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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

CORRUPTION IN SWAZI GOVERNMENT ‘RIFE’


Public perception in Swaziland is that corruption within Government is ‘rife’, according to a new survey just published.

About 79 percent of 3,090 people interviewed said this in a survey conducted by the Swazi Ministry of Justice and Constitution Affairs through the Anti-Corruption Commission.

The Observer on Saturday newspaper (9 December 2017) published some of the survey’s results. It said, ‘Within the private sector and chiefdoms the respondents agreed that there were elements of corruption there, 36 percent and 29 percent concurred respectively.’

It added, ‘The survey states that the rural councils, bobandlancane (imiphakatsi) is where the corruption is perceived to be. 

‘The report states that perceived major causes of corruption are poverty (58 percent), unemployment (54 percent) and greed (41 percent). 

‘It is agreed that corruption comes in these following forms; giving and receiving bribes is high at 73 percent, abuse of power at 66 percent, misuse of public funds at 44 percent and misuse of public assets and facilities is at 40 percent. 

The survey said that corruption was also evident in education, transportation, civic groups, town councils, manufacturing, construction and the media. 

Corruption in Swaziland is not new. In June 2017, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported the kingdom, which is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was riddled with corruption in both private and public places.

It said, ‘The results of grand corruption are there for all to see in the ever increasing wealth of high-level civil servants and officers of state.’ 

It added, ‘For a long time the police, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade as well as the Department of Customs and Excise have often been implicated in corrupt practices.’

It gave many examples including the case of the government propaganda organisation Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS) where E 1.6 million (US$120,000) was paid to service providers for the maintenance of a machine that was neither broken nor in use.  The officer who authorised the bogus job cards has since been promoted and transferred to another government department. 

The report called The effectiveness of anti-corruption agencies in Southern Africa stated, ‘This type of behaviour is common albeit covert and therefore difficult to monitor as goods and services are undersupplied or rerouted for personal use. The results of grand corruption are there for all to see in the ever increasing wealth of high-level civil servants and officers of state.’

It added, ‘It has been suggested that Swaziland has no less than 31 millionaires who are junior government officials. In 2005, the then minister of finance Majozi Sithole estimated that corruption was costing the Swazi economy approximately E40 million a month.’

See also

SWAZILAND ‘RIDDLED WITH CORRUPTION’
ARMY PROBES SELF OVER CORRUPTION
‘ARMY AMONG MOST CORRUPT IN WORLD’


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

‘ARMY SEXUAL ASSAULTS AT BORDER POSTS’

Soldiers in Swaziland have once again been accused of sexually assaulting women at the kingdom’s border posts.

The latest accusation also says they are charging people to cross at informal border crossings into South Africa.

The Observer on Saturday reported (9 December 2017), ‘The army troops have been accused by women of abusing their powers by touching them inappropriately as they lay their hands on their buttocks just to allow to cross either to South Africa or into Swaziland. 

‘Some women when being searched for illegal goods alleged that they are touched almost everywhere by the male army officers and these informal crossings.’

The newspaper said the inappropriate behaviour takes place ‘almost every day’ around the Ngwenya informal crossing. 

A spokesperson for the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (the official name for the Swaziland army) denied the allegations.

This was the latest in a number of recent reports of army misbehaviour at borders. 

In July 2017 soldiers reportedly forced a bus-load of passengers to strip naked after it crossed the Mhlumeni Border Gate into Mozambique. Local media reported it happens all the time. 

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reported they were ordered to strip ‘stark naked’ as part of a ‘routine body search’. The newspaper said the passengers had been on vacation in Mozambique.

In June 2017 it was reported women at the informal crossing situated next to the Mananga Border Gate with South Africa were made to remove their underwear so soldiers could inspect their private parts with a mirror. The Swazi Army said it happened all the time.

Soldiers were said to be searching for ‘illegal objects’ using a mirror similar to that used to inspect the underside of cars.

See also 

ARMY STRIPS BUS PASSENGERS NAKED
SOLDIERS INSPECT WOMAN’S PRIVATE PARTS
ARMY UNREPENTANT ON STRIP SEARCH
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2017/06/army-unrepentant-on-strip-search.html

Monday, 11 December 2017

LGBTI SWAZIS FACE DAILY ABUSE

LGBTI people in Swaziland are subjected to abuse in their daily lives and from police and medical workers, a meeting on human rights in the kingdom was told.

Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people are also harassed and stigmatised and some are denied educational scholarships because of their sexual orientation.

Pitty Dludlu, a member of the LGBTI community, said this during the annual Joshua Mzizi Memorial Lecture held in Ezulwini.

The Observer on Saturday newspaper reported (9 December 2017), ‘Dludlu appealed to the nation to embrace all individuals in their own skin than to label them with numerous name tags. Dludlu further said as a minority group in Swaziland they face a number of issues that include access to health care without the stigma and prejudice they are subjected to.’

The newspaper added, ‘Dludlu further decried the service they are subjected to in the hands of the police and health care workers as the worse abusers of the LGBTI community. The abusive situation is worse at the bus terminal station to the LGBTI community. 

‘Other challenges are that they are denied scholarship due to their sexual orientation. Dludlu further pointed that “qualified transgender community are unemployed as they are told point blank that there is no need to proceed with an interview once they see their sexual orientation and told embarrassingly that they don’t hire such people”’. 

There is a long history of discrimination against LGBTI people. In May 2016, Rock of Hope, which campaigns for LGBTI equality in Swaziland, reported to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review on Swaziland that laws, social stigma and prejudice prevented LGBTI organisations from operating freely.

The report, presented jointly with three South African-based organisations, stated, ‘In Swaziland sexual health rights of LGBTI are not protected. There is inequality in the access to general health care, gender affirming health care as opposed to sex affirming health care and sexual reproductive health care and rights of these persons. HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care services continue to be hetero-normative in nature only providing for specific care for men born as male and women born as female, thereby leaving out trans men and women as an unprotected population which continues to render the state’s efforts at addressing the spread and incidence of HIV within general society futile.’

The report added, ‘LGBTIs are discriminated and condemned openly by society. This is manifest in negative statements uttered by influential people in society e.g., religious, traditional and political leaders. Traditionalists and conservative Christians view LGBTIs as against Swazi tradition and religion. There have been several incidents where traditionalists and religious leaders have issued negative statements about lesbians.   

‘Human rights abuses and violations against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex population continue to go undocumented, unreported, unprosecuted and not addressed.’

It added, ‘There is no legislation recognizing LGBTIs or protecting the right to a non-heterosexual orientation and gender identity and as a result LGBTI cannot be open about their orientation or gender identity for fear of rejection and discrimination. For example, the Marriage Act, only recognizes a marriage or a union between a man and a woman. Because of the absence of a law allowing homosexuals to conclude neither marriage nor civil unions, same-sex partners cannot adopt children in Swaziland.’

The report made seven recommendations to the Swazi Government, including to review laws that undermine LGBTI persons’ rights in particular and human rights in general especially as they conflict with the Constitution; and to ensure prosecution of State agents who commit human rights violations against LGBTI individuals and their organizations.   

HOOP (House of Our Pride), a support group for LGBTI people, reported to the United Nation in 2011, ‘It is a common scene for LGBTI to be verbally insulted by by-passers in public places. [There is] defamatory name calling and people yelling out to see a LGBTI person’s reproductive part are some of the issues facing LGBTI in Swaziland.’

See also

SENATE SNUBS LGBTI HEALTH REPORT
LESBIAN AND GAY MURDERS IN SWAZILAND
           
SWAZI MINISTER LIES TO UN ON GAYS
GAY PREJUDICE RIFE IN SWAZILAND
COMMUNITY POLICE BANISH GAY MEN

Sunday, 10 December 2017

8 IN 10 SWAZI ELDERLY ARE IN POVERTY

More than 80 percent of women aged 60 and over and 70 percent of men in Swaziland live in poverty, according to a new report.

This comes at a time when the Swazi Government has run out of money and cannot pay elderly grants (pensions) to all people in that age group.

The figures are contained in the National Strategy and Action Plan to End Violence in Swaziland: 2017 to 2022.

About seven in ten of Swaziland’s 1.3 million population live in abject poverty defined as having incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. The report said poverty among people aged 60 or over was highest compared to other age groups.

The Swazi Observer newspaper on Thursday (7 December 2017) quoted the report, ‘Whilst the elderly are now receiving social grants, they continue to be subjected to other forms of abuse as they are neglected by family members, abused physically and emotionally within society.’

The findings come as the Swazi Government which is not elected by the people but handpicked by King Mswati III who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch said it could not afford to pay elderly grants to people who reached the age of 60 this year. About 4,000 people are affected.

A media report in Swaziland estimated that the government needed about an extra E20 million (US$1.4 million) to pay for the new pensioners and another E40 million to meet a shortfall to pay the existing 66,000 people already receiving the pensions.

The Government said it had no budget to pay the new pensions. It has a budget of E282 million for the elderly, but with the reviewed monthly grant, rising from E220 to E400 has meant that this budget became insufficient, the Observer on Saturday reported in November 2017.

Although the government did not provide sufficiently for the elderly in its 2017 budget it did increase spending on the Swaziland Royal Household by E200 million (US$14 million) to E1.3 billion. The increase was ten times the amount needed to pay for the new elderly grants.

King Mswati lives a lavish lifestyle, with at least 13 palaces, fleets of top-of-the-range Mercedes Benz and BMW cars and at least one Rolls Royce. He has a private jet airplane and is soon to get a second. 

See also

SWAZI KING’S BUDGET INCREASES US$14 MILLION
BUDGET NEGLECTS ELDERLY, FAVOURS PM
ELDERLY STAY POOR AS KING GETS MORE
ELDERLY UNPAID AS CASH GOES TO SOCCER
https://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/elderly-unpaid-as-cash-goes-to-soccer.html

Saturday, 9 December 2017

SWAZI POLICE RAIDS AND ROAD BLOCKS

Police in Swaziland intend to set up security road blocks across the kingdom over the forthcoming holiday season.

Lubombo Police Commissioner Musa Zwane said there had already been raids on homes and there would be increased police patrols.

He said this at a crime awareness event held in Siteki on Wednesday (6 December 2017). The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported, ‘Zwane said police will be taking a robust approach on any acts of criminality that may rear its ugly head during the holidays.’

It added the ‘intensive raids in homesteads’ were ‘aimed at uprooting any criminal elements from the society’. 

The Swaziland police and security forces have been criticised in the past by international observers. Meetings on all topics are routinely banned in Swaziland. In 2013, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported that Swaziland was becoming a police and military state.

It said things had become so bad in the kingdom that police were unable to accept that peaceful political and social dissent was a vital element of a healthy democratic process, and should not be viewed as a crime.

These complaints were made by OSISA at an African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia in April 2013.

OSISA said, ‘There are also reliable reports of a general militarization of the country through the deployment of the Swazi army, police and correctional services to clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country’s undemocratic elections.’

OSISA was commenting on the trend in Southern Africa for police and security services to be increasingly violent and abusive of human rights.

In particular, OSISA highlighted how the police continued to clamp down on dissenting voices and the legitimate public activities of opposition political parties prior to, during and after elections.

As recently as September 2017, police stopped a pro-democracy meeting taking place, saying they  had not given organisers permission to meet. It happened during a Global Week of Action for democracy in the kingdom. About 100 people reportedly intended to meet at the Mater Dolorosa School (MDS) in the kingdom’s capital, Mbabane. 

In 2013, after police broke up a meeting to discuss the pending election, the meeting’s joint organisers, the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) said Swaziland no longer had a national police service, but instead had ‘a private militia with no other purpose but to serve the unjust, dictatorial, unSwazi and ungodly, semi-feudal royal Tinkhundla system of misrule’.

In April 2015, a planned rally to mark the anniversary of the royal decree that turned Swaziland from a democracy to a kingdom ruled by an autocratic monarch was abandoned amid fears that police would attack participants. In February and March, large numbers of police disbanded meetings of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), injuring at least one union leader.

In 2014, police illegally abducted prodemocracy leaders and drove them up to 30 kilometres away, and dumped them to prevent them taking part in a meeting calling for freedom in the kingdom. Police staged roadblocks on all major roads leading to Swaziland’s main commercial city, Manzini, where protests were to be held. They also physically blocked halls to prevent meetings taking place.  Earlier in the day police had announced on state radio that meetings would not be allowed to take place.

In 2012, four days of public protest were planned by trade unions and other prodemocracy organisations. They were brutally suppressed by police and state forces and had to be abandoned.

In 2011, a group using Facebook, called for an uprising to depose the King. State forces took this call seriously and many prodemocracy leaders were arrested. Police and security forces prevented people from travelling into towns and cities to take part in demonstrations. Again, the protests were abandoned.

See also

SWAZI POLICE NOW ‘A PRIVATE MILITIA’
SWAZILAND ‘BECOMING MILITARY STATE’
POLICE THREAT TO DEMOCRATIC STATE
RIOT POLICE FORCE HALT TO PRAYER
POLICE BLOCK PUBLIC MEETING
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2013/04/armed-police-block-public-meeting.html

Friday, 8 December 2017

SWAZI GOVT RUNNING OUT OF MONEY

Swaziland’s public spending is so out of control the kingdom has to rely on income from a customs union to pay public service salaries, but it is not enough, Finance Minister Martin Dlamini told Parliament.

Dlamini reported in his md-year budget review on Wednesday (6 December 2017) that the Swazi Government was at least E2.5 billion (US$180 million) in arrears by the end of July 2017.

He told the House of Assembly that this did not include E619 million which government had been operating on a cash flow deficit at the end of the second quarter, up to September 2017.

He said the funding gap was projected to increase to E4.5 billion by the end of the financial year, 31 March 2018, the Times of Swaziland reported.

He said the kingdom relied on money from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) receipts as a revenue source for the budget. The newspaper reported him saying, ‘Despite its volatility, SACU has now become the only reliable source of payment of civil servants salaries.’

The newspaper added, ‘He said it was worth mentioning that even with the higher than average SACU receipts for 2017 which stood at E7.1 billion, government was unable to meet the entire wage bill obligations through this source of revenue.’

The money from SACU was only enough to cover 2.5 months of salaries in each quarter, he said.

The Swazi Government which is not elected by the people but handpicked by King Mswati has lurched from one financial crisis to another for many years. In the past few months it has not paid bills for medicines and food for schoolchildren which has resulted in great hardship among King Mswati’s 1.3 subjects. Seven in ten live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 a day.

In November 2017 it was announced there was not enough money to pay people who reached the age of 60 this year their elderly grants (pensions).
 
In February 2017 King Mswati’s budget was increased by US$14 million.

In October 2017 it was reported that the Government was broke and ‘living from hand to mouth’ and public servants’ salaries had been paid late in recent months.

The happened as it was publicly revealed that senior public servants received an 18.9 pay increase that month. Meanwhile, ordinary public servants had been told by government they would get no increase at all this year.  A dispute between workers and Government over this continues.

Also in October 2017, it was reported the government had borrowed E1.2 billion  from the Central Bank of Swaziland.

In September 2017 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that increased government spending in Swaziland resulted in the highest deficit since 2010. It said the outlook for the future of the economy was ‘fragile’ and that the medium term outlook was ‘unsustainable’ without policy changes.

It also said the governance of public entities was poor.

The IMF recommended that the government should contain ‘the bloated government wage bill’, curb non-essential purchases and prioritize capital outlays. 

See also

GOVT FAILS TO PAY ELDERLY GRANTS
SWAZI KING’S BUDGET INCREASES US$14 MILLION
‘CHILDREN COULD SOON DIE OF HUNGER’
PUBLIC SERVANTS PAY STRIKE ‘ON WAY’

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

RISE IN GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE

More than 10,500 cases of gender-based violence were recorded in Swaziland in 2016, according to figures just published.

Most cases were said to have been committed by relatives or intimidate partners, according to statistics from the National Surveillance System on Violence, published in the Swazi Observer on Tuesday (5 December 2017).

The total number of reported cases of gender-based violence in 2016 was 10,504 an increase of 58.6 percent from the previous two years.  This prompted the newspaper which is in effect owned by King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, to say,  ‘we have become a violent nation’. 

Of the reported victims 73 percent were females and 27 percent males. 

The report is one of a number that highlights the suffering woman face in Swaziland.

In 2015 a survey conducted in Swaziland suggested four in 10 women believe that a husband was justified in beating his wife because he is the head of the household. 

The APA news agency said at the time a demographic health survey called the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Comparative Report 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 in 2009 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 is so low that they are practically starved at meal times, because men folk eat first and if there is not enough food for everyone, the women must go without.

Women, who under traditional Swazi law are treated as children and are in effect owned by their husbands or fathers, were 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. 

See also

TWISTED SWAZI MEN RAPE CHILDREN
POLICE BAN MARCH AGAINST VIOLENCE