- Swaziland Newsletter 4 November 2011News 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, 3 November 2011The Swaziland Government says it cannot give its people their human rights because it doesn’t have the money to pay for them.And it blames the economic meltdown in the kingdom for this.In an extraordinary claim it goes on to say that Swaziland has a ‘small and vulnerable’ economy that has been exposed to ‘external shocks’. This it says, ‘had historically diminished the ability of the government to efficiently underwrite some of the human rights that have financial implications.’The government, handpicked by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, did not explain how, for example, abolishing the death penalty, stopping the corporal punishment of children and given women their rights would cost money for the government.The excuse for not giving the Swazi people their human rights is contained in a report from the United Nations this week.The report is an unedited draft of the findings of the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review into human rights in Swaziland. The review took place on 4 October 2011.The claims are part of the Swaziland Government’s response to criticisms made by a number of nations about Swaziland’s poor record on human rights. Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, then acting (now confirmed) Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, headed the Swaziland delegation at the review.During the review, nations lined up to point out the failing in Swaziland’s human rights record.Here are some of the comments published in the report.Switzerland ‘expressed alarm by the many allegations of extra-judicial executions and tortures committed by the security forces and stated that victims should receive justice. It noted that there were no political parties because of existing restrictions and that there were few private media organisations.’Norway expressed ‘concern at the systematic violations of freedom of assembly and association in Swaziland, including by suppression of political parties. Norway expressed grave concern at the reports of forceful disruptions o f peaceful marches, rallies and protests, including through the use of violence and arbitrary detention. It was alarmed at the extensive use of pre-trial detention, ill-treatments and alleged torture by police custody.’France ‘expressed concern at the use by authorities of the law [Suppression of Terrorism Act] 2008 on the repression of terrorism, to restrict freedom of expression’.China noted there was ‘still presence of gender inequality’.India ‘encouraged Swaziland to enhance women’s empowerment’.Canada ‘expressed concern at the continuing ban of political parties and the lack of democratic space to exercise freedom of expression and association. Canada also expressed concern at the reports of excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial executions.’Hungary stated, ‘Swaziland retained the death penalty in its statute books. Also, freedom of assembly and association were severely restricted.’Ghana ‘noted the discriminatory practices against women persisting in Swaziland. It also noted the continuing allegations of arrest and detention following peaceful protest actions.’Slovakia noted ‘that there were allegations of police employing interrogation methods contravening to constitutional provision. Slovakia expressed concern about reported restrictions concerning the freedom of expression such as the Proscribed Publications Act and the Suppression of Terrorism Act.’Australia ‘urged Swaziland to take steps to reduce the high rates of chronic malnutrition and mortality for children under-five; and to abolish the death penalty and corporal punishment. It expressed concerns about the over-crowding and poor conditions in prisons.’Germany ‘noted the restrictions in freedom of expression, in particular the Proscribed Publications Act.’Slovenia ‘remained concerned about reports of discriminatory practices against women. It asked about the necessary measures taken to effectively ensure gender equality.’Brazil ‘was concerned about the persistence of discrimination against women, and restrictions to civil and political rights. Brazil encouraged Swaziland to pursue constitutional reforms.’The United States ‘requested how Swaziland planned to ensure protection of freedom of assembly, association and expression. It called on Swaziland to protect the rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.’Sweden ‘noted that domestic legislation needed to be harmonised with the 2006 Constitution and the international human rights law. Sweden was concerned that the independence of the National Commission for Human Rights and Public Administration was questioned and its powers remained unclear.’To read the full report, click here. http://www.scribd.com/doc/71169263
Tuesday, 1 November 2011AFP1 November 2011SOURCE http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gwv43C2KQfmMGkibATg7dLaLXwEA?docId=CNG.9f8ab213788f933b28e4a5419c9f6d30.691Swazi police 'fire teargas' during court protestMBABANE — Swazi police fired teargas today (1 November 2011) outside a courthouse in the capital Mbabane to disperse protesters demanding the Supreme Court stop its work amid a strike by lawyers, a union official said."The police blocked us, we resisted. They fired teargas canisters and we scattered," Muzi Mhlanga, secretary general of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers, told AFP.The union is one of many that planned a four-day general strike this week to support the striking lawyers, but were blocked from doing so by a government court order.Instead, about 30 union leaders gathered outside the court as a six-member panel of international jurists began a sitting Tuesday. Riot vehicles ringed the courthouse and armed guards were positioned outside and inside the building."People are being put through criminal appeals without representation. What is going on in there amounts to a perversion of justice," said Zwele Jele, spokesman for the Swaziland Law Society."The Supreme Court is going on with or without attorneys," Lorraine Hlophe, Registrar of the Supreme Court, confirmed.Swaziland is among several small countries in the region that rely on international judges to bolster its highest court, with judges from South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United States.Striking attorneys walked out of the first session Tuesday saying hearings should be suspended until their labour action is resolved.The judicial crisis was sparked in June when Swazi Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi suspended High Court Judge Thomas Masuku for allegedly "insulting" King Mswati III. Masuku, seen as one of the only critical voices in the southern African kingdom's judiciary, was fired in September.Lesotho-born Ramodebedi claims the lawyers' complaints against him motivated by xenophobia.Civil society groups say the state of affairs is hurting ordinary Swazis already suffering the effects of a deep financial crisis.On Monday night, police stopped a prayer meeting in a church in Mbabane where labour unions hoped to appeal for divine intervention to end the crisis.Tuesday, 1 November 2011The planned night vigil organised by unions in the labour movement was yesterday (31 October 2011) blocked by police from taking place.The Times of Swaziland reports that executive members of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers, the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions and the Swaziland Federation of Labour had to turn away disappointed after their efforts to stage a prayer at Mbabane Lutheran Church were shot down.The confrontation took place between 9pm and 10pm.Police led by Hhohho Regional Commander, Richard Mngome-zulu told the about 20 unionists gathered outside the church that such a meeting could perpetrate violence and they had to use their discretion to prevent it.The unions said more than 250 police and correctional services officers blocked them.See alsoSWAZILAND UNIONS CALL OFF PROTESTSMonday, 31 October 2011Members of Positive Women, the UK-based charity set up to empower women and children in Swaziland, flew into the kingdom yesterday (30 October 2011) for a series of activities.To follow their work check out YouTube here – where they promise an ongoing ‘video diary’ of their visit.http://www.youtube.com/user/positivewomen1?feature=mhee#p/aAlso, follow then on Twitter here @Positive_WomenPositive Women is a UK charity set up to help empower women and children in Swaziland. Our work focuses on growing local women led organisations, helping to fund anti-poverty programmes, supporting social progress initiatives and by driving their efficiency throughout their projects.
Positive Women began after two inspiring women met at Make Poverty History. These women shared a similar vision -- to find new ways to support locally run women's organisations in places where a lack of women's rights seriously damage the ability of women to create income and protect themselves against disease and violence. Siphiwe Hlophe and Kathryn Llewellyn saw huge potential to develop the work that they had both begun -- The Children of Swaziland and Swaziland Positive Living, and so pioneered Positive Women as an innovative and forward-thinking project that reaches all eight of the Millennium Development Goals.See alsoSWAZI WOMEN LEAD THE HIV STRUGGLE
Saturday, 29 October 2011Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (Johannesburg)Statement27 October 2011The following is an extract from the OSISA statement to the 50th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, October 2011, Banjul, The GambiaSwazilandSwaziland is a country with an absolute Monarchy presiding over a regime that has mismanaged state resources and rendered the nation virtually bankrupt and insolvent.The plight of the citizens of Swaziland was brought to the attention of the Commission during its 49th session. Our statement focused on lack access to justice, erosion of the respect rule of law, abuse of human rights, rampant and endemic corrupt, assault on freedom of press, association, and speech amongst other abuses that are an affront to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.As you may be aware, since 1 August 2011, members of the Law Society of Swaziland have been boycotting all the courts in Swaziland. The boycott of the courts seeks to highlight the subversion of the principle of judicial independence and rule of law in the country. The genesis of the boycott lies in a number of actions by the Government, the Judicial Service Commission and the Chief Justice of Swaziland the effect of which is the denial of citizens' constitutional right to approach the courts, and the introduction of institutional bias in the allocation and determination of matters before the Courts.For instance, Practice Direction 4 of 2011, the country's Chief Justice banned all summons/applications citing the name of the King or the Office of the King, directly or indirectly rendering the Monarch above the law. The Law Society is also aggrieved with the decision of the Judicial Service Commission - of which the Chief Justice is the chairperson - to refuse to accept a petition drawn by the Law Society against the Chief Justice.As a consequence of the non-functioning of the courts, citizens of Swaziland have been deprived of their constitutional right to judicial redress. Criminal prosecutions which are at the instance of the State have continued albeit accused persons are being denied their constitutional right to legal representation as a consequence of the absence of defence lawyers.This has given rise to the conviction and imprisonment of unrepresented accused persons, itself a fundamental violation of their human rights. The Government has increased its suppression of citizens' rights, on the strength that people cannot obtain any judicial redress or injunctions against the state for any violations.Given that an independent and functioning judiciary is essential to the functioning of any State, we consider the absence of a proper functioning judiciary system as a gross violation of the rights of the citizens of Swaziland.Together with the Law Society of Swaziland, which has lodged a formal complaint to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights against the Kingdom of Swaziland in terms of Article 55 of the African Charter, we request the Commission to urgently undertake a promotional mission to Swaziland, to investigate the factors and issues giving rise to the prevailing judicial crisis.SWAZI MEDIA COMMENTARYFollow us:Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/swazimedia
- 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.