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Friday, 21 April 2017


As the discredited campaign to circumcise men in Swaziland to prevent HIV infection continues to fail, two government ministries are now targeting schoolboys.

A Back to School 2017 campaign has been launched in by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education in partnership. It aims to help get 80 percent of Swazi males circumcised by 2022. Schoolboys will be ‘sensitised’ to the supposed-need to have their foreskins cut off to prevent HIV infection.

The target that 80 percent of Swazi males between ages 15 and 49 should be circumcised was made in 2010 when the Accelerated Saturation Initiative (ASI) was introduced into the kingdom with the aim of reaching the goal within a year.

programme, a partnership between the Swazi Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the US-based Futures Group, was then extended to March 2012 when initial efforts failed to achieve the targeted results and only about 20 percent - or 32,000 - people were circumcised through the programme. The figure for the number of males in the targeted age range is not easily available but there are estimated to be 384,171 males aged between 15 and 65 in Swaziland.

 US$15.5 million was spent on the programme, or US$484 per circumcised male.

In 2015, the deadline to reach the target was extended to 2018. Now, that deadline has been extended further to 2022. The Swazi Ministry of Health reported 96,487 males had been circumcised since 2009.

The male medical circumcision programme which has been introduced in a number of countries in Africa, but not in developed countries such as the United States or in Europe, is based on a claim that removing the foreskin helps to prevent the spread of HIV. However, evidence does not support this. 

A report called Levels and spread of HIV seroprevalence and associated factors: evidence from national household surveys published by USAID, for example, which studied 22 developing countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, found, ‘There appears no clear pattern of association between male circumcision and HIV prevalence - in 8 of 18 countries with data, HIV prevalence is lower among circumcised men, while in the remaining 10 countries it is higher.
In Swaziland, even before the ASI was started in 2010, the Government of Swaziland knew circumcision had no effect on the rate of HIV in the kingdom. The Swaziland Demographic and Health Survey (SDHS) of 2007 reported the infection rate for circumcised males was 22 percent while for those uncircumcised it was 20 percent, which suggested that circumcision did not prevent HIV spreading. 

The Swaziland Government has signed up for circumcision in a big way since 2010, even announcing that newly born babies, who have no say in the matter, were expected to be cut. 

People in Swaziland are being misled into believing that circumcision can help, when the international medical community continues to debate whether there is any evidence that it can. An internationally-based organisation called Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC) published a lengthy report in which it urged that ‘Both the public and the medical community must guard against being overwhelmed by the hyperbolic promotion of male circumcision.’

DOC reported that there is no clear evidence as to the effects of circumcision.

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Thursday, 20 April 2017


King Mswati III, the autocratic ruler of Swaziland, told his subjects that the impoverished kingdom would achieve ‘First World’ status by 2022 if they prayed hard enough.
He told congregants gathered at the Easter Sunday service at Somhlolo Stadium to have faith.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King and described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on press freedom in the kingdom as a ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’,  reported on Tuesday (18 April 2017), ‘He said the worshippers should start believing that Swaziland is already in the first world status and it will surely come to pass if they believe it. 

‘His Majesty King Mswati III said it was very imperative for the country to attain first world status so that the coming generations can enjoy it.’

The King has been talking about Swaziland becoming a ‘First World’ nation for some years, but has never made it clear what he means by it. 

The concept of the ‘First World’ nation is a little outdated. During the time of the Cold War, following the Second World War, the ‘First World’ nations were generally considered to be those that supported the United States, against the Soviet Union and the ‘communist bloc’. In the past 20 years or so, since the ‘fall’ of the Soviet Union, the term ‘First World’ has begun to fall into disuse.

There are many modern-day definitions of ‘First World’, but they all insist that to be included in this category a nation must be a multi-party democracy and people must be able to elect and dismiss their government.

Swaziland is not like this. King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King chooses the Prime Minister and government. There is no way for the people to either elect or dismiss the King’s government.

‘First World’ status cannot be achieved without a movement towards democracy. King Mswati has no intention of allowing this to happen and he continues to keep a firm grip on any public dissent in his kingdom. 

Another ‘definition’ of ‘First World’ speaks to prosperity and the health of the nation’s economy. But, Swaziland is nowhere close to becoming prosperous. 

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Swaziland issued a report in February 2014 that received no publicity in the kingdom, that said if Swaziland were to achieve ‘First World’ status it would have to be ‘among high human development countries like Norway, Australia, United States, Netherlands and Germany to name a few’.

UNDP went on to give these statistics comparing present-day Swaziland with Norway, the United States and Germany.

Life expectancy: Swaziland (48.9 years); Norway (81.3); United States (78.7); Germany (80.6).

Mean average years of schooling: Swaziland (7.1); Norway (12.6); United States (13.3); Germany (12.2).

Percentage of population with at least secondary school education: Swaziland (48); Norway (95.2); United States (94.5); Germany (96.6).

The UNDP in Swaziland did not comment on the likelihood of Swaziland reaching ‘First World’ status by 2022; it did not have to. Any independent observer can see from these statistics that Swaziland is not even close to reaching the King’s target.

The UNDP is not alone. In 2012, a report published by 24/7 Wall St in the United States, and based on data from the World Bank, identified Swaziland as the fifth poorest country in the entire world.

It said 69 percent of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects lived in poverty.

Its report stated, ‘[T]he country’s workforce is largely concentrated in subsistence agriculture, even though the country faces serious concerns about overgrazing and soil depletion. While these factors harm the nation’s economy, health concerns are likely one of the major factors preventing Swaziland’s population from escaping poverty.’

King Mswati does little to address this situation. His latest call to prayer is another distraction away from the true dire situation in Swaziland and misleads his subjects about the prospects of achieving ‘First World’ status. 

Richard Rooney

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Wednesday, 19 April 2017


The Swaziland Royal Household is to increase by E200 million (US$14 million) in the coming year to take it to E1.3 billion, an independent monthly magazine in the kingdom has reported.

The Nation reported (April 2017), ‘While the entire budget for King Mswati and the royal household continues to grow in hundreds of millions of emalangeni every year, social grants for elderly and the physically challenged showed a very insignificant increase.’

King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Seven in ten of his 1.3 million subjects have incomes of less than US$2 per day.

The Nation reported the budget increase as ‘mouth-watering’. It said elderly grants (pensions) had a ‘paltry’ increase. The Finance Minister Martin Dlamini announced in his February budget the grant would rise from E240 to E400 per month.

The Nation reported, ‘Even health institutions have seen cuts to their budget allocations this year while the army’s allocation continues to rise unabated even though the country is at peace. Money for agriculture has also been cut, despite that the country has just come out a devastating drought and farmers need help to find their feet.’

King Mswati has been criticised outside Swaziland for his lavish spending. He has 13 palaces, fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars and at least one Rolls-Royce. He is to receive a second private jet aircraft later this year.

Swazi Members of Parliament at first rejected the entire national budget and called for it to be replaced with one that favoured ordinary people. Later they relented and the budget was passed.

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017


The Swaziland Ministry of Health is to investigate a report that a Manzini-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) is allegedly testing children under the age of 12 for HIV without parental consent in order to reach their quotas. 

The Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland reported (16 April 2017) that employees of the organisation which it did not name were upset at having to test young children to reach their monthly quotas.

The newspaper said it was alleged to have happened over the past weeks in Nhlambeni, Madvuma, Mkhweli, Mpumakudze and Ngewini. 

It quoted one unnamed employee saying, ‘We get away with this because these are rural communities. With the area being rural, most people are ignorant of their rights and relent after we plead with them to assist us with bringing random children into our confidence to be tested.’

The source said employees feared for their jobs if they did not do this. The director of the organisation denied the claims.

The Swazi Director of Health Vusi Magagula told the newspaper, ‘These are serious allegations that need investigation.’

Monday, 17 April 2017


King Mswati III of Swaziland has told his subjects they are not allowed to divorce. ‘In our culture, once you marry someone, there is no turning back,’ the King said.

King Mswati, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, told Swazi pastors at an  Easter service held at the Engabezweni Royal Residence on Saturday (15 April 2017) marriage was covenant with God. 

The Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland reported, ‘He said it was wrong for people to break agreements made with God. He said that in siSwati, there was no word for divorce.’

The newspaper reported the King’s ruling comes after the office of the Attorney General drafted the Marriage Bill of 2017, which carries five grounds of divorce and if passed to law will replace the Marriage Act of 1964.

In Swaziland, women, who under traditional Swazi law are treated as children and are in effect owned by their husbands or fathers, are expected to live lives devoted to their men and families. A report on the State of the Population in Swaziland said that Swazi women were responsible for childbirth, raising the children and taking care of the entire family.

Women are expected to give their husbands sex on demand and those who refuse have been blamed for men who rape children. 

A survey in Swaziland suggested four in 10 women believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife because he is the head of the household.

This is not the first time that so-called ‘Swazi culture’ has been investigated.

The APA news agency reported in 2015 a demographic health survey called the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Comparative Report which gave a number reasons for wife-beating which included; ‘if she refused to have sex with him, if she argued with him, if she went out without telling him, if she neglected the children and if she had sex with other men’.

APA reported, ‘Silindelo Nkosi, the Communication and Advocacy Officer for Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) said, “These beliefs of justifying abuse have increased to the worst rate resulting in more young women dying in the hands of their lovers or husbands.”’

The world famous medical journal, the Lancet reported that one in three girls in Swaziland had experienced sexual violence by the age of 18, according to a study.

Sexual violence was defined as forced intercourse; coerced intercourse; attempted unwanted intercourse; unwanted touching; and forced touching. 

The most common perpetrators of the first incident of sexual violence were men or boys from the girl’s neighbourhood or boyfriends or husbands. Over a quarter of all incidents of sexual violence occurred in the respondent’s own home, with a fifth occurring at the home of a friend, relative or neighbour. 

In June 2008 it was reported that the National Democratic and Health Survey found that 40 percent of men in Swaziland said it is all right to beat women. The same year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that the status of some women in Swaziland was so low that they were practically starved at meal times, because men folk ate first and if there was not enough food for everyone, the women must go without.

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Friday, 14 April 2017

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Thursday, 13 April 2017


Prison officers in Swaziland are against allowing prisoners to enjoy ‘conjugal rights’ with their married partners.

One staff association leader said it could end with them killing one another prisoner killing his wife.
The Correctional Services Staff Association told a Swazi Senate meeting that officers ‘cannot bear the thought of  watching prisoners enjoying passionate moments with their spouses’.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent newspaper in the kingdom, reported on Wednesday (12 April 2017) that prison officers rejected a provision of the Correctional Services Bill No.2 of 2015.

The association’s Secretary General Mzwandile Dlamini told the Senate Portfolio Committee workshop that warders had a duty of ensuring security at local rehabilitation facilities and could not allow prisoners to have ‘passionate fun’ with their spouses.

The Times reported Dlamini saying, ‘Since our job is to ensure security, we normally monitor and watch when relatives visit and chat with prisoners. But we cannot then watch them when they have sexual intercourse because this would be invading their privacy.’

He added, ‘Imagine allowing a couple to enjoy themselves and then you come back and discover that things ended badly with one killing the other. It is possible that while you think they are enjoying themselves they could be actually fighting, which would leave one dead.’

Senator Chief Mvimbi told the meeting it did not make sense that a man would spend over 20 years in prison without being allowed the opportunity to make babies with his wife.

The Times reported him saying, ‘Some prisoners even have more than three wives and it is their duty to satisfy them sexually and make babies with them.’