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Swaziland Newsletter No. 496

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  • Richard Rooney
    Swaziland Newsletter No. 496 - 22 September 2017 Newsfrom and about Swaziland, compiled by Africa Contact, Denmark (www.afrika.dk)in collaboration with Swazi
    Message 1 of 1 , 22 Sep
      Swaziland Newsletter No. 496 - 22 September 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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      Jail for defacing picture of king
      Swazi Media Commentary, 15 September 2017
       
      Critics of Swaziland King Mswati III or his unelected government face jail for two years under a new law.

      The offences are classed as showing ‘contempt against the cultural and traditional heritage of the Swazi nation’ and are contained in the Public Order Act 2017. Contempt includes defacing a picture of King Mswati who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

      The Public Order Act allows for a E10,0000 (US$770) fine, two years imprisonment or both for inciting ‘hatred or contempt’ against cultural and traditional heritage. In Swaziland seven out of ten people have incomes less than US$2 a day.

      The Act also targets gatherings of 50 or more people in a public place where policy actions or criticisms of any government or organisation are made.

      The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom where reporting the activities of King Mswati and his family is severely restricted, reported, ‘These gatherings could be those which are convened or held to form pressure groups, to hand over petitions to any person or to mobilise or demonstrate support for or opposition to the views, principles, policy, actions or omissions of any person, organisation including any government administration or institution.

      ‘The Act states that to avoid any doubt people who also speak ill or incite hatred against the cultural and traditional heritage of the country could be those who are involved in a picket or protest action.

      ‘Other acts that carry a similar penalty also include a person who trashes, burns or otherwise destroys, defaces or defiles or damages any national insignia or emblem. The nation insignia or other emblem has been defined by the Act as any weaving, embroidery, sewing, drawing, picture, illustration and painting which represents His Majesty, the Indlovukati [King’s mother], national flag or Swaziland Coat of Arms.’

      Earlier in 2017, Swaziland came 142nd out of 167 countries in an international survey on democracy called the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Democracy Index. It labelled Swaziland an ‘authoritarian’ country.

      It said ‘In these states [authoritarian], state political pluralism is absent or heavily circumscribed. Many countries in this category are outright dictatorships. Some formal institutions of democracy may exist, but these have little substance. Elections, if they do occur, are not free and fair. There is disregard for abuses and infringements of civil liberties. Media are typically state-owned or controlled by groups connected to the ruling regime. There is repression of criticism of the government and pervasive censorship. There is no independent judiciary.’

      In Swaziland, political parties are not allowed to take part in elections and most of the political groupings in Swaziland that advocate for democracy have been banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008.

      The Swazi people are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, the other 10 are appointed by the King. None of the 30 members of the Swaziland Senate are elected by the people: the King appoints 20 members and the other 10 are appointed by the House of Assembly.

      One of only two national newspapers in Swaziland is in effect owned by the King. The state controls one of only two television stations and all radio, except for a small Christian-orientated channel.

      The EIU scored Swaziland 3.3 out of ten on the Democracy Index, lower than Iraq. Swaziland scored 0.92 on electoral process and pluralism and 3.53 on civil liberties.

      The report followed one published in December 2016 by Afrobarometer. In that, Swaziland came last out of 36 countries in Africa in a survey on political freedom.

      Also in 2016, an analysis on the legal system in Swaziland published by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) concluded all opposition to the rule of the King was treated as ‘terrorism’ and the courts had often been seen to do the King’s bidding.

      See also

      OPPOSITION TO KING IS ‘TERRORISM’
      SWAZILAND LAST ON POLITICAL FREEDOM
      REPORT TELLS UN OF RIGHTS ABUSES

      Hungry Swazis willingly eat dog food
      Swazi Media Commentary, 18 September 2017
       
      Some people in Swaziland are so hungry they willingly eat dog food, a newspaper in the kingdom reported.

      It came after residents looted a van full of dog food that overturned on the Manzini – Mbabane highway.

      It was not an isolated incident, Ackel Zwane, an opinion columnist in the Swazi Observer wrote on Friday (15 September 2017). He wrote, ‘The reasons are simple because people are so poor and desperate they will consume anything that would not kill them.’

      Zwane gave an insight into how hungry people in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch are. Seven in ten of his 1.1 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

      He wrote that people pretend ‘to be collecting bones or food remains for their dogs back home when in fact that is a lie, they were collecting the leftovers to feed their loved ones’.

      Zwane who writes for a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati wrote, ‘This practice is even common in cocktails, garden parties or state banquets where top government officials fill the boot and vans of their vehicles with leftover food all in the guise that they are taking them to their dogs.’

      Many people attend cultural events in Swaziland because free food is on offer, he wrote.

      ‘Just watch the stampede each time the governor of Ludzidzini Royal Residence announces that the King invites the nation for a meal especially during national events, it is as if people were having their only meal to last a lifetime.’

      Hunger is widespread in Swaziland. In a report in May 2017, the World Food Program estimated 350,000 people in Swaziland were in need of food assistance. WFP helped 65,473 of them. It said it was regularly feeding 52,000 orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) aged under eight years at neighbourhood care points. About 45 percent of all children in Swaziland are thought to be OVCs.

      It reported chronic malnutrition affected 26 percent of all children in Swaziland aged under five.
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