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Monday, 16 October 2017


King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland, has declared a small teacher-training college will become a university, repeating a promise previously made and broken in 2013. 

He told the Ngwane Teachers’ College graduation ceremony in Shiselweni on Thursday (12 October 2017) it would be declared a university in 2018 to coincide with Swaziland’s 50th anniversary of independence from Great Britain.

The decision appears to have been made on the spur of the moment without consultation with the Ministry of Education and Training.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported, ‘His Majesty pointed out that every year he visited the college, the students and staff told him of their wish that the institution be elevated to university status.

‘“Every time we come here we get the same request that the institution be elevated to a university.

‘“I heard you again today when rendering your entertainment stating that the institution is ready for such an elevation.

‘“While one group was performing and touched on this issue I asked Dr Mahlalela how far the process to elevate the institution and he told me it was very advanced and it would be concluded soon hence I declare that in 2018 this institution will no longer be a college but a university,” his Majesty declared.’

He added, ‘In 2018 the country will be celebrating the jubilee hence it is important that the progress made on the ground reflects that we have been independent for 50 years.

‘“Those that are involved in the negotiations and planning process of this must therefore speed track it,” His Majesty said.’

The King and others did not report that a similar promise had been made to Ngwane Teachers’ College in 2013. It was announced it would become a university in 2014.

The Times of Swaziland reported at the time that College’s Principal Amos Mahlalela and University of Swaziland (UNISWA) Vice-Chancellor Professor Cisco Magagula made the announcement at that year’s graduation ceremony.

The college is small and in 2013 Magagula said it had graduated 3,764 since the college was formed. This was in 1983.
This year, 292 students graduated; all with diplomas. At present it has 52 lecturers and only two hold Ph.D doctoral degrees. According to the official website of the Swaziland Government from 1989 to date the college offers a three-year Primary Teachers Diploma (PTD) programme. About 90 percent of the students in the college are sponsored by the government.

This is not the first announcement the King has made regarding the creation of a university. In August 2016, he declared a ‘university of transformation’ serving the whole Southern African Development Community would be established in Swaziland within a year. It did not happen.
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Saturday, 14 October 2017


Women’s rights campaigners in Swaziland appear to have won a small victory on the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill (SODV).

A report to the Swazi House of Assembly recommended scrapping four clauses in the Bill that dealt with incest, unlawful stalking, abduction and flashing.

In the Bill, stalking was defined as loitering near, contacting a person in anyway; including but not limited to telephone, mail, fax email or through use of technology. Any intimidating, harassing or threatening act against a person whether or not involving violence or a threat of violence was also defined as stalking. 

The clause that defined flashing as the exposure of or display of genital organs and female breasts among others was said to seriously undermine the Swazi tradition of dressing (imvunulo) and other practices. Each year thousands of bare-breasted women dance in front of King Mswati III at the Reed Dance.

The clause on incest, described as an act of sexual penetration or attempts with a person’s offspring or sibling, parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece was said to be too broad-ranging. The committee report said there were already laws that covered these offences.

An outcry developed on the streets and in the pages of the kingdom’s only two daily newspapers when it was said that the clauses went against traditional Swazi culture.

In an editorial comment, the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, said, ‘If MPs go ahead with this, they ought to be aware that they are just about to officially brand Swazi culture as a tool to suppress women and girls in this country. This is not an image we wish for ourselves when the world is pushing aggressively for gender equality and the protection for women and girls.’

Within a week the clauses were reinstated. The future of the SODV Bill is unclear since parliamentary procedure might mean it cannot be discussed again until next year. The SODV Bill in one form or another has been going through parliament since 2009.

The controversy has once again highlighted the abuses that women and girls suffer under Swazi traditional law and custom.

In 2013, a 317-page document called The Indigenous Law and Custom of the Kingdom of Swaziland (2013) was presented to King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. It said that under Swazi Law and Custom a husband can legally rape his wife or his lover. 

Under Chapter 7, which addresses offences (emacala) in Swaziland, rape is said to be committed only if the woman forced is not the man’s wife or lover.

In 2015, a report from a US organisation ABCNewspoint stated that Swaziland had the fourth highest rate of rape in the world. It said there were 77.5 registered cases of rape among 100,000 people.

Rape and sexual abuse of children is common in Swaziland. In 2008, Unicef reported that one in three girls in Swaziland were sexually abused, usually by a family member and often by their own fathers - 75 percent of the perpetrators of sexual violence were known to the victim.

Many men in Swaziland believed was all right to rape children if their own wives were not giving them enough sex. In 2009, men who were interviewed during the making of the State of the Swaziland Population report said they ‘“salivate” over children wearing skimpy dress codes because they are sexually starved in their homes.’

In 2009, a study of Swazi cultural practices, funded by the United Nations Population Fund, found, ‘In Swazi culture, decision making has traditionally been a male prerogative. Family planning decisions, therefore, lie with the man.

‘Women report that they have been subjected to continuous child birth by their husbands or in-laws against their will.’

Another cultural factor is a preference (which is sometimes made into a demand by in-laws) for a woman to bear a boy child. Unwanted pregnancies result as the birth of a girl child is immediately followed by an effort to have a male heir who by traditional law is of the only sex that can lead a family into its next generation.

So strong are these beliefs, coupled with an antipathy toward condom use, that AIDS prevention efforts directed at women haven’t made much headway, according to the report.

In the study, Swazi men strongly defended the practice of kungena, whereby a widow becomes the wife of the deceased man’s brother; a practice that health groups say spreads HIV. Swazi men also defended polygamy as a cultural necessity.

But men also lamented cultural practices they said could stop the spread of HIV, like kuhlawula, whereby men or boys who impregnate unmarried women are fined five cows by their community elders, are no longer enforced.

Several Swazi customs were once in place to ensure that young people stayed chaste until marriages. At the time, marriages were usually arranged between families as forms of alliances. Until the traditional ceremony was completed, young people were not allowed to have sex. 

One taboo was the people did not engage in sex outside their age groups. Boys were subject to ridicule by their contemporaries if they were known to sleep with older women.

Now, Sugar Daddies and Sugar Mamas are common. It is not even sexual attraction that draws the youngest of the partners to such relationships, but the lure of money.

In previous Swazi generations, girls’ sexual debuts were delayed through such customs as umcwasho, when all the nations’ girls of certain ages were forbidden to engage in sex for designated periods. 

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Friday, 13 October 2017


The Swaziland Government is being sued for E2.5 million (US$185,000) after a child was maimed by a teacher who was dishing out corporal punishment.

It comes after a series of cases of excessive and illegal beatings have been reported in the kingdom.

Former Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Education and Training Pat Muir told a workshop that the parents of the child in Northern Hhohho was suing the Ministry of Education and Training. The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Wednesday (11 October 2017) he said, ‘Today, I am reminded of a parent in Northern Hhohho who is currently suing government under the ministry of education and training about E2.5 million. This is because the teacher punished and maimed a child.’

The newspaper said, ‘He added that the Ministry of Education and Training has a number of cases in all regions of the country where teachers have been accused of assaulting pupils under the banner of corporal punishment. 

Muir was speaking at a workshop on ‘positive discipline’ designed to sensitise ministry officials on alternatives to corporal punishment which was banned in Swaziland schools in 2015.

He did not give details of the cases but there are a number on public record. As recently as September 2017 it was reported that an 11-year-old boy from Ekuphakameni Community Primary School in the outskirts of Hlatikhulu lost an eye when a cane his schoolteacher was using to illegally beat other pupils broke and splintered. 

In 2011, a 10-year-old girl at kaLanga Nazarene Primary school was blinded for life in her left eye after a splinter from a teacher’s stick flew and struck it during punishment. She was injured when her teacher was hitting another pupil, with a stick which broke.  

Another pupil in Swaziland was thrashed so hard that he later collapsed unconscious and had to be rushed to a clinic. Six pupils at Mafucula High school were thrashed with 20 strokes of a ‘small log’ because they were singing in class. It was reported that the boy who became unconscious was not one of those misbehaving, but he was flogged nonetheless. 

In September 2015, the Times of Swaziland reported a 17-year-old school pupil died after allegedly being beaten at school. The pupil reportedly had a seizure.

In March 2015, a primary school teacher at the Florence Christian Academy was charged with causing grievous bodily harm after allegedly giving 200 strokes of the cane to a 12-year-old pupil on her buttocks and all over her body.

In 2011, it was reported girls at Mpofu High School were being flogged by teachers on their bare flesh and if they resisted they were chained down so the beating could continue. They were said to have been given up to 40 strokes at a time. The Swazi Observer newspaper reported at the time the children said ‘that when they are beaten, they are made to strip naked on the lower body so that the teachers can beat them on bare flesh’.

One girl told the newspaper, ‘The teachers make us lie on a bench whereby if you are a girl you lift your skirt so that they can beat you on bare flesh, if you resist you are chained to the bench.’

Muir told the workshop which was hosted by the Save the Children Swaziland at the Pigg’s Peak Hotel the ministry was working towards eradicating all violence at schools, as well as addressing the negative impact that corporal punishment had on children, who started to hate school. 

He said, ‘As a ministry, we have noted that corporal punishment acts as a barrier that keeps children away from school, and our job is to remove that problem in order to achieve the targeted 100 per cent child education goal. Currently, we are training educational officers on positive disciple, unfortunately we still have many of our officers who are not well versed about positive discipline because they are strong believers in the proverbial saying, “spare the rod spoil the child”, but during teacher preparation in teaching college, the ministry of education and training never taught a teacher how to beat children.’

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Thursday, 12 October 2017


A gold mine in Swaziland opened by King Mswati III promising more than 400 jobs has been closed after allegations of poor management.

The Lufafa Gold Mine (now known as Lomati) at Hhelehhele in the Hhohho region was in February 2016 reported to have more than two million tonnes of ore which could contain about 15,000 kilograms of gold. It had an estimated value of more than E4 billion (US$263 million). Twenty-five percent of this would be held by King Mswati ‘in trust’ for the Swazi nation. Lufafa Managing Director Mihla Dlamini said at the time there was enough gold to be dug for a period of 35 years.
Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Jabulile Mashwama said on Monday (9 October 2017) the mine had been shut down after concerns were raised by different stakeholders about the running and administration of the company. 

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday this was revealed by the Minister during the ministry’s first quarter portfolio committee debate. The newspaper added, ‘The minister said there had been an enquiry into the running of the mine after which it was resolved that it had been closed down while the company tries to put its house in order. 

‘“Following a number of negative reports about the mine, the ministry took it upon itself to visit the mine and look into its running, upon arrival we realised there was a lot wrong and we had an enquiry look into it,” she said. 

‘The minister said the findings from the enquiry showed that there was a lot wrong hence the decision to shut down the mine so that the company could put their house in order.

‘“We have been informed by the company that they have changed management for the effective running of the mine and further resolve the problems which were identified during the enquiry,” she said.’

The mine reportedly will reopen before the end of October 2017.

When the King officially opened the mine in February 2016, he said it would bring 400 jobs at the mine and in the community. The Observer on Saturday newspaper reported (27 February 2016), ‘The King said he so wishes that the gold mine would perform well in order to bring more opportunities since he has seen for himself that the directors have demonstrated a good working leadership.’

The mine was shrouded in secrecy. At the opening ceremony journalists were prevented from taking pictures by security forces and Minister of Natural Resources, Jabulile Mashwama. The Nation magazine on its Facebook page said this created, ‘suspicion about the extraction of the mineral in the country’.

The Nation reported, ‘Sources told The Nation that the directors of [the mining company] did not want pictures of the mine to be published “for security reasons”.  Journalists were only allowed to photograph the event at the entrance of the mine, where a tent was pitched for King Mswati to meet the local community, and at the reception held at Pigg’s Peak.’

Before the opening, in June 2015, the Observer on Saturday reported its journalists were barred from entering the Lufafa premises.

The newspaper reported at the time, ‘The reason for barring the Observer on Saturday team could not be established as security personnel from For Him Security Services only declared that the authorities had instructed them not to allow anyone inside the premises. Even efforts to get the security to speak to the authorities and inform them it was the Observer on Saturday team that wanted an audience with them to ascertain how much ground the company had covered concerning the opening of the mine, but the very same answer was forwarded to the team that the authorities at the mine still did not want the team to enter the premises.’

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017


King Mswati III, the absolute monarch in Swaziland, has been named the third wealthiest King in Africa by an international business website.  

Business Insider reported that he has a net worth of US$200 million. In a short report, it said, ‘King Mswati III has often been criticized for his lavish lifestyle, with many local and international media outlets accusing him of living an extravagant life, while his people languish in poverty.’

The wealth of the King who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has been the subject of speculation outside of Swaziland for years. He rules over a population of about 1.3 million people and seven in ten of them live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 a day.

In 2014 Forbes magazine reported the King had a personal fortune of US$50 million, but this did not include the estimated US$140 million he holds through the conglomerate Tibiyo TakaNgwane, that he supposedly ‘holds in trust’ for the Swazi nation.

King Mswati owns 13 palaces, a private jet airplane, fleets of Mercedes and BMW cars and at least one Rolls Royce, while the majority of his subjects rely on some form of food aid to avoid hunger. At least 40 percent of the working population is unemployed.

Forbes, in an analysis of the richest monarchs in Africa reported that the King was ‘more well known for his relationships with women (he had at least 15 wives at the last count), and for his flamboyant parties’.

Forbes reported, ‘The King is one of Africa’s wealthiest royals. His personal net worth is at least $50 million, based on the annual $50 million salary that he is paid out of government coffers. 

‘He also controls Tibiyo TakaNgwane, an investment holding company that owns stakes in sugar refining giants Ubombo Sugar and Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation (RSSC), dairy company Parmalat Swaziland, spirits manufacturer Swaziland Beverages and hotel chain Swazi Spa Holdings. The company has assets worth over $140 million, but he holds it in trust for the people of Swaziland.’

This was not the first time Forbes reported on the King. In 2012, Forbes named King Mswati as one of the top five worse rulers in Africa. 

It added, ‘He lives lavishly, using his kingdom’s treasury to fund his expensive tastes in German automobiles, first-class leisure trips around the world and women. But his gross mismanagement of his country’s finances is now having dire economic consequences. Swaziland is going through a severe fiscal crisis. 

‘The kingdom’s economy is collapsing and pensions have been stopped. In June last year, the King begged for a financial bailout from South Africa.’

In 2009, Forbes named King Mswati among the top 15 wealthiest royals in the whole world

In February 2011 the Mail & Guardian newspaper in South Africa reported King Mswati also had US$10 billion that was put in trust in King Mswati’s name for the people of Swaziland by his father, King Sobhuza II.

In 2015, a report from the United States government  concluded there was no oversight in the kingdom on how the King, his 15 wives and vast Royal Family spent public money.

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Tuesday, 10 October 2017


Two journalists on Swaziland’s state-controlled television almost lost their jobs because they covered a protest march by public servants.

Swazi TV is only one of two television stations in Swaziland where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The public servants were demonstrating against the government which the King picks himself. They wanted a 9.15 percent pay rise but the government offered them zero.

The Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland, which is in effect owned by the King, reported (8 October 2017) a source told them the two journalists were assigned to the march on 20 September 2017 by an editor but when they returned to the station they were summoned to see the station’s chief executive officer (CEO). 

The newspaper reported, ‘The source went on to claim that on the day of the protest march, the CEO was not at work but after he was informed that some journalists had gone to cover the march he rushed to the station where he summoned the reporters. 

‘The reporters were allegedly forced to name the supervisor who assigned them to cover the strike. However, in fear of causing trouble for their superiors the two reporters decided not to. 

‘Reasons given by the reporters for covering the strike was that they wanted to archive the protest action not to air it. Despite that explanation given by the journalists it is alleged that their superiors continued grilling them. They were then warned against their action.’ The newspaper said they nearly lost their jobs.

Swazi TV along with radio in Swaziland is strictly controlled by the Swazi Government.

In June 2015, a report tabled at the Swaziland Parliament revealed that censorship at Swazi Television was so tight that every month the Swaziland Government issued directives to the station about what events it should cover.

And, the government had also banned ordinary members of parliament from appearing on the news programmes of Swazi TV.

At the time, Bongani ‘Sgcokosiyancinca’ Dlamini, the Chief Executive of Swazi TV said the instructions had been given to the station in advance of the 2013 national elections by then Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Winnie Magagula. 

His revelation was contained in a report tabled by Hhukwini MP Saladin Magagula, chairperson of the House of Assembly select committee investigating the media ban imposed on MPs on state-owned media. 

According to a report in the Swazi Observer, at the time, Dlamini said, ‘It was communicated to the station that any activity outside of government’s calendar cannot be featured as news and that government’s calendar is sent monthly by the press officer in Cabinet and it is normally updated in between.’

Swazi TV is one of only two television stations in Swaziland and is under state control. The other station, Channel S is privately-owned, but has a stated editorial policy to always support King Mswati.

Censorship of radio and television in Swaziland is rife. In August 2014 Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Dumisani Ndlangamandla said the Swaziland Government would not let up on its control of state radio,  He said state media existed primarily to serve the interests of the state.

In August 2012 the government announced that in advance of the national election in September 2013
radio would be banned from broadcasting news and information that did not support the government’s own agenda.

All radio in the kingdom, except one Christian station that does not broadcast news, is state-controlled.

New guidelines also barred ‘public service announcements’ unless they were ‘in line with government policy’ or had been authorised ‘by the chiefs through the regional administrators’ or deputy prime minister’s office’.

The guidelines said the radio stations could not be ‘used for purposes of campaigning by individuals or groups, or to advance an agenda for political, financial popularity gains for individuals or groups’. 

There is a long history of censorship on state broadcasting in Swaziland. Strikes and anti-government demonstrations are usually ignored by broadcasters. Sometimes live radio programmes are censored on air. In July 2011, the plug was pulled on a phone-in programme when listeners started criticising the government for its handling of the economy. Percy Simelane, who was then the boss of SBIS, and went on to become the government’s official spokesperson, personally stormed the radio studio and cut the programme.  

In April 2011, Welile Dlamini, a long-time news editor at SBIS, challenged the Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini at an editors’ forum meeting on why the state radio station was told by the government what and what not to broadcast. Welile Dlamini said that at the station they were instructed to spike certain stories such as those about demonstrations by progressives and strike action by workers. The PM responded by saying editors should resign if they were not happy with the editorial policies they are expected to work with.

In March 2011, SBIS stopped broadcasting the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme after it carried reports critical of King Mswati. In the same month, SBIS failed to cover the march by nurses that forced the Swazi Government into paying them overdue allowances. 

In 2010, Swazi police told SBIS it must stop allowing people to broadcast information about future meetings unless the police had given permission. Jerome Dlamini, Deputy Director of the SBIS said this was to stop the radio station airing an announcement for a meeting that was prohibited. 
He said, ‘It’s the station’s policy not to make announcements without police permission.’ 

In 2006, the Minister for Public Service and Information, Themba Msibi, warned the Swazi broadcasters against criticising the King.

MISA reported at the time, ‘The minister’s threats followed a live radio programme of news and current affairs in which a human rights lawyer criticised the King’s sweeping constitutional powers.’

Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, had been asked to comment on a visit by an African Union (AU) human rights team which was on a fact-finding mission to Swaziland.

‘In response, Maseko said that, as human rights activists, they had concerns about the King’s sweeping constitutional powers and the fact that he the King was wrongfully placed above the Constitution. He said they were going to bring this and other human rights violations to the attention of the AU delegation. 

‘Not pleased with the broadcast, the government was quick to respond. Msibi spoke on air the following day to sternly warn the media against criticising the King. He said the media should exercise respect and avoid issues that seek to question the King or his powers. 

‘The minister said his message was not directed only to radio but to all media, both private and government-owned. He said that in government they had noticed that there was growing trend in the media to criticise the King when he should be above criticism and public scrutiny,’ MISA reported.

Maseko, a long-time campaigner for human rights, was jailed for two years along with Nation Magazine editor Bheki Makhubu in July 2014 for writing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary.

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Monday, 9 October 2017


Hunger is sweeping across Swaziland and vital medicines are running out as the Swazi Government continues to mismanage the kingdom’s economy. Universities and colleges are closed as armed police clear campuses as students protest against unpaid allowances and poor educational standards. 

Meanwhile, the 49-year-old King Mswati, Swaziland’s absolute monarch, is to take a 19-year-old as a bride. It is his 14th wife (or his 15th, the Swazi people are not allowed to know).

These are some of the reports in the latest compilation Swaziland Striving for Freedom Vol 27 July to September 2017 from the Swazi Media Commentary website, coving the three months from July to September 2017. It is available to download free of charge at Scribd. Police continue to be out of control using heavy-handed tactics against legitimate protests and spying on all sections of the community, including parliamentarians. Wardens in jails sexually assault male prisoners and children at school receive illegal corporal punishment: one boy lost an eye during a classroom caning.

There are problems ahead in the kingdom which has one of the worst human rights records in the world. A new Public Order Act allows the state to further clamp down on dissent. Anyone who defaces a picture of the King could end up in jail for two years.

Swazi Media Commentary is published online, updated most weekdays. It is operated entirely by volunteers and receives no financial backing from any organisation. It is devoted to providing information and commentary in support of human rights in Swaziland.

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New recruits to Swaziland’s army paid ‘hefty bribes’ for their places, according to a newspaper report.

This follows an outrage in April 2017 when about 40 new recruits were expelled from the army because they had cheated on entry tests.

The Observer on Saturday reported (7 October 2017) that new recruits started arriving at Mbuluzi army barracks last week to join the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) as the army is officially known.

The newspaper reported sources revealed recruits paid between E40,000 and E50,000 ‘just to bribe some top army officials to allow them into the army’. In Swaziland, seven in ten people are so poor they have incomes of less than E28 per day.

The newspaper added, ‘Such exploitations on people that merely want to put food on the table for their families have in most forums been seen to be exacerbated by the country’s high unemployment rate.’

A USDF spokesperson denied bribery had taken place.

In April 2017 corruption during army recruitment was exposed by both of Swaziland’s two daily newspapers. Again allegations were that top army officers were bribed. Families were reported to have sold livestock and other belongings to get their men in uniform. Those who were said to have made the bribes were expelled.

The Swazi News reported (29 April 2017) that corrupt practices had been known about for several years, but this was the first time that recruits had been expelled.
The Times of Swaziland reported that about 40 recruits were expelled when they failed to prove they used the legal route to be recruited into the military.
The Swazi Observer reported the army said action was taken following complaints from throughout Swaziland ‘about abnormalities which happened during the recruitment exercises’. 
In February 2017, during the recruitment drive it was reported that several men who tried to cheat during exercises were tortured by army personnel. The Army was recruiting 495 additional soldiers from across the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
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