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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

‘ARSONISTS’ AT ROYAL KRAAL GET BAIL

Three members of the Swaziland Communist Party who are accused of setting houses alight as a protest against a chief have been granted bail by the High Court after spending 115 days in jail on remand.

Sithembiso Sibandze, Qiniso Mkhatshwa and Siyabonga Gina were accused of burning four huts at Chief Mshikashika II’s Royal Kraal at KaNgcamphalala. They have been charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

They have been given bail of E15,000 each and banned from crossing the Mzimnene River to the Manzini city centre or going to Siphofaneni. 

Their bail application was opposed by the office of the Swazi Director of Public Prosecutions on the grounds that they would interfere with potential crown witnesses, some of whom were their relatives. 

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported on Wednesday (29 June 2016) that the prosecution argued two of the men had already admitted guilt, ‘since they confirmed to have torched the houses, causing over E100,000 [US$6,676] worth of damage’. 

According to the newspaper, the accused, ‘said they wanted the chief to spring into action and convene a meeting for the residents. They claimed that the chief was abusive towards the residents and stifled their development because he demanded too much money from the sugar cane schemes, where he demanded to be paid E5,000 yearly from each of the 65 associations.’

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

SWAZI GAME RANGERS ‘SHOOT-TO-KILL’

People are being shot and killed in Swaziland because they are suspected of poaching and game rangers are immune from prosecution, a United Nations review on human rights has been told.

The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) reported, ‘There are numerous of cases where citizens are shot and killed by game rangers for alleged poaching as raised by community members in several communities such as Lubulini, Nkambeni, Nkhube, Malanti, Sigcaweni, and Siphocosini. 

‘In terms of Section 23 (3) [of the Game Act] game rangers are immune from prosecution for killing suspected poachers and empowered to use firearm in the execution of their duties and to search without warrant,’ SCCCO told the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland in a report.

It added, ‘For example, there is a case of Jika Jika Mabila and another, who were shot by the Mlawula game rangers for suspected poaching during the night inside the game reserve. The other died on the spot, and Jika Jika was hospitalised at the Good Shepard Hospital, as he shot on the leg, on the ribs, and on the left arm, and was eventually arrested.’

SCCCO recommended the Game Act be amended, ‘to give effect to the full protection and realisation of the right to life and to allow for the prosecution of all perpetrators of extrajudicial killings.’

There has been concern in Swaziland for many years that game rangers have immunity from prosecution and can legally ‘shoot-to-kill’.

In January 2014, Swaziland’s Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula said rangers were allowed shoot people who are hunting for food to feed their hungry families.

Commissioner Magagula publicly stated, ‘Animals are now protected by law and hunting is no longer a free-for-all, where anybody can just wake up to hunt game whenever they crave meat.’ 

He told a meeting of traditional leaders in Swaziland, ‘Of course, it becomes very sad whenever one wakes up to reports that rangers have shot someone. These people are protected by law and it allows them to shoot, hence it would be very wise of one to shun away from trouble.’

His comments came after an impoverished unarmed local man, Thembinkosi Ngcamphalala, aged 21, died of gunshot wounds. He had been shot by a ranger outside of the Mkhaya Nature Reserve. His family, who live at Sigcaweni just outside the reserve’s borders, said he had not been poaching. 

Campaigners say poor people are not poaching large game, such as the endangered black rhinos, but go hunting animals, such as warthogs, as food to feed themselves and their families. Hunger and malnutrition are widespread in Swaziland where seven in ten of King Mswati’s subjects live in abject poverty. Many are forced to become hunters and gatherers to avoid starvation.

King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has given game rangers permission to shoot-to-kill people suspected of poaching wildlife on his land and protects them from prosecution for murder in some circumstances.

Ted Reilly, the chief executive of Big Game Parks (BGP), which owns and manages Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Mkhaya Nature Reserve and also manages Hlane National Park, the kingdom’s largest protected area, held in trust for the Nation by the King, holds a Royal Warrant to allow him to shoot-to-kill. 

He has had this for at least twelve years. In 2004 Reilly appeared in a documentary produced by Journeyman Pictures in which he spoke of his relationship to the King and showed his warrant on camera.

The documentary commentator said, ‘He [the King] gave Ted a Royal Warrant that allowed him to arrest and if necessary shoot-to-kill the poachers.’

The commentator added, ‘The Royal Warrant, still in force today, protects rangers from prosecution for murder as long as the poacher draws his weapon first.’

Reilly said, ‘It is the biggest honour that you could possibly imagine.’

Reilly showed the documentary makers a specially-made fort with gun turrets, where rangers can hide to shoot at poachers. He also showed surveillance towers. ‘From here, we go out, we launch attacks,’ he said. 

On camera, Reilly said the automatic weapons his rangers used against poachers, ‘are much smaller than the AK-47, but are equally as devastating. You don’t survive one of those shots if it hits you properly.’

Reilly told the documentary, ‘Our guys aren’t to be messed with. If they [poachers] come after rhino they’re going to get hurt, and if he gets killed or maimed, well, you know, who’s to blame for that?’

SWAZI COPS LET MAN BE EXECUTED
RANGERS ‘CAN SHOOT TO KILL’
TRUE FACE OF INJUSTICE IN SWAZILAND
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2014/01/king-lets-game-rangers-shoot-to-kill.html

Monday, 27 June 2016

NO AMNESTY IN ‘TERROR’ CASES

Swaziland refused to withdraw all charges against people brought under the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA), when it appeared before a United Nations review of human rights in the kingdom.

The STA has been criticised across the world because it is used to arrest and jail people, including trade unionists, who are legitimately calling for their rights.

Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2016, said ‘The Suppression of Terrorism Act, the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act of 1938, and other similarly draconian legislation provided sweeping powers to the security services to halt meetings and protests and to curb criticism of the government, even though such rights are protected under Swaziland’s 2005 constitution. In September 2015, eight human rights defenders challenged the constitutionality of these security laws in the High Court of Swaziland. A final ruling has yet to be handed down.’

The STA was ‘regularly used’ by the police to interfere in trade union activities, Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) said in a submission to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in 2015.

Amnesty International has  criticised of Swaziland for the ‘continued persecution of peaceful political opponents and critics’ by the King and his authorities. It said the Swazi authorities were using the Acts, ‘to intimidate activists, further entrench political exclusion and to restrict the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.’

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are not allowed to contest elections. The people are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, with the King appointing the others. No members of the 30-strong Swaziland Senate are elected by the people.

Swaziland appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group for a five-yearly Universal Periodic Review in May 2016.

A draft report of the review published online, stated that Swaziland refused to accept 14 recommendations from members of the review panel, including one from Norway that recommended a, ‘Withdraw all criminal charges brought against human rights defenders and political opponents under laws such as the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008 and other security legislation, and ensure that proposed amendments to these acts bring them in conformity with international human rights standards.’

See also

SWAZI TERROR LAW COURT CHALLENGE
SWAZI TERROR ACT STOPS FREE SPEECH
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2015/11/swazi-terror-act-stops-free-speech.html

Friday, 24 June 2016

SWAZILAND FAILS ON FREEDOM PROMISE

Swaziland has failed in the promise it gave a United Nations review in 2011 to change laws in the kingdom relating to freedom of association and assembly so they met international standards, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections; only 55 members of the 65-seat House of Assembly are elected by the people and none of the 30-seat Senate.

In 2011 at a United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland, Swaziland agreed to “[a]lign the national legislation with international standards to guarantee freedom of assembly and association, in particular as regards the notification of the organization of peaceful assemblies.”    

In a report to the Working Group in May 2016, Human Rights Watch stated, ‘The [Swazi] government has yet to repeal, or amend as appropriate, a number of repressive laws that restrict basic rights guaranteed in Swaziland’s 2005 constitution, including freedom of association and assembly. On the contrary the government has intensified restrictions on these rights over the past four years.  The laws in need of amendment include the 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA), the 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act, and the 1963 Public Order Act. 

‘Police have sweeping powers under the Public Order Act. The king’s 1973 decree banning political parties remains in force despite repeated calls from local political activists to have it revoked. The constitution does not address the formation or role of political parties. Section 79 of the constitution provides that Swaziland practices an electoral system based on individual merit and excludes the participation of political parties in elections. 

‘Traditional leaders and chiefs have powers to restrict access to their territories, and have often used these powers to bar civil society groups and political groups like the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) and the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) from having meetings, recruiting, or any kind of presence in their areas. In 2011 PUDEMO challenged in court the government’s refusal to register political parties but the court said PUDEMO has no legal standing to approach the court as it did not exist as a legal entity.   

‘The Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) places severe restrictions on civil society organizations, religious groups, and the media because it includes in the definition of “terrorist act” a wide range of legitimate conduct such as criticism of government, enabling officials to use the provisions of the Act to target perceived opponents of the government. The government has also misused the STA to target independent organizations by accusing them of being “terrorist” groups, and harassed civil society activists through abusive surveillance and unlawful searches of homes and offices. 
 
‘Individuals who have been targeted for arrest or prosecution under the STA include the leaders of People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) who were arrested and detained under the STA in 2014. Police arrested PUDEMO leader Mario Masuku in May 2014, on terrorism charges for criticizing the government in a speech on May 1. At the time of writing Masuku was out of jail on bail pending the outcome of his trial. If convicted, he could serve up to 15 years in prison. 

‘Police used violence to halt May Day celebrations organized by trade unions in May 2013. In March 2015 police beat leaders of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers and prevented them from hold a meeting ostensibly because the discussions would have included calls for multi-party democracy.’

See also
RESPECT FOR SWAZI RULE OF LAW FAILS
‘OPPOSITION TO KING IS TERRORISM
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ON SWAZILAND
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2012/02/human-rights-watch-on-swaziland.html

Thursday, 23 June 2016

BOY, 15, AMONG POLICE TORTURE VICTIMS

A 15-year-old boy was tortured by police in Swaziland after his mother reported him for stealing E85 (US$6). The boy said he was beaten with a metal blade and a club for five hours.

The case was just one of many reported to a United Nations review panel looking into human rights in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

A joint report by four organisations working to improve human rights stated, ‘In Mbabane [the Swazi capital], police tortured a 15-year-old boy after his mother had reported him for stealing E85.00. The boy alleges that he was beaten with a slasher (metal blade tool for cutting grass) and knobkerrie (club) for five hours. While enduring the pain, he alleges that he was made to count the strokes aloud for the police to hear. Instead of being charged, the boy was physically assaulted and made to sit in a chair for thirty minutes before he was sent back home.’

The report was submitted to the United Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland by the Swaziland Multi-Media Community Network, Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and Constituent Assembly – Swaziland.

They also reported the case of Phumelela Mkhweli, a political activist who died after alleged assault by police after they arrested him. 

The report also stated, ‘In April 2011, a 66-year-old woman was confronted by three police officers regarding the wording on her t-shirt and headscarf. The police allegedly pulled off her T-shirt, throttled her, banged her head against the wall, sexually molested her, kicked her and threw her against a police truck.  

‘The US Department of State reported on many allegations of torture and ill-treatment by police; including beatings and temporary suffocation using rubber tube tied around the face, nose, and mouth, or plastic bags over the head, the report stated.  

There have been numerous reports of torture by police and military personnel in Swaziland over the past few years.

In July 2015, Swazi MP Titus Thwala reported that Swaziland soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows. He 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.

In 2011, 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 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.

In January 2010 soldiers 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
KING’S PAPER SUPPORTS POLICE TORTURE
ROUGH JUSTICE FOR SEX WORKERS
MORE POLICE TORTURE IN SWAZILAND
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2013/01/more-police-torture-in-swaziland.html

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

INNOCENT BOY, 11, LOCKED UP FOR 10 YEARS

Children as young as eleven years old are being incarcerated in juvenile correction facilities in Swaziland for up to ten years, even though they have committed no crimes.

And, the trend to lock innocent children up is increasing, a United Nations group examining human rights in Swaziland was told.

Parents collaborate with the Commissioner of Correctional Services in what was described as ‘the best interests of the child’.

A report submitted jointly to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland April-May 2016 by SOS-Swaziland, Super Buddies, Prison Fellowship and Luvatsi – Swaziland Youth Empowerment Organisation, gave the example of one child aged 11.

Their report stated, ‘There is a growing trend of child and youth abuse done by the state and the parents purportedly in “the best interests of the child”. Children and youths are illegal incarcerated in prison centres by parents in collaboration with the Commissioner of Correctional Services who claims that the children are unruly. 

‘In one incident, Grace (not her real name) who is a single parent to John (not his real name) wrote a request letter to the Commissioner of Correctional Services requesting that John be incarcerated for unruly behaviour. In the letter, Grace states her concerns that eleven years old John might not finish school; hence her reason for wanting him incarcerated and attending the juvenile school at Malkerns Industrial School for Rehabilitation.

‘Responding to the same letter of request by Grace, the Commissioner of Correctional Services stated that under normal circumstances, they do not admit persons who have not been sentenced by the courts and directed therein through committal warrants. 

‘However, the Commissioner agreed to rehabilitate John under the stated conditions; that the 11 years old John is institutionalised at the juvenile school for 10 years; there is an order from a presiding officer giving him a custodial order of ten years without remission; and that he will cooperate with His Majesty’s Correctional Services while under its care. 

‘With that response, Grace [sic] the letter to a presiding officer who then wrote a custodial order for the stipulated time and John was admitted to the juvenile school in 2013. The 11 years old John lodges with other juveniles who have been charged by the court of law for various crimes they have committed. Grace pays tuition fees and up-keep fees for John, and she will continue doing so for the next ten years until 11 years old John is 21 years.  

‘This case is one of many, and the children are of different ages and varying backgrounds. It is only recently that a joint task team comprising of UNICEF, Prison Fellowship Swaziland, Lawyers for Human Rights-Swaziland, Save the Children Swaziland working together with the department of home affairs are exploring means to curb this situation and probably provide solutions for both the parents and children.’

In 2012, the Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland reported that Isaiah Mzuthini Ntshangase, Swaziland’s Correctional Services Commissioner, was encouraging parents to send their ‘unruly children’ to the facility if they thought they were badly behaved.

Ntshangase was speaking at the open day of the Juvenile Industrial School at the Mdutshane Correctional Institution. He told the newspaper, ‘Noticing the strife that parents go through when raising some of their children who are unruly, we decided to open our doors to assist them.’ 
The school not only corrected offenders but assisted ‘in the fight against crime by rooting out elements from a tender age’, the newspaper reported him saying. The children ‘will be locked up, rehabilitated and integrated back to society’, the Times reported.

The school accommodates pupils who were both in conflict with the law as well as delinquents, the Times said. There were 279 children locked up at the time of the interview.

The Times interviewed some of the inmates and found a 15-year-old girl locked up by her guardian because she had developed a relationship with a boyfriend that the guardian did not like.

Another girl interviewed was an orphan who ‘lived a town life’. She was reported saying, ‘In our dormitories which we share, we are deprived all the nice and good things.’ 

She added the rules at the institution were tough, ‘This place is not for the faint-hearted because you lose a lot of privileges that are freely accessible outside. There is neither clubbing, drinking nor time for boys.’

One unemployed father of an 11-year-old boy said he put his son in the facility because he did not have money to pay school fees. ‘I am grateful that my son is in school. I cannot afford his education because I am old. My wish is that he finishes school to earn a decent living,’ he said.

The guardian of one girl said before she was admitted at the school, she had not been able to contain her behaviour. ‘My biggest problem was that I had lost her. She dropped out of school together with my niece (sister’s daughter) who is an orphan,’ she said.

Children reported that they were not beaten but they were badly fed, getting their supper at around 3pm, which meant they went to bed hungry.

This was not the first time the Swazi juvenile correction facility had been under the spotlight.

In August 2010, it was revealed that a 12-year-old boy was serving one year in Mdutshane because he insulted his grandmother. He had been sentenced to an E300 fine (about US$40), but was too poor to pay so was jailed instead.

See also

BOY, 12, JAILED FOR INSULTING GRANNY
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2010/08/boy-12-jailed-for-insulting-granny.html

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

SWAZI LGBTI PEOPLE LIVE IN FEAR

A gay club has been formed in the Northern Hhohho region of Swaziland to help tackle prejudice in the kingdom.

‘The motivation to form the gay club is to address stigmatisation suffered by homosexuals who cannot find immediate safety amongst their peers, parents and the community at large,’ the Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Monday (20 June 2016).

The newspaper reported club president Nkhosinati ‘Fly’ Dlamini saying, ‘We want to inform our immediate family members and friends that we are here and proud. They must also know that we are not sick or confused it is just that we are people who want our basic human rights. We don’t want to live in fear.’

The move comes shortly after a searing condemnation of Swaziland’s violation of the rights of LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) people was made to a United Nations group.

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.

It stated, ‘As a result, the few organisations that seek to advance the rights and welfare of LGBTI people, such as House of Our Pride and Rock of Hope, are forced to operate under a fiscal sponsor, usually a larger organisation dealing with HIV/AIDS or gender issues to avoid official scrutiny. Rock of Hope which has been successful at acquiring formal registration did so under a cloud of fear to fully disclose their full mandate and nature of their beneficiaries being LGBTI persons whose existence is denied and prohibited by the state.’

The report to the UNUPR was presented by Rock of Hope jointly with three South African-based organisations.

The report added, ‘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.   

See also

LESBIAN AND GAY MURDERS IN SWAZILAND
           
SWAZI MINISTER LIES TO UN ON GAYS
GAY PREJUDICE RIFE IN SWAZILAND
COMMUNITY POLICE BANISH GAY MEN