’ Not for the first time the king showed he is completely out of touch with his subjects.)
In his report, Mswane showed how inept the government was in organising the celebration. The project was only launched at the end of October 2007, less than a year before the celebrations. As a result there was not enough time for proper planning and proper costing of all the activities and services that were going to be required before and during the celebrations. He also gave a list of problems that arose because nobody was sure on the rules governing purchasing goods and services for the celebrations.
I said back in 2008 that the 40/40 celebration had turned out to be a public relations disaster for the king. Instead of praising Mswati, the international media coverage of the event showed him as a man out of touch with his people. He was seen as selfish and greedy. It was estimated at the time that the bash might have cost as much as US$10 million (about E70 million at the then exchange rate). It was pointed out that while the king wallows in this wealth, seven out of ten of his subjects earned less than one dollar a day. Six out of ten relied on international food aid and four in ten were moving from hunger to starvation. And of course, Swaziland continues to have the highest rate of HIV infection in the world.
It was known to be a public relations disaster then: now we know it was a financial disaster too.
Saturday, 18 December 2010
Even though Swaziland is in economic meltdown because of the mismanagement by the government, King Mswati III’s police force will not be affected by cuts.
Recruitment of officers will continue, because Swaziland can never have enough police.
That’s according to Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula. He said, ‘We understand government’s financial problems but these won’t affect us much because we began recruiting a long time ago and we can’t abandon the process midway through.’
He told the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, the police might feel the pinch next year (2011) but even then government had promised to address challenges in its departments as they unfold.
So that means even though government has called for 14 percent cuts in all its departments, the police will go unscathed.
I don’t know that we can trust Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister, to tell the truth, but I’m fairly certain the police won’t have to face cuts. And the reason why not is obvious. If, as some have predicted, there is civil unrest and people take to the streets in opposition to the government’s criminal negligence of the economy, Prime Minister Dlamini, and King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, will need every police officer they can get to save their skins.
Friday, 17 December 2010
As Swaziland’s economy goes into meltdown and the government can’t pay its bills, King Mswati III is busy spending millions of emalengeni sprucing up his palaces.
He has 13 at the moment – one for each of his wives – and since he recently married wife number 14, we must expect palace number 14 to go up some time soon. One in four of the king’s subjects live in stick and mud homes.
You won’t be surprised to hear that I am never invited to visit any of the palaces so I can’t write from firsthand experience, but people closer to the scene tell me that among the new furnishings are chandeliers that cost US$30,000 each.
There is simmering anger over the extravagance of the renovations in Swaziland, where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. But you won’t hear about the anger in the Swazi media which is scared to be critical of the king.
I’m told one palace had been completely decked out in the finest of Egyptian cotton and silks by the best Egyptian interior designers. The queen involved walked in and simply said - I don't like it - and the whole lot was pulled down.
The fineries are bought in the Middle Eastern countries of Dubai, Qatar and Kuwait.
A special trusted aide is sent on these trips to carry out Royal purchasing instructions. He is said to stay at the Burj Al-Arab hotel when in Dubai, with the bill picked up by the Swaziland Government. I hope this isn’t true: when I tried to book a room at the hotel today I was told the cheapest was E14,000 a night. (about US$2,050) Or I could have something a bit better at E28,000. I declined.
The king is not short of a dollar: according to Forbes in the United States, King Mswati himself has a personal fortune estimated at 200 million US dollars.
Just where the king gets his money from is a carefully guarded secret, but according to Afrik.com he owns (among other things) 10 per cent of every mining company in Swaziland.
Forbes says King Mswati is the beneficiary of two funds created by his father Sobhuza II in trust for the Swazi nation. During his reign, he has absolute discretion over use of the income, which has allowed him to build his palaces and stay at seven-star hotels when abroad.
The Swazi Royal Family is bleeding the kingdom dry. In April 2001, the Swaziland Democracy Campaign reported that a breakdown of expenditures shows that despite the king’s personal wealth, a significant portion of mainstream government spending goes towards the up keep of the royal family. In the past few years the following are annual expenditures associated with the royal family:
E170 million for Royal Emoluments and Civil List.
E 125 million for rehabilitation, maintenance and construction of state houses.
E158 million recurrent budget for the Swazi National Treasury under the King’s office.
E50 million for state houses and E50 million for link roads to royal residence.
E95 million for official royal trips by the king.
Swaziland is trying to negotiate a loan of E500 million to get it out of the crisis caused by the government’s mismanagement of the economy. As the king wallows in his wealth, seven in ten of his subjects are mired in deepest poverty, earning less than US$1 a day.
To pay for the economic crisis at least 7,000 civil servants will lose their jobs, the poorest workers will be forced to pay income tax for the first time and public services are being slashed.
People in the international community will wonder why they should come to Swaziland’s aid. Surely they would want Swaziland to put its own house in order before it received help from overseas. They would expect King Mswati to spend less on himself and help his own people first, before outsiders do. And who can blame them, because they are right.
- Swaziland Newsletter No. 285 – 18 January 2013News 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.To subscribe mail to: SAK-Swazinewsletter-subscribe@...To unsubscribe mail to: SAK-Swazinewsletter-unsubscribe@...Thursday, 17 January 2013The 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 III’s 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 Children’s 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 Africa’s 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 Children’s 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 don’t 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”’.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.’See alsoKING’S MAN SUPPORTS CHILD BRIDESWednesday, 16 January 2013Opponents of Swaziland’s 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 Africa’s 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 one’s 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 country’s 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 alsoOPPOSITION TO SWAZI ELECTIONS GROWSSWAZI UNION TO BOYCOTT ELECTIONSWednesday, 16 January 2013News that Swaziland’s autocratic ruler King Mswati III wants the kingdom’s 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 Swaziland’s 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 Africa’s 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 Swaziland’s 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).’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 IBA’s verdict was damning.