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Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: THE END OF THE BEGINNING?

The end of the beginning? 2011, a year in the struggle for freedom in Swaziland by Richard Rooney is a new book published today (31 December 2011) and available free-of-charge online. You can read on screen or download it to your computer to print out. Click the link below.


Here is an extract from the Introduction to the book.


Tuesday April 12 2011 may yet go down in history as a watershed in the struggle for freedom in Swaziland. To borrow the words of Winston Churchill, it might not have been the day that the struggle for freedom in Swaziland ended in victory for the people. It might not even have been the beginning of the end. But it was, perhaps, the end of the beginning. After this day things would never be quite the same again in Swaziland.


It was on April 12 that Swaziland saw its biggest demonstration in living memory. It was to be the start of three days of protests across the tiny kingdom in southern Africa. Ordinary Swazis were fed up with the regime of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. They’d had enough of being denied their basic human and civil rights and were ready to fight for their freedom. They wanted an end to the corruption of the King and the governments he appoints. They wanted the freedom to meet, to demonstrate, to form political parties and to choose their own government – all things denied to them by the King.


A group of people, unaffiliated with any of the existing political parties or lobby groups, created a Facebook site and called it the April 12 Swazi Uprising. April 12 was the day in 1973 that King Sobhuza II, the father of the present King, tore up the country’s constitution and began to rule by decree. Despite the signing into law of a new constitution in 2006, people in the kingdom still live under the yoke of that decree.


The April 12 group caught attention in Swaziland and across the globe. It called for an uprising to start on April 12 2011 and soon prodemocracy activists, trade unionists, journalists and progressives from all over the world were watching the kingdom.


Swaziland had seen many street protests before, but this one was to be different. This was meant to be the beginning of the end.


This one was also to be the first to be played out on the Internet. Members of the April 12 group claimed they were a real on-the-ground organisation with at least three full time organisers. Perhaps they were, but mostly their battle was fought in cyberspace using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and blogsites.


The Uprising was brutally put down by police, but the struggle for democracy in Swaziland continues. This book looks at what happened in 2011. It is compiled from the pages of Swazi Media Commentary, the blog that contains information and comment on the fight for human rights in Swaziland.


As well as the events of April 12, the book covers in much detail the massive meltdown of the Swazi economy, caused by the governments handpicked over the years by King Mswati; and also caused in no small part by the greed and corruption of the King himself and his close supporters.

The economic meltdown has sensitised many people in Swaziland to the need for root and branch political reform in the kingdom.


This book starts with a section on the April 12 Uprising which is followed by the account of the economy. There then follows separate chapters looking at events in each month of 2011. These events include many protests, including the Global Week of Action held in September. They also highlight the numerous violations of rights suffered by the poor, by children, by women and by sexual minorities, among others, in the kingdom.



2011. a Year in the Struggle for Freedom in Swaziland - Rooney

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

SWAZI MEDIA FREEDOM BOOK

New book, Unheard Voices: Media Freedom and Censorship in Swaziland by Richard Rooney, FREE – available online here. Read online or download to your computer to print it out.


Unheard Voices, Media Freedom and Censorship in Swaziland - Richard Rooney

Thursday, December 22, 2011

‘TIMES’ CENSORS ROYAL AIDE REPORT

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only ‘independent’ daily newspaper, is self-censoring again.

It runs a report today (22 December 2011) that a royal aide has been fined five cattle and banned from royal households for ‘handling a certain matter’ without first consulting traditional prime minister TV Mtetwa first.

The Times doesn’t name the female aide, nor does it say what she is alleged to have done.

But the newspaper says, ‘The Times Investigations Department’ (whatever that is) ‘has been reliably informed that the aide was summoned to Ludzidzini royal residence three times before the beginning of the Little Incwala’.

It says, ‘The case was eventually concluded on Friday, November 18, 2011 when the aide was told of the fine and the ban.’

So the Times leaves its readers in a fog. But some Swazis are asking, could this be the same story that the truly-independent Swazi Mirror ran about Inkhosikati laDube, the 12th wife of King Mswati III, who was last month (November 2011) chucked out of the royal palace by Mtetwa and his henchmen?

The Mirror reported that laDube sent an aide to the Ministry of Home Affairs to change her name to Nonthando Moosa.

LaDube came to international media attention (but the news was censored in Swaziland) in August 2010 when she was discovered in a sexual affair with Ndumiso Mamba, the then Justice Minister.

Meanwhile, the Times report unwittingly gives an insight into what it’s really like for women in Swaziland. They have no standing on their own and are the subjects of their male relatives.

The Times reports the female royal aide was told she had to attend at police headquarters.

The newspaper quotes her saying, ‘When I got there he told me that he had been sent by TV Mtetwa to take me to Ludzidzini. When we got there I found Mtetwa and Bheki Dlamini who told me the reason I had been summoned. They asked for my relatives and I told them my brother was Chief Mvimbi. I was told to come with him the following day.’

She said on the next day her brother told Mtetwa and Dlamini that she was now a married person and therefore her matter had to be tackled by her husband.

The aide said, ‘We were then told to come on the following day again, with my husband this time. Indeed, I came with my husband, brother and other relatives. That was when Mtetwa told us of the fine and that I was not to be seen within royal households anymore. This was done without affording any of us a chance to give our side of the story.’

See also

KING’S WIFE THROWN OUT OF PALACE

http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2011/11/kings-wife-thrown-out-of-palace.html

‘TIMES SIDES WITH TV AGAINST QUEEN’

http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2011/11/times-sides-with-tv-against-queen.html

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

BANK DETAILS FOR BAIL FUND

The following bank account has been set up to receive contributions towards the E100,000 bail for Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Ngubeni, the Swaziland Solidarity network has announced.

Bank: First National Bank [FNB]

NAME: M. Mkhwanazi & Associates

Account number: 62057572507

Branch Code: 280164

Mbabane-SWAZILAND

SWIFT Code: FIRNSZMX

See also

SHOCK AT MASSIVE MAXWELL BAIL

http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2011/12/shock-at-massive-maxwell-bail.html

TENSION AS PUBLIC SERVANTS UNPAID

There is tension in Swaziland today (21 December 2011) amid fears of unrest as civil servants discovered they have not been paid this month.

Salaries should have been deposited in accounts yesterday, but although pay slips were sent out no funds were transferred to banks.

The Swazi Government is all but broke and had trouble paying salaries last month. Swaziland Finance Minister Majozi Sithole said then that he had secured enough money to pay salaries for four months.

There are now serious doubts that he was telling the truth.

Among those left unpaid are members of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), one of the main critics of the government.

The SNAT Facebook site has been awash with posts from teachers complaining against the government and calling for a mass protest to be held at the Ministry of Finance today, if salaries are not paid immediately.

Yesterday, disjointed reports came out of Swaziland saying that only members of the army, police and prison staff had been paid. It is unclear if this is true: some reports say as with the teachers they received pay slips, but no money.

There were also reports yesterday that road blocks have been set up throughout Swaziland leading to speculation that police were trying to disrupt any potential protests from unpaid civil servants.

Today, both Swaziland’s daily newspapers report the Swaziland Government claims that the money is available to pay salaries and that the delay in payment was caused by administrative error.

Media also report that Percy Simelane, the official government spokesperson, and Finance Minister Sithole were unavailable for comment most of yesterday and let their phones ring unanswered.

See also

SECRECY SURROUNDS NEW SWAZI LOAN

http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2011/11/new-loan-easy-to-repay-claims-govt.html

DONATIONS WANTED TO PAY BAIL

Supporters are trying to raise the E100,000 to bail out Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Ngubeni from jail.

The pair, arrested on explosives charges in April 2011 at the time of Swaziland’s biggest pro-democracy protest in living memory, were granted E50,000 bail each yesterday by the Swazi High court, in what has been described as the biggest bail demand ever known in Swaziland.

Dlamini, is president of the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) and Ngubeni is a former student leader.

The SNUS has issued an appeal for funds. It reports that anyone who is willing to assist can contact the SNUS leadership through Lomasiko Dlamini, the SNUS Secretary for International Affairs (+268 7636 2273).

Meanwhile, Africa Contact, the Danish-based Ngo, has offered to help collect bail money. In a statement issued through Peter Kenworthy of the Free Maxwell Dlamini Campaign it said donations can be send via the Africa Contact Mandela Fund here: http://www.afrika.dk/st%C3%B8t-mandela-fonden (remember to specify that the donation is for Maxwell and Musa’s bail), or by contacting Africa Contact’s Morten Nielsen at morten@afrika.dk.

See also

SHOCK AT MASSIVE MAXWELL BAIL

http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2011/12/shock-at-massive-maxwell-bail.html

SHOCK AT MASSIVE MAXWELL BAIL

Peter Kenworthy, Stiffkitten

20 December 2011

SOURCE

Maxwell Dlamini granted bail – at a massive 50 000 Rand

After having been denied bail on several occasions previously since they were detained, allegedly tortured, and charged of possession of explosives in April 2011, Swazi student leader, Maxwell Dlamini and activist Musa Ngubeni have finally been granted bail by Swaziland’s High Court judge Bheki Maphalala today (20 December 2011).

Unfortunately for the pair, bail was set at 50 000 Rand (around 6 000 US$) per person – by far the highest bail ever in Swaziland, according to a correspondent from global news agency AFP who was present at the hearing. The judge also demanded that they surrender their passports before being granted bail and wants them to report to the Mbabane police station four times a week.

50 000 Rand is a staggering amount in a country where the government of absolute monarch, King Mswati III, cannot afford to pay its bills and the salaries of its civil servants, where two thirds of the population survive on less than a dollar a day, and where hundreds of thousands can only get by on food aid from the UN.

“The financial figure is very unreasonable,” a representative of the Swaziland United Democratic Front told Africa Contact today. ”This is a very unjust verdict for any court to make with regard to just a bail application. We are very angry and disappointed.”

Dumezweni Dlamini of the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice said that Swaziland’s civil society regarded judge Maphalala as a government lackey. ”The precedent set by the same court when it released people accused of high treason by granting them bail was only set at 5 000 Rand,” he said.

Manyovu Mnisi, lawyer for the suspects, said he was shocked at the judgement. “We find the judgment to be shocking and devoid of legal reasoning. It is strange that an offence which carries a fine of 2 000 Rand and a jail term of just two years could attract such an exorbitant bail and stringiest conditions,” Mnisi said.

There have been repeated calls for the release of Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Ngubeni, both from the Swazi democratic movement, who have called the charges “a cover up for the heavy-handedness the police” during pro-democracy demonstrations in April, and internationally from the Free Maxwell Dlamini Campaign and its supporters.

Africa Contact’s Mandela Fund is collecting donations for Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Ngubeni’s bail. You can donate here: http://www.afrika.dk/st%C3%B8t-mandela-fonden (remember to specify that the donation is for Maxwell and Musa’s bail), or by contacting Africa Contact’s Morten Nielsen at morten@afrika.dk.

Read more about the Free Maxwell Dlamini Campaign here: http://freemaxwelldlamini.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

MAXWELL DLAMINI: MASSIVE BAIL SET

Swazi student leader Maxwell Dlamini and his co-accused Musa Ngubeni were granted bail of E50,000 by the Swaziland High Court today (20 December 2011).


The bail is believed to be one of the highest amounts ever set by a Swazi court.


The total E100,000 is to be paid in cash before the release will go ahead. Bail conditions, including having to report to police four times a week, have also been set.


Maxwell and Ngubeni are accused of possessing explosives. They were arrested in April 2011 at the time of the biggest pro-democracy demonstration in Swaziland’s history and have been remanded in jail since.


See also


MAXWELL DLAMINI TRIAL TO BEGIN?

http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2011/12/maxwell-dlamini-trial-to-begin.html

Sunday, December 18, 2011

STEVE BIKO’S LEGACY FOR SWAZILAND

Peter Kenworthy Stiffkitten blog

18 December 2011

SOURCE

Biko’s legacy lives on in Swaziland’s civil society

Looking at South Africa today, it is clear that the approach of the ANC has not ensured socio-economic justice for the majority of South Africa’s blacks. Indeed, the rich-poor divide has broadened, and South Africa has become the most unequal country in the world.

The same can be said of many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. But as South Africa’s tiny neighbour, Swaziland, is finding out, the solution might lie in the past, so to speak, more than in a future that has failed the test of time.

The ideas of Steve Biko certainly seem to be popular in Swaziland’s democratic movement. One of Swaziland’s prominent pro-democracy activists, student leader and political prisoner, Maxwell Dlamini, professes to be heavily inspired by Biko, and the main vehicle for civic education in Swaziland, the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice, uses an approach to raising consciousness amongst people in Swaziland that is akin to, if not inspired by, that of Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement in the nineteen-seventies.

Steve Biko


Steve Biko grew up in the Ginsberg Location near King Williams Town, where nearly two hundred families shared around 40 communal taps and toilets. He also studied medicine and law at university, and was therefore acquainted with the plight of all walks of live in apartheid South Africa.

Biko was the father of the Black Consciousness Movement, as well as its main thinker and key catalyst, although he deliberately tried not to be dominant to enable others to assume responsibility and discourage a personality cult.

Biko’s general fearlessness in openly opposing the authorities such as during the SASO-BPC trial (where the apartheid government prosecuted and convicted nine members of the BCM for “subversion by intent”) in 1976, his unhesitant response to insult and his disregarding of his banning were probably contributing factors to his early death – he died in police custody in September, having been tortured and severely beaten. On the other hand, showing that he was not afraid of the authorities was also an important contributing factor in fostering the culture of fearlessness that helped end apartheid.

According to Biko, “the type of black man we have today [in the early seventies] … accepts what he regards as [his] inevitable position.” Biko believed that “the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor” was “the mind of the oppressed.” Black Consciousness was meant to enable blacks to fight this defeatism, develop hope, and build up their humanity and urging them to be their own “authorities rather than wait to be interpreted by others.”

Black Consciousness “no longer seek[s] to reform the system because so doing implies acceptance of the major points around which the system revolves,” said Biko. Liberation is not simply being about freedom from material conditions, but about “liberation … first from psychological oppression … and secondly from physical oppression.” “Ill distribution of wealth” and “a mere change of face of those in governing positions,” said Biko, would make any political freedom meaningless.

The Black Consciousness Movement


Biko therefore helped form the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) – an all-black organisation (the term “black” including all the oppressed South Africans; Africans, Coloureds, and Indians) – in 1968, Biko began working for the Black Community Programmes (BCP) in 1972, and he remained thoroughly active within the movement to help facilitate concrete programmes and organisations that could and would bring about first psychological, and secondly material, change.

The Black Community Programmes covered the fields of health, education, leadership training, publications, home industries and childcare, and especially the educational programmes were meant to introduce the message of self-reliance and Black Consciousness. The BCP were thus meant to give practical effect to the philosophy of self-reliance.

The ideas and practice of Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement was an important contributor to the dismantling of apartheid, especially to the psychological side of the liberation movement, where they successfully helped to diminish the element of fear in the minds of black South Africans who, prior to the manifestation of Black Consciousness in the late sixties were terribly scared of involvement in politics.

One of Biko’s main legacies was thus that development – both at the national and the personal level – was not merely about economics or other material conditions, but also about consciousness and self-belief. He saw that any true liberation must be founded on a psychological one – an insight that is highly relevant to Swaziland.

Swaziland


A strict traditional hierarchy and conservatism, illiteracy, lack of access to education and poverty in general has hindered democratic and rights-based consciousness in especially the rural areas of Swaziland. Furthermore, a repressive society such as Swaziland’s is domesticating, so to speak, as the oppressed tend to internalise the oppressor’s image of themselves and become fearful of freedom. Civic education in Swaziland’s rural areas is therefore essential, not only for the struggle for democracy, but also to ensure that a mental liberation precedes a physical one, and that the nature of a future Swazi democracy is inclusive and ultimately successful once the fight for democracy has been won.

Swazis are therefore in dire need of a political consciousness, that will help bring about democracy, observance of basic rights, and socio-economic justice in general. The problems in ensuring this are man-fold. Two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line – many on food aid from the UN, life expectancy is at under 40 years due to Swaziland’s extremely high prevalence of HIV, the country effectively bankrupt to serious financial mismanagement, the media is either heavily censored or self-censored, and the population has generally been unable or unwilling to connect their poverty and lacking influence to Swaziland’s filthy-rich monarchy.

All of this is changing, however, due to a combination of the population’s increasing desperation with the regime’s handling of the situation – cutting back on social services and brutalizing those within the democratic movement who dare to call for democratic reform.

The Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice


Until recently there has been no programme focusing specifically on inclusive civic education. For this reason, the Foundation for Socio Economic Justice was founded in 2003 as an organization to initiate “broad civic education programmes to encourage democratic participation and raise awareness on human- and constitutional rights amongst the rural populations, with an understanding on how this leads to poverty eradication”.

The overall goal of the Foundation is to “build a mass-based democratic force” through a bottom-up approach that includes partnership with, and capacity building of, marginalized, rural based organisations.

The Foundation’s Rural Civic Education programme is the cornerstone of the Foundation’s work and the civic educators are in the front-line of its work. The educational team covers a variety of democracy- and rights-related subjects on e.g. the history of Swaziland, the history of the unions, the political history of Swaziland, and issues about rural community organisation. The discussions that this education spawns also covers more concrete issues such as the lack of health facilities, schools, classrooms, water and employment that are then tied to the more overall topics.

As in apartheid South Africa, the conditions under which the lessons are given are difficult, however. Community leaders and Chiefs in some places victimize the educators and participants as they are seen as a threat to their authority and there is police surveillance of most meetings.

The result of this education can be seen in the fact that people to a much larger degree dare speak up in the presence of authorities such as headmen, chiefs and police officers, and that some have even stopped partaking in the traditionally sanctioned system of forced labour by i.e. refusing to plough the chief’s land for free.

And they can be seen in the persistent calls for democracy that have been heard in recent years – especially since this years so-called “April 12 Uprising”, where thousands demonstrated for democracy and socio-economic justice.

The Foundation has thus made great strides and progress in areas where the discussion of political issues or standing up to the authoritarian traditional system was previously impossible – very much like Biko’s Black Consciousness did in apartheid South Africa in the seventies.

On 18. December 2011, Steve Biko would have been 65 years old. This article is written in commemoration of him.

Read Peter Kenworthy’s “Bikoism vs. Mbekism – the role of Black Consciousness in Mbeki’s South Africa” here.