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Swaziland: Striving for Freedom


As seen through the pages of Swazi Media Commentary
Vol. 38. April – June 2020
Compiled by
Richard Rooney
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

CONTENTS

1 Coronavirus 3
2 Health 53
3 Hunger 55
4 Media freedom 57
5 LGBTI 72
6 Workers’ rights 76
7 Prison riot 78
8 Sipho Jele 80
9 Royal Decree 83
10 Human rights 86
About the editor 89
Other publications 90

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

INTRODUCTION
The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis dominated events in Swaziland during the second quarter
of 2020. A partial shutdown of the kingdom ordered by absolute monarch King Mswati led to
widespread job losses and hunger. The government which is not elected by the people but
directly appointed by the King largely failed to bring the virus under control. Police and
soldiers were deployed on the streets of towns and cities to force people to obey instructions
to stay at home. Roadblocks were set up across the kingdom to stop people travelling.
Widespread human rights abuses were reported.

The number of people testing positive and the death rate due to coronavirus in Swaziland is
not accurately known. The Ministry of Health has been supervising the collection of test
results but it does not give details of who is allowed to be tested and who is not. By 30 June
2020 the Ministry had reported a total of 812 cases and 11 deaths.
Coronavirus is the main topic covered in the period April to June 2020 and contained in
Swaziland: Striving for Freedom, volume 38, a compilation of reports posted on the Swazi
Media Commentary website.
Elsewhere, the United States’ State Department reported the Swazi Government and its
agents committed ‘arbitrary or unlawful killings’. It highlighted cases of police brutality in its
annual report on human rights. In June a prisoner was allegedly killed by prison warders
during disturbances among gang members at the Sidwashini correctional facility.
Separately, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported Swaziland had one
of the worst records on workers’ rights in the world.
The LGBTI group eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities continued to fight for recognition
in Swaziland and asked the High Court to overturn a decision by a government agency not to
register it so that it could operate legally. The case continues.
Swaziland has no media freedom according to Reporters Without Borders in an annual report.
Meanwhile, Eugene Dube, a journalist critical of King Mswati was beaten by police, arrested
and faced a treason charge for reports published on the Swati Newsweek website. He fled to
neighbouring South Africa. Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, President of the Economic Freedom
Fighters-Swaziland (EFF), was charged with sedition for criticisms he made of the King on
the same website.
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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1: CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus cases in Swaziland continue to rise despite three-month partial lockdown


30 June 2020

The total number of positive coronavirus cases officially reported in Swaziland (eSwatini)
passed 800 on the 30 June 2020. So far there have been 11 reported deaths.
The number of cases rose from 690 to 812 in the final seven days of the month. There is little
sign that coronavirus (COVID-19) is under control in the kingdom.
Of the 17 positive cases reported by the Swazi Ministry of Health on 30 June, two were aged
nine or under and a further three were aged 10 to 19.
Of the 812 total cases 149 were aged 19 or under. Of the total cases 442 were from the
Manzini region, which is also the area with the highest population in Swaziland. So far 408 of
the confirmed cases have recovered and 376 are considered ‘active’, the Ministry of Health
reported.
Swaziland has been in partial lockdown since 27 March in an attempt to control the spread of
the virus. At one time all but essential businesses were closed but there has been some easing
of this restriction. A ban on gatherings of 20 people or more is still in place and churches and
places of worship are restricted. Schools have been closed since March but some are set to
reopen on 6 July. The Swaziland National Association of Teachers has called on government
to postpone reopening because it does not believe it is yet safe to do so.
See also

Swaziland Govt. publishes coronavirus regulations


King puts Swaziland into partial lockdown in bid to beat coronavirus. Army and police on
standby
Swaziland King declares state of emergency over coronavirus. Schools closed, foreign
travel suspended

Coronavirus: lockdown

Number of passengers in private cars in Swaziland to be restricted during coronavirus


crisis
3 April 2020

The number of people allowed to travel in private cars in Swaziland (eSwatini) will be
restricted as part of the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Chief Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe, Minister of Public Works and Transport, said all public
transport vehicles would be expected to carry no more than 70 percent of their full capacity
while private vehicles will be required to carry no more than 60 percent from Saturday 4
April 2020.

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Minister Ndwandwe told a press briefing on Friday (3 April 2020) : ‘Government shall assist
public transport with supplies for sanitising passengers and disinfecting their vehicles. When
those supplies are depleted, public transport operators shall provide accordingly.’
At the same briefing Lizzie Nkosi, the Swazi Health Minister, said Swaziland hoped to be
able to analyse coronavirus tests at the kingdom’s own laboratory in Mbabane ‘from next
week’.
She said an engineer would arrive at the laboratory on Sunday to upgrade facilities.
At present tests are sent to South Africa. More than 350 tests have been returned to date and
there have been nine positive cases recorded. No deaths have been reported.
Nkosi has also announced that her ministry would embark on an ‘active case finding
exercise’ from Saturday. ‘About 2,000 people were ordered to self-isolate last week. We will
be going out to screen those people and we request for their cooperation,’ she said.

Swaziland armed police, army intimidate people to obey coronavirus lockdown.


Woman, 85, dies
7 April 2020

Armed military police officers in Swaziland (eSwatini) forced members of the public to do
press-ups when they were found at a bus rank during the present coronavirus lockdown.
Separately, an 85-year-old woman collapsed and died when security forces raided her home.
These are two of a number of cases being reported in media in Swaziland about intimidation
by police, army and other security personnel. A 20-day partial lockdown of the kingdom
started on 27 March 2020.
The military police were at the bus rank in Manzini, the kingdom’s main commercial city, on
Monday (6 April 2020). Public buses are restricted to early morning and late afternoon and
were not running at the time of the incident.
The Times of eSwatini reported eyewitnesses saw the police ordering people to leave because
buses were not operating. ‘Others were ordered to do push-ups in full view of the people
present, including vendors. They alleged that this was after the men failed to give the military
police satisfactory answers on why they were at the bus rank at that time,’ the Times reported.
It added, ‘As the men did the push ups with fists on the tarred bus rank surface, the witnesses
said some people used their mobile phones to take pictures and videos. They said their
actions landed them in trouble and the military men ordered them to delete the pictures and
videos before joining those who were doing the push-ups.’
Elsewhere, An 85-year-old woman collapsed and died at her home on the outskirts of the
Swazi capital Mbabane when police and correctional services forces raided her home.
The eSwatini News reported that the woman sold alcoholic beverages for a living. Bars have
been closed during the present coronavirus lockdown.

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The woman’s son said three police officers and about four Correctional Services officers
arrived on Thursday (2 April 2020) just when he and his mother had locked themselves inside
their separate flats and were preparing for bed. He heard banging on doors but thought it
might be customers looking for alcohol.
He then realised they were police. He told the News, ‘They also threatened to arrest me and I
could hear that they were slapping some people and even ordering them to tell the truth.’
The woman collapsed and died. Deputy Police Information and Communications Officer
Inspector Nosipho Mnguni confirmed the incident.
On Sunday police ‘invaded and forcefully closed’ two churches in Mbabane during services,
according to the Times of eSwatini. Regulations ban gatherings of more than 20 people.
Separately, Lawyers for Human Rights in Swaziland urged police and other security
personnel not to mistreat businesspeople and the public during the lockdown. It came after
reports from all regions of Swaziland that they were harassing and assaulting people in order
to enforce the lockdown regulations.
Some businesses previously claimed they were being asked to pay bribes to police and army
in order to remain open.
Police were also reportedly stopping people on the streets of Mbabane and demanding proof
of residence.

More reports of police and army violence against civilians as Swaziland coronavirus
lockdown continues
15 April 2020

A lawyer was left with broken ribs after soldiers assaulted him, two women were whipped
with sticks by police and a man was hospitalised after police beat him about the head with a
baton. These are among the latest reports from Swaziland (eSwatini) of violence against
civilians by security forces during the present coronavirus lockdown.
Mbabane lawyer Sabelo ‘Mngo’ Mngomezulu said he was assaulted by soldiers and run over
by a car. He broke ribs and needed hospital treatment.
The Times of eSwatini reported soldiers were on patrol near Msunduza Sports Ground in
Mbabane on Saturday evening (11 April 2020) making sure people adhered to the lockdown
A 20-day partial lockdown of the kingdom started on 27 March 2020 and among other things
it prohibits gatherings of more than 20 people.
It reported, ‘The armed security forces are reported to have invaded the sports ground after
having received information that there were people who had gathered in the area and were
enjoying alcoholic beverages.’
Mngomezulu said he was at the gate of a homestead near the sports ground talking with
people when the assault happened. They were fewer than 20 people and they were not
drinking alcohol.

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He said, ‘The soldiers, who were on foot, emerged from the corner of the sports ground and
started assaulting people without uttering a word. There was a commotion which is when I
decided that it was time for me to leave as well.’
The Times added, ‘Elaborating, Mngomezulu said as he attempted to open the passenger door
in readiness to board his vehicle, which was being driven by a friend, one of the soldiers
kicked him on the back and he lost balance and fell.’ The car accidentally ran over him.
Mngomezulu said, ‘The problem is that the officers never said anything, they just pounced on
us in attack mode. If they had engaged us and ordered that we leave the area, we would have
complied.’

Traffic police took him to the Mbabane Clinic for medical attention.
Police reportedly whipped two women because they had left their home in the informal
settlement Macembeni at Pigg’s Peak on Good Friday. The woman told the Times of eSwatini
they had gone to a neighbour to recharge their phones because there was no electricity where
they lived.
One of the women told the newspaper a police van stopped beside them as they were
walking. She said, ‘While we were still talking to the driver, two police officers alighted from
the vehicle carrying sticks.’ She said she was surprised that they were already carrying sticks
in the vehicle, adding that they were probably looking for people to beat up.
She said without asking any further questions, the police officers began to whip them. She
added her friend tried to shield herself using her hand as the police officer aimed for her
upper body.
They were left with bruises on their bodies. They reported the incident to local police.
In a separate earlier incident, Sabelo Ginindza, aged 29, of Hilltop in Mbabane was
reportedly assaulted with a baton by a police officer on the right side of his head after he was
accused of loitering.
He was admitted to Mbabane Government Hospital for four days after he sustained injuries
which left his right ear with a burst eardrum and partially paralysed and he now has difficulty
hearing.
Various reports have been circulating on social media about similar assaults. Last week
mainstream newspapers in Swaziland reported an 85-year-old woman collapsed and died
when security forces raided her home because they thought she was selling alcohol.
Armed military police officers also forced members of the public to do press-ups when they
were found at a bus rank in Manzini during the coronavirus lockdown.
Some businesses previously claimed they were being asked to pay bribes to police and army
in order to remain open.
Police were also reportedly stopping people on the streets of Mbabane and demanding proof
of residence.

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Swaziland bans alcohol production and sales, threatens media as coronavirus lockdown
extended
15 April 2020

Swaziland (eSwatini) is to ban the production and distribution of alcohol as the partial
lockdown of the kingdom due to coronavirus is extended for a further three weeks.
Prime Minster Ambrose Dlamini also threatened people who had been speculating that King
Mswati III, the absolute monarch, was himself sick with coronavirus (COVID-19). He said
they would be dealt with ‘in line with the law’.
A new offence of spreading rumours or ‘unauthentic information’ about coronavirus
introduced in March carries a fine of E20,000 or up to five years imprisonment.
The Prime Minister was speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday (15 April 2020). A partial
lockdown had been in place for 20 days. Schools, colleges and universities have been closed
indefinitely. Many businesses have been halted and severe travel bans are in place.
Gatherings of more than 20 people are not allowed.
To date there are no reported deaths from coronavirus in Swaziland. According to the Swazi
Ministry of Health there have been only 16 reported positive cases of coronavirus in the
kingdom since the pandemic started in December 2019.
The Prime Minister said he had been instructed by King Mswati to extend the lockdown. ‘His
Majesty has commanded that this should be a relaxed partial lockdown, allowing low risk
non-essential business to operate under strict hygiene conditions. This will ensure that we
balance the health interests and economic stability of the Kingdom,’ he said.
The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade would announce more details of this, he said.
The Prime Minister also announced ‘production and distribution of alcohol is prohibited for
the duration of this partial lockdown as it is considered high risk’. He made no further
comment on this.
The Prime Minister made reference to reports on social media and in international media that
King Mswati was himself ‘critically ill’ with coronavirus. The King has not been seen in
public since the lockdown began, nor has he appeared on television to encourage his nation,
as many other heads of state have.
The Prime Minister said, ‘His Majesty is well and healthy. Those misleading the nation about
his health will be dealt with in line with the law.’
This will be seen as a veiled reference to Zweli Martin Dlamini, the editor of the Swaziland
News, an online newspaper, who has been vigorously reporting the king’s absence. The
eSwatini Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the king, reported on Saturday that police
were searching for him.

On Good Friday police raided Dlamini’s home but he was not there. Police reportedly
harassed his wife and two small children. The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a pro-
democracy group banned in Swaziland, reported, ‘Dlamini was first subjected to police

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torture two months ago and told to stop reporting about the king and the royal family. The
editor has now been declared a wanted person by the police.’
In March 2020, Dlamini told SABC, [South African TV] that police tortured him for writing
articles about King Mswati.

Swaziland’s absolute monarch extends coronavirus lockdown: P.M. statement


15 April 2020

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), has extended the coronavirus
lockdown in his kingdom for a further 21 days, his Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini
announced on Wednesday (15 April 2020).
The King, who has not been seen in public since the coronavirus (CORVID-19) crisis started
last month, was not at the briefing where the extension was announced.
Dlamini, who heads a government that was not elected but handpicked by the King, praised
the King and the Ingwenyama [Queen Mother] for the ‘command and wise counsel’ given
during the lockdown.
The lockdown began on 21 March 2020. To date there have been no reported deaths in
Swaziland due to coronavirus. Only 16 people have been reported positive in the kingdom for
the virus.

The Swazi Government issued the following official statement.

GOVERNMENT OF THE KINGDOM OF ESWATINI

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PRIME MINISTER’S STATEMENT

PARTIAL LOCKDOWN EXTENSION – COVID-19


The Kingdom of Eswatini has embarked on a robust drive to transform the economy and set
this country on a path towards sustainable growth and stability. This noble mission is shared
and supported by EmaSwati from all corners of our Kingdom. We need a strong and resilient
economy to improve and sustain the livelihoods of EmaSwati and future generations.
However, we cannot achieve that goal if the lives of EmaSwati are threatened by a silent
killer whose sting and pulse knows no bounds and boundaries. Our efforts to reignite our
economy will be a futile exercise if we do not confront this enemy which continues to wreak
havoc across the world, causing panic and uncertainty.
Eswatini, like the rest of the world, has traversed through an unprecedented and indefinite
path over the past 20 days, when all our non essential services remained suspended to control
the spread of the coronavirus also known as COVID 19. The partial lockdown that began on
March 27 has changed the way of life as we are used to. It has strained our economy,
adversely affected business, health and education, and delayed our economic renewal drive.
No one in the world had been prepared for this pandemic, but the international community is
bound by the common objective to rid our globe of this highly contagious virus so that our
lives may return to normal as soon as practically possible. Tough decisions have had to be
made to protect our citizens and keep the country safe and secure.
It was therefore necessary as a country that we introduce a partial lockdown at the command
and wise counsel of His Majesty King Mswati III and Ingwenyama in order to save lives.
Projections from health professionals indicate that the partial lockdown measures may have
delayed the onset of the infection peak by one to six months, and likely to have reduced the
cumulative number of infections in Eswatini. We have seen positive COVID-19 cases
increase by seven more during the partial lockdown.
These projections and increase in confirmed cases show that we are not yet at the point of
flattening the curve. While a lot has been achieved over the past 20 days, the risk of an
uncontrollable spread remains high.

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It is for this reason that I have been commanded by His Majesty King Mswati III to announce
an extension of the partial lockdown for another three weeks effective at midnight today.
Bayethe Wena Waphakathi.
This extension of 21 days will buy the country more time to contain the spread of the virus
and avoid overwhelming our health system. It will give us enough time to flatten the curve,
allow us to aggressively fight the virus, train more health workers and acquire the requisite
medical equipment to help EmaSwati face this virus head on.
His Majesty has commanded that this should be a relaxed partial lockdown, allowing low risk
non essential business to operate under strict hygiene conditions. This will ensure that we
balance the health interests and economic stability of the Kingdom. The Ministry of
Commerce, Industry and Trade will announce the low risk non essential business identified in
this extended lockdown.
A number of health interventions will be undertaken to aggressively contain the spread of
COVID 19 over the next 21 days. They include:
Surveillance
Government will in the next three weeks aggressively increase screening for COVID-19
symptoms in the following places among others:
i. Contacts of positive cases through the use of our regional rapid response teams
ii. Screening at hospital entry points
iii. Intensified screening at clinics near situated informal crossings
iv. Clients calling the emergency toll-free line reporting symptoms of COVID-19
v. Returned travelers
vi. Police roadblocks
All those screened who fit the COVID-19 case definition will have samples taken for testing
and be isolated as they await their results in order to curb infection rates
Contact tracing will continue along with spatial monitoring of new cases and surveillance to
identify and intervene in hotspots.
Identification, isolation, testing and treatment of every case and contact
Government has established a COVID-19 testing Laboratory in Mbabane and is working to
upgrade the Lubombo Referral Laboratory for COVID-19 testing. In the next weeks we will
train additional staff members on COVID-19 testing to increase capacity at the Mbabane
Molecular Laboratory, including establishment of systems for seamless reporting of results.
We have implemented forecasts for commodities required for testing required and these
commodities will continue to be delivered to the country.
The Ministry of Health will be conducting assessments of clients to determine if they are able
to self-isolate at home, those who are unable to will be provided with facilities to do so.

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Government is recommending the use of ordinary cloth masks for the population at large
which will be accompanied by mass education on the use of the masks. Even though ordinary
masks do not prevent one from getting COVID-19, they prevent a person with COVID-19
from spreading it.
Case Management
We are building capacity to be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization
without resorting to crisis standards of care. We have procured additional beds, ventilators
and have recruited additional staff to expand ICU bed capacity for the additional cases that
may occur.
Government is renovating some of the health facilities to increase isolation capacity of the
country
We are working with the teams on the ground to ensure that all facilities have areas for triage
before entering for detection of COVID-19 symptoms.
Approximately 50% of all Health Care workers have been trained and the remaining will be
trained during the extension period
Infection prevention and control
All our frontline healthcare workers will be tested for COVID-19 as it is a priority to ensure
their protection for continued service delivery
Training on infection control measures for COVID-19 will continue on an ongoing basis as
well as procurement and distribution of PPE
Port health measures
All returning travelers will be quarantined in a Government provided accommodation for 14
days upon entry into the country as it can take up to 2 weeks for symptoms to emerge
It is also evident that the pandemic is severely affecting our businesses, particularly small
enterprises. Despite this reality, Government is committed to assist businesses to survive this
partial lockdown. Clearly Government does not have the financial muscle and enough
resources to save businesses from collapse but we remain determined to meet these
businesses halfway and minimize the adverse impact of this pandemic on our economy. We
will target those businesses that are willing to retain their employees and continue to pay
them during this difficult period.
We will provide relief of up to E90 Million to businesses with a turnover of E8 million or less
which mainly are small and medium enterprises. This relief will be directed to businesses that
have continually supported the development of the country by complying with their tax
obligations, which means they have filed and paid their taxes on time up to the 2019 tax year.
This amount will be paid by way of tax refunds through the Eswatini Revenue Authority in
monthly instalments of 25% of the actual tax paid in 2019. Specific guidelines on this relief
will be provided through the Eswatini Revenue Authority.

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May I acknowledge the role that has been played by the Deputy Prime Minister and the
National Disaster task teams ever since a National Emergency was declared in the Kingdom.
Our Regional Administrators and regional teams have been committed in implementing
COVID 19 intervention measures at community level. A number of interventions that have
taken place over the past 20 days include that:
Many public spaces and communities in the country have been assisted with hand washing
facilities, including 506 water tanks and public information through the media and
distribution of Information and Educational material has been increased.
The process of disinfecting public spaces has been initiated mainly in our cities and it will
soon be extended to towns.
At least 500 Volunteers have been activated to work with communities to raise awareness.
A total E47 million in kind and E70 million in cash has been raised by both Government,
businesses, individuals in Eswatini and development partners.
May I take this opportunity to thank our international friends and partners who have come on
board to assist the Kingdom win this fight, including the gracious donation we have received
from the United Nations. My sincere gratitude goes to Taiwan who are assisting us with
financial and human resources, including supplying the country with the necessary equipment
so required to conquer this virus. Taiwan has provided the Kingdom with 4 specialist doctors
and equipment which include 13 ventilators, 500 forehead thermometers, 7 infrared scanners
and 60 000 surgical masks.
Government is indebted to His Majesty King Mswati III and Ingwenyama for leading the
charge against this virus and showing us direction. His Majesty is well and healthy. Those
misleading the nation about his health will be dealt with in line with the law.
We are also appreciative to all Emaswati who have taken these tough measures in their stride.
The nation is not doing government a favour by respecting the partial lockdown measures and
following health advice but protecting each other, communities and country by acting
responsibly.
May I inform the public that the production and distribution of alcohol is prohibited for the
duration of this partial lockdown as it is considered high risk.
While this partial lockdown means people working in non essential will continue working
from home, it is essential that I remind all heads of departments in the civil service to
continue going to work to avoid grounding government machinery. All essential government
services are expected to be operational without exception. It has also been of importance to
ensure that all critical government institutions that are vital in keeping government functional
be allowed to work.
I therefore announce that in the exercise of powers conferred by COVID 19 Regulation 25,
the Prime Minister has also issued a directive varying the gathering of Parliament and
Cabinet so that they can continue to operate during this partial lockdown as they are critical
institutions for decision making.

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As we observe the partial lockdown and restrict unnecessary movement and stay at home, let
us remember to follow the precautionary guidelines as provided by the Ministry of Health
and the World Health Organisation. These include:
Our home environment should be kept clean and safe and all high touch surfaces must be
disinfected regularly.
Wash hands regularly with running water and soap. Help the young to also appropriately
wash hands. In the absence of water and soap, the public is advised to use sanitizers.
Stop shaking hands and use other non touch methods of greeting.
Maintain a distance of at least 1 metre from each other.
Avoid touching your face (mouth, nose, eyes) and cover coughs and sneezes.
Take care of the vulnerable, especially senior citizens and those with underlying respiratory
conditions who are more susceptible to the coronavirus infection.
If you experience flu like symptoms (fever, difficulty breathing, cough, high temperature)
visit your nearest health centre facility or call the Emergency Medical Services Toll free line
977. The public can also call the Emergency toll free line 112 for COVID 19 related
emergency inquiries and for reporting incidences related to the response and interventions of
the virus.
Thank you.
Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini
PRIME MINISTER

Swaziland records first coronavirus death, but relaxes lockdown. Buses to run normally
again
16 April 2020

Swaziland (eSwatini) has recorded its first death from the coronavirus (COVID-19), Minister
of Health Lizzie Nkosi confirmed on Thursday (16 April 2020).
It came a day after the Swazi Government announced it would extend a 20-day partial
lockdown for another three weeks but relax many of the restrictions.
Public transport will be allowed to continue to operate normally. It had been restricted to
running only in the early morning and late afternoon.
Nkosi told a press briefing the victim was a man, aged 59. He had been admitted to the
kingdom’s COVID-19 facility in Mbabane on Monday. He had been diagnosed with
pneumonia and diabetes mellitus on admission. He was given ‘oxygen therapy’ but his
condition deteriorated and he died on Wednesday.
She also announced the 17th confirmed case of coronavirus. She said to date of the 17, eight
people had recovered.

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At the same briefing Minister of Public Works and Transport Chief Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe
announced public transport would now operate during normal working hours as a response to
the extended partial lockdown period previously announced by Prime Minister Ambrose
Mandvulo Dlamini.
He said, ‘The operation of public transport is essential. Buses, taxis and minibuses shall
operate at 70 percent capacity on condition that all occupants wear face masks.’
He added, ‘All passengers boarding public transport must have their hands washed with water
and soap or sanitised prior to boarding.’
Ndwandwe said it was the duty of the passenger to provide themselves with face masks.
‘Public transport drivers must not allow commuters to board vehicles without face masks.’
He added, ‘All cross-border road passenger movements to neighbouring countries remain
prohibited for the duration of the partial lockdown. Private vehicles shall not exceed 70
percent carrying capacity and all shall be compelled to wear masks during the course of
travel.’
He said, ‘Private vehicles shall not operate a taxi service or load passengers for gain.’
At the same briefing Minister of Home Affairs Princess Lindiwe announced that Monday, 20
April 2020 would be a public holiday to celebrate King Mswati III’s birthday which falls this
year on Sunday 19 April.

Swaziland security forces whip destitute woman searching for food during coronavirus
lockdown
18 April 2020

Security forces in Swaziland (eSwatini) whipped a destitute woman as she desperately


searched for food for her three children during the present coronavirus lockdown.
She was one of hundreds left without food or money as her job disappeared when King
Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland, demanded the kingdom partially closedown.
The eSwatini News (the Saturday edition of the Times of eSwatini) reported that hunger was
widespread in the Kwaluseni township because people who worked in the nearby industrial
town of Matsapha had been put out of work. Many worked in Taiwanese-owned textile
factories.
It reported, ‘Some residents walk about in search of green edible weed (imbuya) just to live
another day.’
It added, ‘The residents said their desperation had been worsened by security forces’ tough
stance on enforcing the stay at home regulation.’
The News reported, ‘Gabsile Simelane, who alleged that she took lashes by a sjambok from
the security forces, said she felt the government had abandoned them.
‘“I went to ask for food from a relative and the security forces found me at Eteni and asked
me why I was not at home. I explained my situation but they did not listen and gave me three

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strokes with a sjambok before sending me back home. That day me and my three children ate
nothing,” she alleged.’
Mpumelelo Gumedze who sells roasted chicken by the roadside was forced to close his
business. ‘Gumedze also alleged that he was brutally assaulted by the security forces on
Monday evening when he went to meet a cousin,’ the newspaper reported.
On Wednesday (15 April 2020) Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini endorsed police
beating people during the coronavirus lockdown. He told a press briefing, ‘If you are found to
be violating these regulations, the law will definitely take its course, we won’t compromise
on this. Maybe those who were assaulted were found to be on the wrong side of the law by
breaking the regulations put in place by government. We would like to encourage members
of the public to abide by these regulations, there shouldn’t a need for the law enforcement to
force you to respect these regulations.’

Swaziland police set up road blocks, increase patrols to force people to obey
coronavirus lockdown
25 April 2020

Police in Swaziland (eSwatini) are to set up road blocks across the kingdom and increase
patrols in towns, cities and rural areas to force people to obey the coronavirus lockdown.
National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini said they would be working with other
security forces such as the army and prison service.
He told a press briefing on Friday (24 April 2020), ‘We will be spread across the country,
conducting roadblocks and be visible in cities, towns and rural areas ensuring compliance.’
He said cars would be stopped and drivers questioned about the purpose of their journey and
if they did not have a valid reason they would be turned back.
Swaziland has been in partial lockdown since 27 March 2020. Last week the Swazi
Government relaxed the lockdown but only days later reversed the decision. There are
restrictions on businesses, large gatherings and travel.
Since the lockdown began there have been a number of media reports of police brutality
against people allegedly disregarding the lockdown. Dlamini told the briefing, ‘We assure the
nation that all security officers have been reminded that their duty is to assist, not abuse.’
The police commissioner also warned about the spread of ‘fake news’. The day before
journalist Eugene Dube had been beaten and arrested by police. He faces a treason charge for
publishing articles critical of King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini. Picture: Government of eSwatini

Dlamini said, ‘The law will take its course on those people who spread fake news about the
pandemic and about the country’s authorities. Even if one can hide wherever they are but the
law will always reach them and [they] will be apprehended.’
As of 24 April there has been only one reported death from coronavirus (COVID-19) in
Swaziland and 40 people have tested positive.

Public need written permission to travel in Swaziland in big coronavirus clampdown


27 April 2020

People in Swaziland (eSwatini) will need written permission to travel between towns and
cities as the coronavirus lockdown in the kingdom intensifies. Police and army will mount
roadblocks to check drivers.
Sihlangu Nhlabatsi, Chairman of the National Road Transportation Council, said people
affected would include those travelling for work, attending hospitals and those out to buy
food.
The new rules started on Monday (27 April 2020).
Permission can be granted by employers, doctors, or a local official, Nhlabatsi said. Special
arrangement could be made by businesses considered essential by the government to
transport their employees to and from work.
He said regional administrators would keep a register of people permitted to travel and would
arrange their transport.
People would be required to keep the letter of permission with them at all times.
He said the restrictions allowed people to leave their homes but not to travel between towns,
cities and regions.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

As of 25 April 2020 there had been one death from coronavirus (COVID-19) and 56 people
had tested positive for the virus, according to official Ministry of Health figures.
Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch, has been in partial
lockdown since 27 March 2020. Last week the Swazi Government relaxed the lockdown but
only days later reversed the decision. There are restrictions on businesses, large gatherings
and travel.

Army, police close down Swaziland’s main commercial city in bid to halt coronavirus
spread
27 April 2020

The army and police have closed down Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland
(eSwatini), setting up road blocks, forcing people to be screened for coronavirus and arresting
people on the streets for loitering.
The lockdown started on Monday (27 April 2020) and is expected to last at least two weeks.
About 110,000 people live in the city and about 355,000 of the kingdom’s 1.3 million
population live in the Manzini region.
The clampdown was spearheaded by the Swazi National Commissioner of Police William
Dlamini. He said he had the support of the army and the correctional services (prison guards).
The whole of Swaziland has been under partial lockdown since 27 March 2020 in a fight
against coronavirus (COVID-19). So far only one death from the virus has been reported and
59 people have tested positive. Of that number, 38 are from the Manzini region.
Dlamini told a press briefing the security services would set up roadblocks. He said this
meant movements of people within Manzini and those coming to Manzini would be
restricted. ‘If your reason of travelling is not valid, you will be requested to turn back,’ he
said.
He added the security services would be across the kingdom increasing visibility to ensure
that the public complied. Dlamini said, ‘We will warn and arrest on the spot everyone who
does not adhere to the regulations.’
He said the three security services would visit business outlets to ensure that those prohibited
from operating were closed and those allowed to open fully complied with guidelines set out
by the Ministry of Health.
He added people found on the streets for no particular reason would be arrested for loitering.

The police are also to work with the Ministry of Health in screening people at roadblocks. If a
person is found to have a high temperature they would be tested for COVID-19 and if
positive put into isolation.
New regulations also began on Monday restricting travel across the kingdom, ruled by King
Mswati III as an absolute monarch. People need written permission to travel between towns
and cities.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

The King himself has not been seen in public since last month.

Swaziland’s coronavirus lockdown in chaos as motorists beat travel ban


30 April 2020

The coronavirus lockdown in Swaziland (eSwatini) has descended into chaos as people
ignore the stay at home order and travel ban.
Police backed by the army and prison warders have tried to lockdown Manzini, the main
commercial centre in the kingdom, but people have refused to comply. Roadblocks have been
set up across the kingdom.

New travel restrictions came into force on Monday (27 April 2020) and police ordered that
all people wanting to travel by road across Swaziland would need written permission. Among
those allowed to write permits were area chiefs and other local officials. Now, the police have
withdrawn this permission because too many permits were issued.
The National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini announced the rule change on
Wednesday (29 April 2020). He said the lockdown had been rendered useless by the huge
number of permission letters that had been issued. He said the number of motorist on the road
had increased since the first day of the new restriction.
He ordered that travel be further restricted to only those who were sick and going to hospital
and those working for essential services.
Human Rights Lawyer Sibusiso Nhlabatsi told the Swaziland News, an online newspaper,
that the police chief was acting beyond his powers in announcing the Manzini lockdown. It
was, he said for the prime minister Ambrose Dlamini to make such decisions.
Swaziland has been in partial lockdown since 27 March with business closures and bans on
gatherings and unnecessary travel.
As of Thursday there had been only one recorded death from coronavirus (COVID-19) and
100 confirmed cases of the virus.
In other coronavirus developments:
A 27-YEAR-old man was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment with the option of paying an
E2,000 fine for being in Manzini town centre without good cause and resisting arrest. He said
he had gone to pick up his wife from work.

MOTORISTS STOPPED at roadblocks are being fined E50 if they are not wearing a
facemask.

SOME SUPERMARKETS are testing people’s temperatures to see if they might have the
virus before allowing them into the store. Other stores have started a no-mask-no-entry
policy.

THE MINISTRY of Health announced it would be hiring another 293 health workers,
including 90 nurses, to work in public hospitals.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Swaziland Govt. tries for second time to ease coronavirus lockdown after previous
attempt failed
6 May 2020

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government is once again to ease the coronavirus lockdown in the
kingdom. When it tried to do this three weeks ago it reversed its decision within days because
it encouraged people to lack vigilance in preventing the transmission of the virus.
Swaziland which is ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III has been in lockdown for six
weeks since 27 March 2020. Businesses have been restricted, travel severely limited and
gatherings of more than 20 people banned.
At least 300,000 face severe hunger as people cannot afford to buy food because they no
longer have paid jobs.
On Wednesday (6 May 2020) Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced new rules
that would ease the lockdown but not end it completely.
His announcement came on the same day Lizzie Nkosi, the Minister of Health, reported the
second death from coronavirus (COVID-19) in Swaziland. There have also been 123
confirmed cases of the virus.
Dlamini announced, ‘the gradual opening of the economy’. He said, ‘The formal and
informal economy must be given the impetus to come back to life and feed the countless
families spread around our beautiful Kingdom. The importance of having a vibrant economy
that creates jobs and supports livelihoods needs no reminder.’
He detailed the changes as follows:
1. Manufacturing and Production companies that have international orders to fulfil. They
shall operate under strict WHO and Ministry of Health Guidelines.
2. Agents and Consultants to operate three times a week.
3. Furniture Shops shall open three times a week; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday between
9am and 3pm.
4. Dry Cleaners shall also operate under similar conditions as furniture shops.
5. Retail Clothing Shops, tailors and dressmakers (that produce face masks and PPE) to
operate three times a week – Monday, Wednesday and Saturday between 9am and 3pm.
6. Vehicle testing stations shall operate three times a week.
7. Deco Shops to operate three times a week.
The Prime Minister said, ‘These businesses will have to demonstrate capability to implement
strict COVID-19 regulations and hygiene standards to prevent the spread of the virus. They
will have to seek permission to operate from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade
where they will prove that they have put in place very strong and stringent systems adhering

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

to health precautions and ensuring that employees are able to practise social distancing, have
adequate hand washing facilities, sanitizers, wear masks, among others.’
He added, ‘Any company failing to meet or comply with these precautionary measures will
either be closed or denied permission to operate. It is important to emphasize that the eased
measures do not mean all business will be allowed to operate.’
Social, sports and entertainment activities and gatherings remain banned until further notice.
Everyone else will be expected to stay at home. Schools and colleges would remain closed.
Public transport will be allowed to operate at 70 percent capacity in a controlled manner and
time. There will be strict adherence to the wearing of masks for all passengers.
At present Swazi police are giving on-the-spot fines to people found out of their homes for no
legitimate reason.
The Prime Minister said, ‘There should be no reason to leave home except for workers in the
permitted businesses and for citizens strictly looking for food or medical attention.’
He added in time the government would categorise areas of Swaziland as red, orange, yellow
and green zones according to their levels of risk.
‘This is aimed at introducing a variable application of the partial lockdown from one specific
geographical location to another,’ he said.
He added, ‘At the current rate, the Manzini region, and in particular the Manzini peri-urban
and surrounding areas are classified as a red zone. Other cities and towns are categorised as
orange zones.’
He said, ‘This zoning strategy will help government to target specific interventions to
affected areas efficiently, such as testing, fumigation and decontamination of public spaces.’

Swaziland Govt. blunders over church lockdowns during coronavirus crisis


11 May 2020

Churches across Swaziland (eSwatini) were thrown into confusion after the Swazi
Government announced a partial reopening from coronavirus lockdown and hours later
changed its mind.
This was not the first time the government announced changes to its lockdown policy only to
overturn its decision.
The latest confusion began when Minister of Home Affairs Princess Lindiwe announced on
Saturday (9 May 2020) that churches would be allowed to reopen but had to keep
congregations to 70 percent of the church’s capacity. Hours later the Swazi Cabinet
announced the rule had been changed. Instead, a maximum of 70 people would be allowed in
churches.
At present the regulations guiding the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown restrict gatherings
to a maximum of 20.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

The decision to allow restrictions to be relaxed in churches came after lobbying from church
leaders. No explanation was given as to why churches were given preferential treatment over
other places where people gather, such as parks.
The Times of eSwatini on Monday reported the public reacted on social media with ‘shock
and outrage’ at the news of the relaxation of the regulation. It quoted one post saying, ‘Let
me just say that the decision to increase the number of people attending churches clearly
shows that there is absolutely no scientific research that is informing government’s actions,
but pure self-interest.’
This was not the first reversal by the Swazi Government. On 15 April 2020 the partial
lockdown of Swaziland that had run for three weeks was relaxed. Days later it was tightened.
Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini said people had become complacent and an increasing
number of people were casual and lacked vigilance.
As of 10 May two people had died from coronavirus in Swaziland and 172 tested positive,
according to official Ministry of Health figures.

Coronavirus cases soar in Swaziland, public ignore Govt. lockdown


14 May 2020

Nearly one third of the total 187 cases of coronavirus in Swaziland (eSwatini) were reported
in the past seven days. This comes as evidence suggests that the government’s partial
lockdown of the kingdom is not working.
An attempt to lockdown the city of Manzini and restrict people going in and out has
seemingly come to little as people ignore restrictions on travel, movement and businesses.
The whole of Swaziland has been in partial lockdown since 27 March 2020. Some of the
restrictions have been lifted but there are still limits to which businesses and shops can open,
the number of people who can gather together, public transport and travel between towns and
regions. Schools and colleges are closed.
On 27 April a severe lockdown was imposed on Manzini, the kingdom’s main commercial
city with a population of about 110,000. The clampdown was spearheaded by the Swazi
National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini. He said he had the support of the army
and the correctional services (prison guards).
He said roadblocks would be set up to stop people getting in and out of the city without good
reason. People across Swaziland had already been told they needed written permission to
undertake some journeys.
He said the three security services would visit business outlets to ensure that those prohibited
from operating were closed and those allowed to open fully complied with guidelines set out
by the Ministry of Health.
He added people found on the streets for no particular reason would be arrested for loitering.

The police were also to work with the Ministry of Health in screening people at roadblocks.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

If a person was found to have a high temperature they would be tested for COVID-19 and if
positive put into isolation.
But, reporting by the Times of eSwatini on Tuesday (12 May 2020) suggests the lockdown is
being widely ignored.
It reported streets bustling with people. ‘Public transport was in and out of the city
transporting those who were rushing to their various places of employment while others were
descending from them. The police who had been seeking permits or reasons of people
seeking entry into the city were nowhere in sight at the entrance of the bus rank along Louw
Street.
‘This activity was not limited to the public transport at the terminus but also saw dormant
stalls coming to life as vendors selling an assortment of wares were active. The public was
being offered a variety of delicacies that range from fat cakes, freshly baked scones to fresh
fruits and vegetables.
‘This was the order of the day as clothing stores were operating as well. Before 10am, which
is when the stores open for business, long queues were forming on the corridors leading to
their entrances.’
It added police, army and prison wardens were visible in the city but in smaller numbers than
previously.
It said, ‘Despite government having made it a prerequisite that people should wear masks
when in densely populated areas, some were not wearing their masks while others had them
under their chins.’
Swaziland has been struggling to get a grip on the coronavirus (COVID-19) with a shortage
of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers. At least 300,000 people,
according to the Swazi Government’s own figures are in desperate need of food.
As of 13 May 2020 two people had died of coronavirus and 187 had tested positive
(including 61 in the past seven days), according to the Ministry of Health. In a statement
Lizzie Nkosi, Minister of Health, said there was an upward trend in cases. ‘The practice of
the public health measures need to be strengthened at all levels. The public needs to be very
cautious and vigilant.’
Of the 187 cases reported, 110 were from the Manzini region, she said. She added that
screening for the virus had been increased in Manzini and this might have impacted the
numbers.

Swaziland coronavirus lockdown extended, but little progress on Govt. relief


18 May 2020

As Swaziland (eSwatini) extended its coronavirus partial lockdown for another month to 19
June 2020 information emerged that the Swazi Government had failed to make progress with
two plans to support businesses and feed 300,000 hungry people.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch, went into lockdown
on 27 March. There are restrictions on travel, the size of gatherings and which shops and
businesses can open. Schools and colleges are also closed.
Shortly after the lockdown began the government announced plans to help business. The
Sunday Observer reported no money had been paid out to businesses from a E90 million
(US$5 million) fund. At least 18 businesses were reported to have applied for money but their
requests were being tied up by the Eswatini Revenue Authority which is checking their tax
status.
There were also concerns raised by Business Eswatini that the maximum E8 million annual
turnover threshold to qualify had been set too low and many needy businesses were ineligible
to apply.
Business Eswatini Chief Executive Officer Nathi Dlamini told the Observer, ‘However, if the
threshold had been pegged higher, a number of business entities particularly those from the
hospitality, transport and logistics sectors would have immediately availed for this facility.’
The funds were supposed to be emergency payments to allow businesses to stay afloat during
the lockdown.
When he announced the scheme Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini said, ‘This relief will be
directed to businesses that have continually supported the development of the country by
complying with their tax obligations, which means they have filed and paid their taxes on
time up to the 2019 tax year.’
Eswatini Revenue Authority Director Communications Vusi Dlamini told the Observer
nothing had been paid out so far because it was still conducting compliance checks.
Separately, a plan to feed at least 300,000 hungry people across Swaziland seemed to have
stalled.

The Swaziland News, an online newspaper, reported on Monday (18 May 2020) that E500
million had been donated for relief from private companies, non-governmental organizations
and international partners, but so far no food had been distributed.
It reported, ‘It has been disclosed that government only distributed donated food from Taiwan
to few individuals and nothing convincing has been done with the multi-million cash
donations including the E100million approved by Parliament.’
The Swazi Government had set a deadline of 6 May to feed more than 300,000 people
through the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA).
Wandile Mavuso, NDMA spokesperson later confirmed that people in urban areas would not
get food. He explained on state radio that the government was directing its efforts only to
rural areas.

Swaziland policeman shoots boy, 15, playing football during coronavirus lockdown
2 June 2020

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

A 15-year-old boy was shot and wounded by police in Swaziland (eSwatini) when he played
football with friends on open ground during the coronavirus lockdown.
A lone policeman approached a group of boys playing football on a dusty field near Gege.
The Times of eSwatini reported their game was being watched by two adults. It said the
police officer allegedly fired his weapon to disperse the spectators.
‘The startled youngsters are said to have trampled on each other as they ran away, while one
of the boys aged 15 reportedly sustained a serious injury after he got shot during the skirmish.
‘The youngster was struck by a bullet in his left arm while running away from the police
officer.’ He was detained in hospital.
Police are investigating the shooting.
Swaziland has been on a partial lockdown because of coronavirus (COVID-19) since 27
March 2020. Gatherings of more than 20 people are banned and people are urged to keep a
distance of one metre from one another.
The Swazi police and other security forces have been criticised for their brutality during the
lockdown.
National Police Commissioner William Dlamini acknowledged the problem during a press
briefing on 24 April when he said, ‘We assure the nation that all security officers have been
reminded that their duty is to assist, not abuse.’
There had been a number of reports of police, army and correctional service personnel
beating people during lockdown.
In April security forces reportedly whipped a destitute woman in Eteni when she was on the
streets desperately trying to get food for her three children.
Mbabane lawyer Sabelo ‘Mngo’ Mngomezulu was left with broken ribs after soldiers
assaulted him, two women were whipped with sticks by police and a man was hospitalised
after police beat him about the head with a baton.
An 85-year-old woman collapsed and died when security forces raided her home because
they thought she was selling alcohol.
Armed military police officers also forced members of the public to do press-ups when they
were found at a bus rank in Manzini during the coronavirus lockdown.
Some businesses had claimed they had been asked to pay bribes to police and army in order
to remain open.
On 15 April Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini endorsed police beating people during
the lockdown. He told a press briefing, ‘If you are found to be violating these regulations, the
law will definitely take its course, we won’t compromise on this. Maybe those who were
assaulted were found to be on the wrong side of the law by breaking the regulations put in
place by government. We would like to encourage members of the public to abide by these
regulations, there shouldn’t a need for the law enforcement to force you to respect these
regulations.’

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Lawyers want Swaziland PM arrested for breaking coronavirus lockdown regulation


9 June 2020

Lawyers in Swaziland (eSwatini) want the Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini and senior
ministers arrested for breaking the coronavirus lockdown in the kingdom.
On Wednesday 3 June 2020 the PM and others visted the Mhlambanyatsi Inkhundla for a
COVID-19 sensitisation exercise and about 150 people attended. As part of the present
lockdown gatherings of more than 20 people are illegal.
The Law Society of Swaziland Secretary General Thulani Maseko called on the National
Commissioner of Police to be impartial and arrest the organisers of the event.
He said the law applied equally to everybody.
‘If the regulation states that a gathering of more than 20 people is prohibited it means just
that. There are no exceptions. Whosoever was involved in organising that gathering should be
dealt with accordingly. You cannot make a law for others and a different one for yourself,’ he
told the eSwatini Observer.
The PM agreed that that more than 20 people gathered and said he was exempted from the
regulation because the gathering was to teach people how to cope during the lockdown.
Maseko said the assertion that they were not arrested because of the purpose of the gathering
could not be used as an excuse for breaking the law.
‘Everybody has a reason for breaking the law, if we accept that as an excuse, then no one can
be arrested as every person can state his own reason,’ he said.
Separately, Law Society Acting President Lucky Howe said the regulation had no exception
and the police should hold those who violated the regulation accountable.
Howe said failure to do so would breed anarchy as it is becoming a norm that people at the
top were not held accountable.
‘The law should take its course in the similar fashion that they had been doing when it was
ordinary people. Government should lead by example. We have had judges shooting people
and magistrates hitting their wives now those at the top have violated the law and they have
not been held accountable,’ he said.
Howe said it was not for the police to justify the gathering or the violation of the law, that
should be left for the judicial officers.
He said that the regulation did not give exceptions. The regulation reads in part, ‘In order to
contain the spread of COVID-19, a gathering of more than 20 people is prohibited.’
The regulations permit enforcement officers which may be public health officers,
immigration officers, members of the police service, defence force and correctional service to
order the persons at the gathering to disperse immediately.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

If they refuse, the enforcement officer may take appropriate action which may, subject to the
Criminal Procedure Act, include arrest and detention.
In April police arrested four pastors for contravening the same regulation and they were
sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with and option fine of E2,000 which they paid.
Section 33 of the regulations states that a person who contravenes a provision of the
regulations commits an offense and on conviction is liable to a fine not exceeding E25,000
(US$1,500) or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years.

Coronavirus: hunger
People face ‘imminent death from hunger’ in Swaziland as coronavirus lockdown hits
poorest
20 April 2020

People in a township in Swaziland (eSwatini) face ‘imminent death from hunger’ after they
lost their jobs because of the coronavirus shutdown in the kingdom.
Some are scavenging for edible weeds to eat.
It is happening at the Kwaluseni township, according to a Swaziland newspaper.
Local member of the House of Assembly Sibusiso Mabhanisi Dlamini called on the Prime
Minister Ambrose Dlamini to act urgently.
The eSwatini News (part of the Times of Swaziland) reported, ‘The residents feel that
COVID-19 [coronavirus] has reduced them to mere scavengers forced them to either fight or
succumb to imminent death from hunger.’
It added, ‘At worst, residents say hunger is exacerbating sickness and disease and threatens to
plunge the community back to its shameful era of being the national hotspot for violent
crime.’
Many of the residents work in Taiwanese-owned textile factories in nearby Matsapha. Others
are vendors who work for themselves, others are maids. All have lost their jobs and have no
money.
Hlengiwe Hlatshwako, who earned a living by moving from place to place and doing laundry
for people, told the News, ‘Now that we have been warned to stay at home, I do not have any
source of income and this is worrying me because I have five children whose father has also
been told to stay at home. How do we stay indoors with no food to eat? We will die of
starvation.’
Sibusiso Mabhanisi Dlamini said he had already sent messages for help to the prime minister
and his deputy.
He said, ‘People were calling me every now and then asking for food. Some were so
desperate that they said even if I gave them mealie-meal, they would gladly eat it with water
than to struggle under severe hunger.’

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Hunger is widespread across Swaziland. This week the African Press Agency reported more
than 11,000 vulnerable children were without food because 650 soup kitchens at
neighbourhood care points had closed because of the coronavirus crisis.
The children previously received two meals a day provided by the Swazi government through
the assistance of international donors.
It quoted an anonymous official from the Deputy Prime Minister’s office saying, ‘The
situation has been worsened by the fact that schools are also closed yet most of the children
would not receive free lunch from schools under the schools feeding scheme.’
Even before the coronavirus outbreak hunger was widespread across Swaziland. About
232,000 people (25 percent of the rural population) were expected to experience severe acute
food insecurity, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).
In November 2019, it was reported in the Times of eSwatini that five elderly women in the
Nsalitje area had starved to death and many more were said to be quietly being killed by
hunger. A continuing draught and restrictions on importing cheap mealie maize from
neighbouring South Africa were blamed.
See also

World Food Program falls short in fundraising as hunger grips Swaziland and King spends
lavishly on himself

MPs demand Govt. action as hunger spreads across Swaziland during coronavirus
lockdown
21 April 2020

The House of Assembly in Swaziland (eSwatini) has demanded immediate action from the
government as hunger spreads across the kingdom and doctors and nurses continue to be
without vital personal protective equipment (PPE) during the present coronavirus crisis.
Swaziland has been in a partial lockdown since 27 March 2020 with many businesses closed,
bans on large gatherings and travel restrictions.
News has emerged of whole communities who have no work and no way of getting food.
Hospitals do not have personal protection equipment such as face masks, gloves and gowns.
As of 21 April 2020 one person had died from coronavirus and 31 tested positive.
Members of parliament in the absolute monarchy ruled by King Mswati III demanded an
urgent report from government on how it intended to deal with the crisis. They want food
parcels to be sent to the hungry and masks and hand sanitisers to be made available to the
public.
They also voiced concerns about how money set aside to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19) had
been spent. Some parliamentarians were reported to have been part of businesses who
tendered for contracts to supply goods. In the past groups such as Transparency International
have reported high levels of corruption in Swaziland.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

The House of Assembly threatened to move a vote of no confidence in the government which
in Swaziland is not elected but handpicked by King Mswati. In particular they were
concerned that the government was giving preferential treatment to certain people and using
the Bethel Court Hotel in Ezulwini as a quarantine centre. Other people were expected to use
Lubombo Referral Hospital and the TB Centre in Manzini.
In recent days the Swazi media have reported cases of severe hunger across Swaziland. Out-
of-work textile workers in Kwaluseni township were said to be facing ‘imminent death from
hunger’.
People living on the border of Swaziland and South Africa around Lavumisa who usually
travelled into South Africa for food and work had been stopped from doing so by Swazi
soldiers because there is a coronavirus lockdown in South Africa. They were reported to be
‘struggling to stay alive, with virtually nothing to eat’.
Meanwhile. the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) is consulting with lawyers
about suing the government for gross negligence in failing to supply nurses at Raleigh Fitkin
Memorial (RFM) hospital and all health care workers across the country with adequate
protection. A nurse at RFM died of the coronavirus and at least 26 healthcare workers at the
hospital are in self-isolation. The union has already called for the hospital to be temporarily
closed so that all healthcare workers can be tested and wards fumigated.
Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of a National Emergency Task Force set up to tackle
coronavirus Themba Masuku denied the government was to blame for the shortage of
equipment. He said there was an international shortage affecting most countries.
He told a press briefing Swaziland had no capability to manufacture PPE but he had appealed
to local companies to produce face masks.

Swaziland Govt. pledges to feed 300,000 facing hunger in next two weeks as coronavirus
intensifies
22 April 2020

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government says it will feed 300,000 people – nearly a quarter of
the entire population – over the next two weeks during the present coronavirus crisis. Reports
from across the kingdom say people are close to death.
Ambrose Dlamini, the Swazi Prime Minister, made the announcement at a press briefing on
Wednesday (22 April 2020). He did not say where the food would come from or who would
pay for it.
Swaziland is broke and even before the coronavirus outbreak hunger was widespread across
the kingdom which is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch. About 232,000
people (25 percent of the rural population) were expected to experience severe acute food
insecurity this year, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).
The number of cases of coronavirus in Swaziland stands at 31. One person has died. Only
1,051 COVID-19 tests – from a population of 1.3 million – have been made in Swaziland.
The Prime Minister said more than 62,000 people had been screened for the virus.

28
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

He said that the relaxation of a partial lockdown of Swaziland that he announced a week ago
would be overturned. The partial lockdown had been in force since 27 March 2020.
He said, ‘Over the week of the extended partial lockdown, we have observed with concern
that complacency among the populace is creeping in and an increasing number of people
around the country are now casual and lack vigilance in preventing the transmission of the
virus. The level of compliance to the measures which are aimed at curtailing the rapid spread
of COVID-19 has dramatically dropped.
‘The number of people leaving their homes and places of residence for non-essential services
has spiked up, potentially exposing themselves and others to COVID-19. It has almost
become business as usual in our cities, towns and communities yet the partial lockdown
measures are still in force.
‘Our health system cannot withstand an upsurge of infections in this Kingdom and neither are
our resources adequate to manage an uncontrollable transmission of the virus.’
On 15 April 2020, announcing a relaxation of the lockdown he had said, ‘Projections from
health professionals indicate that the partial lockdown measures may have delayed the onset
of the infection peak by one to six months, and likely to have reduced the cumulative number
of infections in eSwatini.’
Instead, the number of positive cases had nearly doubled in the past week.
The Prime Minister said Government had taken the decision to remove the relaxed measures
of the partial lockdown with effect from Friday 24 April 2020. He said the kingdom’s
security forces ‘will be vigilant in enforcing compliance’.
He said the following would apply.
1. In line with the COVID-19 Regulations, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade
will issue revised guidelines regarding certain business operations.
2. Guidelines of the relaxed operation of public transport are removed. A new set of transport
guidelines will be announced by the Minister of Public Works and Transport.
3. All the measures effected at the start of the partial lockdown on 27 March continue to be in
full force. These include that:
• Non-essential travel between communities, towns, cities and regions is strictly prohibited
for all citizens.
• All public and private gatherings exceeding 20 or more people are prohibited.
• Citizens and residents returning home from abroad will be quarantined for 14 days
• Visitation to hospitals is restricted
• Workers in non-essential services should work from home.
The Prime Minister said, ‘We are all learning on the go and as a result, now and again,
Government will review these measures to adjust to the situation on the ground at any
particular time.’

29
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

The Government had been criticised by the Swazi House of Assembly for not doing enough
for the poor and not providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors, nurses and
other health workers.
The Prime Minister made a number of pledges that would be fulfilled over the coming two
weeks. He did not give details of how these would be achieved.
They were:
1. Provide food assistance to the most vulnerable of our society that have been adversely
affected by the COVID 19 pandemic. The food assistance will benefit over 300,000
individuals from 63,000 households across all four regions of the Kingdom.
2. Government will ensure availability of face masks to minimize the spread of the virus.
3. We will increase the number of ventilators available in the Kingdom to assist COVID-19
positive cases.
4. Over a thousand scanners will be made available to help upscale the screening process.
5. Government will intensify screening and testing for COVID-19 symptoms.
6. Intensify contact tracing as an important element of identifying potential cases in order to
curb the spread of the virus.
7. Increase provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers. We are
cognizant of the shortage of PPEs due to limited international supply. Government is
intensifying the processes of sourcing PPEs and has encouraged local suppliers to produce
some of this equipment.

Swaziland Govt. confirms it will not feed the starving in towns and cities during
coronavirus lockdown
29 April 2020

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government will not send food to the starving and destitute in
towns and cities during the extreme lockdown that it has imposed in the fight against
coronavirus.
The decision comes as Manzini, the main commercial city in the kingdom, has been locked
down by the army and police and is surrounded by roadblocks. People on the streets are being
arrested for loitering.
Unknown thousands of the 110,000 population have lost their jobs because of the lockdown
and have no money or food.
On 22 April 2020 the Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced the government
would feed more than 300,000 people from 63,000 households across all four regions of the
Kingdom. The total population of Swaziland is about 1.3 million. He pledged the assistance
would be delivered within two weeks.

30
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Now, National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Wandile Mavuso has confirmed
that people in urban areas would not get food from the government.
He explained on state radio that the government was directing its efforts only to rural areas.
The Times of eSwatini reported people including vendors who earned their living through
selling fruits and vegetables on the streets, car wash employees who earned E10 per car,
drycleaners employees, hair-dressers and salon owners, those employed at cellphone shops,
hotels, restaurants and security guards, among others, had no income and could not get food.
It said, ‘A study has shown that most of these people are tenants [living in flats] on the
outskirts of towns and cities and currently have no other source of income.’
It reported Mavuso saying, ‘We will not include tenants in the relief plan. We will not be
going to the flats.’
He added the government would only work in places where there were ‘local structures’ in
place. This would include chiefs and those who worked with chiefs. Mavuso said this would
ensure that ‘deserving beneficiaries’ were identified.
Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch and he appoints the chiefs as
his local representatives.
Since the Prime Minister made his pledge to feed 300,000 people the Swazi House of
Assembly rejected a plan put forward by Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku to send
people money instead of food.
The plan was to spend about E270 million (US$14 million) with government distributing
about E45 million per month to 301,762 people across the kingdom.
Masuku said the scheme would give people the choice on what food to buy and stop them
gathering together to receive parcels and risk catching coronavirus (COVID-19). He said it
would also save on the cost of delivering food.
A number of members of parliament thought the plan was open to corruption and money
might not be used for the intended purpose of buying food.
A final decision on how to proceed with the food relief has yet to be made.

Swaziland police fine man trying to buy food for destitute children during coronavirus
lockdown
3 May 2020
Police in Swaziland (eSwatini) fined a man who was out buying food for destitute children
during the coronavirus lockdown.
He had to use some of the money that had been donated for food to pay the on-the-spot
penalty.
Khulekani Msweli later wrote an open letter to Swazi Deputy Prime Minister Themba
Masuku complaining about the police.

31
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

The Swazi Government, personally appointed by King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of
Swaziland, has put the kingdom into lockdown. Travel is severely restricted, businesses
closed and police are fining people they find on the streets without a ‘legitimate excuse’.
Masuku told the Swazi House of Assembly last week that more than 300,000 people in
Swaziland from a population of 1.3 million needed food aid because they were without an
income during the lockdown.
Msweli said he was on his way to buy foodstuff at Tshaneni to prepare meals for destitute
residents of Vuvulane, organised by the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Outreach
Foundation.

The community of Vuvulane: Picture: Khulekani Msweli

New travel restrictions imposed by Police Chief William Dlamini require people to have
letters of permission to be travelling. Msweli said he tried to get one from a local leader but
his office was closed.
He said he was stopped at a police road block and dragged from the car. He was travelling
alone and wore a face mask as required by coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations.
He was taken to Tshaneni Police Station.
Msweli wrote, ‘Throughout that ordeal, I was consistently trying to explain to them that my
shop visit was out of desperation to feed children that are at the brink of survival, but none of
my pleas were adhered to.’ He said the police threatened to lock him up.
He added he broke down and pleaded with them to have mercy on those who depended on
the food that he was going to buy.
‘To them, I was just as good as a criminal and deserved to be locked away for caring for
others. The accusing policeman eventually fined me E60. I paid on the spot using money
which was donated and meant to buy food for the neediest members of my community,’
Msweli wrote.
Msweli added, ‘The government cannot claim to be saving lives yet children might die of
hunger not COVID-19. To criminalize, harass and humiliate those that are stepping in, where
government is surely failing, is beyond belief. Is the government of eSwatini on a mission to
kill all poor people?’

32
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

He added that he ‘fought back’ until he eventually bought all the food that was needed.
He told the Deputy Prime Minister, ‘The fact remains that the Government of eSwatini,
through its police unit, has “stolen” an impoverished child’s E60, which was meant to buy
their food. That E60 was meant to buy food that equates to at least two meals but two
children were denied those meals.’
He added, ‘What must I tell the two children that will be without a meal, yet money was
allocated to them? This whole week they were looking forward to their best and balanced
meal, which other children received, but what will I tell them? What sense of hope must I
offer them when the Police are punishing and “stealing” from the only people that seem to
care about their welfare?’
He said, ‘As we are all doing our best to contain the spread of COVID-19, let us not find
ourselves with a human rights catastrophe of hunger related deaths that could have been
avoided.’
The Deputy Prime Minister later contacted Msweli to apologise. He said he had asked the
National Police Commissioner William Dlamini to ‘deal with the matter’.

Chaos as Swaziland Govt. misses target to start food aid for destitute in coronavirus
lockdown
6 May 2020

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government’s plan to feed 300,000 people during the present
coronavirus lockdown is in shambles.
On 22 April 2020, Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced they would be fed
within 14 days. That deadline was reached on Wednesday (6 May 2020) and no food has
been delivered via the government scheme.
Instead there has been turmoil in parliament. The House of Assembly refused to back a plan
from the Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku to send destitute people money rather than
food.
Then it was revealed that the government had no plan to feed people living in towns and
cities.
Then there was chaos across the kingdom as people who tried to register for food aid were
turned away.
The latest twist was a report that some people were being charged E50 to have their names
put on the registration list. In normal times about seven in ten of the population live on
incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 (E37) a day.
Swaziland has been in partial lockdown since 27 March with only essential businesses
allowed to operate, travel severely restricted and people banned from meeting in groups of
more than 20. Almost as soon as the lockdown started reports circulated of people unable to
feed themselves because they no longer had incomes.

33
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

In response Ambrose Dlamini announced a government food aid scheme. He said it would,
‘Provide food assistance to the most vulnerable of our society that have been adversely
affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The food assistance will benefit over 300,000
individuals from 63,000 households across all four regions of the Kingdom.’ The total
population of Swaziland is about 1.3 million.
It was one of several pledges the Prime Minister made on 22 April that he said would be
fulfilled over the coming two weeks.
Almost immediately, the Swazi House of Assembly rejected a plan put forward by Deputy
Prime Minister Themba Masuku to send people money instead of food.
The plan was to spend about E270 million (US$14 million) with government distributing
about E45 million per month to 301,762 people across the kingdom.
Masuku said the scheme would give people the choice on what food to buy and stop them
gathering together to receive parcels and risk catching coronavirus (COVID-19). He said it
would also save on the cost of delivering food.
A number of members of parliament thought the plan was open to corruption and money
might not be used for the intended purpose of buying food.
Then Wandile Mavuso, spokesperson for the National Disaster Management Agency
(NDMA), which is organising the food relief, confirmed that people in urban areas would not
get food. He explained on state radio that the government was directing its efforts only to
rural areas.
He said the government would only work in places where there were ‘local structures’ in
place. This would include chiefs and those who worked with chiefs. Mavuso said this would
ensure that ‘deserving beneficiaries’ were identified.
Even without a definite plan for food distribution in place, the NDMA set about registering
the names of people wanting to apply for aid. This descended into chaos as hundreds of
people ignored social distancing guidelines and queued to register.
The Sunday Observer reported 200 residents of Msunduza crammed an assembly point. It
said, ‘Despite having been registered by their health motivators, the residents had to be re-
registered by the Food Security Consortium coordinated by the NDMA.’
It added, the Food Security Consortium refused to register the residents because of their
numbers and they did not maintain social distancing.
On Tuesday (5 May 2020), the Times of eSwatini reported politicians were ‘fighting’ with the
NDMA over who should register people. NDMA Chief Executive Officer Russell Dlamini
said there was confusion about who should make the assessment of a person’s eligibility.
On Wednesday the Times reported that some people in the Shiselweni region of Swaziland
were being forced to pay E50 before they could register for food aid. It reported, ‘As a result
people are complaining that a lot of deserving folks have been left out of the list simply
because they did not have the money to pay.’
The NDMA said it had not received reports about this.

34
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

On Tuesday NDMA Chief Executive Russell Dlamini announced distribution of food parcels
would start on Friday (8 May 2020) in two areas of Swaziland but he would not name them.
Richard Rooney

Residents of Msunduza ignore social distancing guidelines to queue to register for food aid. Picture: eSwatini Observer

Charity starts feeding tens of thousands of hungry in Swaziland as coronavirus


lockdown grips
25 May 2020

Tens of thousands of people under coronavirus lockdown in Swaziland (eSwatini) are to get
money to buy food from a charitable foundation. Meanwhile the Swazi Government’s
scheme to feed more than 300,000 people by 6 May 2020 has stalled.
The Natie Kirsh Foundation began the cash distribution of E45 million (US$2.5 million) on
Monday (25 May 2020) in an attempt to feed 69,000 people in 11,000 households in the
Shiselweni and Manzini regions. Money will be sent to households in other regions in the
kingdom in the coming weeks.
Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini told media, ‘We are cognizant of the reality that many
people who were not chronically food insecure before COVID-19 now need food assistance.
These include workers who have been laid off, street vendors, hawkers and others.’
The money will be transferred electronically to the bank accounts of households. Each
household is expected to get E700 to spend on food items of their choice.
The distribution is separate from a government scheme that was announced on 22 April.
Prime Minister Dlamini promised more than 300,000 people would get food aid within two
weeks. Swaziland has been in partial lockdown since 27 March.
The scheme stalled after the House of Assembly refused to back a plan from the Deputy
Prime Minister Themba Masuku to send destitute people money rather than food.
Then it was revealed that the government had no plan to feed people living in towns and
cities.

35
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Then there was chaos across the kingdom as people who tried to register for food aid were
turned away.
It was also reported that some people were being charged E50 to have their names put on the
registration list. In normal times about seven in ten of the population live on incomes less
than the equivalent of US$2 (E37) a day.

Only four in ten receive food aid in Swaziland Govt coronavirus scheme, a month after
deadline
7 June 2020

Fewer than four in ten of the 301,000 people promised food aid by the Swaziland (eSwatini)
Government during the present coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have received it.
Figures announced by Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini on Friday (5 June 2020)
showed only 113,273 people had received aid. He had previously promised that all 301,762
people across the kingdom deemed in need would get it by 6 May.
He said people in 29 tinkhundla (local authority districts) had received cash to buy food
through the government scheme. There are a total of 59 tinkhundla in Swaziland.
In a media statement Dlamini claimed ‘the food assistance programme is going according to
plan’.
He said the scheme would be completed next week. Not all people who registered to get
relief received it.
The plan is to spend about E270 million (US$14 million) on the scheme. It was set up
following reports from across the kingdom that people were close to death.
Swaziland has been in a partial lockdown since 27 March and tens of thousands of people
have been thrown out of work.
The plan was originally rejected by members of the House of Assembly who preferred that
food, rather than cash, be distributed. They feared money would not be spent on food.
In his statement Dlamini said, ‘Government would like to request the cash and food
beneficiaries to be responsible, knowing that government and donors alike have had to forego
other planned activities to ensure that the assistance is made available to them.’

Corruption throws Swaziland coronavirus scheme to feed destitute into confusion


21 June 2020

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government’s plan to feed the hungry during the coronavirus
lockdown is falling apart.

36
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Russell Dlamini, chief executive of The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA)
which is organising the relief, said people who cheated and registered for the E700 cash
available but were still in employment faced arrest.
The fund was set up to give money to about 300,000 who faced hunger and possible
starvation when they lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 lockdown that started on 27
March 2020. Many businesses were forced to close.
Dlamini said the cheats should immediately pay back the money.
There have been so many reports across the kingdom that the registration was flawed that in
some places the whole process is to start again.
Over recent weeks there have been numerous reports that organisations tasked by NDMA had
failed to identify people genuinely in need. In turn those organisations blamed NDMA saying
the process they were asked to follow was flawed.
Media reported that money was going to civil servants, landlords and some law enforcement
officers who had registered under questionable circumstances.
The Swazi Government’s feeding scheme was a failure from the start. Prime Minister
Ambrose Dlamini had announced it to feed more than 300,000 people by 6 May. By a month
after that date only 113,273 people had received aid. On 5 June he promise everyone would
get their payment within a week.
The feeding plan was originally rejected by members of the House of Assembly who
preferred that food, rather than cash, be distributed. They feared money would not be spent
on food.

Coronavirus: health workers


Swaziland Govt. steps up search for coronavirus victims, nurses say they still lack vital
equipment
6 April 2020

The Ministry of Health in Swaziland (eSwatini) is sending teams of people door-to-door to


check if people have the coronavirus.
The kingdom is currently in partial lockdown with many businesses closed and travel
severely restricted.
Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi told a press briefing on Monday (6 April 2020), ‘As of last
Saturday, the Ministry went out on an active case finding. That means we sent team of people
out to come knock on your door, call you, come and check you and see if you have a fever
and check your family as well. We are still following a number of people that arrived into the
country between the 24 and 26 March.’
About 2,000 people are expected to be visited. The population of Swaziland is about 1.3
million and the vast majority live in rural areas.

37
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Nkosi also said there had been a tenth confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in
Swaziland. This was a woman aged 31 who had been in South Africa. So far there are no
reported deaths in the kingdom.
Meanwhile, Bheki Mamba, President of the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union
(SWADNU) said the E100million approved by the Swazi Parliament to fight the coronavirus
had not been spent. He said the situation in public hospitals where doctors, nurses and
workers were without basic protective equipment such as masks, gowns and gloves was
critical.

Mamba told the Swaziland News, an online newspaper, ‘The situation is getting worse in the
various hospitals and might reach a critical stage without the money being made available to
buy the necessary equipment. It should be noted here that we are owing the suppliers and
definitely, they will demand that government pay upfront before they supply the equipment.
‘Another major challenge is that, we might not be able to manage the situation as it reaches
the critical stage because we don’t have enough quarantine space, Intensive Care Units (ICU)
are less than 10 around the country with no relevant equipment.’

Swaziland nurses’ union calls for closure of major hospital in fight against coronavirus
19 April 2020

Nurses in Swaziland (eSwatini) want a major hospital closed down, the patients discharged,
and then it reopened as a scaled-down coronavirus centre.
Healthcare is in disarray across the kingdom and nurses do not have enough personal
protective equipment such as masks, gloves and gowns.
Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) President Bheki Mamba called for the
closure of Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital at Manzini after the first healthcare
worker, a 35-year-old nurse, tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).
At least 26 healthcare workers at the hospital are in self-isolation.
Nurses and healthcare workers have been calling for better protection against the virus since
it emerged last month. The Swazi Government has threatened to charge them with breaking
the new National Emergency Regulations if they refuse to work without adequate protection.
Mamba said RFM should close down, discharge all patients and deal with only emergencies.
He said the hospital must then test all healthcare workers, fumigate wards and get help from
extra professional healthcare workers, before reopening. This would ensure the safety of
workers and patients.
In a statement the Communist Party of Swaziland said the situation at RFM was ‘totally
chaotic’. It said, ‘Provision of personal protective equipment has been inadequate and
uneven, testing has been infrequent, often replaced by largely ineffectual “risk-assessment”,
only wards and departments where cases of COVID-19 have been suspected have been
fumigated, instead of fumigating the entire hospital.’

38
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

It added no emergency strategic programme had been enacted by the hospital management
even after several weeks since King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, declared a
national emergency.
It said, ‘No national emergency or disaster coordinating committee exists for spearheading
the national response to the pandemic. Instead, decisions apparently come from Mswati, who
hasn’t been seen in weeks.’
As of 18 April there had been one recorded death from coronavirus and 22 people had tested
positive.
See also

Coronavirus: Swaziland hospitals in crisis, PM forms emergency task groups


Swaziland hospital thrown into confusion as suspected coronavirus patient admitted
Swaziland nurses refuse to treat patients until they get protective equipment

Swaziland short of coronavirus protective equipment for health workers as prices soar
28 May 2020

Swaziland (eSwatini) is short of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line health
workers during the coronavirus crisis because suppliers have doubled their prices, the
National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) said.
Once a tender for equipment had been agreed suppliers asked for prices to be increased and
often more than doubled.
NDMA Procurement Officer Phesheya Dlamini told the eSwatini Observer, ‘Within a week
of award, the prices had increased a hundredfold [doubled] to an extent that three companies
came back to us requesting a price increase of over 100 per cent of the quoted price.
‘For instance, the supplier of gowns had initially said he would supply us the gowns at E197
each. He, however, came back and requested to at least supply at a revised price of not less
than E400. The only supplier that did not have a problem was the one who had quoted
E1,300. Similarly the company that was to supply gumboots ended up failing to do so
because of the price hike.’
The Director of Health Services Dr Vusi Magagula said suppliers were struggling to deliver
goods on time and some coronavirus (COVID-19) supplies were not available as countries
rushed for them due to the pressing demand.
Doctors, nurses and other health workers have had to treat coronavirus patients without
correct PPE during the continuing pandemic. On 22 May 2020, Minister of Health Lizzie
Nkosi said 33 health workers had contracted the virus in Swaziland.
She added, ‘This suggests that in this fight health workers are not spared from this pandemic
as they could [be] gripped by anxiety and fears.’

39
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini called frontline health workers ‘our frontline
soldiers’. He said, ‘In this war against the pandemic that has been plaguing the globe
healthcare workers are in the firing end. They are the ones who are bravely protecting us
against [the] deadly invisible enemy.’
Separately, voluntary workers in the community were told they should strip off their clothes
and wash them outside their homes after each day’s work to avoid taking coronavirus into
their homes.
Participants at a workshop in the National Tuberculosis Control Programme (NTCP) were
told this was because PPE was not available.

Swaziland coronavirus tests halted as technicians demand protective equipment


3 June 2020

Coronavirus medical laboratory technicians in Swaziland (eSwatini) stopped work in protest


that they were not given personal protective equipment while they were working.
Separately, regional response teams who are tracing people who have come into contact with
the virus stopped work demanding extra risk payments.
As a result all coronavirus (COVID-19) tests were halted across the kingdom on Monday (1
June 2020). More than 60 technicians at Mbabane Government Hospital – the only
coronavirus testing facility in Swaziland – delivered a petition directed to Director of Health
Services Dr Vusi Magagula.
They argued they had risked their lives from the start of the coronavirus crisis and still did
not have personal protective equipment (PPE), including head covers, eye shields, masks,
scrubs, disposable coats, aprons, shoe covers, sanitisers, soap and a sink.
They said if they did not get the PPE they would shut down all 97 public laboratories in the
kingdom. There are 267 technicians.
The Swazi Government does not consider the technicians to be an essential service during the
coronavirus crisis and therefore they are not supplied with PPE.
Meanwhile, regional response teams in the Manzini and Shiselweni regions stopped work in
protest after failing to get responses from the Ministry of Health to their demands for risk and
overtime payments. Contact tracing and screening were halted.
They are also concerned about a lack of lack of PPE and their own regular testing.
On Monday the Ministry of Health announced the third death in Swaziland from coronavirus,
a 42-year-old man from the Manzini region. A total of 293 people have tested positive so far.

Coronavirus: jobs
More businesses in Swaziland to close as Govt tightens coronavirus lockdown
2 April 2020

40
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government announced that all non-essential businesses in the
kingdom should close down from Friday (3 April 2020) as measures to tackle the coronavirus
pandemic are stepped up.
The kingdom has been on a 20-day partial lockdown since 27 March.
Manqoba Khumalo, Minister for Commerce, Industry and Trade, announced, ‘All businesses
and entities that are not involved in the manufacturing, supply or provision of essential goods
or services shall, cease to operate for the duration of the partial lockdown.’
Regulations published after the lockdown was announced only covered the closure of bars,
and restaurants but said nothing about other shops.
Only ‘essential services’ will be allowed to operate.
Khumalo issued a long list of those businesses that would be allowed to continue. They are:
1. Food and Agriculture; which includes:
Those involved in the food value chain
2. Retail and consumer goods suppliers, which include:
Consumer Goods suppliers
Food Retailers e.g. food outlets, raw material suppliers and farmers
Those involved in the transportation, logistics and packaging of consumer goods
Other Retail Goods that support the medical industry e.g. bedding, linen and emergency
clothing for hospitals, health workers and those caring for the sick
3. Network Infrastructure; which include:
Water, waste water and sanitation
Electricity suppliers
Renewable Energy suppliers
Gas suppliers
Fuel suppliers
Law enforcement
Defence, Safety and Security
Waste disposal
Fire and Emergency services
Mining and power stations
4. Medical and Health; which include:
Hospitals

41
SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Devices and Equipment


Pharmaceuticals
Funders
Doctors, nurses, paramedics etc.
5. Forestry and Sawmills
For the production of disposable, health and hygiene products including toilet paper as well
as for packaging for food and the health supply chain.
6. IT Systems and Telecommunications
7. Finance and Insurance
8. Tourism and Hospitality
9. Communications e.g. Media
10. Hardware Shops

11. Public Transport and cross-border trade transport


These will operate under the guidelines that Government has issued.
For cross-border transport, this will be restricted to essential services as defined in Eswatini,
South Africa and Mozambique

There had been a lot of confusion in Swaziland about which businesses had been allowed to
stay open during what is being described by the Swazi Government as a ‘partial lockdown’.
Businesses in Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland, claimed police and soldiers
were demanding bribes to allow them to stay open.
Manzini was reportedly in chaos on Monday after new regulations restricting public transport
to early mornings and late afternoons came into force. The eSwatini Observer reported 5,000
people were left stranded.

Coronavirus lockdown costs thousands of jobs in Swaziland, people evicted from homes
4 May 2020

More than 8,000 people have been laid off from their jobs in Swaziland (eSwatini) because
of the coronavirus lockdown presently gripping the kingdom.
The figure, released by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, does not include
unknown numbers of people who work for themselves or in the informal economy. The
figures only included those firms that had officially informed the ministry. The number out of
work is therefore expected to grow.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

In a statement released on Monday (4 May 2020) Minister of Labour and Social Security
Makhosi Vilakati said 43 companies had laid off a total of 8,429 workers. Of those 8,121
were from six companies in the textile industry.
Swaziland has been in a partial lockdown since 27 March with only essential services
allowed to operate. The laid-off workers are not being paid.
Vilakati said he expected the workers to get their jobs back when the crisis was over.
Meanwhile, the Times of eSwatini reported, the Acting Commissioner of Labour Mthunzi
Shabangu said that there were more than 20 companies which had reported that they would
be forced to lay off workers because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Shabangu said more than 5,000 workers had been affected to date and that figure might
double.
Landlords in the industrial town of Matsapha where many textile firms are based have
reportedly evicted tenants from their homes because of non-payment of rent. The eSwatini
Observer reported on Monday that people had been seen vacating one-bedroom flats during
the weekend.
It reported, ‘Most of those who were moving out made it clear that they could no longer stay
in the rented flats because they were in arrears for March and April and landlords were
uncompromising when it comes to rent.
‘What makes the situation worse, according to some textile workers, is that they are not sure
if they would still have their jobs when the situation normalises.’
One woman told the Observer, ‘I am a textile factory worker and due to the spread of the
COVID-19, we were told to stay home without pay. Things have been hard for me, I can
barely put food on the table for my three children.’

Tens of thousands of jobs at risk in Swaziland as coronavirus pandemic continues


29 May 2020

Tens of thousands of jobs were likely to be lost in Swaziland (eSwatini) because of the
coronavirus pandemic, according to predictions from trade union and business leaders.
More than 18,000 workers in the Swazi textile industry were in danger of losing jobs or
having salary cuts, according to Warnder Mkhonza, Secretary General of the Amalgamated
Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA).
Swaziland has been in partial lockdown because of coronavirus (COVID-19) since 27 March
2020. Many businesses were closed, but some, including textile factories, have been allowed
to reopen.
Mkhonza said textile workers already earned ‘close to nothing’ and many textile firms had
not followed government regulations set up for the coronavirus crisis about how to deal with
lay-offs. He said workers who had returned to work had their salaries cut by half.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Separately, Business Eswatini Chief Executive Nathi Dlamini said it was inevitable that there
would be job losses once the pandemic was over.
He said the pandemic had deprived Swaziland of revenues including tax income and
employment. He said business performance had fallen to its lowest imaginable level.

Thousands of job lay-offs hit Swaziland as coronavirus lockdown continues


5 June 2020

About 9,000 people in Swaziland (eSwatini) are about to lose their jobs because of the
coronavirus lockdown in the kingdom.
Labour Commissioner Mthunzi Shabangu said that 57 companies had applied to the Ministry
of Labour and Social Security for permission to lay-off the workers.
He said, ‘It is evident that more people are yet to lose their jobs, because we have been
receiving requests through and through.’
By law the companies are required to get permission from the ministry to lay-off workers but
Shabangu told the eSwatini Observer that some had done so without notification.
The lay-offs are considered temporary for the duration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis
but there is no guarantee that workers will get their jobs back. The workers will receive no
wages during the lay-offs.
Meanwhile Swazi senators in the portfolio committee complained that a E90 million (US$5.3
million) relief fund set up to give assistance during the coronavirus lockdown was not helping
micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME).
They asked for a meeting with key ministries, including finance, labour and social security,
housing and urban development and commerce, industry and trade to discuss possible
solutions.
Director of MSME Mluleki Dlamini presented senators with a proposed model for MSME
Finance Relief which he said was currently being developed by government.
Elsewhere, the Swazi Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade has closed 52 businesses
for failure to observe the partial lockdown regulations. The lockdown began on 27 March
2020.
Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Manqoba Khumalo said in a statement that some
companies deliberately contravened the measures. These included not having protective
clothing or sanitisers.

Swaziland Govt launches fund to help workers laid-off by coronavirus lockdown


8 June 2020

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government has announced a E25 million (US$1.5 million) fund
to help people laid-off from jobs because of the present coronavirus lockdown in the
kingdom.
Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced after reports that tens of thousands of
people could lose jobs. The kingdom has been in partial lockdown since 27 March 2020.
Dlamini, in a statement on Friday (5 June 2020) said the Ministry of Labour and Social
Security would in due course announce details of the fund.
He added that the government would also put forward legislation to introduce an
Unemployment Insurance Fund to protect people after they had lost jobs.
Dlamini announced that a number of businesses including manufacturers, distributors and
wholesalers of alcohol would be allowed to reopen from 15 June under strict health and
hygiene conditions.
He warned, ‘Any business which, on inspection, will be found to be in violation of the
permitted conditions will be immediately closed.’
He said people were still expected to stay at home and only move when necessary as the
lockdown continued.
Dlamini said there could be a phased reopening of schools and tertiary institutions from 1
July.
He said, ‘For the objectives of the 2020 academic year to be achieved, we need to allow the
current Form 5 learners to progress to tertiary level. To do so they need to sit for their
examinations and complete their end of school cycle.
‘In preparation for the reopening of schools and tertiary institutions, personnel will be trained
on COVID-19 prevention and control, and on ways of adapting to the “new normal” while
ensuring that teaching and learning continues.’

Nearly 15,000 Swaziland workers face unpaid layoffs as alcohol banned in coronavirus
lockdown
26 June 2020

Nearly 15,000 people in Swaziland (eSwatini) could be laid off work without pay because the
government has reintroduced a ban on alcohol distribution during the coronavirus lockdown.

The prediction came from Swaziland National Liquor Association (SNLA) Secretary
General, Thamsanqa Hlatshwako.

He said 14,800 workers could be laid off. He said there were 3,700 liquor licence holders
known to the SNLA and each employed an average of four people.

He said the ban of alcohol would have a devastating impact on the liquor industry’s workers.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

The Times of eSwatini reported on Thursday (25 June 2020), ‘Hlatshwayo said they would
not be able to remunerate any employees for the next two months’.

The Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced earlier in the week his government
had overturned a previous decision to allow the wholesale and distribution of alcohol. It had
previously been banned as one of a series of measures to combat the coronavirus (COVID-
19) pandemic. The new ban would be in place from 1 July 2020 for up to two months.

The Times reported, ‘Given the ban of alcohol by government, he [Hlatshwako] said the
economic repercussions would have a devastating impact on the liquor industry’s workers.’

Hlatshwako said workers would be on unpaid layoffs for the duration of the ban and some of
them would lose their jobs permanently.

In May, it was reported 224,000 bottles of beer were to be destroyed because they had passed
their sell-by dates because they could not be sold during the lockdown.

Coronavirus: schools

Work still to be done before Swaziland schools open after coronavirus lockdown
10 June 2020

A plan to reopen schools in Swaziland (eSwatini) after the coronavirus lockdown is in


jeopardy as government and the teachers’ union cannot agree on the best way forward.
The Swazi Ministry of Education and Training wants to start a phased reopening of schools
starting 1 July 2020.
In a statement Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini said, ‘The closure of schools effected on 17
March 2020 was an effort at national level to contain the rapid spread of the virus. However,
evidence shows that the prolonged closure of schools and tertiary institutions will have
significant negative socio-economic effects and it cannot continue endlessly.
‘For the objectives of the 2020 academic year to be achieved, we need to allow the current
Form 5 learners to progress to tertiary level. To do so they need to sit for their examinations
and complete their end of school cycle.
‘In preparation for the reopening of schools and tertiary institutions, personnel will be trained
on COVID-19 prevention and control, and on ways of adapting to the “new normal” while
ensuring that teaching and learning continues. Government has developed a checklist for
assessing school’s readiness.’
However, the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) believes it has not been
fully consulted about the move. Last month SNAT drew up a list of issues it wanted
addressed before schools could safely reopen. They included schools to be disinfected, all
children tested for coronavirus, a nurse on site at every school and the transportation of
learners to conform with social distance requirements. The marking of class work and sharing
of books should be also be discontinued, SNAT said.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) has also said it wants each child to
have four facemasks and 480,000 will be needed.
There is also a worry from headteachers that schools do not have funds to carry out the work
necessary to make schools safe from the COVID-19. The government has not announced
additional funding to pay for this.
The Ministry of Education and Training and SNAT are continuing discussions.

Delay in reopening Swaziland schools as coronavirus cases continue to rise


12 June 2020

The reopening of schools in Swaziland (eSwatini) is to be delayed because the number of


coronavirus cases continues to rise.
Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini said there was ‘panic’ among many Swazi people
‘following the drastic increase in the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases in the Kingdom’.
There had been 93 positive cases reported in the past week.
As of 11 June 2020 there had been three deaths and 449 positive cases recorded by the
Ministry of Health.
Dlamini had previously announced a phased reopening of schools from 1 July. In a statement
on 11 June he announced this would be put back to 6 July.
He said, ‘The events of the past week, however, have necessitated that Government reviews
the decision of opening schools to ensure that all necessary precautions and preparations are
in place before teachers and our children get back to class in a safely manner.’
Swaziland has been in partial lockdown since 27 March. In parts of the kingdom many
businesses have been allowed to reopen with health restrictions. Gatherings of more than 20
people remain banned and people are urged to keep off the streets unless their journey is
essential.
Dlamini said, ‘While the decision to reopen was based on the premise that our economy
cannot stay in lockdown forever, we cannot in any way let up on the precautionary guidelines
in this fight. It is of paramount importance that while we gradually reopen the economy, we
still take individual responsibility for our health.’
On Thursday (11 June 2020) it was reported that Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi went into
self-isolation after her secretary tested positive for coronavirus. Nkosi was tested and found
to be negative.

Swaziland schools to reopen from coronavirus lockdown but Govt. admits infections
and deaths surging
25 June 2020

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government is to reopen schools from coronavirus lockdown even
though it admits the number of infections and deaths is increasing.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini called the increase in cases a ‘surge’ in a statement on
Tuesday (23 June 2020). ‘We are dealing with a highly unpredictable virus,’ he said.
He added, ‘We are dealing with an evolving situation which still presents a lot of
uncertainty.’
He also announced a U-turn on easing the lockdown across the kingdom. The wholesale
distribution of alcohol would be once again banned. It had previously been banned and then
unbanned. Swaziland has been in partial lockdown since 27 March 2020.
A total of 674 people had tested positive and seven died in Swaziland of coronavirus
(COVID-19) as of 23 June 2020, according to official Ministry of Health figures. By 1 June
there had been 293 confirmed cases and three deaths.
Dlamini said, ‘Over the past two weeks we have seen an unfortunate surge of positive cases
in the country which suggests that we have to review some of these easing measures to avoid
overwhelming our health system.’
The government has also reissued a declaration under the Disaster Management Act and is
reviewing its COVID-19 response plan. The Prime Minister said the government did not have
money to implement its plan and appealed to international donors for help.
Dlamini said schools would start to reopen on 6 July 2020. Previously a date of 1 July had
been set.
Dlamini said, ‘Educational Institutions remain a critical sector towards socio-economic
development. Schools and Educational Institutions cannot remain closed for ever. If the
academic year is not ended it may suggest bigger challenges later on as schools may not have
the capacity to enrol new Grade 1 pupils. The system would be clogged up. One lost
academic year can lead to unprecedented socio-economic challenges such as gaps in labour
market skill-sets in subsequent years.’
He said schools would get guidelines on how to reopen safely. ‘Government’s focus is to
ensure and secure a safe and seamless transition back to quality teaching and learning,’ he
said.
Later, Ministry of Education and Training Principal Secretary Bertram Steward issued an
announcement calling all high school teachers in Swaziland to return to work on Monday to
undergo training ahead of the reopening.
Previously, Education and Training Minister Lady Howard-Mabuza said that teachers were
contractually obligated to make up for the lost learning time as they had been receiving full
payment of salaries.
Separately, she told the Swazi House of Assembly schools needed E56 million (US$3.2
million) to reopen to purchase materials, including personal protective equipment. A budget
has been submitted to the Cabinet.
The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) has already drawn up a list of
issues it wanted addressed before schools could safely reopen. They included schools to be
disinfected, all children tested for coronavirus, a nurse on site at every school and the

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

transportation of learners to conform with social distance requirements. The marking of class
work and sharing of books should be also be discontinued, SNAT said.
SNAT has also said the government was shifting responsibility to ensure schools were safe to
individual teachers, headteachers and parent.

Swaziland teachers say Govt. plan to reopen schools from coronavirus lockdown unsafe
29 June 2020

Union leaders have urged the Swaziland (eSwatini) Government not to go ahead with plans to
reopen schools next week from coronavirus lockdown because it is unsafe to do so.
The Swazi Ministry of Education and Training instructed high school teachers to return to
work on Monday (29 June 2020) ahead of a partial reopening of schools starting 6 July.
The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) reported it had visited 20 schools
in rural areas across the kingdom and found none met the minimum safety requirement to
reopen. It said government was not assisting these schools to put proper measures in place.
SNAT also reported it found 847 teachers said they had underlying health conditions and
should shelter during the present coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
In a message to teachers SNAT urged them not to report for work until safety measures were
in place.
The message said in part, ‘SNAT really wants schools to reopen for teaching and learning to
continue. However, as a human rights organisation we cannot put ourselves in a position
where we will find ourselves infecting one another with the virus. We cannot allow a
situation where we will find ourselves even infecting the learners whom we want to impart
knowledge to.’
SNAT had previously drawn up a list of issues it wanted addressed before schools could
safely reopen. They included schools to be disinfected, all children tested for coronavirus, a
nurse on site at every school and the transportation of learners to conform with social
distance requirements. The marking of class work and sharing of books should be also be
discontinued, SNAT said.
Schools have been closed in Swaziland since 18 March.
Minister of Education and Training Lady Howard-Mabuza told the House of Assembly that
E56 million (US$3.2 million) was needed to pay for the school reopening. That money has
yet to be released by the government.
The number of deaths from coronavirus in Swaziland nearly doubled to 11 in the past week,
according to official Ministry of Health figures. As of 28 June, 781 people had tested
positive.

Coronavirus: King Mswati III

Swaziland King reappears in public after months to make coronavirus address

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

7 May 2020

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), made his first public
appearance on Thursday (7 May 2020) since the start of the coronavirus crisis with a
television address from the Ludzidzini Royal Residence.

King Mswati III makes his first public appearance since the coronavirus crisis began. Picture: Govt. of eSwatini

In late March a key ally of the King, Lusendvo Fakudze, the Ludzidzini Palace Governor,
confirmed to the Swaziland News, an online newspaper, that the King was in social isolation
because of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The News reported at the time that Fakudze said, ‘Currently, no visitors are allowed to see the
King, our only focus now is to educate the public about this epidemic as per the command of
the King.’
He gave no further details about the King’s health which led to speculation about his
condition.
In April, the Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini made reference to reports on social
media and in international media that King Mswati was ‘critically ill’. He said, ‘His Majesty
is well and healthy. Those misleading the nation about his health will be dealt with in line
with the law.’
This was a indirect reference to Zweli Martin Dlamini, the editor of the Swaziland News, an
online newspaper, who had been vigorously reporting the King’s absence. The eSwatini
Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported that police were searching for
him.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Police raided Dlamini’s home but he was not there. Police reportedly harassed his wife and
two small children. The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a pro-democracy group banned
in Swaziland, reported, ‘Dlamini was first subjected to police torture two months ago and told
to stop reporting about the king and the royal family. The editor has now been declared a
wanted person by the police.’

In his address to the kingdom, King Mswati made a passing reference to his absence from
public life but gave no details as to whether he had been ill.
He called on all people to respect the seriousness of coronavirus and follow his government’s
health guidelines to always wash their hands with soap and water, use hand sanitisers, keep
social distance, avoid shaking of hands and stay at home if there was no pressing need to be
outside.
But, answering questions from reporters after the address he supported the use of herbal
drinks in the fight against the virus.
The Independent News, eSwatini, reported, the King said, ‘COVID-19 is a novel disease,
anything, could it be natural (herbs), can be used to treat the disease.’ It added, ‘He
encouraged researchers in the country to put their minds together in a move to come with a
natural or herbal remedy for COVID-19.’

Swaziland King shows double standards about keeping safe from coronavirus
8 May 2020

The Swaziland (eSwatini) absolute monarch King Mswati III in a television address on
Thursday (7 May 2020) told his people that in order to combat coronavirus (COVID-19) they
should wear facemasks. He also said, ‘It is also important that we do not spread this disease.
We should all take the responsibility to protect ourselves and those around us.’
These photographs are from the King’s private birthday party on 19 April 2020. They were
taken from a home movie posted on social media at the time. In one, the King has his face
inches away from his birthday cake and he is blowing out candles. In so doing he would have
been spreading hundreds and thousands of microscopic droplets all over the cake. The cake
would then be eaten by his guests.
The second photo shows those around him are indeed wearing facemasks.
It looks like the King’s address to his people had an element of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ about
it.
Richard Rooney

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

2: HEALTH

New report of Swaziland hospital crisis as Govt fails to pay suppliers, patients left unfed
28 June 2020

Patients at a major hospital in Swaziland (eSwatini) were left without food for at least a day
because a catering company refused to deliver until the government met its unpaid bills.
It is one of a long list of cases in the kingdom where patients have been neglected over the
past years because of the financial crisis.
The latest case was at Mbabane Government Hospital. Patients were left without food
overnight and had to take medicines on an empty stomach. The company resumed supplies
when part of its bill was paid.
The Swazi Observer reported patients went without food on 24 and 25 June 2020 until they
were fed rice and soya mince.
It quoted a source saying, ‘Since April, the beginning of the government’s financial year,
government had not been paying the service providers to such an extent that the catering
company coffers couldn’t provide anymore from its depleted resources.’
Mbhuti Dlamini, Director of Operations of Capitol Caterers, the company concerned, told the
Observer, ‘We had an issue with sources of payment to deliver, but that has since been
resolved.’
The length of time the patients were without food is disputed, the Observer reported.
In July 2019 food collection points were set up across Mbabane to collect donations to feed
patients at Mbabane Government Hospital when patients were left hungry after the
government failed to pay food suppliers.
The Emergency Disaster Network collected bags of beans, rice, chicken portions and sugar.
Cash donations were also collected.
The financial crisis in Swaziland has been growing in recent years. In July 2019 The
Observer reported Minister of Health Minister, Lizzy Nkosi, ‘has explained that some of the
shortages were as a result of suppliers cutting supply because of outstanding payments, which
runs into millions of Emalangeni’.
It was reported in June 2019 that the food shortage had also hit two other public hospitals,
Hlatikhulu Government Hospital and Nhlangano Health Centre, both in the Shiselweni
Region.
The food problem is one of many facing the health service in Swaziland which is caused by
the government’s inability to pay suppliers. The crisis was raging long before the present
coronavirus crisis hit Swaziland.
Last week it was reported that hospitals and clinics were short of about 40 major medicines,
including antibiotics and painkillers, to treat a variety of conditions including the flu, arthritis,
fungus infection, nausea, vomiting and mental health issues.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

The financial crisis in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch has been
continuing for years. At least six children were reported to have died from diarrhoea in
August 2019. Drugs to treat them were unavailable.
In August 2019 the Ministry of Health confirmed in its first quarter performance report
delivered to the Swazi parliament that drugs had run out and there were shortages of nurses,
midwives and other health professionals. Fuel frequently ran out and ambulances and other
vehicles had broken down.

Part of the report stated, ‘While most patients were negatively affected, highly impacted
patients were those on psychiatric medication, which stocked out for longer periods and those
taking anti-hypertensive treatment. The main cause for stock-outs is failure to pay suppliers
on time due to the fiscal challenges facing the government.’
See also

Another hospital in Swaziland runs out of food for patients as Govt bills go unpaid
Swaziland nurses plan protest march over lack of coronavirus equipment
Swaziland health crisis getting worse as budgets cut. Rural areas most affected
More deaths in Swaziland as government fails to pay medicine suppliers

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

3: HUNGER

Malnutrition in Swaziland set to rise to hit quarter of total population


23 April 2020

Malnutrition in Swaziland (eSwatini) is set to rise so that nearly a quarter of the total
population will need help getting food, a United Nations’ agency reported.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said 300,000 people will be affected. The
total population of Swaziland is about 1.3 million.
The FAO said the present coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis would increase the numbers in
danger, but before the pandemic an estimated 232,000 people needed help.
In a report just published FAO said, ‘According to the latest report of the Vulnerability
Assessment Committee (VAC), in 2019, an estimated 232,000 people, about 25 percent of
the rural population, were estimated to be food insecure and in need of humanitarian
assistance during the October 2019-March 2020 period.
‘This figure is almost double the level compared to the previous year, when an estimated
122,000 people faced acute food insecurity. Most of the food insecure population in 2019/20
was concentrated in eastern Lubombo and southern Shiselweni regions, where cereal
production shortfalls occurred in 2019.
‘Looking further ahead, despite an expected average harvest in 2020 that would stabilize food
security conditions in the next months, the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic could
cause an increase in the prevalence of malnutrition.
‘The effects of the pandemic are expected to be primarily channeled through a reduction in
economic activities and associated income losses, while potential breakdowns in food supply
chains is an additional concern for food security across the country. A recent analysis by the
Government and humanitarian partners indicated that almost 300,000 people are at risk of
acute food security due to the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.’
On Wednesday (22 April 2020) the Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini pledged his
government would feed 300,000 people in 63,000 households across all four regions of the
kingdom in the next two weeks. He has not publicly stated how he intends to do this.
Swaziland is broke and the money to purchase food is not available.
Swaziland has relied on international aid to feed the most vulnerable of the population for
many years. The World Food Programme (WFP) is one of the major agencies tackling the
problem. In 2019 it tried to raise US$17.4 million from donors but reported it had fallen more
than US$9 million short in its fundraising. It collected only 47 percent of the money it hoped
to raise.
In a May 2019 report WFP said ‘an estimated 22 percent of the population has been food
insecure in the past ten years’.
It added, ‘Chronic malnutrition is a main concern in eSwatini: stunting affects 26 percent of
children under the age of five.’

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

WFP reported, ‘Seventy percent of the rural population live below the national poverty line
and 25 percent are extremely poor. Eswatini has a very high HIV prevalence, affecting 26
percent of the population between the ages of 15-49. Life expectancy is 49 years, and 45
percent of children are orphaned or vulnerable.’
See also

World Food Program falls short in fundraising as hunger grips Swaziland and King spends
lavishly on himself

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

4: MEDIA FREEDOM

‘No media freedom’ in Swaziland, Reporters Without Borders annual report states
22 April 2020

There is ‘no media freedom’ in Swaziland (eSwatini) according to the Reporters Without
Borders 2020 World Press Freedom Index just published.
It described the kingdom as an ‘absolute monarchy that prevents journalists from working
freely’.

In its annual review of press freedom around the world, the group reported, ‘No court is
allowed to prosecute or try members of the government, but any criticism of the regime is
liable to be the subject of a prosecution. Far from being an independent protector of rights
and freedoms, the judicial system is often used to undermine journalism. In 2019, for
example, a court decision banned articles about the circumstances in which a new bank
obtained a licence to operate in the kingdom. A ubiquitous obsession with secrecy makes it
hard to access information and the state wields total control over the media.

‘The king’s speechwriter is the editor in chief of the country’s oldest and most popular
newspaper. The only privately-owned TV channel belongs to the royal family and criticism
of the authorities is severely punished thanks to the existence of dozens of draconian laws
under which reporters can be prosecuted.
‘Harassment, intimidation and physical violence against journalists are all common and result
in almost constant self-censorship. In January 2018, an investigative journalist had to flee to
South Africa after being threatened in connection with an article about the king’s alleged
involvement in a corruption case. His newspaper was closed on the king’s orders. Several
photojournalists were also attacked, including by police.’
King Mswati III rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch and freedoms speech, assembly and
association are severely limited. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and
the king chooses the prime minister and government as well as top judges and civil servants.
Media freedom is severely limited and investigative journalists live with constant harassment.
In the past month alone there have been a number of attacks on the Swaziland News, an
online newspaper. Mfomfo Nkambule a comment writer reported in March 2020 that he had
been tortured by police after he wrote articles critical of the king.
The editor of the Swaziland News Zweli Martin Dlamini fled to neighbouring South Africa in
the same month for the second time. He said he had been arrested and tortured by Swazi
police who accused him of sedition.
Also, on 7 February 2020, The Swaziland News reported Dlamini was being harassed and
receiving death threats from King Mswati’s first born daughter Princess Sikhanyiso, who is
the Minister of Information Communication and Technology.

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Dlamini had previously fled to South Africa in fear of his life in 2018. He had received death
threats from a local businessman and his newspaper Swaziland Shopping was shut down by
the Swazi government.
The Swaziland News is one of a number of websites and social media outlets using the
internet to advocate for democratic reform in Swaziland. In January 2020 National
Commissioner of Police William Dlamini said police would hunt down and arrest people who
criticised King Mswati on social media. He made the announcement in a written statement
published in media across Swaziland.
A report compiled by Swazi Media Commentary in May 2019 detailing attacks on journalists
in Swaziland during the previous 12 months revealed they had been beaten by state forces
and teachers as they tried to cover public events. Two were detained at the Qatar Embassy in
Mbabane, the Swazi capital, when they went to question a diplomat. A government minister
called for a journalist to be arrested for taking photographs of ministerial cars parked in a
public place. A former newspaper editor was questioned by police about allegations he had
interviewed members of banned political organisations back in 2011.
See also

Swaziland journalist ‘tortured by police after criticising absolute monarch in newspaper


articles’
Newspaper editor flees Swaziland for second time after arrest and police torture
‘Attempt made to poison journalist critic of Swaziland’s absolute monarch,’ editor says

Swaziland: No Press Freedom


3 May 2020

Today (3 May 2020) is World Press Freedom Day, when we come together to recognise the
importance of journalism in a free society. Swaziland (eSwatini) is not free. It is ruled by an
absolute monarch King Mswati III, who picks the Prime Minister, members of the
Government, as well as top judges and civil servants.
Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and groups that call for democratic
reform are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
Nearly all broadcast media (radio and TV) are state-controlled. One of the two daily
newspaper groups in the kingdom is in effect owned by the king. The other is cowed and
practises self-censorship.
There is now a growing number of websites trying to offer independent journalism. They
have been under attack from the Swazi state. Police and army have harassed, tortured and
arrested journalists. We should support them not only on World Press Freedom Day, but
throughout the year.
Below are links to some stories about the lack of media freedom in Swaziland published by
the Swazi Media Commentary website over the past month

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Richard Rooney

Teacher held by Swaziland police as free speech clampdown intensifies


Wife of Swaziland King’s critic seeks court order to stop police harassing, beating her
‘No media freedom’ in Swaziland, Reporters Without Borders annual report states
Swaziland journalist critical of absolute monarch, beaten, arrested, faces treason charge
Swaziland journalist ‘tortured by police after criticising absolute monarch in newspaper
articles’
Newspaper editor flees Swaziland for second time after arrest and police torture

Justice Minister misleads world over media freedom in Swaziland


1 June 2020

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Minister of Justice Pholile Shakantu misled the world when she
claimed that the kingdom enjoyed media freedom, enshrined by the constitution.
She was responding to an article by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) about
newspaper editor Zweli Martin Dlamini who fled Swaziland after police raided his home. He
said he was being sought because of articles he had written that were considered seditious.
The New York-based CPJ had previously called on Swaziland to ‘stop intimidating and
harassing local journalists for reporting critically about King Mswati III’. It added they
should be allowed to write freely without the threat of treason charges.
In a statement published on the eSwatini Government social media platforms Shakantu
claimed it was a ‘misconception’ that ‘we are a nation that persecutes journalists who criticise
the government’. She added that the 2005 Swaziland Constitution guaranteed ‘freedom of
expression including freedom of the media’.
Shakantu is correct that journalists often criticise government action, but the bigger point is
that they are not allowed to criticise the absolute monarch King Mswati III.
As recently as 1 May 2020 Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, President of the Swaziland Economic
Freedom Fighters (EFF), was arrested and charged under the Sedition and Subversive
Activities Act 1938 for comments he made in an a article published by Swati Newsweek, a
news website.
His ‘crime’ was not writing an article, it was simply for expressing an opinion to a journalist.
This is what he was quoted as saying, ‘We want government to change people’s lives, the
Swazi Monarchy must know its place. We respect the King, but respect is earned and when
pushed into a corner; we will be forced to retaliate. We unapologetically stand for multi-party
democracy.’
In April, Eugene Dube, the Swati Newsweek editor, was arrested, tortured by police and
threatened with a charge of treason for publishing the report. He fled to South Africa.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

King Mswati rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch. He chooses the Prime Minister and
government ministers as well as top judges and civil servants. Political parties cannot take
part in elections and groups campaigning for democratic reforms are banned under the
Suppression of Terrorism Act.
King Mswati’s lavish lifestyle has come under scrutiny in media outside of the kingdom. He
rules over a population of 1.3 million people in a kingdom about the size of the US state of
New Jersey. He has 13 palaces, two private aircraft and a fleet of Rolls-Royce cars and other
expensive cars.
He wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds weighing 6 kg, at
his 50th birthday party in April 2018. He received E15 million (US$1.2 million) in cheques, a
gold dining room suite and a gold lounge suite among his birthday gifts. At the time the
World Food Program said it could not raise the US$1.1 million it needed to feed starving
children in the kingdom.
Meanwhile, seven in ten of the people in Swaziland have incomes less than the equivalent of
US$2 per day.
The media in Swaziland never criticise the King. Nearly all television and radio is controlled
by the state and the government directs the news agenda at Swazi TV. The King in effect
owns the eSwatini Observer, one of the only two newspaper groups in Swaziland.
In recent years a number of independent internet sites have begun reporting about Swaziland.
Most are based outside of the kingdom.
There is ample evidence to show that media freedom is lacking in Swaziland. In April 2020
in its annual World Press Freedom Index Reporters Without Borders recorded there was ‘no
media freedom’ in Swaziland. It reported, ‘The King’s speechwriter is the editor in chief of
the country’s oldest and most popular newspaper.’
In March 2020 Swaziland journalist and former government cabinet minister Mfomfo
Nkambule said he had been tortured by police after he wrote articles for the online newspaper
Swaziland News that were critical of the King. Nkambule, a long-standing critic of the Swazi
political system, said police also took electronic gadgets and threatened to charge him with
‘high treason’ and ‘sedition’.
In January 2020 National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini announced in a written
statement published in media across Swaziland that his officers would hunt down and arrest
people who criticised the King on social media.

Dlamini said there were ‘highly insolent and morality devoid characters disseminating
seditious, slanderous and very insultive statements about the country’s authorities via social
media’. He added, ‘The intent and motive of these statements is seemingly to vilify and pour
scorn on the country’s authorities, which we find completely unacceptable and an insult to
the entire nation.’
This was not the first time the Swazi state has threatened social media users. In March 2018,
Swaziland’s then Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini hinted his government might try to
restrict access to social media, but he told senators there was nothing police could do ‘at the
moment’ about the posts.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

The Swazi Observer reported at the time, ‘The premier said it was unfortunate that social
media was a very complex phenomenon, which no single person or organisation could
control.’

In March 2012, Swaziland’s Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Chief Mgwagwa
Gamedze said he would use the law against people who criticised Swaziland on the internet.
He told the Swazi Senate that he would use what he called ‘international laws’ to bring the
internet critics to task. He was reacting to concerns from Senators that the internet sites
showed ‘disrespect’ to the King.
In 2010 Prince Mahlaba, a senior member of the Swazi Royal Family, publicly called for
journalists who opposed the King Mswati to be killed. His threat became an international
scandal. The CPJ rallied behind the Swazi media and condemned Mahlaba. Internet sites
from every continent carried news criticising the prince and by extension the whole
undemocratic regime in Swaziland.
Another case to receive international condemnation was the jailing in 2014 of magazine
editor Bheki Makhubu and writer and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko who were
sentenced to two years in jail after writing and publishing articles in the Nation, a monthly
magazine, that were critical of the Swazi judiciary. They were released by the Swazi Supreme
Court in June 2015 after they had served 15 months of their sentences.
Richard Rooney

Swaziland journalist death threat after article supporting absolute monarch’s regime
22 June 2020

A Swaziland (eSwatini) journalist received a death threat after he wrote an article in support
of the political regime headed by absolute monarch King Mswati III.
Welcome Dlamini of the Times of eSwatini reported to police that he had received text
messages and one threatened him with death. The text referred to an article he had written for
the paper supporting the local tinkhundla system of government. One text told him to stop
‘lambasting progressive / political parties’.
The tinkhundla system in Swaziland does not allow political parties to stand in elections.
King Mswati appoints the prime minister and government. He also chooses top judges and
civil servants. Groups advocating multi-party democracy are banned under the Suppression of
Terrorism Act.
The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) the best known of the
prodemocracy groups and one of those banned dissociated itself from the death threat.
Police are investigating.
Journalists are often under attack in Swaziland but it is usually those criticising the regime
who suffer. At present Eugene Dube, editor of the website Swati Newsweek, is in exile in
South Africa after he wrote articles considered critical of the King.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, the Economic Freedom Fighters of Swaziland President, is on bail


awaiting trail charged with sedition following comments he made in an interview with Swati
Newsweek. He told the High court he had been tortured by police.
In March 2020 Swaziland journalist and former government cabinet minister Mfomfo
Nkambule said he was tortured by police after he wrote articles critical of King Mswati for
the online newspaper Swaziland News.
Also in March 2020 the editor of Swaziland News Zweli Martin Dlamini told the South
African Broadcasting Corporation’s Media Monitor programme that police raided his home
after he published articles in his newspaper. He said police tied him up and suffocated him
with a plastic bag.

He was speaking from South Africa and said he feared returning to Swaziland.
See also

Swaziland journalist in exile after criticising king gets global press freedom honour
Swaziland journalist critical of King flees, hides in forest five days

Swaziland journalist critical of absolute monarch, beaten, arrested, faces treason charge
24 April 2020

Eugene Dube, a journalist critical of King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland
(eSwatini), has been beaten by police, arrested and is facing a treason charge.
Dube who published an online newspaper called Swati Newsweek was arrested on Thursday
(23 April 2020). The Swaziland News, another online newspaper that advocates for
democracy in the kingdom, reported he ‘sustained head injuries after a battalion of armed
police arrived at his home in Nhlangano’.
It said police were ‘seeking answers regarding critical articles he published about King
Mswati’. It added Dube did not realise they were police because they were not in uniform and
he tried to escape through a window.
The Swaziland News reported Dube was taken to Nhlangano Police Station and questioned
about two articles headlined ‘King reckless on Swazis health’ and ‘Removing King is
possible’.
Dube told the newspaper, ‘The police informed me that I was facing a treason charge for
publishing the articles about the King and after the questioning I was taken to the Magistrate
court where they advised that I confess to committing the crime. I politely asked the
magistrate to at least allow me to seek services of a lawyer.’
Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati as an absolute monarch. Political parties are barred from
taking part in elections. The king appoints the prime minister and government as well as top
judges and civil servants. Groups calling for democratic reform are banned under the
Suppression of Terrorism Act.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Eugene Dube

Dube is not the only journalist under threat for reporting about the king. Last month Zweli
Martin Dlamini, the editor of the Swaziland News, fled to neighbouring South Africa after he
had been arrested and tortured by Swazi police who accused him of sedition.
Dlamini had previously fled to South Africa in fear of his life in 2018. He had received death
threats from a local businessman and his newspaper Swaziland Shopping was shut down by
the Swazi government.
Earlier this week the group Reporters Without Borders in its annual World Press Freedom
Index reported there was ‘no media freedom’ in Swaziland. It said, ‘Far from being an
independent protector of rights and freedoms, the judicial system is often used to undermine
journalism.’

It added, ‘Harassment, intimidation and physical violence against journalists are all common
and result in almost constant self-censorship.’

Swaziland journalist critical of King flees, hides in forest five days


15 May 2020

Eugene Dube, the journalist critical of King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland
(eSwatini), who was beaten by police and is facing a treason charge hid in a forest for five
days as he made his escape.
Dube who edits an online newspaper called Swati Newsweek wrote and published a number
of articles critical of the king and calling for democracy.
Writing in his own newspaper on Friday (15 May 2020) Dube told of his escape from police
and his flight for freedom.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

He said, ‘I find myself on the police’s WANTED list for giving a platform to a pro-
democracy movement to air their views on the political situation in Swaziland.
‘The Swaziland police turned my home into a war zone, fighting a journalist armed with only
a pen. They came four times armed with guns within a month. I had to sleep in a forest after I
was assaulted by police during their first arrival. This was during their allegedly “lawful
raid”. I was subjected to extreme harassment; hence fleeing was the only remedy.
‘I had no food, no shelter in the forest where I was hiding. I had to sleep in the forest in fear
of police’s continued torture and arrest. Cops were coming to my home every now and then.
If I had committed a crime, they were free to charge me instead of harassment.’
Dube said Police Superintendent Clement Sihlongonyane based in Mbabane Police
Headquarters told him ‘When we come back to you Eugene, we will leave you reeling in a
pool of blood. Stop criticizing the king.’
Dube spent more than five days hiding in the forest. ‘The first two days I had a loaf of bread.
I was alerted that police were in my home while I had gone to buy bread. Hence I ended up
with the loaf of bread in hiding in the forest.’ He later managed to get more bread.
Further details of Dube’s whereabouts are not being made public.
Swazi police also charged Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, President of the Swaziland Economic
Freedom Fighters (EFF), with sedition for comments he made in an a article published by
Swati Newsweek.
In the report Ngcamphalala was quoted saying, ‘We want government to change people’s
lives, the Swazi Monarchy must know its place. We respect the King, but respect is earned
and when pushed into a corner; we will be forced to retaliate. We unapologetically stand for
multi-party democracy.’
Dube wrote, ‘Cops tried to force me to testify against the EFF leader. This will put my
journalism career at risk. I cannot interview a person today, and then once the story is
published, the person is arrested. How can I be expected to testify against the same person?
No, that cannot happen. It has never happened before that a journalist had to testify in such a
political case in Swaziland. Cops are just persecuting the Swati Newsweek for exposing
failures of King Mswati’s government. Our approach of promoting democracy has infuriated
the Swazi Royal Family.’

Swaziland journalist in exile after criticising king gets global press freedom honour
16 June 2020

Eugene Dube, the Swaziland journalist who was forced to flee the after he published articles
critical of absolute monarch King Mswati III, has been honoured by a global media freedom
group.
Reporters Without Borders (RWB) named him one of 30 coronavirus ‘information heroes’
who it described as ‘whistleblowers and media outlets whose courage, perseverance or
capacity to innovate has helped to circulate reliable and vital information during the Covid-19
pandemic.’

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Explaining its decision RWB said, ‘After Covid-19 reached eSwatini (the former Swaziland),
the authorities warned journalists that criticism of King Mswati would be treated as “high
treason,” which is punishable by death. When Swati Newsweek website editor Eugene Dube
nonetheless published an article criticizing the kingdom’s handling of the health crisis, the
authorities raided his home and subjected him to such a lengthy, heavy-handed interrogation
that he fled to neighbouring South Africa.’

Swaziland democracy leader charged with sedition for criticising absolute monarch on
news website
3 May 2020

Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, President of the Economic Freedom Fighters-Swaziland (EFF), has


been charged with sedition for criticisms he made of absolute monarch King Mswati III on
the Swati Newsweek website.
Last month, Eugene Dube, the Swati Newsweek editor, was arrested, tortured by police and
threatened with a charge of treason for publishing the report.
In the report Ngcamphalala was quoted saying, ‘We want government to change people’s
lives, the Swazi Monarchy must know its place. We respect the King, but respect is earned
and when pushed into a corner; we will be forced to retaliate. We unapologetically stand for
multi-party democracy.’
In Swaziland (eSwatini), King Mswati chooses the Prime Minister and government ministers
as well as top judges and civil servants. Political parties cannot take part in elections and
groups campaigning for democratic reforms are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism
Act.
Ngcamphalala was interviewed by Swati Newsweek for a report on the Economic Freedom
Fighters-Swaziland which had recently set up in the kingdom. He said the party was inspired
by the socio-economic situation of the people of eSwatini. Seven in ten of the 1.3 million
population live in abject poverty.

He said members came from a number of occupations and also included student activists and
trade unionists.
In the report published on 14 April 2020, he said, ‘What sets us apart from the other parties is
our manner of approach. We believe in a table of dialogue through mobilizing people from
the streets at grassroots level. We are ready to fight for the rights of workers, students and the
unemployed as we are a militant, anti-capitalist and anti-dictatorship movement. We are an
all-inclusive movement, and we will use the constitution where it serves justice but challenge
it when it does not serve the people.’

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Ncamiso Ngcamphalala,

Ngcamphalala was charged under the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act of 1938.
The charge sheet said he ‘did unlawfully promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between the
inhabitants of eSwatini by uttering seditious words which then published, printed, or
distributed or reproduced through a Swati Newsweek Newspaper’.

Swazi state opposes bail for activist who criticised absolute monarch, faces sedition charge
27 May 2020
Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, the Swaziland (eSwatini) democracy activist arrested for sedition
after he was quoted in a news report criticising absolute monarch King Mswati III, had an
application for bail opposed at the Swazi High Court.
Detailed papers have yet to be filed in the case. Ngcamphalala asked to be released on bail
until the court case was heard. In Swaziland, defendants are often held in jail for many years
awaiting trial. He told the court his two children had been reduced ‘to mere beggars’ while he
was locked up.
Ngcamphalala was arrested on 1 May 2020 and charged with an offence under the Sedition
and Subversive Activities Act 1938. The bail application is still pending.
Separately, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe) has drawn attention to two
Swaziland journalists, Zweli Martin Dlamini and Eugene Dube who fled the kingdom to
South Africa, fearing their lives were in danger.

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In statement it said, ‘Dlamini, the editor of Swaziland News, had in April written a story that
King Mswati had contracted COVID-19. The police reportedly visited his home where they
allegedly harassed his family members.
‘On the other hand, Royal Police visited Dube’s house, at least three times, seeking to
interrogate him because the authorities were upset that he was reporting about the activities of
an opposition group.
‘The police, on the other hand, claim they wanted to arrest Dube, the editor of Swati
Newsweek because he had contravened COVID-19 lockdown regulations. He was detained
for nine hours on 23 April, but Dube said the police did not question him on the alleged
contravention of lockdown regulations.’
‘We urge the eSwatini authorities to guarantee the safety of the two journalists.’
Dube has written about how he fled from the Swazi police and hid out in a forest for five
days.

Swaziland activist ‘tortured by police’ after criticising absolute monarch King Mwsati
15 June 2020

The Swaziland democracy activist arrested and charged with sedition after he criticised King
Mswati III, the absolute monarch, said he was tortured by police.
Ncamiso Ngcamphalala said he almost died after he was tied with a rope to a bench and
suffocated with a plastic bag for nearly three hours at Mafutseni police station.
Ngcamphalala, the Economic Freedom Fighters of Swaziland President, told Swati
Newsweek, a news website, ‘I could not breathe for nearly three hours. I urinated and fainted
as the close to 25 cops tortured me both physical and emotional.’
He also made some of his allegations in documents sent to the Swazi High Court.
He told Swati Newsweek, ‘They tied me with a rope and assaulted me with open hands. They
then came with gloves they used when suffocating me whilst they covered my face with a
plastic bag.’
Ngcamphalala has since been released on bail. A date for his trial has not been set.
In March 2020 Swaziland journalist and former government cabinet minister Mfomfo
Nkambule said he was tortured by police after he wrote articles critical of King Mswati for
the online newspaper Swaziland News.
In an interview he told the newspaper that police raided his home and seized electronic
gadgets. He said he was taken to Manzini police regional headquarters where he was harassed
and tortured.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

He told the Swaziland News, ‘They tortured me saying I risk being charged with high treason
and under the terrorism law.’ He said police complained about articles he wrote critical of the
political system.
Also in March 2020 the editor of Swaziland News Zweli Martin Dlamini told the South
African Broadcasting Corporation’s Media Monitor programme that police raided his home
after he published articles in his newspaper. He said police tied him up and suffocated him
with a plastic bag.
He was speaking from South Africa and said he feared returning to Swaziland.

Teacher held by Swaziland police as free speech clampdown intensifies


2 May 2020

A teacher was arrested and threatened by Swaziland (eSwatini) police because of comments
he made on social media, in the latest in a continuing clampdown on free speech in the
kingdom.
Majahembuso Dlamini, 35, a teacher at Nhlangano was arrested by army and para-military
police on Saturday morning (2 May 2020). He was taken to the local police station.
In a statement his trade union the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) said
they were ‘armed to the teeth’. Police had been searching for Dlamini since Thursday when
he posted comments on WhatsApp about a road accident that day that claimed the lives of 11
police officers and a truck driver.
SNAT reported Dlamini said that at the police station he was sworn at and threatened. He
believed only the unexpected arrival at the station of the Regional Commander saved him. ‘I
had been told I’ll spend the rest of the night in their holding cells where I was to be taught a
lesson,’ he said.
SNAT officials attended the police station. Secretary-General Sikelela Dlamini said, ‘We
demanded that they provide evidence to substantiate the essence of their conduct and they
failed. We can’t have a situation whereby state security agents are a law unto themselves,
intimidating our members as they do.’
In its statement SNAT said, ‘It is reported that upon releasing him, a word of caution was
sent to the teacher by the cops as they intimated that more Swazis are yet to face wrath of the
cops.’
Swaziland has seen an unprecedented clampdown on free speech on websites and social
media in recent weeks. On Thursday the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ) called on Swaziland to ‘stop intimidating and harassing local journalists for reporting
critically about King Mswati III’. It added they should allow to write freely without the threat
of treason charges.
The call came after police raided the home of Eugene Dube, the editor and publisher of the
privately-owned news website Swati Newsweek, and seized his three mobile phones, a laptop,
and work documents.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Majahembuso Dlamini

Dube was taken to the same police station as Majahembuso Dlamini, Nhlangano, where they
interrogated him about articles he published about King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as an
absolute monarch.
Also, on 24 April 24, a police officer in Matsapha went to the home of Mfomfo Nkhambule,
a Swati Newsweek reporter who wrote one of the articles that Dube was questioned about.
They took him to a local police station and interrogated him for two hours.
Dube told CPJ that police were unable to find Mthobisi Ntjangase, the reporter who had
written the other article about the king.
The journalists said they were questioned about an 8 April opinion piece by Nkhambule,
entitled “King Reckless on Swazis’ Health,” which accused the government of failing to
adequately respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and an 14 April article by Ntjangase, based
on an interview with Ncamiso Ngcamphalala the president of the Economic Freedom
Fighters of Swaziland, a new political group, who said that ‘removing the king is possible’.
Ngcamphala was himself arrested by Swaziland police on Saturday (2 May 2020), according
to reports on social media. At the time of compiling this report no further details were
available.
After his release, police warned Dube that their investigation was still ongoing and said they
would return if he continued to criticize the king. Dube said that they kept his devices for
further investigation.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Police commissioner William Dlamini on 24 April threatened that authorities would come
down hard on journalists who wrote negatively about Mswati III and said the law would take
its course, the privately-owned weekly publication Independent News reported.
In a statement sent to CPJ, government spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini alleged that Dube
operated an unregistered media outlet and denied that the journalists were being persecuted
for criticizing the king.

Wife of Swaziland King’s critic seeks court order to stop police harassing, beating her
28 April 2020

The wife of Zweli Martin Dlamini, the Swaziland (eSwatini) editor and journalist being
hunted by police for writing and publishing articles critical of absolute monarch King Mswati
III, has asked magistrates to issue a restraining order to stop police harassing and beating her.
Nompendulo Nokuthula Mkhonta filed an urgent application at the Mbabane Magistrates
Court on Monday (27 April 2020).
In her application she said a group of eight police officers entered her home on 10 April
seeking her husband. They were ‘armed to the teeth’ and did not have a warrant.
They took her to the national police headquarters where she was handcuffed and suffocated
with a plastic bag over her head. They wanted to know the whereabouts of her husband who
is in hiding.

She said police threatened to return to her home at a later date.


Earlier this month in an annual report the group Reporters Without Borders concluded there
was no media freedom in Swaziland.
Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and King Mswati chooses the prime
minister and cabinet ministers. He also appoints top judges and civil servants. Groups
advocating for democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
Police have stepped up their campaign against online newspapers and social media that are
calling for reforms. Zweli Martin Dlamini, the editor of the Swaziland News, an online
newspaper, told the Voice of America radio on Monday that he was in hiding and feared
arrest.
He reportedly fled to neighbouring South Africa in March 2020 for the second time. He said
he had been arrested and tortured by Swazi police who accused him of sedition.
Also, on 7 February 2020, The Swaziland News reported Dlamini was being harassed and
receiving death threats from King Mswati’s first born daughter Princess Sikhanyiso, who is
the Minister of Information Communication and Technology.
Dlamini had previously fled to South Africa in fear of his life in 2018. He had received death
threats from a local businessman and his newspaper Swaziland Shopping was shut down by
the Swazi government.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Separately, on 23 April 2020 Eugene Dube, the editor of another online publication, Swati
Newsweek, was arrested and beaten by police. Police accused him of writing and publishing
critical articles about King Mswati. He could face a charge of treason.
At a press briefing last week the Swazi National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini
said police were investigating people who had critical websites online. He wanted to find out
who hosted them.

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5: LGBTI

Swaziland LGBTI rights group back in High Court in bid for legal recognition
24 June 2020

An LGBTI rights group in Swaziland (eSwatini) is back in the High Court to challenge a
ruling that it cannot be allowed to operate in the kingdom.
In September 2019, eSwatini’s Registrar of Companies refused to register the organisation
eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities (ESGM).
The Registrar argued that ESGM’s purpose was unlawful because same-sex sexual acts were
illegal in the kingdom. ESGM and its members filed an application to contest these claims.
They argued that the Registrar’s refusal violated ESGM members’ rights to dignity, to
associate and express themselves freely, to be treated equally and not to be discriminated
against.
The Registrar also said that the right to equality in the Constitution did not apply to lesbian,
gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people because sexual orientation and sex
were not mentioned explicitly in the Constitution.
Siboniso Nkambule, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade,
previously told the High Court in an affidavit, ‘May I state that every other sexual action
other than what is in the order of nature, capable of producing offsprings is unnatural and,
therefore, prohibited in terms of our laws.’
ESGM argues that the Registrar misrepresented the law and that his refusal to register ESGM
violated its members’ constitutional rights.
ESGM is represented by human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and supported by the Southern
Africa Litigation Centre (SALC). The case was due back in court on 24 June 2020.
In a statement ESGM said, ‘ESGM argues that the Registrar was wrong to assume that
ESGM’s purpose was illegal when there was no evidence of this. ESGM’s mission is to
protect and advance the interests of LGBTI persons through education and advocacy.
Eswatini’s laws do not make it a crime to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
‘The law is the same for everyone. It must treat us all fairly. Our laws also do not make it a
crime to campaign to protect the rights of LGBTI persons. We are free to speak our minds
and to associate with – spend time with – anybody we want to.
‘ESGM disagrees with the Registrar’s argument that our constitutional rights were not
violated by the Registrar. Constitutional rights in eSwatini belong to everybody, whatever our
difference. We all have the right to have our dignity respected and protected.’
ESGM is an organisation which aims to advance the protection of human rights of LGBTI
people in Swaziland which is a deeply conservative kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as an
absolute monarch. The King has in the past described homosexuality as ‘satanic’.

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Discrimination against LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) people in


Swaziland is widespread but in recent years they have become more visible and vocal. The
first ever Pride march took place in 2018.
Melusi Simelane, Founder and Executive Director of ESGM, writing in a report on LGBTI
experiences in Swaziland said LGBTI identities were not criminalised in Swaziland but
colonial laws that included the crime of sodomy still existed. He said this suggested
homosexuality was ‘simply about a sexual act rather than a broader issue of love and respect’.
He added the outdated laws violated constitutional rights. He said despite the law the state did
not prosecute consenting adults.
A report published in 2019 written by two academics and the Southern and East African
Research Collective on Health found evidence of serious human rights violations against
Swazi people who were LGBTI. The report concluded they suffered ‘social exclusion,
marginalisation and stigma’ because they were seen as being different from the rest of the
population.
This, the report said, ‘has a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people
who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex’.
In May 2016 four organisations jointly reported to the United Nations about LGBTI
discrimination in Swaziland. Part of their report stated, ‘LGBT[I]s 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 LGBT[I]s as against Swazi tradition and religion. There have
been several incidents where traditionalists and religious leaders have issued negative
statements about lesbians.’

Swaziland EU Ambassador joins LGBTI rights supporters at High Court for landmark
hearing
27 June 2020

A crowd of supporters in Swaziland (eSwatini), including the European Union Ambassador


to the kingdom Esmeralda Hernandez Aragones, picketed the High Court as a local LGBTI
rights group continued its fight for legal recognition.
The kingdom’s Registrar of Companies refused in September 2019 to recognise the eSwatini
Sexual and Gender Minorities (ESGM) and without this it cannot operate legally. ESGM
aims to advance the protection of human rights of LGBTI ((lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender, intersex) people in Swaziland.
Homosexual activities are illegal in Swaziland and King Mswati III, the absolute monarch, is
on record calling homosexuality ‘satanic’.
The court was due to hear the case on Wednesday (24 June 2020) but postponed it when
Judge Mumcy Dlamini recused herself because one of the government’s lawyers Mbuso
Dlamini is her brother-in-law.

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Supporters of LGBTI rights outside the High Court in Swaziland

Discrimination against LGBTI people is widespread in Swaziland. The Government says that
the ESGM is illegal because it encourages same-sex activity. It says the Swazi Constitution
does not specifically protect the rights of LGBTI people.
In a statement ahead of the hearing ESGM said, ‘ESGM argues that the Registrar was wrong
to assume that ESGM’s purpose was illegal when there was no evidence of this. ESGM’s
mission is to protect and advance the interests of LGBTI persons through education and
advocacy. Eswatini’s laws do not make it a crime to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
‘The law is the same for everyone. It must treat us all fairly. Our laws also do not make it a
crime to campaign to protect the rights of LGBTI persons. We are free to speak our minds
and to associate with – spend time with – anybody we want to.
‘ESGM disagrees with the Registrar’s argument that our constitutional rights were not
violated by the Registrar. Constitutional rights in eSwatini belong to everybody, whatever our
difference. We all have the right to have our dignity respected and protected.’
In an affidavit to the court Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and
Trade, Siboniso Nkambule, said, ‘The actions of eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities
constitute unnatural action which ought to be stopped in our society for purposes of our
young generation as well as the public interest.’
The High Court will resume on 23 July 2020.

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EU Ambassador to eSwatini, Esmeralda Hernandez Aragones interviewed by a journalist

Campaigners supporting the eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities in its bid for legal recognition

(All photos accessed from social media)


See also
Swaziland LGBTI group cannot be registered because ‘Constitution does not protect
against discrimination’
LGBTI discrimination in Swaziland leads to big mental health issues, report finds
LGBT Pride film shows what it’s like to live with prejudice and ignorance in Swaziland
LGBTI Pride gets global attention

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6: WORKERS’ RIGHTS

Swaziland among worst in world for workers’ right, new survey reveals
23 June 2020

Swaziland (eSwatini) has one of the worst workers’ rights records in the world, according to
the latest annual survey by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
The kingdom scored five in the Global Rights Index which depicts the world’s worst
countries for workers by rating 139 countries on a scale from one to five based on the degree
of respect for workers’ rights.
ITUC said, ‘Workers’ rights are absent in countries with the rating five and violations occur
on an irregular basis in countries with the rating one.’
It added, ‘Countries with the rating of five are the worst countries in the world to work in.
While the legislation may spell out certain rights workers have effectively no access to these
rights and are therefore exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labour practices.’
Each country is analysed against a list of 97 indicators derived from International Labour
Organisation (ILO) conventions and jurisprudence and represents violations of workers’
rights in law and practice.
In a survey of workers’ rights in Swaziland (eSwatini) up to March 2020, ITUC reported,
‘Strikes were brutally crushed in eSwatini, where police forces fired live ammunition during
a march of 8,000 public service workers in Manzini on 2 October 2019.’
It added, ‘Another march attended by 3,500 civil servants on 25 September to protest against
low pay and rising living costs in the country was violently dispersed by the police with
teargas, rubber bullets and water cannons, severely injuring fifteen workers.
‘A meeting that was attended by members of various public service unions on 28 January
2019 to discuss the court ruling to cancel the planned strike action on that day was declared
illegal by the principle secretary of the Ministry of Education and Training, who circulated a
message to all head teachers stating that it would be “illegal for any teachers to attend the
meeting without prior permission from her office”.’
In October 2019 ITUC condemned police brutality during a week-long public sector strike in
Swaziland. Previously it had criticised other police attacks on workers. More than 30 people
were injured when police opened fire with rubber bullets. They also used water cannon and
teargas on protestors during a three day strike for a cost-of-living salary increase.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said in a statement at the time, ‘Respect for workers’
rights, good faith dialogue and a government that responds to people’s needs and concerns –
just like any other country, this is what eSwatini needs, not state violence against the people.
eSwatini’s King Mswati pledged to us earlier this year to build these bridges, yet now we are
seeing the government pulling all stops to undermine them.’

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In a letter addressed to Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini, Burrow highlighted past
commitments to establishing dialogue. It added, ‘The use of violence, even for purported
reasons of internal security, constitutes a serious violation of human and trade union rights.’
Burrow said, ‘The government claimed that the strike was a threat to national interests. If the
Swazi people asking for decent working conditions is against this government’s version of
“national interest”, then the government has got it totally wrong.’
In the letter to the PM, ITUC, which represents 207 million workers across 163 countries,
called for an ‘urgent and impartial investigation’ into the police shootings. No investigation
has taken place.
See also

Swaziland police brutality under attack from international workers’ group


Police fire stun grenades at protest
Two critical after police attack
Workers in Swaziland locked into their factory and ‘forced to work into the night’
No guarantee of workers’ rights in Swaziland, ITUC reports, and it’s getting worse

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7: PRISON RIOT

Warders allegedly kill inmate during Swaziland prison riot


11 June 2020

An inmate at a prison in Swaziland (eSwatini) was allegedly killed by warders during a riot
involving gang members.
It happened on Tuesday night (9 June 2020) at the Sidwashini correctional facility in the
Swazi capital Mbabane.
The dead man was 25 years old and serving a three-year sentence for grievous bodily harm
and another three-month sentence for malicious damage to property.
The Times of eSwatini reported that the man allegedly died at the hands of prison officers.
This has not been confirmed by prison authorities.
In a statement His Majesty's Correctional Services said there had been a riot and members of
a group known as the 28 Gang attacked non-gang members. Prison officers intervened and
prisoners threw missiles at them, including water taps and pipes. Officers used batons to
protect themselves.
The statement said, ‘Some of the inmates sustained injuries as they stumbled on each other
during the scuffle with one inmate later succumbing to death having being taken to Mbabane
Government Hospital.’
The poor conditions at Sidwashini were highlighted in April 2019 in testimony from a former
inmate. The 27-year-old prodemocracy activist charged with terrorism offences in the
kingdom ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, reported being ‘beaten and tortured’.
He spent four years at Sidwashini before a judge acquitted and discharged him in 2014.
The man’s experience was reported by Prison Insider, which publishes testimonials from
people who have been or are currently in prison.
The former inmate who was not named said, ‘I shared a cell with about 35 to 40 other
prisoners, it was packed beyond its capacity, overcrowded as is the case with prisons here.
The only furniture in the cell were our thin sleeping mats and blankets, separated with only
about 30-centimetre space between each of them. The windows in the cells were so high up,
prisoners could only see the outside of the cell by climbing onto a support, for example
several blankets piled up.’
In September 2018 Swaziland’s Correctional Services revealed that the total prison
population in the kingdom was 3,453, which exceeded the prison system’s designed capacity
by 615 inmates.
The former inmate said, ‘In Swaziland, untried prisoners are kept under lock 24 hours a day.
We did not have the luxury of going out like the convicted prisoners. It was extremely
mentally challenging to be locked up all day.’

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He said inmates were kept in unheated cells, even during freezing weather. Breakfast was
thin maize porridge four times a week and bread with black tea three times a week.

Prisoners were counted by warders three times a day. ‘The humiliating part about the
counting was that we were forced to squat in rows of five.’
The former inmate said, ‘Some mornings were disrupted by random searches. This
experience was humiliating, lots of verbal and sometimes physical assaults. I saw prison
officers severely assault and humiliate fellow prisoners during night searches. They took the
unlucky ones to the isolation cells, where they were beaten and exposed to further degrading
treatment.’
There have been other reports about poor conditions at Sidwashini. In December 2017 a
suspect told a magistrate that inmates there were ‘frequently assaulted’.
The Swazi Observer reported at the time the suspect whom it only named as Masuku, ‘said he
suffered bruises on his body due to the heavy beating he was subjected to by the officers’.
In January 2018 there were reports of disturbances in jails in Swaziland with inmates accused
of brutality against warders. It was reported that new inmates had formed gangs and warders
from jails across the kingdom had been moved to two institutions at Sidwashini and
Bhalekane to increase security.
There were at least two incidents where inmates rioted because they were served with poor
food. These were at Sidwashini and Bhalekane.

At Sidwashini, media in Swaziland reported, untrained warders were sent in to help restore
peace. At Bhalekane one warder had to be taken to hospital after an alleged attack.
In 2017 the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) stepped up investigations into
prison conditions in Swaziland amid reports of inhumane conditions. They included food
shortages, inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.
See also
Jail disturbances across Swaziland
Jail inmates ‘beaten frequently’
Swazi jail riot over no bread
Probe into corruption at Swazi jail

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8: SIPHO JELE

Tenth anniversary of death in state custody of Swaziland democracy activist Sipho Jele
1 May 2020

It was 10 years ago today (1 May 2020) that democracy activist Sipho Jele was arrested by
Swaziland (eSwatini) police and later killed.
The 35-year-old Jele was arrested and charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act on 1
May 2010 for wearing a T-shirt supporting the People’s United Democratic Movement
(PUDEMO), an organisation banned in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati, sub-Saharan
Africa’s last absolute monarch.
He was taken to Manzini Police Station and then to Sidwashini Remand Correctional
Institution. He was found hanging from a beam in a shower block on 3 May.

Sipho Jele

The inquest verdict delivered in March 2011 said in effect that Jele levitated to the ceiling
unaided, tied an old piece of blanket around a beam and then around his own neck and then
allowed himself to fall to the ground, thereby killing himself by hanging.
Coroner Nondumiso Simelane reported, ‘Further, although there was nothing found at the
scene which the deceased could have used as a platform on which to stand to commit the
suicide; upon closer examination of the scene and the photos of the deceased captured at the
scene, and the pathologists concluding that “it is possible for the deceased to have mounted
himself upwards from the floor and then suspended himself without the use of a platform,”
and that “after the ligature was applied to the beam and neck he could have lowered himself
and the feet would still be above the floor.”

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Simelane recorded Jele’s death as suicide.


Independent Specialist Forensic Pathologist Dr Ganas Perumal at the inquest said there was
no evidence that Jele had been hanged.
According to a report in the Swazi News, Perumal said, ‘In this case there is no evidence of
being hung. The perplexing thing is how he got suspended as there was no object on which he
stood. In most cases the object is kicked away for the body to remain suspended. There was
no such object that was found. That is the only feature that doesn’t confirm suicide. It is an
enigma how he hung without standing on an object.’
Questioned by attorney Leo Gama on whether it was possible that Jele had tied the rope
around his neck while seated on the beam he was found hanging from, and then threw
himself down for the rope to tighten around his neck, Dr Perumal entirely ruled out this
possibility.
‘In that case there would be stretching of the skin and moreover there would be problem with
the spine. Looking at the findings, we can exclude that scenario. There are no features to
suggest that,’ he said.
It emerged at the inquest that Swazi police and prison warders lied a number of times about
the circumstances up to the time of the death. They had claimed that they interviewed people
who were in the same cell as Jele about the circumstances of his death; Perumal told the
inquest that the cell mates denied being interviewed.
Perumal said, ‘I asked if any of the inmates had been interviewed to see if they had seen him
and if any fight had ensued during the night of his death but none had been interviewed.’
This was not the first time that the police had been found out lying to the inquest. Previously,
it was discovered that police had recorded in an official journal that Jele was in good health
when he arrived at Manzini police station.
The official record – called the RSP 3 book – said the entry was made by Constable David
Tsabedze, but he told the inquest that he never made the entry.
This led to Attorney Leo Gama concluding that Tsabedze never made such entries and left
the space vacant, but when the police heard that there was to be an inquest into the matter,
someone filled up those spaces without telling Tsabedze. This was so they could show Jele
was in good health when he left the police station.
Another anomaly was that although Jele was brought to the police station at 5.30pm on 1
May, he was only placed in a police cell at 11pm and no one could come forward to state
what happened in the meantime.
In a bizarre twist the inquest heard that Jele asked to be sent to Sidwashini because he feared
being ‘tubed’ (tortured and suffocated) if he was sent back to police custody. The Swaziland
Director of Public Prosecutions Mumcy Dlamini said she was pleased to hear this because it
meant Jele had not yet been tortured while at the police station. Dlamini told the inquest as
far as she knew the only reason why Jele wanted to go to Sidvwashini was his fear of torture
by police.

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The inquest was told Jele was taken out of the Manzini Police Station’s cell for interrogation
purposes for hours on different occasions, but one officer said it was unclear whether they
also took him out of the building.
A jailor, Assistant Superintendent Richard Mthukutheli Fakudze, told the inquest he found
Jele hanging from a concrete bar in the bathroom of his prison cell at about 5am on 3 May
and he just knew Jele had killed himself. While he gave his testimony, he was interrupted by
Prosecutor Phila Dlamini who warned him to only say what he observed and desist from
giving an opinion. Fakudze had conclusively said Jele hanged himself yet he found him
hanging. Said Dlamini, ‘If you insist that he hanged himself, you are actually saying that you
saw him tying the blanket around his neck and hanging himself.’
Jele was charged under S19 (1) (a) of the Suppression of terrorism Act for wearing a T-shirt
with PUDEMO written on it.
S19 (1) (a) of the STA states, ‘A person who is a member of a terrorist group commits an
offence and shall on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten (10)
years.’
Wearing a PUDEMO T-Shirt does not make you a member of PUDEMO and therefore the
police had no reason to arrest Jele. But after police arrested him they then took him to his
home and searched it and later alleged they had found materials linking him to the banned
political organisation.
Amnesty International suspected that Jele might have been targeted for arrest at the May Day
rally. Jele was one of 16 prodemocracy activists awaiting trial after they were charged with
treason in 2005.
In a public statement, Amnesty said, ‘Mr Jele had been subjected to torture and other ill-
treatment in police custody in the past. He was detained by police in December 2005 and
subsequently charged with treason along with 15 others. Mr Jele alleged that while in custody
he was beaten around the head causing long-term damage to his hearing, for which Amnesty
International was able to obtain independent medical corroboration. He also alleged that he
was subjected to suffocation torture while forcibly held down on a bench by six police
officers at Sigodvweni police station. Some of his co-defendants made similar allegations of
torture by the police.
‘The presiding High Court judge hearing their bail application in March 2006 was
sufficiently concerned to call on the government to establish an independent inquiry into their
claims. An inquiry was established under a single commissioner who subsequently reported
his findings to the then Prime Minister. To Amnesty International’s knowledge this inquiry
report was never made public. Mr Jele and his co-defendants had still not been brought to
trial on the treason charge by the time of his death.’
At the time of Jele’s death, PUDEMO said in a statement, ‘The Swaziland royal regime has
always been giving the international community the wrong information that political
dissenters are not imprisoned, harassed and killed. And that Swaziland is a peaceful country.
But here is a political activist getting killed for attending Workers Day and wearing a
PUDEMO T-shirt.’
Richard Rooney

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9: ROYAL DECREE

Anniversary of day Swaziland stopped being a democracy and became absolute


monarchy
12 April 2020

It was 47 years ago today (12 April 2020) that Swaziland (now known as eSwatini) stopped
being a parliamentary democracy and became an absolute monarchy.
On 12 April 1973 King Sobhuza II proclaimed a Royal Decree after he objected to his
subjects electing members of a political party that was not under his control. He tore up the
kingdom’s constitution that had been in place since Swaziland gained independence from
Britain in 1968. Even though Swaziland adopted a new constitution in 2006, the kingdom,
now ruled by King Mswati III, remains an absolute monarchy.
In his decree King Sobhuza announced, ‘I have assumed supreme power in the Kingdom of
Swaziland and that all Legislative, Executive and Judicial power is vested in myself.’
He added, ‘The Constitution is indeed the cause of growing unrest, insecurity, dissatisfaction
with the state of affairs in our country and an impediment to free and progressive
development in all spheres of life.’
He also said, ‘All political parties and similar bodies that cultivate and bring about
disturbances and ill-feelings within the Nations are hereby dissolved and prohibited.’
He said, ‘Any person who forms or attempts or conspires to form a political party or who
organises or participates in any way in any meeting, procession or demonstration in
contravention of this decree shall be guilty of an offence and liable, on conviction, to
imprisonment not exceeding six months.’

In 1973 the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) believed King Sobhuza had
taken control from the Swazi Parliament because he feared people were becoming educated
and would mount a serious threat to his power.
In 1968 Swaziland had what the CIA called a ‘British-imposed’ constitution with a formal
‘Western style’ parliament working alongside the Swazi National Council (SNC), ‘a group of
chiefs and headmen dominated by the King’.
In a secret report which has since been declassified the CIA stated, ‘In theory the SNC only
dealt with tribal matters but it always maintained a strong voice in governmental affairs.’
It added, ‘The veneer provided by the British-imposed constitution and parliamentary form of
government left the King a great deal of room for exercising political power but it also left
room for a substantial degree of political manoeuvring by non-traditional oriented political
parties.
‘King Sobhuza staked his prestige on the formation of his own political party [the Imbkodvo
National Movement] and won an overwhelming victory, sweeping 24 seats, during the
country’s first post-independence election in 1967. During the next election in 1973,
however, Sobhuza’s party lost three of the 24 parliamentary seats [to the Ngwane National

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Liberatory Congress] and the King dissolved Parliament, suspended the Constitution, and
assumed power by decree.’
The CIA report added, ‘Most of the vote against Sobhuza’s party in 1973 came from an area
that contained the capital city [Mbabane], much of the country’s developed industry, the civil
servants, and almost half of Swaziland’s urban population.
‘While many observers did not feel that the loss of three parliamentary seats represented a
serious threat to the King and his party, the King probably interpreted the vote as the initial
stages of the breakdown of tribal authority.’
The CIA report stated, ‘As the Swazi people and the economy become more sophisticated,
Sobhuza’s autocratic style is being viewed as an anachronism by growing numbers of
educated Swaziland.’
A confidential cable (later declassified) from the US Embassy in Swaziland to the State
Department in Washington dated 13 April 1973, the day after King Sobhuza’s proclamation,
read in part, ‘King Sobhuza stated he had taken drastic action to prevent breakdown of law
and order and to reverse process of disharmony, bitterness and division which existed in
country. Prince Sifuba [head of the Swazi National Council], on behalf Swazi nation, had
stated that nation wished King to know it had never been so divided as at present. King laid
blame for present “very serious situation” in country directly to constitution which introduced
“undesirable political activities” into country bringing bitterness and threats to peace, law and
order.’
It added, ‘Extent of action surprised Western observers who perceive no serious threat to law
and order. Non-Swazis and even some Swazis profess belief King yielded to pressures and
over-reacted to insignificant opposition.’
The cable said the King repealed the Swaziland constitution, dismissed parliament and
assumed personal control of the country as King-in-Council.
The cable listed what it called some ‘fairly tame’ activities that had taken place in the
previous months that traditionalists and monarchists said was disruptive. These included brief
work stoppages at the Havelock and Ngwenya mines; some civil servants requested a
meeting of all civil servants in December 1972 because they were dissatisfied with wage
increases; modernization and proliferation of commerce and industry in Swaziland had led to
attempts to organize unions; students had voiced complaints and grievances and there had
been growing pressure in the rural areas for different rules for land tenure which, the cable
said, implied a reduction in the real power of the local chief.
Political parties remain banned in Swaziland and the King choses all members of the
government and the judiciary. He also chooses 10 members of the House of Assembly,
allowing his subjects to select the other 59 members. No members of the Swazi Senate are
elected by the people.
In 2013, Swaziland’s Attorney-General Majahenkhaba Dlamini said there was no need to
annul the Royal Decree.

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He was reacting to a report in the Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland,


that traditionalists stopped the decree being repealed when Swaziland’s Constitution came
into force in 2006. He believed the Constitution in effect annulled the Royal Decree.
According to the Times Sunday ‘influential traditionalists’ feared Swaziland ‘could become a
republic if this law was repealed’.
The newspaper said preparations to abandon the Royal Decree in 2005 were far advanced and
a gazette had been drawn up.
The newspaper quoted one of the traditionalists, Brigadier General Fonono Dube, who was a
member of Liqoqo, an advisory council to the King, saying, ‘There was no way we could
have revoked a law that establishes the country. We couldn’t have allowed the authorities of
the country to annul the decree because that would have turned the country into a republic.
We don’t need a president in Swaziland. We need the King.’
The anniversary of the Royal Decree is marked by pro-democracy advocates in Swaziland. It
is usual for the State police and armed forces to intervene. The Suppression of Terrorism Act
2008 makes it illegal to campaign for democracy.
See also

Swaziland state ‘terrorises’ its people


Swaziland ‘becoming military state’

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10: HUMAN RIGHTS

Swaziland Govt or agents ‘committed unlawful killings’, new human rights report
states
9 April 2020

The Swaziland (eSwatini) government and its agents committed ‘arbitrary or unlawful
killings’, according to reports, the latest United States report on human rights in the kingdom
states.
The annual report, recently released, covered the year 2019.
It stated, ‘There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or
unlawful killings.
‘In June police shot and killed a man suspected for harboring prison escapees and drug
dealing. There were no reports that the suspect attacked or otherwise threatened police.
‘In early June a man was found severely injured after being questioned by police. The man’s
cousin alleged that the man was beaten by police, and then left to die in a secluded area some
18 miles away. Police stated that they had questioned the person, decided not to charge him,
and then gave him a ride to a nearby town. The man died in the hospital almost two months
later. REPS [Royal eSwatini Police Service] promised to investigate, but there were no
further reports concerning any investigation or disciplinary action by year’s end.’
The report was published by the United States State Department.
It highlighted cases of torture by police. It stated, ‘During the year two officers were charged
with homicide in relation to their alleged roles in the 2015 death of a detainee during an
interrogation. Three additional officers were investigated for torture in response to a referral
from the Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration Integrity.
‘In February the High Court awarded 70,000 emalangeni (US$4,870) damages for pain and
suffering to a man who was assaulted by members of the UEDF [the Army] in 2003. There
also were scattered reports throughout the country of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment
by “community police”–untrained, volunteer security personnel who exist outside the
country’s formal legal structures and are empowered by rural communities to act as
vigilantes, patrolling against rural crimes such as cattle rustling.
‘In August five community police members in Sihhohweni punched, kicked, and beat a man
with a broomstick so severely that he needed to be hospitalized. The abuse was reported to
the REPS, and the community police members were arrested for assault. The magistrate
found them guilty and sentenced each to 10 months’ imprisonment with an option of a 2,000
emalangeni (US$140) fine. In October a UEDF member was sentenced to 10 years’
imprisonment with an option of a 14,000 emalangeni (US$975) fine for an off-duty
xenophobic assault on a Mozambican national.’
Under the heading ‘Political Prisoners and Detainees’ the report also highlighted the case
of democracy activist Goodwill Sibiya who had been in lengthy pretrial detained ‘for
criticism of the king’.

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King Mswati III rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch.


The report stated, ‘In May activist Goodwill Sibiya filed an application in civil court accusing
the king of embezzlement and lawlessness and demanded that he be arrested. Authorities
arrested Sibiya and charged him with belonging to a terrorist group and with violating a
section of the Sedition and Subversive Activities (SSA) Act ruled unconstitutional in 2016 by
the High Court.
‘In September the High Court ruled the government could not charge someone under a
section of law that had been declared unconstitutional. The government responded by
dismissing the SSA charge against Sibiya; however, the activist remained in prison awaiting
trial on a Suppression of Terrorism Act charge at year’s end.’
See also

No let-up in restrictions of freedom of association and assembly in Swaziland: Human


Rights Watch
Swaziland police ‘beat teenager to death to make him confess to crime he did not commit’
Swaziland activist who called for prosecution of King for embezzlement charged under
terrorism law

Swaziland activist who called on King to be charged with human rights crimes freed
from jail after a year
20 May 2020

Goodwill Sibiya, the democracy activist who was arrested after calling for King Mswati III
the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), to be charged with embezzlement and human
rights violations has been released from jail after a year.
He had been charged with terrorism and sedition. All charges against him have been dropped.

Sibiya is a senior member of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and the
Communist Party. Both organisations are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. He
is also a founding member of a little-known group called the Economic Freedom Guerrillas.
He was charged in May 2019 after he made a legal statement calling for the King to be
charged for the ‘embezzlement of states funds’ through his use of money generated by Tibiyo
Taka Ngwane, a conglomerate of businesses that is controlled by the King on behalf of the
Swazi people; mining royalties and income from MTN the mobile phone company.
In a list of accusations, Sibiya said the King stripped the powers of two chiefs to the benefit
of his brother Prince Maguga. The King forcefully grabbed young girls to be his wives and
the King appointed Barnabas Dlamini as Prime Minister in contravention of the constitution,
‘so that he can meet his own greedy interest’.

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Goodwill Sibiya

In Swaziland, King Mswati rules as an absolute monarch, political parties are banned from
taking part in elections and he chooses the prime minister and government members. He is
immune from any prosecution under s11 of the Swaziland Constitution.
Opposition to the King is crushed by use of the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the
Sedition and Subversive Activities Act. Both Acts have been used to stop advocates for
democratic reform.

Sibiya was originally charged on two counts. In the first, he is alleged to have professed to be
a member the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and the Communist Party
of Swaziland which are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. He is also charged
with being a member of the South African Economic Freedom Guerrillas.

In the second count, Sibiya is alleged to have unlawfully attested to an affidavit containing
‘falsehoods’ with the intention to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection
against the King in breach of the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act.
The charge under the Suppression of Terrorism Act was withdrawn in October 2019. He was
released on Tuesday (19 May 2020) after the other charge was dropped.
Sibiya’s case attracted international attention. The United States in its annual report on
human rights in Swaziland listed him as a ‘political prisoner’.
See also

Swaziland activist who called for prosecution of King for embezzlement charged under
terrorism law
Swaziland State wants activist who tried to prosecute absolute monarch to take mental tests

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ABOUT THE EDITOR


Richard Rooney was associate professor at the University of Swaziland 2005 – 2008, where
he was also the founding head of the Journalism and Mass Communication Department.

He has taught in universities in Africa, Europe and the Pacific. His academic research which
specialises in media and their relationships to democracy, governance and human rights has
appeared in books and journals across the world.

His writing regularly appears in newspapers, magazines and on websites. He was a full-time
journalist in his native United Kingdom for 10 years, before becoming an academic.
He has published the blog Swazi Media Commentary since 2007 and also has other social
media sites that concentrate on human rights issues in Swaziland.

He holds a Ph.D in Communication from the University of Westminster, London, UK.

He edits a weekly email newsletter with news from and about Swaziland, compiled in
collaboration with Africa Contact, Denmark (www.afrika.dk) and sent to all with an interest
in Swaziland - free of charge. To subscribe mail to: SAK-Swazinewsletter-
subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

OTHER PUBLICATIONS

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom, Vol. 37, January to March 2020 is available free of
charge here

Although there were no reported deaths and only nine reported cases of coronavirus
(COVID-19) by the end of March, King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland
(eSwatini) declared a state of emergency.

Many civil liberties were suspended; school, colleges and universities were closed
indefinitely. Many businesses were forced to close and severe travel bans were placed on
people. Gatherings, including attendance at churches and other places of worship, were
curtailed.

Almost immediately, members of the police, army and other security forces were beating and
intimidating ordinary civilians. Some businesses reported they also demanded bribes to allow
them to stay open.

The response to the coronavirus was the main topic in the period January to March 2020.
Elsewhere, even before coronavirus struck, the Swaziland economy continued in freefall. In
the annual budget spending on internal security was increased as, ‘Support to our security
forces as we pursue economic stability and growth in the country.’

As in previous years, the Auditor General highlighted shortcomings in the way government
departments recorded their spending, with billions of emalangeni not properly accounted for.

The education sector continued in crisis as government ran out of money. Many pupils were
unable to attend primary school because the government did not pay fees.

King Mswati continued to exert his power over his subjects. University lecturers were forced
to weed his fields; his chief of police threatened social media users with the wrath of the law
if they dared to criticise the king; in February the King told his parliament to ignore calls for
democracy and to stick with him.

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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom: Vol. 36 October – December 2019 is available free of
charge here
Campaigning against Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III with renewed calls for
democratic reform dominated the final three months of 2019. A new grouping of political
parties – some banned in the kingdom – called the PPA – Political Parties Assembly launched
and engaged in a number of public meetings and demonstrations.

In a statement the PPA said it wanted to end the kingdom’s form of government, known as
Tinkhundla, or monarchical democracy. They want power returned to the people. PPA stated,
‘We unanimously observed that the royal project Tinkhundla has reached a point of no return
in dragging down our dignity and stretching beyond limits our patience as a people.’

King Mswati received global condemnation when he bought himself and his family at least
15 luxury Rolls-Royce cars (early reports suggested as many as 20 had been purchased). The
state then bought 126 BMW cars and motorbikes for ‘escort duties’ in the kingdom. US
Ambassador to Swaziland Lisa Peterson criticised the lavish spending in a public speech and
unleashed a torrent of criticism from the King’s supporters. There may be attempts to censor
her future public statements.

In other events, police attacked workers on legal strikes, using teargas, water cannon and
rubber bullets. There were reports of live bullets being fired. Police shot one union leader in
the back even though he had his hands raised and pleaded: Don’t shoot.

Police also fired live ammunition and shot a university student with a rubber bullet as class
boycotts against the government’s non-payment of allowances swept the kingdom.

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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SWAZILAND: STRIVING FOR FREEDOM

Swaziland: Striving for Freedom Vol. 35 July to Sept 2019 is available free of charge here

Police in Swaziland attacked striking public servants with live ammunition, rubber bullets,
teargas and water cannon as a long-running dispute over pay dragged on. The police
behaviour has become typical in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute
monarch. The number of injured was initially estimated as 15, but that more than doubled as
more information became available. Separate from this there were new fears that police had a
‘shoot-to-kill’ policy after three men who escaped from a correctional facility were gunned
down.

These were some of the main events in the period July to September 2019 and contained in
Swaziland: Striving for Freedom, volume 35.
The kingdom continues in financial meltdown, with health and educational services crippled.
Schools and hospitals have run out of supplies and staff have been sacked and other
vacancies left unfilled. Up to 200 teachers had reportedly died from stress-related illness over
the past two years as a result. Cancer patients have been refused treatment because the
government has not paid hospital bills. At least 11 children died of diarrhoea because of drug
shortages.
Elsewhere, Lisa Peterson, United States Ambassador to Swaziland renewed her call for the
Royal Decree that keeps King Mswati in power as an absolute monarch to be scrapped.
Oxfam, the international anti-poverty charity, named Swaziland as the country with most
income inequality in Africa. Human Rights Watch reported restrictions on freedom of
association and assembly continued in Swaziland although the kingdom had signed the
African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance in January.
An extensive survey revealed LGBTI people in Swaziland suffer mental health issues and
many have attempted suicide because of the way they are discriminated against in the
kingdom.

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Swaziland: Striving for Freedom Vol. 34 April to June 2019 is available free of charge
here
Public services throughout Swaziland are close to meltdown as the government, handpicked
by absolute monarch King Mswati III, fails to get a grip on the economy. Health services
have been especially hit over the past three months with reports that people have died as
medicines run out because the government did not paid suppliers. Drugs for HIV are in short
supply, even though the kingdom has the highest rate of infection in the world. Patients in
public hospitals have also gone unfed.
These are some of the reports that have appeared on the Swazi Media Commentary website in
the second quarter of 2019 and are contained in this compilation, Swaziland: Striving for
Freedom Vol 34. Also included: the International Trade Union Confederation placed
Swaziland near the bottom of countries across the world for workers’ rights. It said in the past
year ‘police brutality reached unprecedented levels’ and ‘security forces fired live
ammunition at protesting workers’. Elsewhere, public service unions marched on the
government demanding cost-of-living salary increases.
The absolute monarch King Mswati maintained his grip on power by appointing 28 members
of his family to the kingdom’s committees and boards, including 10 princes and princesses to
the 23-member Liqoqo, a supreme traditional advisory body which is also known as the
Swazi National Council Standing Committee. This was in addition to the eight members of
his Royal Family he appointed to the Senate and six to the House of Assembly last year.
Meanwhile, the United States in its annual report on human rights in Swaziland found there
was no appetite to investigate human rights abuses or corruption. Swaziland was controlled
by the King and ‘political power remained largely vested with the king and his traditional
advisors,’ the report, stated.

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Swaziland: Striving for Freedom Vol. 33 January to March 2019 is available free of
charge here
The gap between rich and poor is widening and the kingdom faces ‘an unprecedented
economic crisis’: these were two of the main concerns of Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg
in his national budget for Swaziland where the ‘economic outlook remains subdued’. He went
on to threaten to cut public service jobs if workers did not fall into line and accept his
programme to reduce debts.
Meanwhile, the Auditor General Timothy Matsebula in his annual report stated the finances
of the Government were in such a mess that billions of emalangeni could not be accounted
for.
Public service across Swaziland are in freefall with hospitals and clinics short of vital drugs.
Schools are unable to feed vulnerable children. All because the government has not paid
suppliers.
These were some of the major themes from Swaziland over the first three months of 2019 and
published in Swaziland: Striving for Freedom: volume 33, the latest quarterly compilation
from the pages of Swazi Media Commentary.
The international spotlight has been shone on Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-
Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The kingdom continues to be riddled with
corruption, according to Transparency International. Freedom House once again declared
Swaziland ‘not free’ in its annual Freedom in the World Index.
Closer to home, the Law Society of Swaziland Secretary Thulani Maseko criticised recent
appointments of judges, saying there was no transparency in the choices and the Swazi
Constitution was ignored.

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Swazi Media Commentary

Containing information and commentary in


support of human rights in Swaziland

Click Here

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