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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

VARSITY STRIKERS FEAR ‘SCAB LABOUR’

Workers in dispute at the university in Swaziland that has been chosen by King Mswati III to host his ‘University of Transformation’ have asked their counterparts in Botswana not to take their jobs while they are on strike.

About 100 non-academic staff at Limkokwing University in Mbabane started a strike on Monday 9 January 2017 protesting about working conditions and short-term contracts.

The Swaziland Union of Non-Academic Staff for Higher Education Institutions (SUNASHI) wrote to workers at Limkokwing in Botswana fearing that the Swaziland management would bring in workers from Botswana to do their jobs. 

The Sunday Standard newspaper in Botswana reported this week (15 January 2017) that four years ago when there was a dispute at Limkokwing in Lesotho, workers were sent from Botswana as ‘scab labour’.

Now, the newspaper reported, SUNASHI has written to workers at Limkokwing Botswana to say if they go to Mbabane they would undermine the strike.

The letter read in part, ‘Your coming to Swaziland might therefore be used to defeat the legitimate display of worker power of the planned strike.

‘Secondly, it might constitute an illegal entry into Swaziland to work when you have no legal status to work in this jurisdiction.

‘Thirdly, it might contribute to chaos and violence that may take place upon the striking workers learning about your presence on the Swaziland campus.’

Limkokwing University is a private university that was chosen by King Mswati to house a University of Transformation that would take students from across the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region. The Swazi King, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, became chair of SADC in August 2016. He pledged the university would be operating by August 2017.

The strike at Limkokwing Swaziland was suspended on 12 January 2017, pending further talks between management and workers.

See also

STRIKE AT SWAZI KING’S SADC UNIVERSITY
KING’S NEW UNWORKABLE UNIVERSITY
NEW SWAZI UNIVERSITY SUBSTANDARD

Monday, 16 January 2017

POLICE ‘TORTURE 13-YEAR-OLD BOY’

Police in Swaziland forced a 13-year-old boy to remove his trousers and flogged him with a sjambok, in what one local newspaper called ‘one of the worst cases of brutality’ in the kingdom.

The boy, who has not been named by media, was reportedly whipped at Ngwenya police station after he was accused of stealing a mobile phone, worth less than E1,000 (US$70).

The Swazi News reported on Saturday (14 January 2017) the boy was taken alone into a room by two police officers.

The News reported, ‘He said he was accused of having stolen the phone and would be lashed until he revealed where it was.

‘The teenager said he told the officers that he did not know where it was or how it got lost but instead the officers instructed him to strip off his trousers and lie on the floor.’

The newspaper reported the boy saying, ‘One officer put his foot on the back of my neck while the other one lashed me twice with the sjambok.’

The boy told police he did not know where the phone was. The newspaper reported, ‘Tears and screams did not help as he was told to say where the phone was. 

‘He said he maintained his position that he had no idea where it was and the officers allegedly said they would not release him until he spoke the truth. The confused and hurt young boy did not know what else to say since what was truth to him was not accepted by the police.’

The boy was forced to lie down on the cold stone floor and he was whipped once more, while a police officer’s foot pinned him down.

The News described the incident as ‘one of the worst cases of brutality’.

Police in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, routinely use torture.

In September 2016, women were reportedly ambushed by armed police and ‘brutally attacked’ by police during a strike at the Plantation Forest Company, near Pigg’s Peak.

The Observer on Saturday newspaper on 17 September 2016 reported what it called a ‘horror’ attack. It said a private security company called Siyavutsa assisted police.

The newspaper reported the attack happened at 4.45pm on Friday 9 September. A group of workers left the plantation premises and walked along a main road to their compound, Goedgegun, about 5 km away. ‘When all of a sudden a Siyavutsa vehicle swerved and came to an abrupt stop in front of the first group of about five workers and a swarm of armed police officers and dog handlers alighted.’

The newspaper added, ‘The different groups of about 15 workers allege that they all ran in different directions while the officers were in pursuit striking indiscriminately at anyone falling down. The women claim that the police officers alighted with rifles and batons while Siyavutsa dog handlers followed suit with the dogs. Shots were fired in the air while other officers bridged their service weapons.’

The newspaper added, ‘Vice Secretary of the Workers Union Wendy Simelane said she was struck with a baton by an officer identified as Manqoba Vilakati on the shin before she was dragged and thrown into a police van that had arrived to beef up the contingent on the scene.’

The Observer on Saturday reported, ‘It was then they, together with a handful of others, were driven deep into one of the forests. On the way the vehicle swerved to its sides making its cargo bang on the sides with their heads. By then all their mobile telephones were confiscated. At the swamp inside the forest the beatings continued with their assailants stomping on their arms and legs, including Simelane’s fractured leg. 

The newspaper reported Simelane saying, ‘“All this time we pleaded with them why we were being assaulted but to deaf ears. By then my lower part of the leg was dangling signalling that the shin was shattered. At the same time, we were forced to do press-ups but I could not because my leg could not hold any longer,”’ 

The Observer reported that the police used wood stumps and branches from around the swamp to inflict more injury to the workers. They were then dragged and thrown into the police van, driven back to Mhlatane station where they found Siyavutsa guards waiting for their turn. 

Later, they were taken to Pigg’s Peak police station ‘for another bout of torturing’. The newspaper reported that Simelane was tortured by being suffocated with a plastic bag until she vomited. She was forced into signing a confession that she had started fires in the forest.

This was one in a long series of torture cases involving police or security forces in Swaziland.

In June 2016, a United Nations review panel looking into human rights in Swaziland was told in a joint report by four organisations working to improve human rights, ‘In Mbabane [the Swazi capital], police tortured a 15-year-old boy after his mother had reported him for stealing E85.00 (US$6). The boy alleges that he was beaten with a slasher (metal blade tool for cutting grass) and knobkerrie (club) for five hours. While enduring the pain, he alleges that he was made to count the strokes aloud for the police to hear. Instead of being charged, the boy was physically assaulted and made to sit in a chair for thirty minutes before he was sent back home.’

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

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

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

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

In addition to those cases reported to the United Nations review panel, there have been numerous reports of torture by police and military personnel in Swaziland over the past few years.

In July 2015, Swazi MP Titus Thwala reported that Swaziland soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows. He said that elderly women were among the local residents who were regularly beaten by soldiers at informal crossing points between Swaziland and South Africa. Thwala said the soldiers made people do push ups and other exercises.

In 2011, a man was reportedly beaten with guns and tortured for three hours by soldiers who accused him of showing them disrespect. He was ordered to do press ups, frog jumps and told to run across a very busy road and was beaten with guns every time he tried to resist. His crime was that he tried to talk to a man whose vehicle was being searched by soldiers at Maphiveni.

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

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

In January 2010 soldiers were warned that their attacks on civilians amounted to a ‘shoot to kill’ policy and this was unconstitutional. 

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

See also

‘HORROR TALE OF SWAZI POLICE TORTURE
POLICE ‘BRUTALLY ASSUALT’ WORKERS
SWAZI ARMY’S IDEA OF PEACE
KING’S PAPER SUPPORTS POLICE TORTURE
ROUGH JUSTICE FOR SEX WORKERS
MORE POLICE TORTURE IN SWAZILAND
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2013/01/more-police-torture-in-swaziland.html

Friday, 13 January 2017

DEATH THREAT TO NEWSPAPER EDITOR

The editor of one of Swaziland’s independent newspapers and a senior reporter have received death threats because of a story they are working on involving the kingdom’s security forces.

The editor of the Times Sunday Innocent Maphalala and senior reporter on the paper Mfanukhona Nkambule have reportedly received threats of grievous bodily harm, ‘possibly even leading to death’, according to the Times of Swaziland newspaper.

It reported on Friday (13 January 2017), ‘The threats emanate from a story the publication is pursuing regarding one of the country’s security forces which has engaged in an action that has compromised this country internationally.’

The Times, which is a companion paper to the Times Sunday, gave no further details of the nature of the story.

It reported, ‘Further attempts to engage the Times Managing Editor, Martin Dlamini, and the Publisher, Paul Loffler, also failed to convince this publication to drop the story.  Even though the people who issued the threats remain faceless, they threatened that should the story see the light of day, the duo risked being eliminated.’

It added, ‘The warning was conveyed directly to the Times Sunday editor by a concerned citizen, who is a highly-placed government official and has insight to what could be going on behind the scenes. This citizen, who will not be named, pleaded with the editor to drop the story if he wanted to live.’

WHOLESALE DEMOCRATIC CHANGE NEEDED

The democratisation of Swaziland: inside or outside job?
Kenworthy News Media, 12 January 2017
 
The small absolute monarchy of Swaziland is best known for its tourism, “unique” culture tied to its monarchy, and the cultural and spending exploits of playboy-king Mswati III, not for its repressive regime and ongoing struggle for democracy, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Swaziland is nominally a middle-income country that is seldom condemned by world leaders and rarely mentioned in the international media, even though it is one of the most unequal, poverty-stricken and unfree countries in the world, and even though King Mswati spends millions of dollars on prestige projects and personal jets while his subjects starve.

For this to change, the democratic movement in Swaziland need to present a common and credible alternative to the present regime, and together with the international community start truly pressurising Mswati’s regime.

A modern feudal state
Swaziland was a British protectorate from 1903 to 1968. The colonization of Swaziland was similar to that of other African nations. Hut taxes, cruel treatment of colonial “subjects” and a traditional structure that was kept more or less in place enabled the colonialists to rule Swaziland on the cheap and the Swazi king and his chiefs to run much of the daily administration while increasing their power.


In 1973, after elections that saw the opposition NNLC gain three seats in parliament as opposed to the 21 seats of King Sobhuza’s Imbokodvo National Movement, the king suspended the constitution, proclaimed a state of emergency, banned political parties and began ruling by decree.

The reason given for the dismantling of Swazi democracy was, the King claimed, that “the constitution has permitted the importation into our country of highly undesirable political practices alien to and incompatible with the way of life in our society.”

But even though elections are still held every five years in Swaziland, Sobhuza’s son King Mswati III chooses the Prime Minister, the Government and controls Parliament and the Senate through his chiefs. He also controls the courts, Swazi national land and the economy and thus rules more or less as a feudal lord.

Repressed dissatisfaction
Swaziland might have got a new constitution in 2005, which nominally guarantees Swazis freedom of speech and association. But if anyone dares to question the regime, the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) from 2008 (that Amnesty International calls an “inherently repressive act” that defines terrorism in sweeping terms) allows the courts to charge activists with terrorism for trivial matters such as wearing a political t-shirt or shouting a political slogan. Even the Swazi press employ a great deal of self-censorship, especially when reporting about King Mswati.


The Swazi democratic movement has fought for democracy since the king started ruling by decree in 1973. And regardless of the severely decreasing political space since the passing of the STA (Swaziland is one of the least free countries in the world in regard to political rights, on par with countries such as Saudi Arabia and worse than Iraq and Afghanistan, according to independent watchdog organization Freedom House), and a generation gap in the leadership and disagreements within the factions of the movement (not least pro-democracy political parties such as PUDEMO, SWADEPA and the NNLC whose leaders perhaps disagree more on a strategical and personal level than on a political), a growing number of Swazis are seemingly dissatisfied with the current political system.

When a committee visited all Swaziland’s Tinkundla administrative districts in 1991, Swaziland’s “democracy” was given “an overwhelming vote of no confidence by the majority of the people who attended the meetings,” according to author, sociologist and professor at the University of Witwatersrand, Richard Levin.

More recently, a poll from 2015 by independent research institute Afrobarometer showed that only a third of the population saw their political system as being democratic. Another poll from 2016 revealed Swaziland to be one of the countries of the 36 African countries polled that have seen the biggest positive change in favour of democracy in the last 5 years.

Knowing is not acting
Despite an educational system that seems to intentionally use a rigid “banking model” of teaching to keep them docile, where scholarships and land allocation are tied to submissiveness to Mswati’s chiefs, and where a repressive set of values that is sold as “traditional” culture, Swazis are beginning to question Mswati’s absolute rule, and linking their own poverty, misfortune and lack of freedom to Mswati and his regime. This is probably in no small part due to decade-long programmes of civic education in the rural areas.


The problem is, however, that ordinary Swazis, of which over two thirds live in the rural areas, many as impoverished subsistence farmers, have to think twice before criticizing the king and acting on this criticism.

They have to determine whether the democratic movement is strong enough to take the risk and if the alternative to Mswati’s rule that they represent is realistic or plausible and worth the risk of being charged with terrorism, tortured by police, imprisoned or losing one’s land, job, house or even life, as many activists fighting for democracy in Swaziland have experienced.

Like William Mkhaliphi, an 82-year-old sugar cane farmer, who has been evicted from his land and who suddenly faced threats and several charges of theft after he criticised Mswati to his face at the so-called Sibaya people’s parliament last year. An event that, according to Swaziland’s constitution, is the “highest policy and advisory council” in Swaziland and according to the monarch an important part of what he refers to as “Swazi democracy,” but in effect a futile royal showcase.

Or teacher and veteran PUDEMO activist Mphandlana ‘Victim’ Shongwe, who has been beaten, imprisoned and is still to find employment as a teacher due to his activism. He is, like many other activists, still officially out on bail and has had to report to the police station every Friday since 2006.

Or SWAYOCO President Bheki Dlamini, who was tortured, charged with arson and spent nearly four years in a tiny cell waiting for a trail that acquitted him. Like many other Swazi activists, he has subsequently had to flee Swaziland, due to a speech that he made in 2014.

An unsustainable state
Even though Swaziland is often seen abroad and by tourists, who only see the well-kept roads, game parks and shopping malls, as a peaceful and stable country, such stability is a mirage.


Many casual labourers in Swaziland’s sugar industry earn around 5 dollars a day, unemployment is at 40 percent, a third of the population is undernourished and two thirds of the population survive on less than a dollar a day – many on food aid from the UN.

Swaziland was nearly bankrupt in 2011, where the IMF reported that “the debt dynamic [in Swaziland] is becoming unsustainable,” and where the government barely managed to pay the salaries of its over 30.000 civil servants.

Given that Swaziland has recently lost valuable income from the AGOA trade-deal with the USA, and could lose other similar sources of income, this could easily happen again.

Swaziland, a landlocked and allegedly peaceful country with no external enemies, also spends more on defence and security than on health, in a country with the highest HIV/Aids prevalence in the world.

The silent international community
Neighbouring South Africa is Swaziland most important trading partner with 90 percent of Swaziland’s imports and 60 percent of exports going to and from South Africa. The Swazi currency is also tied to the South African Rand.


It was a combination of a (more or less) united South African movement that was supported by both state and not-state actors outside the country, and a boycott of South African products, sportsmen et al that helped bring about an economic implosion of the white regime that led to the downfall of apartheid.

The problem for Swaziland is that the South African-inspired democratic movement, non-state organisations around the world, and not least the international community, are not putting enough pressure on Mswati’s regime or the companies that help keep it is place. Not least Coca-Cola, whose huge concentration plant in Swaziland contributes about 40 percent of the country’s GDP.

There are many reasons for this relative inaction on the part of the international community, apart from the fact that Swaziland has no real strategic importance and is a small country with limited buying power.

Neighbouring South Africa is led by the Mswati-friendly Jacob Zuma, who is married to one of Mswati’s nieces, and whose party the ANC have investments in Swaziland with Mswati. Even though South Africa is to a large degree an important key to democratisation is Swaziland, the country has been conspicuously silent on Swaziland in recent years, even though the ANC have strong links to PUDEMO and though ANC-tripartite alliance partners SACP and COSATU and local organisations are much more vocal and act-prone in regard to Swaziland.

The Southern African Development Community, which Mswati was appointed chair of in August, is also more or less silent in regard to democratisation in Swaziland.

And by supporting Swaziland through its sugar market, the EU and other countries are in effect propping up Mswati’s regime, although various EU-institutions criticise Swaziland lack of freedom from time to time. EU-demands in regard to democratic reforms to keep its important free trade status for sugar to the EU-market could nevertheless be effective.

In fact Denmark and the UK are the only two countries who are significantly pressurising Mswati’s regime, probably in some part due to the fact that organisations in the two countries (ACTSA and Afrika Kontakt, as well as the Danish trade union movement and political parties the Red-Green Alliance and the Social Democrats) have partner projects in Swaziland and are some of the most vocal in supporting the democratic movement and calling for democratisation and socio-economic justice.

What can the international community do?
Because properly pressuring the Swazi regime does actually seem to work, however slow the process might seem to be and however reluctant to actual change Mswati’s regime is, even when pressured.

When the USA annulled the AGOA free trade agreement with Swaziland in early 2015, because Swaziland would not agree to American demands in regard to repressive legislation such as the Suppression of Terrorism Act, workers’ rights and democratisation, Swaziland started amending its legislation and releasing political prisoners such as PUDEMO President Mario Masuku.

When the European Parliament, Amnesty International and journalists and lawyers from around the world put pressure on the Swazi regime to release human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and magazine Editor Bheki Makhubu, they were eventually released – although only two weeks before they had served their prison terms for criticising the chief justice.

And when the International Labour Organisation (ILO), together with solidarity movements and political parties such as Afrika Kontakt and the Red-Green Alliance, pressurised Swaziland in regard to the banning of the country’s trade union confederation TUCOSWA, the ban was eventually lifted in mid-2015.

Part of the democratic movement, especially PUDEMO, have also suggested that targeted sanctions that restrict the travelling of key members of the Swazi government and the royal family is a way of pressurising, ostracising and eroding the legitimacy of Mswati’s regime that can complement other means of pressure.

Change must be wholesale
But whatever the international community do, pressure for democratic change and a credible set of alternatives (such as implementable policies on concrete matters such as land-, educational and financial policies) to Mswati’s rule have to come primarily from Swazis themselves – also to show the international community that the Swazi democratic movement is serious about democracy and worth supporting.


For such pressure is cyclical, and starts with the democratic movement in Swaziland, whose activism in turn can activate partner organisations and others sympathetic to their cause, who in turn can help pressurise international governments, companies and the Swazi regime itself.

But any true, meaningful and successful opposition to a regime such as Mswati’s, and any true implementation of a democracy after he has acceded to this pressure, will also have to be a personal, educational and cultural revolution for Swazis as well as a political one.

Not least in a country that ranks 155th out of 180 on the World Press Index, where livelihood and education are linked to cultural submission, and where trivial statements are seen as acts of terrorism by an Orwellian terror act.

This paper forms the basis of a presentation given by Peter Kenworthy at the University of Bergen, Norway, on 12/1-2017.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

STRIKE AT SWAZI KING’S SADC UNIVERSITY

Workers at the university in Swaziland that King Mswati III has chosen to spearhead his University of Transformation started a strike on Monday (9 January 2016) protesting about short-term contracts.

About 100 workers at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology took to the streets and blocked the university’s main gate.

The strike was led by the Swaziland Union of Non-Academic Staff for Higher Institutions (SUNASHI).

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported SUNASHI Secretary General Fundizwi Sikhondze saying, ‘The staff is concerned that the university offers them short employment contracts. The staff is offered as little as a year’s contract while some get two years.’

Limkokwing has been chosen by King Mswati, who is both sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and the Chair of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), to house a University of Transformation to take students from across the SADC region by August 2017.

The Observer reported Sikhondze saying, ‘We believe the university is not a fly-by-night institution and will be in the country for years to come. The government of Swaziland is constantly investing large amounts to the institution and that gives us hope that it is not going anywhere. Why can’t the university invest in its staff and employ them on a permanent basis?’

Sikhondze said the strike came after the university’s management and staff failed to reach a consensus on their grievances. 

Limkokwing Vice Chancellor Professor Cedric Bell reportedly said the strike was set to coincide with examinations at the university and cause maximum disruption.

A statement from Limkokwing management published in the Observer read in part, ‘The university has served notice of a lock out on the union and those staff who choose to exercise their lawful right to strike will not be paid during the period of labour withdrawal and are not to come onto the campus.’

Limkokwing was the centre of controversy in 2016. In December, a Swaziland parliamentary committee ordered an investigation into the standard of qualifications held by academic staff at the university. Students had petitioned the Swazi Government saying many lecturers only held Bachelor degrees and had just themselves qualified from the university.

Limkokwing has been at the centre of continuing protests from students about standards of teaching and equipment since the university opened in 2011. According to its website, Limkokwing in Swaziland only offers ‘associate degrees’ which are at a level below Bachelor degrees and in many institutions are known as diplomas.

See also

KING’S NEW UNWORKABLE UNIVERSITY
NEW SWAZI UNIVERSITY SUBSTANDARD
KING FELL FOR BOGUS UNIVERSITY
 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

PUBLIC SERVANTS READY TO STRIKE



Public servants in Swaziland say they want a minimum 70 percent pay increase and they are prepared to take to the streets to achieve it.

Public servants have been at loggerheads with the Swazi Government for years over pay and conditions. Many international groups such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) say Swaziland already devotes too much of its overall public spending to public servant salaries.

In 2016, the Voice of America reported public sector workers in Swaziland had called for increased pay for the past 10 years. The government had often said the global economic downturn had made it difficult to meet these demands.

In 2016, public servants received a 17 percent increase. Members of Parliament got a 32 percent increase in salaries.

The Times of Swaziland, Swaziland’s only independent daily newspaper, reported on Tuesday (3 January 2017) that Aubrey Sibiya, President of the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU), said the demand would be achieved by hook or crook.

The Times reported, ‘Sibiya noted that unionists were ready and prepared to leave their workstations and fill up the streets in demand of what they believe is theirs. He further said civil servants’ remuneration in the country was pathetic as compared to other countries in the region.’

Sibiya reportedly said if civil servants did not get better pay, ‘the poor will live miserably while the rich do the opposite’.

In September 2016, the Times reported that the Swazi Government had been exposed making ‘empty promises’ to the IMF that it would control public spending. The Government, which is hand-picked by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, had promised only to increase public sector salaries in line with the cost of living. Instead salaries rose 17 percent adding an estimated E300 million (US$22.14 million) to government spending.