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Monday, 3 August 2015

BOGUS SURVEY SUPPORTS KING’S POWER

The Times of Swaziland misled its readers when it reported that a ‘survey’ in Malawi concluded that Swaziland’s King Mswati III should ‘reject Western democracy’.

No such survey was undertaken.

The Times reported the survey was conducted by what it called ‘Malawi’s leading newspaper’, the Nyasa Times.

It reported one person who took part in the ‘survey’ said, “Mswati, don’t listen to these calls for democracy. These are prophets of doom. Your country is much better the way it is right now. Look at what is happening in Libya.’

The Times of Swaziland reporting suggested that a systematic scientific poll had been conducted among the citizens of Malawi. If the survey had been conducted in this way its ‘results’ might indicate the true feeling of people in Malawi. 

In fact, the Times deliberately distorted its story to make it seem that there was general support for King Mswati’s regime in Swaziland. The King rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King chooses the government.

What the Times reported as a ‘survey’ was simply email comments made by readers on a news story published online by the Nyasa Times. The story said that the former President of Malawi Bakili Muluzi had visited Swaziland as part of a Commonwealth team to discuss how the kingdom might move towards becoming a democratic state.

The comments were simply the personal views of 12 people who taken it upon themselves to post to the Internet. The Nyasa Times did not claim it to be a survey.

The Times of Swaziland report demonstrates the measures that the media are going to in Swaziland to try to convince the Swazi people that King Mswati’s undemocratic regime has support from outside the kingdom.

The Commonwealth is continuing to pressure Swaziland to democratise and allow political parties to contest elections in the kingdom.

It is also urging a review of the kingdom’s constitution to ensure that the country meets international standards of democracy.

See also

COMMONWEALTH CALLS FOR DEMOCRACY

FALSE CLAIM OF OBAMA SUPPORT FOR KING

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, has falsely claimed the US President Barack Obama ‘is fully behind’ and ‘endorses’ the King’s pledge to personally rid Swaziland of AIDS.

King Mswati, attracted derision in the international arena in February 2015 when he told the Swazi Parliament ‘I wish to assure the nation that I will personally see to it that the First World Swaziland is HIV and AIDS free.’

The Observer reported on Monday (3 August 2015), ‘President Barack Obama is fully behind His Majesty King Mswati III’s pledge and commitment to have an AIDS free Swaziland by 2022.’

It said President Obama made the statement in a speech to the Africa Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 28 July 2015. But, in fact, the President made no reference to King Mswati in his speech.

In a wide-ranging speech the president drew attention to the need to rid Africa of HIV / AIDS and an initiative of the United States to target teenaged girls, which included working in Swaziland. But he did not endorse King Mswati’s pledge to personally rid his kingdom of AIDS by 2022.

The Swazi Observer’s attempt to claim support from the President hid the fact that much of his speech was devoted to the need for democracy in Africa. 

King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s only absolute monarch, political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King chooses the government and top judges.

In part of his speech that went unreported by the Observer, President Obama said, ‘I believe Africa’s progress will also depend on democracy, because Africans, like people everywhere, deserve the dignity of being in control of their own lives.  We all know what the ingredients of real democracy are.  They include free and fair elections, but also freedom of speech and the press, freedom of assembly.  These rights are universal.  They’re written into African constitutions.

‘The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights declares that “every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being.”  From Sierra Leone, Ghana, Benin, to Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, democracy has taken root.’

He added, ‘Yet at this very moment, these same freedoms are denied to many Africans.  And I have to proclaim, democracy is not just formal elections.   When journalists are put behind bars for doing their jobs, or activists are threatened as governments crack down on civil society then you may have democracy in name, but not in substance.  

‘And I'm convinced that nations cannot realize the full promise of independence until they fully protect the rights of their people.’

See also

MEDIA BACK KING’S FALSE HIV PROMISE
SWAZI KING’S HIV PLEDGE IN RUINS

MAXWELL’S TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

Kenworthy News Media, 31 July 2015
Maxwell Dlamini finally walked out of prison in July [2015], released on bail after having spent fourteen months in squalid conditions in the prisons of Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III. His crime was to have sung a pro-democracy song, writes Kenworthy News Media.

“Jail being the lonely place that it is, there are moments when you feel down and morally low”, says Maxwell. “But at all times I was motivated by the fact that our course is just, and I refuse to abdicate my responsibility or allow the state to break me”. 

No Christmas presents in jail
Maxwell Dlamini was born in 1989 in a small village in the south of Swaziland called Mantambe. His father works in a hospital and his mother is a farmer. He was top of his high school class, and was admitted to university as a commerce student in 2007.


He is a passionate supporter of the Mbabane Highlanders football team and his friends say he is himself a gifted football player. He says that the birth of his daughter on Christmas Eve last year was the most beautiful moment in his life.

Unfortunately, he was not there to witness it. Because even though Maxwell might be seem like an ordinary guy with ordinary dreams for himself, his girlfriend and their baby girl, the society he happened to grow up in is by no means ordinary.

Because having ordinary dreams in the absolute monarchy that is Swaziland, where over two thirds of the population survive on less than a dollar a day while the royal family live opulence, means that you are seen as a threat to the regime of King Mswati III.

Arrested development
The Swazi regime has constantly harassed Maxwell, tortured, and kept him in prison simply for being an active and high-ranking member of the banned political party PUDEMO and for demanding democratic change and socio-economic justice in his country of birth.


Maxwell was first arrested in 2010 for his role in a student protest. In 2011, on the eve of the largest pro-democracy rally in recent history in Swaziland that he helped plan, he was arrested, tortured, and charged with possession of explosives.

“I was tied to a bench with my face looking upwards and they suffocated me with the black plastic bag with a huge police officer on my stomach. They did that over and over again till I collapsed. They told me that they will kill me for causing trouble in the country”, Maxwell told me after his release.

He was released on bail after spending a year in prison, and over three years later, he was finally acquitted of the charges. He was detained again on Mayday 2014 together with PUDEMO President Mario Masuku. They were charged with having sung a pro-democracy song and having shouted “viva PUDEMO” and released on bail over a year later without the trial having started.

“I was made to sleep on the floor with very few blankets. I was kept in solitary confinement with only a bucket to relieve myself. There was no clean running water and we were made to bath with cold water. Our friends and relatives were made to wait for long hours before they could see us just for five minutes”, Maxwell says of his latest prison ordeal.

Not a desktop warrior
Maxwell was only a few courses away from finishing his undergraduate degree that had been disrupted by prison sentences, withdrawal of his scholarship on political grounds and harsh bail conditions when he was arrested last year.


Nevertheless, he insists that while he is disappointed that he has not been able to finish his degree, he will not put any personal career opportunities above the struggle for a free and democratic Swaziland.

“I am as keenly interested in finishing and obtaining my degree as I am in putting to its logical conclusion this struggle we are waging”, Maxwell says, while admitting that he might have to finish his degree abroad because the regime wishes to ostracise him.

“I hope that I can inspire others to rise out of their fear and challenge this backward and archaic system of royal supremacy, not through desktop and boardroom activism, but through open defiance”.

Dialogue with a dictator
Nevertheless, Maxwell insists that he and PUDEMO are willing to negotiate a settlement for the future of Swaziland with an absolute monarch and his government who have harassed, jailed, and tortured him and many of his fellow activists.


He also insists, however, that the world must demand that the king must hold honest and constructive negotiations with Swaziland’s democratic movement that will bring about a democratic Swaziland.

“I am convinced that the future of Swaziland lies in a negotiated settlement that will lead to the unbanning of PUDEMO. In the meantime I call on the world not to loosen the noose around the regime’s neck until it wilts and subsequently collapses”.

Facts:

Swaziland is an absolute monarchy where the king appoints the Prime Minister and the government and controls everything from the judiciary to land allocations and the national budget. Political parties are banned and political leaders such as Maxwell Dlamini are harassed, tortured, treated as terrorists and sometimes killed for advocating a peaceful transition to democracy. 


The Suppression of Terrorism Act, which Maxwell Dlamini and many other Swazi activists have been charged under, has been referred to as “inherently repressive” by Amnesty international.

Two thirds of the population survive on less than a dollar a day, many on handouts from the UN. Swaziland has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world.

Friday, 31 July 2015

HUMAN RIGHTS DOCUMENTARY AIRS ON TV

The documentary, Swaziland: Africa’s last Absolute Monarchy, which reports on human rights abuses in the kingdom is to be aired on national Danish television channel DR2 on Sunday 2 August 2015 at 11 pm, local time.

It was written and directed by Tom Heinemann and Produced by Borgen & Heinemann (2015).

The documentary, part of the series A Heart That Never Dies features Bheki Dlamini. 

A summary of the documentary released by the programme makers says, ‘Bheki Dlamini is a young, political activist from the tiny African country, Swaziland. He spent almost four years in imprisonment for something that he didn’t do. Shortly after his release he had to flee his country.’

This was because he wore a t-shirt demanding democracy and political reforms – which is considered an act of terrorism in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The programme makers say Bheki is just one out of many others that are harassed, tortured and jailed, including editors, lawyers and political opponents of the King’s regime.

Swaziland – Africa’s last absolute monarchy premièred in May 2015 in Copenhagen. It has been submitted to several film festivals, including the Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival and Movies That Matter.

Bheki Dlamini is the President of the Swaziland Youth Congress, the youth wing of PUDEMO. He currently lives in exile at a secret location in South Africa. The Swazi police’s torture of him by way of “severe beatings and suffocation torture” was mentioned in Amnesty International’s 2011 Annual Report.

Tom Heinemann has won the Danish Outstanding Investigative Journalist of the year award twice, and has been runner up for Journalist of the year in Denmark three times. In 2007 he won the Prix Italia in the current affairs selection.

See also

DOCUMENTARY ON FREEDOM STRUGGLE

SWAZI KING SNUBS HIS OWN AIRPORT

King Mswati III of Swaziland has so little faith in the new international airport that has his name that he does not use it. 

Instead, he travels in his private jet from Matsapha, the airport that closed to make way for the King Mswati III International Airport (KM111) that was built in a wilderness about 70 km from any major town.

Matsapha remains open from 08.00 to 17.00 Monday to Friday to service the King’s needs and also to be available for any emergencies.

The Airport closed to commercial airlines in September 2014, when KM111 became operational.

The information is contained in a report from the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA). 

According to the Observer on Sunday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati the airport also accommodates the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) Air Wing, but, ‘in most cases now services royal movement as Their Majesties and members of the royal family use it as seen during their departures and arrivals’.

The newspaper also reported, ‘The only planes that frequently use the airport are local ones, which according to information gathered, are those from the Flight Academy based at the airport, the army and those from Simunye, Big-Bend, Ngonini and Usuthu forests. 

Meanwhile, KM111 (formerly known as Sikhuphe) only has three commercial flights a day leaving the airport, taking a maximum of 150 passengers a day to Johannesburg, South Africa.

The airport, considered a white elephant and vanity project for King Mswati who rules as an absolute monarch cost an estimated E2.5 billion (US$250 million) to build.

See also

U-TURN ON SUCCESS OF KING’S AIRPORT
KING PARTIES WHILE CHILDREN DIE
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/08/swazi-king-parties-while-children-die.html

Thursday, 30 July 2015

US CABLE SAYS SWAZI KING ‘IMBALANCED’

The US Embassy in Swaziland said King Mswati III was ‘not intellectually well developed’ and ‘is not a reader’. It also called him ‘imbalanced’. 
 
The comments about the Swazi King came from Earl Irvine in February 2010, when he was the US Ambassador to Swaziland.

In a confidential cable to Washington released by Wikileaks, Irvine said King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, had a ‘lack of wisdom’.

Quoting an informant, Irvine wrote the king was ‘not a reader, and would not review documents left for him. [The informant] called the king ‘not intellectually well-developed,’ and contrasted his poor educational background with his father Sobhuza II, who was educated at Lovedale College in South Africa alongside future leaders of South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC). 

Irvine wrote, ‘Essentially a bastard outsider to the royal family, King Mswati III was plucked from relative obscurity when members of the royal family could not come to an agreement on a successor to King Sobhuza II. 

‘After Mswati III was selected to be the next king, a posthumous marriage of Sobhuza II to Ntombi [the Queen Mother] was quickly arranged, according to our interlocutor.’

Irvine wrote, ‘Unlike in his early years, the king now identifies and pushes specific projects, and will look to replace ministers or employees who are unable to provide progress on those projects.’

Irvine quoted his informant calling King Mswati ‘imbalanced’. He gave an anecdote to illustrate this. ‘The king, [the informant] said, invited about 40 officials and advisors to a basement in one of his palaces, where they all sat on the floor to attend to him. King Mswati III turned up the heater, which warmed the floor first, until the temperature in the room reached about 40 degrees Celsius, and told inconsequential stories to those gathered while they sweated, merely to show them he was in power.’

Irvine also reported that the king’s mother had a sexual affair with Lutfo Dlamini, Swaziland’s former Foreign Minister. 

And the Queen Mother Ntombi’s ‘associations with men’ had undermined the power she had to influence King Mswati’s decision-making.

Irvine called the cable he wrote to Washington ‘Witchcraft and More: A Portrait of Influences on King Mswati III’.

In the cable Irvine said, ‘traditional leaders, superstition, and members of the royal family’ were the major influences on the king. His ministers, however, ‘remain his servants’.

Irvine wrote, ‘The king’s wives’ opinions matter to the king, especially his third wife, LaMbikisa, who has an advanced degree and is the only wife to whom the king proposed.’

Irvine goes on, ‘King Mswati III believes in muti (traditional medicine used to cast spells or curses), and attempts to use muti to attack the king are taken seriously’.

He wrote, ‘In 1989 Prince Mfana Sibili was accused of high treason when he allegedly used muti to try to take away the king’s powers. When a foreign judge, brought in to hear the case, dismissed it after hearing the charges, a traditional court was installed to convict the prince.’ 

He said that ‘muti people’ hold great sway within the royal family, and that the king must eat and drink whatever they give him during traditional ceremonies, particularly when in seclusion. ‘If they are unhappy with the direction the king is taking the country, then the king has cause to worry.’ 

Irvine went on ‘Although Queen Mother Ntombi is considered by many observers to be a powerful figure within the royal family, [name of informant] indicated that her authority has been undermined by her “associations with men,” including the then Foreign Minister Lutfo Dlamini.

Irvine wrote, ‘Mswati III uses the investment company African Alliance to move his money around internationally.’

The informant indicated that ‘the king has become more decisive during his years in office, especially where his interests are at issue, and he views ministers and officials who tell him he cannot do something as cowards’.

Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini is the king’s loyal ‘hangman,’ Irvine wrote, an assertion that suggests that the king placed absolute trust in Barnabas. 

‘Instead of looking to influence the king, the Prime Minister acts as the king's steadfast servant, a relationship that dates back to a suicide attempt by Barnabas in 1990 or 1991. 

‘According to [informants] in an unsuccessful attempt kept secret from the public, Barnabas tried to commit suicide after his involvement in a corruption scandal during his tenure as Minister of Finance became known. 

‘As part of making amends to the king, Barnabas reportedly prostrated himself before the king, giving himself over as the king’s servant.’

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

SWAZI KING’S BUDGET RISES BY 25pc

The budget for Swaziland’s King Mswati III and his family has increased by 25 percent and now makes up five percent of the overall national budget for Swaziland.

These figures that are never debated in the Swazi Parliament or in the kingdom’s mainstream media have been published by the Nation magazine, a small circulation monthly publication.

The magazine reported that for the year 2015/16, ‘every budget of the royal household, except for the subvention to the King’s Office, reflects a generous increase.’

The Nation report has been uploaded to the Internet.
 
The Nation reported, ‘The overall budget for King Mswati and the royal household took a significant increase of about 25 percent from E630 million [US$63 million] to E792 million. This reflects a staggering E162 million increase and accounts for just about five percent of the overall national budget. This has been the trend for some years.

‘Government increased the Royal Emoluments and Civil List by 21.9 percent from E279 million last year to E340 million. This reflect an increase E61 million. 

‘The Swazi National Treasury, a royal unit responsible for national courts and advisory committees such as Liqoqo, the idle Border Restoration Committee and others, has its budget handsomely increased by E77 million from E200 million. This is a 38.9 percent increase.

‘Government further increased budget for construction of State houses by E13 million from E131 million to E144 million. This is an increase of about 10 percent. The state houses are mainly palaces for the royal household. This budget has become a common feature in the national budget.

‘The budget for link roads to royal residence has been increased by E5 million from E25 million last year to E30 million this year. This reflects a 20 percent increase. The status of the project has never been publicly disclosed. This is another budget that has become a common feature in the national budget. 

‘Government cut down subvention to the King’s Office by E3.4 million from E5 million to E1.6 million. This is a decrease of about 68 percent. A budget of E252 million has been made for the link road to KMIII Airport and to Hlane. 

‘At the opening of the KMIII airport last year (2014), government blew over E5 million on a bash for the royal project.’

The Nation magazine is edited by Bheki Makhubu, who along with writer and journalist Thulani Maseko, were released from jail on 30 June 2015 after serving 15 months for contempt of court after writing and publishing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary.

The magazine has a long-standing reputation for covering stories about people in power in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati, who is an absolute monarch.

The Nation reported, ‘The budget for the royal household is not debated in parliament. Not because there is any law against it but simple because it is considered unSwazi and a taboo for commoners to discuss anything pertaining to the esteemed family. 

‘Parliament is also in the dark as to how the funds are used as audited reports are only for the eyes of the king.’

The magazine said Parliament just approves what the government, which is handpicked by the King, has budgeted.

SWAZI SOLDIERS TORTURE OLD LADIES

Swaziland soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows, a member of the Swazi parliament has reported.

Titus Thwala said that elderly women were among the local residents who were regularly beaten by soldiers at informal crossing points between Swaziland and South Africa.

Thwala said the soldiers made people do push ups and other exercises.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported Thwala made his comments in parliament to the Minister of National Defence and Security Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze.

The newspaper reported Gamedze saying, ‘If that happened we are sorry and it will not happen again.’

This was not the first time soldiers in Swaziland have been accused of beating and torturing people. A man was reportedly beaten with guns and tortured for three hours by soldiers who accused him of showing them disrespect.

He was ordered to do press ups, frog jumps and told to run across a very busy road and was beaten with guns every time he tried to resist.

His crime was that he tried to talk to a man whose vehicle was being searched by soldiers at Maphiveni.

The man, December Sikhondze , told the Swazi Observer in 2011, ‘I only asked for a lift but they told me I was being disrespectful and that I should have waited for them to finish. They took my cell phone and ordered me to do press ups.’

He said that he did more than 50 press ups and he was beaten with guns every time he asked to rest.

The incident was one of many examples of soldiers being out of control in Swaziland. The Army, in effect, has a shoot-to-kill policy. In May 2011, three unarmed South African men were shot dead by Swazi soldiers when they were caught trying to smuggle four cows from Swaziland into the Republic.

In July 2011, three armed soldiers left a man for dead after he tried to help a woman they were beating up. And in a separate incident, a woman was beaten by two soldiers after she tried to stop them talking to her sister.

Soldiers have been out of control in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch for a very long time. In January 2010 they were warned that their attacks on civilians amounted to a ‘shoot to kill’ policy and this was unconstitutional. 

There have been many accounts of soldiers killing or beating up civilians, including a cold-blooded murder of two women accused of smuggling a car across the border with South Africa; a man who had five bullets pumped into his body after being beaten to a pulp; an attack on sex workers after three soldiers refused to pay them for their services; an attack by a bus load of soldiers on a security guard after he asked them to move their vehicle; and five drunk soldiers who terrorised two boys, smashing one of them to a pulp

See also

SWAZI ARMY’S IDEA OF PEACE
ROUGH JUSTICE FOR SEX WORKERS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2010/01/rough-justice-for-sex-workers.html

Saturday, 25 July 2015

EX-SWAZI CHIEF JUSTICE REPORT LEAKED


Swaziland’s sacked Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi was ‘generally corrupt’ and acted in a ‘highly disreputable way’, an official report leaked to a South African newspaper has revealed.

Ramodibedi was sacked by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, after three charges of abuse of office were found against him.

Ramodibedi had barricaded himself in his home in the Swazi capital Mbabane for 38 days after an arrest warrant was issued.

Eventually, the Swazi Judicial Service Commission (JSC) heard a case against Ramodibedi in his absence and found him guilty.

The charges were:

1. Abuse of office – In the allocation of the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) matter which was heard to hear a case brought by Ramodibedi  against the SRA for taxing his gratuity to the amount of E128 000 (US$12,800).

2. Abuse of office – In the hearing of the Impunzi Wholesalers (PTY) Ltd v The Swaziland Revenue Authority, in which it is alleged wealthy businessmen offered judges E2 million to help them win their case against the SRA involving the importation of goods into the kingdom.

3. Abuse of office in order to achieve an ulterior motive – In the hearing of the Estate Policy matter, where it is alleged Ramodibedi appointed three acting High Court judges to hear the case when their terms of office had expired.

The Mail and Guardian newspaper revealed a report by the Swazi Judicial Service Commission (JSC) which has not been officially released also said Ramodibedi had threatened to shoot at police if they tried to arrest him at his home.

The JSC report found Ramodibedi:

·         ‘Had “a generally corrupt relationship” with the former Swazi justice minister, Sibusiso Shongwe, who has also been sacked and charged with corruption. When Shongwe was arrested, investigators found a high court file relating to the application for a warrant of arrest against him. “Evidence tendered … in a bail application revealed that the file had been given to Shongwe by the registrar of the high court on the instruction of the chief justice,” the JSC noted;

·         ‘Appointed another judge, Mpendulo Simelane, to hear Ramodibedi’s personal dispute with the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) over the taxation of a gratuity, knowing Simelane was conflicted. His aim, it says, was “unlawfully to obtain a judgment in his favour from the [SRA] … in an amount of R128 800”;

·         ‘Acted in a “highly disreputable way” by reinstating an application in an estate policy dispute, although it had been withdrawn. His aim was to serve the interests of Shongwe, a respondent. He had also allowed Shongwe to address the judges presiding over the matter; and
·         ‘“Employed all delaying tactics” to stall the impeachment process, including bringing four court applications aimed at forcing the commission JSC to recuse itself.’

The JSC also criticised Ramodibedi’s role in presiding over a dispute between the SRA and Impunzi Wholesalers over duty on imported blankets, while he was in conflict with the revenue authority.

The newspaper reported that Shongwe told him ‘a wealthy businessman’ was willing to hand over R2 million (US$200,000) – R200,000 for Simelane, R500,000 for Ramodibedi and the balance for the minister – ‘if we can help them win the case’.

Ramodibedi allegedly insisted Simelane should be part of the supreme court bench that was to hear an appeal in the matter. This was despite the latter’s protests that he was not eligible for appointment to the supreme court.

Following the JSC hearing King Mswati fired Ramodibedi on 17 June 2015.

Ramodibedi who is a native of Lesotho was allowed to leave Swaziland following his sacking and is now believed to be living in Ladybrand in the Free State, South Africa. The arrest warrant was subsequently reissued.

See also

SWAZI CHIEF JUSTICE’S HISTORY OF ABUSE