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Tuesday, 23 May 2017


Parliamentarians in Swaziland have given the government seven days to sort out the drugs shortage crisis crippling public health facilities in the kingdom.

E236 million (US$18 million) is reportedly owed and drug companies have suspended delivery of medicines until bills are paid.

The House of Assembly debated the crisis on Thursday (18 May 2017) and agreed a motion compelling Minister for Health Sibongile Simelane to ensure the availability of drugs in hospitals within seven days.

The Swazi Observer reported members of parliament wanted to know what had happened to the E1 billion allocated to health in the national budget in February 2017. ‘They wanted to know if the money they passed was real money or it was just numbers,’ the newspaper reported.

The Times of Swaziland reported the House of Assembly, ‘called for the suspension of all other projects while this matter was being sorted, wondering what benefit would be achieved if the country had beautiful roads or buildings yet had a dying nation’. 

Principal Secretary (PS) at the Ministry of Health Dr Simon Zwane had previously told the Swazi parliament Public Accounts Committee (PAC), ‘We have not paid our suppliers.’

Medicines currently unavailable in the kingdom’s health facilities include drugs for sexual transmitted infections, epilepsy, hypertension and diabetes.

Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, came last in a study of the healthiest nations in the world in 2015.

It came bottom out of 145 countries in the World’s Healthiest Countries report published by Bloomberg. Data for the report was compiled from the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation.

The Bloomberg rankings gave each country with a population of 1 million or more a health score and a health-risk score.

Each country’s place was calculated by subtracting their risk score from their health score.
The health score is based on factors such as life expectancy from birth and causes of death, while health-risk is based on factors which could impede health such as the proportion of young people who smoke, the number of people with raised cholesterol and the number of immunisations.

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Monday, 22 May 2017


A United Nations group is investigating prison conditions in Swaziland amid reports of inhumane conditions.

They include food shortages, inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

Swaziland ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2004 and its initial report on progress was due by 2005, but 13 years later it has failed to report. After such a long delay, the Human Rights Committee (HRC) has scheduled a review of the kingdom in the absence of report. This review will take place in July 2017.

In a wide-ranging document the HRC poses a number of questions to the Swazi Government which was not elected by the people but hand-picked by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The report says, ‘Please respond to reports of inhumane prison conditions, including in terms of food shortages and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

‘Please also comment on the allegations that the president of the (outlawed) political party People’s United Democratic Movement of Swaziland, Mario Masuku, was denied access to adequate and independent medical care for complications relating to diabetes throughout the 14 months he spent in pretrial detention at Zakhele Remand centre and Matsapha Central Prison.’  

The HRC is also asking for detailed information about the number of existing prisons in the kingdom, prison capacity and the number of inmates and whether there are separate facilities for adults and children. It also asks what plans Swaziland has to ratify the Convention against Torture and Other, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

In 2014 it was reported that more than 1,000 people were in jail in Swaziland because they were too poor to pay fines for offences such as traffic violations, theft by false pretences, malicious injury to property and fraud. 

The figures revealed that in Swaziland, where seven in ten people live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 per day, 1,053 of 3,615 inmates in Swazi jails were there because they did not have the money to pay a fine option. This was 29.1 percent of the entire prison population.

In February 2017, the Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland reported shortages of food and toilet paper in jails throughout the kingdom. This was due to the government’s financial crisis, it said.

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Friday, 19 May 2017


More workers in Swaziland’s sugarcane industry are joining a trade union, following international condemnation of their working conditions.

The Swaziland Agricultural and Plantations Workers Union (SAPAWU) is reported to have made a positive impact to the workers. In one case at a farm with 70 employees, 50 have joined the union, the Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Friday (12 May 2017). 

In 2016, the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) published a report called, King Mswati’s gold:  Workers’ rights and land confiscation in Swaziland’s sugar sector.

The ITUC said King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was one of the chief exploiters of workers. It said sugarcane production had brought about more human suffering than development in Swaziland. Many people had been evicted from land and the general conditions in the sugar industry were atrocious.

The opening sentences of the ITUC report said, ‘On 12 April 1973, King Sobhuza II decreed a national state of emergency thereby assuming total control over all aspects of Swazi public life. Political parties were banned and political activism was criminalised. Though the state of emergency was lifted in 2005, little has changed. The royal family has used Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, established in 1968 as a development fund, as the means to control the Swazi economy and to amass a large fortune.’

Tibiyo Taka Ngwane controls the sugar industry in Swaziland.

The ITUC report added, ‘The King is the sole trustee of Tibiyo and the fund is immune from all judicial review. As such, Tibiyo is able to compete unfairly in the economy, undermining local business and discouraging much-needed foreign investment (FDI).’

It added, ‘However, for workers employed in the sugar industry, the sector has no such lustre; instead, workers live in extreme poverty despite long hours and hard work generating wealth for the King. Trade union activities are highly repressed, and laws such as the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act, 1938, Public Order Act of 1963 and the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008 are used to suppress trade union activity.’

On trade union recruitment, SAPAWU Secretary General Mancoba Dlamini, told the Swazi Observer, ‘Workers have realised how much they benefit from joining hard unions as their voices are heard, they can either work in the sugar fields or offices, as they are affected in the same way.’ 

He added that most of the workers were adamant about joining unions especially because their managers threatened and victimised them. 

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Thursday, 18 May 2017


Parents in Swaziland are paying up to E10,000 a year to have their children locked up in juvenile jail even though they have committed no offence.

They are incarcerated at Vulamasango School, ‘with the hope they might develop desirable attitudes and behaviour towards society and the environment’, the Observer on Saturday newspaper reported (13 May 2017).

The children who are at both primary and high school level are, ‘mixed with hard core criminals, some held for serious crimes and are members of different notorious prison gangs’, the newspaper said.

It reported, ‘The children are surrounded by guards everywhere, every time of their lives in that prison school even during lessons and also in the cells called dormitories. They are reportedly forced to remain within the correctional facilities with none allowed to commute like it used to happen.
‘The girls are accommodated at the Mawelawela Women Correctional Services whilst the boys are accommodated within the school.’

Child rights NGO Save The Children told the newspaper that a number of children have been committed to correctional facilities without being convicted, of a crime.

The Observer on Saturday reported, ‘the institution allegedly charges these children at primary school E7,500 and E10,000 (US$760) at high school, annually and respectively’. 

This latest report is one of many from Swaziland about innocent children being locked up. In June 2016,  it was reported that children as young as eleven were incarnated in juvenile correction facilities in Swaziland for up to ten years, even though they had committed no crimes. 

And, the trend to lock innocent children up was increasing, a United Nations group examining human rights in Swaziland was told. Parents collaborate with the Commissioner of Correctional Services in what was described as ‘the best interests of the child’.
A report submitted jointly to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland April-May 2016 by SOS-Swaziland, Super Buddies, Prison Fellowship and Luvatsi – Swaziland Youth Empowerment Organisation, gave the example of one child aged 11.
Their report stated, ‘There is a growing trend of child and youth abuse done by the state and the parents purportedly in “the best interests of the child”. Children and youths are illegal incarcerated in prison centres by parents in collaboration with the Commissioner of Correctional Services who claims that the children are unruly. 
‘In one incident, Grace (not her real name) who is a single parent to John (not his real name) wrote a request letter to the Commissioner of Correctional Services requesting that John be incarcerated for unruly behaviour. In the letter, Grace states her concerns that eleven years old John might not finish school; hence her reason for wanting him incarcerated and attending the juvenile school at Malkerns Industrial School for Rehabilitation.
‘Responding to the same letter of request by Grace, the Commissioner of Correctional Services stated that under normal circumstances, they do not admit persons who have not been sentenced by the courts and directed therein through committal warrants. 
‘However, the Commissioner agreed to rehabilitate John under the stated conditions; that the 11 years old John is institutionalised at the juvenile school for 10 years; there is an order from a presiding officer giving him a custodial order of ten years without remission; and that he will cooperate with His Majesty’s Correctional Services while under its care. 
‘With that response, Grace [sic] the letter to a presiding officer who then wrote a custodial order for the stipulated time and John was admitted to the juvenile school in 2013. The 11 years old John lodges with other juveniles who have been charged by the court of law for various crimes they have committed. Grace pays tuition fees and up-keep fees for John, and she will continue doing so for the next ten years until 11 years old John is 21 years. 
‘This case is one of many, and the children are of different ages and varying backgrounds. It is only recently that a joint task team comprising of UNICEF, Prison Fellowship Swaziland, Lawyers for Human Rights-Swaziland, Save the Children Swaziland working together with the department of home affairs are exploring means to curb this situation and probably provide solutions for both the parents and children.’
In 2012, the Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland reported that Isaiah Mzuthini Ntshangase, Swaziland’s Correctional Services Commissioner, was encouraging parents to send their ‘unruly children’ to the facility if they thought they were badly behaved.
Ntshangase was speaking at the open day of the Juvenile Industrial School at the Mdutshane Correctional Institution. He told the newspaper, ‘Noticing the strife that parents go through when raising some of their children who are unruly, we decided to open our doors to assist them.’ 
The school not only corrected offenders but assisted ‘in the fight against crime by rooting out elements from a tender age’, the newspaper reported him saying. The children ‘will be locked up, rehabilitated and integrated back to society’, the Times reported.
The school accommodates pupils who were both in conflict with the law as well as delinquents, the Times said. There were 279 children locked up at the time of the interview.
The Times interviewed some of the inmates and found a 15-year-old girl locked up by her guardian because she had developed a relationship with a boyfriend that the guardian did not like.
Another girl interviewed was an orphan who ‘lived a town life’. She was reported saying, ‘In our dormitories which we share, we are deprived all the nice and good things.’ 
She added the rules at the institution were tough, ‘This place is not for the faint-hearted because you lose a lot of privileges that are freely accessible outside. There is neither clubbing, drinking nor time for boys.’
One unemployed father of an 11-year-old boy said he put his son in the facility because he did not have money to pay school fees. ‘I am grateful that my son is in school. I cannot afford his education because I am old. My wish is that he finishes school to earn a decent living,’ he said.
The guardian of one girl said before she was admitted at the school, she had not been able to contain her behaviour. ‘My biggest problem was that I had lost her. She dropped out of school together with my niece (sister’s daughter) who is an orphan,’ she said.
Children reported that they were not beaten but they were badly fed, getting their supper at around 3pm, which meant they went to bed hungry.
This was not the first time the Swazi juvenile correction facility had been under the spotlight.
In August 2010, it was revealed that a 12-year-old boy was serving one year in Mdutshane because he insulted his grandmother. He had been sentenced to an E300 fine (about US$30 at the then exchange rate), but was too poor to pay so was jailed instead.
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