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Wednesday, 22 February 2017


Swaziland’s Minister of Labour and Social Security has made a veiled threat to scrap university scholarships in the kingdom if students continue to protest against late payments.

Minister of Labour and Social Security Winnie Magagula made her comments after management at the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) closed the institution after students boycotted classes.

There have been continuing problems at UNISWA – and other tertiary colleges in Swaziland – about late payments of scholarships and allowances. There are also complaints that facilities in universities and colleges are inadequate.

UNISWA closed on Monday (20 February 2017). UNISWA Registrar Dr Salebona Simelane told local media the University Senate had resolved to close down immediately as a precautionary measure following vandalism to property the previous week. 

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday he said, ‘they needed to protect university property and the students themselves from each other’. 

Simelane said the university would be closed until further notice.

Last week, police fired warning gunshots as students protested about late payment of their allowances.

The Observer reported Minister Magagula saying the government might have to reconsider issuing scholarships, ‘as they were causing too many problems’. 

Following the closure of UNISWA, Magagula said the incident was an unfortunate one as they had met the SRC where they explained the procedures followed when government pays a client. 

The Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported her saying, ‘We met with these children and we showed them that we had indeed paid their allowances as these things take time. There are processes that take place.’

The Observer added, ‘Magagula said the students were clearly refusing to cooperate with government and the university hence if there are no scholarships maybe there’ll be no closure for these institutions.’

UNISWA is not the only tertiary education institution complaining against late payments. The Southern African Nazarene University (SANU) in Manzini, Swaziland, has also been closed following student protests against poor facilities and insufficient allowances. 

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Two police officers in Swaziland have appeared in court charged with demanding money from suspects in return for their freedom.

They appeared at the Manzini Magistrates Court on 14 February 2017 charged with, among other crimes, extorting money from civilians by threatening to arrest them and have their names published in newspapers.

The Times of Swaziland reported, ‘The “suspects” were warned that this would embarrass them and no matter what the outcome of the cases would be, they would already have been publicly shamed.’

The accused police officers are alleged to have taken more than E100,000 (US$7,630) from people who feared arrest. The case continues.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017


Despite a campaign at the European Parliament to force Swaziland to improve its human rights record, the European Union (EU) has continued to spend tens of millions of euros of taxpayers’ money in the kingdom ruled by the autocratic King Mswati III.

Figures just released show the EU disbursed E365 million last year (26 million euro; US$22 million.

Bertram Stewart, Swazi Ministry of Economic Planning and Development Principal Secretary, said, ‘I wish to express our sincere gratitude to the EU for the financial and moral support they provided to the country,’

He was speaking at the annual Swazi Government and EU project planning meeting to review the progress of EU-funded projects.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported, ‘EU Ambassador Nicola Bellomo said they were really proud of the achievements and were looking at increasing and improving their level of cooperation in partnership with all the relevant stakeholders.’

There has been growing concerns in Europe about Swaziland’s record on human rights, where any political dissent can be outlawed by the Suppression of Terrorism Act. In recent years, journalists have been jailed for criticising the kingdom’s judges. 

In October 2016, more than four in ten Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) did not support Swaziland’s inclusion in a trade partnership deal.

Ambassador Bellomo said at the time, many MEPs wanted Swaziland excluded because of human rights violations.

In a vote, 417 MEPs endorsed Swaziland’s inclusion in the Southern African Development Community (SADC)-EU Economic Partnership Agreement.  However, 216 MEPs voted against and a further 118 abstained from voting.

Bellomo told the Sunday Observer on 9 October 2016 that those who wanted the kingdom to be excluded cited human rights violations. He gave the jailing of the Nation magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko on sedition charges as examples.

The Observer reported the EU ambassador said this should be ‘a wake-up call’ to Swaziland.  

The new trade agreement opened SADC goods to the European markets duty free.

In May 2015, the European Parliament voted for the release of all political prisoners in Swaziland and called for the kingdom to be monitored for its human rights record.

A statement issued by the European Parliament said, ‘Parliament considers the imprisonment of political activists and the banning of trade unions to be in clear contravention of commitments made by Swaziland under the Cotonou Agreement to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and also under the sustainable development chapter of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement, for which Parliament’s support will depend on respect for the commitments made.’

The resolution was passed by 579 votes to six, with 58 abstentions. 

In January 2015, the United States withdrew Swaziland’s trading benefits under the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) after the kingdom refused to accept democratic change.

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Monday, 20 February 2017


A command made by Swaziland’s autocratic King Mswati III that schools must not charge parents top-up fees is about to be overturned following years of confusion.

And, Swazi Government ministers and the media in the kingdom are rewriting history to erase the King’s part in the chaos.

In February 2014, in a speech opening Parliament King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, made the directive to abolish top-up fees even though the government he hand-picked did not have a plan to implement it. 

In Swaziland, the King’s word is a proclamation. Once he speaks nobody is allowed to question him. 

In his 2014 speech the King said, ‘We must encourage the development of local facilities and the improvement of the quality of our education to match the standards of foreign countries. It is not enough, however, to just educate our children to become job seekers.’

Top-up fees allowed principals to charge parents more than the basic school fee. This allowed schools to be able to fund many basic activities. Principals complained that the money paid by government was too meagre to run the schools and a majority of them opted for top-up fees to make up for the shortage. 

Within months reports were circulating in the kingdom that most schools had been forced to suspend activities including participation in sports and music competitions. It was estimated these extra-mural activities had halved when compared to recent years.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported in 2015 that some principals had resorted to selling sweets on behalf of their schools to raise additional funds.

It reported, ‘Swaziland Principals Association (SWAPA) President Mduduzi Bhembe confirmed the sad situation and lamented the fact that the growth of the country’s education system was taking a nosedive.’

In February 2016, school principals who defied the ban were warned they could go to jail. The Swazi Education and Training Minister Phineas Magagula said this after the Kingdom’s High Court confirmed the King’s edict that no school should charge parents top-up fees. 

The Swazi Observer reported at the time that Magagula said by charging top-up fees the principals were, ‘failing to comply with His Majesty King Mswati III’s order that such should not be paid and that no child should be deprived of education’.

Now, media in Swaziland are reporting that the Swazi Cabinet has decided to put forward a law to allow to-up fees to be charged.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported on Friday (17 February 2017), ‘Stakeholders are searching for answers to the question of how to charge top-up fees yet they (top-up fees) are legal in terms of Section 12 of the Free Primary Education Act of 2010.’

It added, ‘Phineas Magagula, the Minister of Education and Training, had submitted a proposal to cabinet to reintroduce the additional fees which schools charged over and above government grants.’

The King’s role in the top-up fee saga is being ignored. On 29 December 2016, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on press freedom in Swaziland as a ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’, reported Magagula had submitted a proposal to cabinet to reintroduce the top-up fees.

It reported, ‘Education Minister Dr. Phineas Magagula yesterday said the decision to enforce a no top-up fee policy was not taken by an individual line minister, in this particular case being himself, but was a collective cabinet decision.

‘Any changes with regard to the implementation of the policy, Dr. Magagula said, would as such have to be taken by cabinet.’

Friday, 17 February 2017


For the second time in a week police in Swaziland fired warning gunshots at civilians during a street protest.

Kombi drivers and conductors brought traffic to a standstill at Mvutshini on Tuesday (14 February 2017) by blocking the highway and stopping public transport. They were protesting about an alleged corrupt traffic police office.

The Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (15 February 2017) three gun shots were fired in the air by the police ‘after the conductors attacked a bus fully loaded with passengers on its way to Mbabane, from Manzini’. 

It quoted one conductor saying, ‘We had to run for our lives, as we didn’t expect shots to be fired. We thought we were calm and are lucky to have not been shot,’

This was the second time in a week that police fired shots during civilian protests. On Sunday police fired warning gunshots as students protested about late payment of their allowances.

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Thursday, 16 February 2017


Police in Swaziland fired warning gunshots as students protested about late payment of their allowances. 

It is now commonplace for Swazi police to fire at civilian protests, such as student and labour disputes.

The latest attack on Sunday (12 February 2017) happened after students at the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) tried to march with a petition to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, following a meeting on the Kwaluseni campus.

Local media reported armed military police from the Operational Support Services intercepted the students who were walking down the road near the Mahhala shopping complex and fired warning shots.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Tuesday (14 February 2017), ‘about three warning shots were fired by the police as they dispersed the students’. The students were then forced to return back to the campus. 

The Times of Swaziland reported the students want to restore the 60 percent of allowances that was slashed after the implementation of a scholarship policy during the 2011/2012 academic year.

It is common in Swaziland for police to fire at civilians during disputes. On 6 February 2017, they fired live gunshots and teargas as workers at Juris Manufacturing in Nhlangano when workers were locked out in a dispute over allegations that management planned to purge the staff of ‘troublesome elements’. 

In February 2016, Swazi security forces attacked students at the UNISWA Kwaluseni campus by driving an armoured troop carrier at speed into a crowd, injuring one so badly her back was broken. Students had been protesting and boycotting classes to protest about delays in registration.

The assault was one of many violent attacks on students by police and security forces dating back a number of years.

In November 2013, police raided dormitories and dragged students from their rooms. Later they beat up the students at local police stations. Students had wanted the start of examinations postponed. 

Armed police stood guard outside examination halls as the UNISWA Administration attempted to hold the exams.

In August 2012, two students were shot in the head at close range with rubber bullets, during a dispute about the number of scholarships awarded by the government. Reports from the Centre for Human Rights and Development, Swaziland said several other students were injured by police batons and kicks.

In February 2012, police fired teargas at students from Swaziland College of Technology (SCOT) who boycotted classes after the Swazi Government did not pay them their allowances.

In November 2011, armed police attacked students at the recently-opened private Limkokwing University. The Swazi Observer said Limkokwing students reported that police ‘attacked them unprovoked as they were not armed’.

The newspaper added, ‘During a visit to the institution about 10 armed officers were found standing guard by the gate’. The Observer said police fired as they tried to disperse the students. 

In January 2010, Swaziland Police reportedly fired bullets at protesting university students, injuring two of them. They denied it and said they ‘only’ fired teargas. Students from UNISWA had attempted to march through the kingdom’s capital, Mbabane, to call for an increase in their allowances.

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017


The Swaziland newspaper in effect owned by autocratic monarch King Mswati III has launched another bogus scare story against Asians living in the kingdom.

This time the newspaper described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on press freedom as a  ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’ has reported that Asians might try to take control of parliament at the 2018 national elections. 

The newspaper reported incorrectly on Thursday (9 February 2017) that there were ‘more than 190,000 Asians in the country and some of them have even obtained citizenships’.

The newspaper reported, ‘the biggest worry among traditional authorities now is that Asians might go for Parliament next year’.

It added, ‘The worry amongst the chiefs was that Asians have money and they can use it to lure people to vote for them if they want to.’

In fact, there are nowhere near as many Asians in Swaziland as the newspaper reported. According to the CIA Factbook, an independent source, 97 percent of Swaziland’s 1.3 million people are African. That would mean only about 39,000 of the kingdom’s inhabitants were non-African.

The190,000 figure quoted by the Observer is entirely bogus and has no foundation in reality. To put the figure in context, in 2013 at the last national election in Swaziland 251,278 people voted from the 414,704 who had registered. 

The Observer has been very loose in its reporting of Asians. In November 2016, its companion newspaper the Observer on Saturday reported Swaziland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Nkosinathi Maseko saying, ‘most nationals of Asian origin were associated with terrorist activities’.

It reported he told this to a parliamentary select committee set up to investigate what the newspaper called an ‘influx of illegal immigrants’ into the kingdom.

The newspaper reported Maseko had said, ‘it was public information that most nationals of Asian origin were associated with terrorist activities; and their continued entry illegally put the country and its citizens at high risk of being a nucleus for terrorist activities.’

Maseko and the Observer gave no evidence to support this. 

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Tuesday, 14 February 2017


Shops in Swaziland have been ordered to stop displaying photos of alleged shoplifters because it infringes their human rights.

It has become increasingly common for supermarkets in the kingdom to display photographs on their walls or on video screens. It is thought the practice has been going on for many years and that shoplifting is increasing.

Superintendent Khulani Mamba, Chief Police Information and Communications Officer, said there was no law allowing shopowners to display the photos. 

He warned shops not to keep alleged shoplifters in their storerooms for a long time before calling the police. ‘The same goes for those who make them pay double the price of the stolen goods; it is illegal as they must just call the police,’ Mamba told local media.

Human rights lawyer Mandla Mkhwanazi said the treatment was degrading and inhumane. ‘This is violation of human rights and degrading dignity of the individual,’ he said.