Friday, May 26, 2017


The United States has assessed Swaziland’s capital city Mbabane as a ‘critical-threat location’ for crime in a report just published.

Street robberies are prevalent and they happen at all times of the day. Criminals usually brandish knives or machetes. Swaziland experiences violent deaths on a frequent basis. ‘Some of the murders have been particularly gruesome.’ Rapes occur ‘frequently’.

The report called Swaziland 2017 Crime & Safety Report from the Unites States State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security is published annually. It was updated on 8 May 2017.

On crime threats, the report stated, ‘The general crime rate is above the U.S. national average. Although criminals considered Mbabane and Manzini prime grounds for operation due to the number of people, businesses, and affluent areas, the rate of crime reported in small towns and rural areas increased in 2016. There are some local crime gangs but no organized crime.

‘Congested urban areas are particularly dangerous at night; and occasional daytime larceny has been reported. The presence of pedestrians should not be taken as an indication of a secure/safe environment. Suspects have found themselves pursued and beaten by by-standers.

‘Residential burglary and petty theft are the most commonly reported crimes, with street robberies being the most prevalent. They occur at all locations regardless of the time. Criminals are generally interested in cell phones and cash.’

The report added, ‘Criminals usually brandish edged weapons (knife, machete) and occasionally firearms and will resort to deadly force if victims resist. The general modus operandi of robbers is to target residences or businesses that have little/no security measures in place. They will use force if necessary but rely on the threat of force to commit the act.

‘While the number of murders per capita remains lower than some African countries, Swaziland experiences violent deaths on a frequent basis. Some of the murders have been particularly gruesome. Victims have been found decapitated, and body parts were mutilated or removed. Some are a result of disputes among criminal groups.

‘Rapes occur frequently and tend to be perpetuated on isolated/desolate urban and rural areas or roads.’

The response time of Swazi police to incidents is described as, ‘slow, if at all, unless the police are in the general area where the incident occurred. Police consider a 30-minute response time adequate, even in urban areas. Police are generally willing to assist but often lack transportation and resources to properly respond to, or investigate, crimes.’

In March 2017, the Times of Swaziland reported there was a great deal of concern in neighbouring South Africa about crime in Swaziland. 

The newspaper reported that Swaziland’s main commercial city Manzini was considered, ‘a haven for International crime kingpins who have become so sophisticated that they are supplying shops with fake cosmetics and counterfeit drugs’.

It added, ‘Human trafficking is also a crime regarded as a serious problem in the country, which led to a Parliament probe being launched following a high number of nationals from Asian countries being found in the country without legal documentation while others suspected of obtaining citizenship illegally.’

The growing of dagga [marijuana] was another crime that refused to go away, the Times reported.

It added, ‘These incidents suggest that there is a whole lot more criminal activity taking place than what meets the eye. As a country with one of the highest expenditure on national security, Swaziland should be a country no criminal should dare to set foot.’

In 2015, Swaziland was came bottom among 100 nations on factors that included crime rates, life expectancy and national police presence, in a survey by ValuePenguin, a New York-based global consultancy, according to a report in the Observer on Saturday newspaper.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017


A suggestion from schoolteachers in Swaziland that the kingdom’s police should form a trade union will almost certainly be dead in the water.

There is a bitter history in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, of oppression of police union rights.

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) said at a workshop that it wanted an expansion of trade unionism in the kingdom to include the police. The Observer on Saturday (13 May 2017) reported SNAT representatives suggested the police should follow other countries with a well-functioning police union system such as in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa in the region and form a union to engage in collective bargaining.

History is against such progress. A Swaziland Police Union (SWAPU) had been formed in 2005 and failed after a struggle for recognition when both the Swaziland High Court and the Supreme Court dismissed it as illegal. The Police Union became incorporated to the legally-recognised Royal Swaziland Police Staff Association.

In September 2008, the then Police Commissioner Edgar Hillary applied for a court order to arrest Khanyakwezwe Mhlanga the Secretary General of the Police Union because Mhlanga was illegally mobilising officers.

This was part of a bitter fight that continued for many months. In April 2008, Swazi police officers disobeyed their commander when instructed to arrest fellow police officers who were trying to hold a trade union meeting. So, the senior officers themselves had to try to break up the meeting. As they tried to arrest trade union leaders their fellow unionists freed them and they escaped to safety.

The Times of Swaziland (19 October 2007), the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, gave vivid details of the disobedience of the junior officers who were on duty to break up the meeting. They were given a direct instruction from Regional Commander Senior Superintendent Caiphas Mbhamali to arrest the unionists, ‘but they did not take his orders as they stood and watched’.

More than 40 police in total were at the scene to break up the meeting, but only 10 senior officers actually tried to make the arrests.

The Swazi Observer, Swaziland’s only other daily newspaper and which is in effect owned by King Mswati, ignored the event altogether.

Swaziland police Deputy Commissioner of Police Isaac Magagula had warned the unionist against holding the meeting. The Swazi Observer had the previous week (12 October 2007) quoted Magagula saying, ‘It is only with the expressed approval of the commissioner that police officers can convene or attend any meeting.’

Although SWAPU lost its case in both the High Court and Supreme Court there was one dissenting judgment.  High Court Judge Qinisile Mabuza said that existing regulations that banned trade unions were inconsistent with the Swazi Constitution, which allowed for freedom of association. She also said Swaziland laws needed to conform to international standards and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions.

The Times of Swaziland (30 April 2008) quoted the judge saying Swaziland needed, ‘to conform to modern trends in a democratic society in meeting the [union’s] expectations and fulfilling their constitutional rights’.

The Times further reported that the judge said that denying officers their ‘fundamental rights’ to form a union were, ‘repugnant to good governance and the rule of law, and particularly that the sanction for forming a union is dismissal, which is a disciplinary measure’.

She called the existing laws banning the union ‘old discriminatory and oppressive’. She went on, ‘They are inconsistent with Chapter III of the constitution. They should be declared null and void. They have no place in a democratic society.’

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Firefighters in Swaziland are angry that they are being forced by their bosses to attend Christian church services.

A memo has been issued to stations across the kingdom advising that staff should attend Tuesday fellowship services.

The Observer on Saturday newspaper in Swaziland reported (20 May 2017) the memo from Chief Fire Officer Dumisani Khumalo read in part, ‘Officers-in-Charge are commanded to give support to these services by motivating officers under their command to attend these services. Such services headquarters consider them playing a major role such as counselling in various social problems encountered by officers. It also promotes unity among the workforce fraternity. However, headquarters is compelled to request for your support towards the success of these fellowship services.’

The newspaper reported that some firefighters felt they were being forced to follow the Christian religion and this was against their constitutional rights.

One firefighter was reported by the newspaper saying, ‘We cannot, therefore, have someone forcing down Christianity to us. It would have been better if the fellowship was conducted in such a way that all the religions are followed so that we also have the Muslims, the Bahais and those that believe in ancestors all accommodated,’ he said. 

Forcing people to follow Christianity is contentious in Swaziland where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. In January 2017 a directive was issued  by the Swazi Government which is handpicked by the King that Christianity was to be the only religion taught in schools.

The move was considered to be against the spirit, if not the letter, of the Swazi Constitution. When the 2005 Constitution was being drafted, it was decided not to insist that Swaziland was a Christian country. This was to encourage freedom of religion. 

Lawyers for Human Rights spokesperson Sabelo Masuku said although Swaziland was predominantly Christian, the Government had to consider the Swazi Constitution which made it clear there was freedom of religious choice.

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