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Monday, April 26, 2010

FEAR KEEPS SWAZILAND ‘STABLE’

I’m not the only one who thinks King Mswati III of Swaziland is talking nonsense when he says that his kingdom is at peace.


King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, told a gathering last week to celebrate his birthday that Swaziland had been at peace since its independence from Britain in 1968.


Vusi Sibisi, a columnist for the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reckons he knows why there is no unrest in Swaziland – people are too scared to speak out.


Writing in the Times, Sibisi reminds us of a recent ‘assessment of the current level of human rights understanding’ in Swaziland that was commissioned by the Council of Swaziland Churches and supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)


It found that it was fear, more than anything else, that was responsible for the peace and stability that King Mswati keeps talking about.


Sibisi says the study ‘found out that the majority of the people are afraid of their government hence they dared not challenge it for fear of reprisals’.


The study says peace and stability are not the products of respect for a functional and popular system of governance but a product of fear of the political establishment to the extent that some believe the government has the right to punish its critics.


The study found that 74.4 per cent of the respondents who participated believe that ‘people who speak against the government must expect the government to punish them in any way it sees fit’.


In short the people would, most probably out of fear, subordinate their human rights and freedoms to government rather than cause any discomfiture by demanding the leadership to respect their fundamental human rights and freedoms.


To read Sibisi’s article in full, click here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

PUDEMO NEC MEETING REPORT

The following is a media statement issued by the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), an organisation that is campaigning for democracy in Swaziland. It is banned in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.


PUDEMO NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

STATEMENT – 21 APRIL 2010

The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) concluded its second scheduled National Executive Committee (NEC) Meeting in 2010. The following were noted.

State of the country

In its discussions, the NEC has noted that the country continues to be in a crisis. A crisis consciously and stubbornly created by the undemocratic, corrupt and insensitive Tinkhundla royal regime. The regime continues to mismanage and abuse public resources when our people continue to struggle against HIV/AIDS; unemployment; poor medical services; unaffordable electricity; poverty; poor infrastructure; heavy taxes; etc. Swazi progressive forces and democracy activists continue to suffer repression constantly and mercilessly unleashed by the regime. The NEC strongly condemns the uncalled for royal police decision to interfere with the launch of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) last Saturday, subsequently detaining the coordinators Sikelela Dlamini and Mary da Silva; and further harassing our President Mario Masuku. All this done in arrogant defiance of the High Court ruling permitting the event.

Such behaviour by the royal regime reinforces the recently released report by the USA Secretary of State on the acute human rights abuse in Swaziland. We therefore, continue to uphold our resolve to intensify our efforts and calls to mobilize the masses at home and the international community to force the regime in Swaziland to democratize.

Organizational Programmes

We still re-affirm our commitment to ensure our strategic objective is achieved for the betterment of the lives of our people. It is therefore, critical that we ensure PUDEMO remains strong and advanced to be in a better position to carry out our programmes as outlined in our programme of action. In this regard, we demand total commitment and discipline from all our cadres and structures on a daily basis. We pay tribute to our cadres who have stood their ground against the hostile environment created by the regime. Since the last NEC meeting, our cadres have continued to execute their duties tirelessly and with loyalty to the organization and the struggling masses of our country. We shall continue to build and strengthen PUDEMO by further pursuing programmes for leadership development. All processes building towards the National Congress have been set in motion to ensure we have a very successful event. However, the success of the organizational programmes partly depend on the mobilization of sufficient resources. To this end, we have noted that this is the responsibility not only of the organization, but of every cadre of the collective.

A lot of work has been done in mobilizing the international community on the crisis in our country. To this end, we have seen historical developments and initiatives by the international community which are:

· The launch of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign in Johannesburg in February.

· The recognition of our President with a democracy award by the Danish Parliament in March.

· The invitation of a PUDEMO delegation in Europe towards the end of March.

All this bares testimony that we are correct in what we are doing for the liberation our people. Soon the royal regime will have nowhere to hide and no ammunition to fool the international community.


The Youth League National Congress

Our Youth League shall soon go for its National General Congress. This is their highest constitutional body where major decisions are taken; the work subjected to thorough assessment; issues vigorously debated and interrogated; and a new leadership put in place. We need a Youth League that is very strong and is able to produce a committed, disciplined and revolutionary cadre ready for the task ahead. We fully support the Youth League as it prepares for this historic task. We wish them a very successful congress.

Workers’ Day

Like all workers in the world, on the 1May, the struggling working masses of our country shall again gather together and remember the gains they have made and also review the challenges they are facing. We cannot over emphasize the importance of a united and strong working class movement in our country. Our working class movement must refuse to be divided and easily undo all the revolutionary work they have done in the process of uniting. Victory over worker exploitation and oppression by the state begins with the presence of a strong and united working class movement. We therefore, wish the workers of Swaziland and those of the world a successful Workers’ Day.

Conclusion

Until all our people are free from tinkhundla royal oppression, we shall continue fighting on the side of the oppressed masses.

Let all who love the country and its people join in the struggle to democratize Swaziland!

PUDEMO National Spokesperson, Manzini

Saturday, April 24, 2010

COUNTING COST OF THE SWAZI KING

King Mswati III of Swaziland, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has a new Rolls Royce car at exactly the time that his government has ordered huge cuts in public expenditure that put at risk what little education and health service.


The king, who has a personal wealth estimated at 200 million US dollars,(about 2 billion emalangeni) continues to be a drain on the wealth of his kingdom. What follows is a media release from the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) detailing the cost of King Mswati and his family (You might also like to read a blogpost on this subject I wrote in December 2009)

Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN] Statement

24 April, 2010

Breakdown of expenditure by King Mswati and the Royal family

The Swazi government’s forced budgetary cut backs on all ministries were not accompanied by reduced expenditure on the royal family. This is a fact that many observers predicted. What was not immediately apparent was the extent of king Mswati’s greed. King Mswati and his endless list of beneficiaries, it appears, have deemed it necessary to traverse the world in search of finances to satisfy their insatiable appetites.

According to recent reports, the government of Swaziland has approached the World Bank to plead for a loan amounting to E500 million in order to finance its originally intended budget. A major part of this budget goes towards the maintenance of the royal support system, an undisclosed network of hangers on who happen to be inflicted with the a vile sense of entitlement.

A breakdown of expenditures indicates that despite the personal wealth that the king has from his own investments and the two national trusts, a significant portion of mainstream government spending goes towards the up keep of the royal family. In the past few years the following are annual expenditures associated with the royal family:

· E170 million for Royal Emoluments and Civil List

· E 125 million for rehabilitation, maintenance and construction of state houses.

· E158 million recurrent budget for the Swazi National Treasury under the King’s office.

· E50 million for state houses and E50 Million for link roads to royal residence.

· E95 million for official royal trips by the king.

On top of those fixed annual expenses are the random other expenses such as:

In 2009 five of the king’s wives went on a shopping spree, spending E60 million in the process.

In 2009 the 20 surviving siblings of the king each received E60 000 for merely being royalty. This is a total of E1.2 million.

In the same year, 20 armoured Mercedes Benz S600 Pullman Guards cars were bought for his wives at an estimated cost of E2.5 million (about 250,000 US dollars) each. E 50 million in total.

Recently, he added an E5 million Rolls Royce Phantom to his endless list of luxury cars.

The latter set of expenses are not directly from government coffers but are said to be from his own private accounts, according to his personal secretary, Sam Mkhombe. In total, the amount of money spent by the royal family annually is a little over E700 million. This is an outrageous amount of money especially when it is considered that the failed public funded primary education scheme has a budget of only E839 million this year.

The reason why all aims to borrow money on behalf of the country should be seen as nothing but a front for self aggrandisement is because with reasonable or no royal expenditure by government, there would be no need for this loan. And this is not too much to ask of a royal family that boasts of having its own private finances, investments and receives 10% royalties in every mine in the country.

Issued By the Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN] South African Chapter.

SWAZI ARMY’S IDEA OF 'PEACE'

In his birthday speech this week King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, said he wanted ‘a special birthday gift’ – peace.


What a pity the army whose main task in life is keeping him in power, didn’t deliver.


Instead, we have yet another case of soldiers beating up innocent civilians.


This time it was a security guard who was just doing his job.


The 25-year-old was working at the Mahhala Shopping Complex when he saw a bus loaded with soldiers parked at the wrong place. He asked them to move to the correct place.


No big deal you would’ve thought. But you weren’t counting on King Mswati’s finest. Instead of moving the bus a few metres the soldiers got aggressive. Fearing for his safety the guard made a hasty retreat. But that wasn’t good enough for the soldiers.


Instead the soldiers chased after the guard, caught him and beat him so badly he may lose all his teeth. One report said there were about 20 soldiers involved in the attack, another said it was nearer 70.


This is not the first time in recent months King Mswati’s soldiers have shown they are out of control.


In January 2010 I reported how soldiers murdered two civilians in an execution-style killing,


In the same month soldiers refused to pay prostitutes for their services and then beat them up.


In December 2009, a group of soldiers went to the home of a man and beat him to a pulp over a personal grudge.


In the same month, Swazi soldiers pumped five bullets into the body of a man they suspected of smuggling cars. And they beat the man to a pulp before they opened fire.


Peace? In Swaziland? Who does the king think he's kidding?