For more coverage follow us also on Twitter and Facebook

Sunday, July 26, 2009

SWAZI PEOPLE SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

Ordinary Swazis spoke their mind based on their personal daily experiences at Swaziland’s first People’s Dialogue.

Rural farmers spoke on the need for security of tenure of the land they occupy and farm; people spoke against the unchecked powers of the chiefs and other traditional structures, whose arbitrary actions can infringe on the rights of the citizens.

Musa Hlophe, of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisation (SCCCO), one of the groups that organised the People’s Dialogue last Saturday (18 July 2009) said that as well as farmers Swaziland’s youth took the opportunity to set out their needs in the modern Swaziland.

Writing in the Times Sunday today, Holphe says, ‘The youth demanded to be given space in the affairs of their motherland. They decried the fact that, at the moment, national resources were being spent propping up a group of young conservatives, who are not in touch with issues confronting young people in the country.

‘Young people called for political spaces in shaping their country’s destiny. Young people also spoke about those things that threaten the future, i.e. drug abuse, HIV / AIDS, and other social ills.’

The People’s Dialogue covered a number of issues of importance in Swaziland today including gender equality, child sexual abuse, and human rights generally.

‘There was a clear understanding that human rights are God given and that no one has the right to withhold them from citizens, who rightly deserved to enjoy them,’ Hlophe said.

In Swaziland basic freedoms are severely threatened including of assembly, association and free expression.

To underline this fact, two people were arrested at the People’s Dialogue itself and charged with offences under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. One was alleged to have chanted political slogans and the other wore a T-shirt supporting the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO).

Hlophe said, ‘It is obvious that they [the police who made the arrests] were acting on behalf of their political masters in government.’

To read Hlophe’s full report on the People’s Dialogue click here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

SWAZILAND KING TOLD ‘FREE MASUKU’

The following is the text of a letter sent by the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) to Swaziland’s King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.


To: His Majesty the King Mswati III

Royal Kingdom of Swaziland


Att: Swaziland Johannesburg Consular Mr. Tsabedze

From: Swaziland Solidarity Network


Date: Friday, July 24th, 2009


MEMORANDUM OF DEMANDS TO THE KINGDOM OF SWAZILAND


The Swaziland Solidarity Network submits this memorandum to mark 251 days of PUDEMO President Mario Masuku’s incarceration. We bring to your attention our strong objection to his continued imprisonment upon trumped up political charges.


Your regime is doing all it can to find a non-existent link between PUDEMO and any acts of what you term terrorism.


We demand of your regime to unconditionally release Masuku from prison and recognise the legitimate rights of your people to put forward the demand for multi-party democracy.


Your regime has perpetrated scores human rights violations against political activists, trade unions, the media and anyone that criticizes your system of political rule.


Political parties are repressed; there are widespread detentions of political activists and constant threats and intimidation against them. Your regime is corrupt and the responsible for the suffering and misery of the poor Swazis.


Your regime disrespects the rule of law and your King has placed himself above the constitution. Your regime has issued threats against public servants who belong to political parties. It is your aim to dismiss them of their jobs once the public service bill has been passed.


It is against that background that we place to your regime the following demands:


  • The Unconditional and immediate release of PUDEMO President Comrade MARIO Masuku and all political prisoners.
  • The dropping of all the ridiculous charges against Thulani Maseko.
  • A democratically elected constituent assembly to develop a new constitution to lead the country into a constitutional Multi-party democracy.
  • Removal of the draconian 1973 decree which bans political parties
  • An end to the harassment and intimidation trade unions and other organisations in exercising their legitimate political and other trade union activities.
  • The unconditional return of all exiles
  • Swaziland must comply with the AU's Charter on Human and People's Rights.


We demand a response within 7 days of the submission of this memorandum.

SWAZILAND KING KEEPS COINING IT IN

Swaziland’s King Mswati III is the 15th richest royal in the world, with more money than his counterparts in Spain or Japan.


Even though 70 per cent of Swazis earn less than one US dollar a day, King Mswati is said to have a net worth of 200 million dollars.


The most recent estimate from Forbes Magazine in the United States reveals that as some royals get ‘poorer’, King Mswati just keeps coining it in.

So if the rest of Swaziland is so poor, where does King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, get his money from? This is a carefully guarded secret but according to Afrik.com he owns (among other things) 10 per cent of every mining company in Swaziland.

The website also reminds us that the king has a ‘penchant for luxury’ and is reckoned to have 14 wives (no one is really sure about the number he has since this is information the Swazi people are not allowed to have) each with a personal palace.

Forbes says King Mswati is the beneficiary of two funds created by his father Sobhuza II in trust for the Swazi nation. During his reign, he has absolute discretion over use of the income, which has allowed him to build palaces for each of his wives and stay at five-star hotels when abroad.

We also know that the people of Swaziland have to pay for the king’s extravagances. Last year they were forced to spend about something like 10 million dollars on a party to ‘celebrate’ the king’s 40th birthday and the 40th anniversary of the kingdom’s independence.

As well as his personal wealth, King Mswati receives money from the Swazi taxpayer. In this year’s Swaziland national budget he gets E130 million (about 13 million US dollars) for his family’s upkeep.


This is more than the money Swaziland will spend on capital expenditure for education (E113 million) or capital expenditure on social security and welfare (E73 million).


Or put another way, 70 percent of the families of one million Swazi people live on less than E10 a day, while the Royal Family gets by on a third of a million a day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

SWAZI T-SHIRT TERROR TRIAL STARTS

Swazi police video recorded Saturday’s People’s Dialogue to collect evidence to use against speakers for promoting ‘terrorism’.


This emerged yesterday (20 July 2009) at a court case where one man was charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) for shouting the words ‘Viva PUDEMO’ and another was charged with wearing a T-shirt in support of PUDEMO.


PUDEMO – the People’s United Democratic Movement – is banned, along with all other political parties, in Swaziland. Conviction under the STA can result in up to 25 years jail time.


Mbabane High Court was told that the Swazi police revealed that a police officer recorded all the activities during the People’s Dialogue in a video that will be produced in court as evidence.


According to the charge sheet it is alleged that Mphandlana Shongwe, ‘on 18 July 2009, unlawfully and knowingly gave support to terrorist groups (viz) PUDEMO and SWAYOCO by uttering the words ‘Viva PUDEMO, Viva SWAYOCO’ while Norman Xaba is alleged to have, on the same day, gave support to a terrorist group (viz) PUDEMO by wearing a T-shirt with the words ‘PUDEMO’.


Both men were granted E3,000 bail.

Monday, July 20, 2009

CALL TO DISSOLVE SWAZILAND CABINET

MANZINI— Civil society on Saturday (18 July 2009) called for the repeal of the country’s constitution in favour of a new inclusive supreme law.


The members of civil society who come from various organisations in the country said the current cabinet should be dissolved and an interim government set up to pave way for a multi-party system of governance, under the new constitution.


At their social dialogue held at the Bosco Skills Centre in Manzini, they first assembled in groups and discussed specific and various topics in their interests.


Representatives of the groups were mandated to report back to the close to 1 000 people who attended the event, which Musa Hlophe, the co-ordinator of the coalition for concerned civic organisations (SCCCO) described as a process that would go a long way in addressing the ills of Swazi society.


The event cost more or less E100 000 on food, hiring the hall, getting equipment, transport and others, disclosed Hlophe in an interview with the Times SUNDAY.


Meanwhile, the enthusiastic gathering, which included workers from the two main federations, the SFTU and SFL, together with churches, political parties, youth, educators, informal traders, ex-miners and teachers, charged the current constitution lacked a wider stakeholder input.


They said it was also a pity that government defied its own crafted constitution. The director of ceremonies was secretary general of the Council of Swaziland Churches Khangezile Dlamini.


The representative of the group that looked into good governance, S’phasha Dlamini, said impediments that infringed on their fundamental right to hold consultative meetings with rural and urban dwellers should be abolished.


“We resolved that the constitution that we have should be repealed because it does not represent our interests,” charged Dlamini who is a secondary school teacher and secretary general of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO).


Zamokuhle Lukhele who represented the youth said young men felt political prisoners should be released from prison unconditionally. He did not mention the names of the political prisoners but the crowd, mainly from the section of the youth roared: ‘Release Mario Masuku’.


Also facing charges related to sedition is Thulani Maseko, an attorney and coordinator of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) who is currently out on bail. Maseko was present and chaired the group that discussed good governance.


The civil society called for equal opportunities and respect of the rule of law. They charged that every Swazi should have a title deed for the land on which he or she had set up a structure; rural or urban land. They said chiefs had powers to evict them and they were unable to get loans from banks because they did not have collateral, hence the land could serve as a tangible security for the bank loan.


They vowed to fight privatization, which they described as an entry point for corruption, nepotism and mass retrenchments. They suggested that government should buy food for donations from local farmers, saying it was disappointing to see government and international agencies donating food to Swazis that has been purchased from foreign farmers.


Secretary General of the SFTU Jan Sithole pitied the defiance of the constitution by government.

He said free education should have been introduced this year but government went against a court decision to grant this right to children this year as stipulated in the constitution.


Sithole said the recommendations would be reduced to a declaration and petition that would be presented to government. It was the feeling of the gathering that the recommendations were made known to the public and government.


Source: Times Sunday