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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

SWAZI TERROR DECISION TO BE APPEALED

Swaziland’s Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini is to appeal the High Court ruling that sections of the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Sedition and Subversive Act are unconstitutional. 

Now, the decision reached by High Court Justices Mbutfo Mamba and Jacobus Annandale on 16 September 2016 will not take effect unless the Supreme Court determines the matter.

The notice of appeal was filed by the office of the Attorney General on Friday (23 September 2016). No grounds for the appeal have been made public.

The High Court justices had ruled that the Acts contravened provisions in the Constitution on freedom of expression and freedom of association.

Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer; Maxwell Dlamini, Swaziland Youth Congress secretary-general; Mario Masuku, president of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and Mlungisi Makhanya, PUDEMO secretary-general, brought four actions against the Swazi state.
Responding at the Swazi High Court were the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General.

Justice Mbutfo Mamba and Justice Jacobus Annandale ruled that various sections of the Acts were inconsistent with the Constitution. They said S14(1)(b) of the Constitution, ‘guarantees and declares freedoms of conscience, expression and peaceful assembly and association as fundamental human rights’.

The applicants had been charged with offences under the Suppression of Terrorism Act because they are members of PUDEMO which is a banned organisation in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The judges’ ruling stated, ‘They were found wearing T-shirts and berets of such organization and also chanting its slogans.’

The judges also stated that the Act did not describe what a terrorist was. ‘Generally speaking, most of the offences criminalized as terrorist acts in the Act are covered by ordinary criminal law,’ they stated.

The judges stated the fact that the applicants had been charged for their involvement with PUDEMO, ‘is plainly a matter that affects or impacts on their right to freedom of association and opinion.

‘For whatever reason, their views on the policies, aims, ideals and objectives of PUDEMO have drawn them to it. The wearing of any apparel of paraphernalia associated with PUDEMO, may or may not, depending upon the particular circumstances of the case, be said to be a crime under the Act.

‘The bottom-line in these proceedings, however, is that their association, involvement with this organization or entity has resulted in them being charged under the Act. In a word, they have been told, PUDEMO is a specified [banned] entity, and your belonging to it or chanting its slogans and wearing its apparels is a crime in terms of the Act.

‘Clearly, their rights to freedom of association and opinion are adversely affected by this.’

The judges also stated that the law or regulations that declared PUDEMO a banned entity interfered with the constitutional right to freedom of association, but such rights were not absolute and they may be subject to certain restrictions or limitations.

The judges stated that the applicants who were members of the banned PUDEMO were, ‘declared, in effect, terrorists or at least persons engaged or involved in terrorist acts or criminals before they are given the opportunity to be heard on the issue. This cannot be right. It is against the rules of natural justice or procedural fairness or administrative justice that a person be condemned before he has been given the opportunity to be heard on the issue under consideration.’

A third High Court Justice Nkululeko Hlophe made a dissenting judgement.

See also

NO AMNESTY IN ‘TERROR’ CASES
SWAZI TERROR ACT STOPS FREE SPEECH
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2015/11/swazi-terror-act-stops-free-speech.html

Monday, 26 September 2016

BOY, 16, HELD IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

A 16-year-old boy in Swaziland has been kept in solitary confinement for five months, although he has not been sentenced for a crime.

He had been granted bail of E2,000 (US$145) but his family have been unable to raise the money, so he has had to stay behind bars.

The boy admitted stealing five pairs of sneakers, worth E4,000.

The Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (21 September 2016) that he had been serving time in a solitary confinement cell for about five months. It reported the boy saying, ‘I miss school and I might go mad in that cell all by myself. I do not care what happens to me now as I have already suffered enough for all my sins.’

He has been kept in the solitary cell at the Pigg’s Peak Correctional facility, because he is too young to be detained with adult prisoners. 

He was originally arrested on 23 March 2016. His father appeared before the Pigg’s Peak Magistrate’s Court to request bail in July. It was set at E2,000 by Senior Magistrate Siphosini Dlamini. But, the newspaper reported, the boy’s father could not raise the bail money, forcing the minor to continue his time in jail. 

The minor will re-appeared in court on 3 October for sentencing. 

See also

KIDS WHO COMMIT NO CRIME LOCKED UP
BOY, 12, JAILED FOR INSULTING GRANNY
http://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/boy-12-jailed-for-insulting-granny.html

Friday, 23 September 2016

‘TORTURE’ POLICE INVESTIGATE SELVES

Police in Swaziland are to investigate themselves after reports that officers ambushed and tortured striking workers.

An unnamed senior officer was reported in the Swazi Observer newspaper saying, ‘We as the police have opened an inquiry of our own over the allegations made against our officers.’

It relates to reported attacks by police on workers at the Plantation Forest Company, near Pigg’s Peak. 

The newspaper said two investigations had been started, one of them independent of the police. The Observer reported on Tuesday (20 September 2016) that the senior office said, ‘everybody involved, be it the police officers or the workers themselves were all under investigation’.

Meanwhile, the Swaziland Agriculture and Plantations Workers Union (SAPWU) want to open individual assault cases against police officers, following the alleged assaults on Friday 9 September 2016.

General-Secretary Manqoba Dlamini said, ‘We intend opening various assault cases against the police. This is because the violation by police happened at various times during the strike, but the Friday’s assaults were severe and most shocking. That fateful Friday, police picked up five females and assaulted them in a secluded location and further accused them of arson attacks at the Plantation Forest Company sports field,’ he said. 

Dlamini said the names of the police officers involved in the alleged assault were known to them.

Dlamini also said SAPWU intended to alert the International Labour Organisation (ILO) of the strike action by workers of the Plantation Forest Company. He said, ‘The poor working conditions suffered by workers coupled by the low wages topped off by attacks by police have to be told to the international community. Worth noting is that the assaults that happened on Friday started as a labour dispute that turned ugly,’ he said. 

See also

‘HORROR TALE OF SWAZI POLICE TORTURE
POLICE ‘BRUTALLY ASSUALT’ WORKERS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2016/09/police-brutally-assualt-workers.html

Thursday, 22 September 2016

KING BUYS JET BUT NO MONEY FOR FOOD

In the week that it was revealed that Swaziland had paid E90 million (US$6.4m) as a deposit on a private jet for King Mswati III it was announced that 500,000 Swazi people – nearly half the population – would need food aid by December, but the kingdom cannot afford to pay for it.

Swaziland has been under a national emergency since February 2016 because of drought. The kingdom, ruled by King Mswati, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, appealed to the international community for financial aid. Meanwhile, the King who has a reputation for his personal lavish lifestyle spent millions hosting the Southern African Development Community summit in August. The King is chair of SADC this year.

On Friday (16 September 2016), media in Swaziland reported the kingdom’s National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) Chief Executive Officer Russell Dlamini saying an estimated 500,000 people would need food assistance by December 2016.

Dlamini said that donor agencies had promised aid, but only about a quarter of it had been received.
The Swazi Observer newspaper reported that Dlamini said more than E97 million had been pledged, but only E24 million had been received.

The Times of Swaziland reported Dlamini saying all food aid would cease by April 2017 unless something was done.

Newspapers also reported that members of the Swazi parliament were questioning what had happened to the E90 million that had been paid as deposit for the King’s private jet. No jet has jet been delivered. The jet is expected to cost a total of E207 million.

The media in Swaziland which often censor themselves when reporting about the King made no connection between the E90 million being spent so far on the jet and the nearly similar amount needed for food aid.

See also

MONEY FOR KING’S JET, BUT NOT DROUGHT
SWAZI KING’S DROUGHT BLUNDER
SWAZILAND DROUGHT – TRUTH REVEALED
KING BUYS JET, UN FUNDS DROUGHT RELIEF
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2016/04/king-buys-jet-un-funds-drought-relief.html

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

SOCCER GURU HARASSES JOURNALISTS

Swazi soccer guru harasses journalists with impunity
Kenworthy News Media, 21 September 2016
Soccer guru Victor Gumedze has allegedly assaulted a journalist and ordered another fired because they wrote unfavourable stories about him and his football team. Such media control and self-censorship is commonplace in Swaziland, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Victor Gumedze, an influential, powerful and politically connected businessman, “controls the Swazi Observer Group of Newspapers,” according to last week’s edition of Swaziland Shopping. Gumedze is also the Acting President of the National Football Association of Swaziland, Premier League of Swaziland Chairman and Mbabane Swallows FC owner.

Amongst the claims made by Swaziland Shopping is that he has assaulted a journalist who was pursuing a story about him with impunity and (successfully) ordered the Managing Editor of the Swazi Observer, Mbongeni Mbingo, to fire the papers’ Sports Editor, who had written an unfavourable story about his football club.

Media under siege
But according to Sicelo Vilane, the General Secretary of the Media Workers Union of Swaziland, the actions of Gumedze is just one case that has been reported upon many, where journalists in Swaziland are harassed and ethical standards are broken in the Swazi media.

“The media industry in Swaziland is under siege. Media houses have become lapdogs and media workers are being harassed and intimidated. There is an escalating number of cases happening within local media houses, especially cases that touch on the harassment and unfair treatment of junior reporters and the selling out of the journalism profession to gangsters with hidden agendas, against the ethics and independence of the media,” Vilane wrote in a press statement sent out Saturday.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, no Swazi newspapers chose to quote from the press statement.  Vilane says he was told by a journalist that the Managing Editor of his newspaper had ordered him not to do so, without offering any explanation for this decision.

Censorship and self-censorship
Self-censorship is part of a broader problem in the Swazi media. The Swazi Observer was described as a “pure propaganda machine for the royal family,” to which Victor Gumedze is connected, by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report in 2013.


But the matter of curtailing the freedom of the press is broader than that of a single newspaper, as the case of the Times on Sunday publisher and managing editor “being summoned to the royal court, where the king informed them that any stories related to the king’s property did not belong in the newspaper,” as reported in the 2014 African Media Barometer, shows.

The report also mentions the pressure that companies and the government exerts on the media, in a small country such as Swaziland, by withdrawing or threatening to withdraw advertising if they write unfavourable articles about them.

In their 2015 Freedom of the Press report from 2015, American research-NGO Freedom House described a situation where “numerous laws restrict media freedom, including harsh defamation laws; the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008, which the government has threatened to apply to critical journalists; and legislation that penalizes sedition with a prison sentence of up to 20 years.”
Swaziland was ranked 153rd, just below DRC Congo, out of 180 countries, in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index published by Reports Without Borders. “Self-censorship is routine … [and] Journalists cannot work freely,” the organization stated.

Media freedom and democracy go hand in hand
In August, employers of Sicelo Vilane’s Media Workers Union of Swaziland protested outside the offices of the Swazi Observer because of management intimidation, poor working conditions and low wages. The union had been banned from holding an actual picket by Swaziland’s High Court.
Sicelo Vilane sees such curtaining of both union and media freedom as a problem, both in regard to the freedom of speech that is promised in Swaziland’s constitution, and in regard to Swaziland becoming a truly democratic country.

“The future of media freedom is intrinsically liked with democracy. Curtailing media freedom is at the core of how the state ensures its rule is never challenged, and the continued harassment and intimidation has given birth to a media that is not critical, not telling it like it is,” says Sicelo Vilane.

According to an Afrobarometer report from 2015, freedom of speech in Swaziland is perceived as the most limited of the 28 African countries surveyed. Allowing intimidation of media workers such as Sicelo Vilane or allowing businessmen such as Victor Gumedze to dictate what can and cannot be written in Swazi newspapers surely will do nothing to rectify that tendency.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

‘HORROR TALE OF SWAZI POLICE TORTURE’

More detailed accounts of Swaziland police ‘torture’ against women workers have been published in a local newspaper. 

The women were reportedly ambushed by armed police and ‘brutally attacked’ during a strike at the Plantation Forest Company, near Pigg’s Peak.

The Observer on Saturday newspaper (17 September 2016) reported what it called a ‘horror’ attack. It said a private security company called Siyavutsa assisted police.

The newspaper reported the attack happened at 4.45pm on Friday 9 September. A group of workers left the plantation premises and walked along a main road to their compound, Goedgegun, about 5 km away, ‘when all of a sudden a Siyavutsa vehicle swerved and came to an abrupt stop in front of the first group of about five workers and a swarm of armed police officers and dog handlers alighted.’

The newspaper added, ‘The different groups of about 15 workers allege that they all ran in different directions while the officers were in pursuit striking indiscriminately at anyone falling down. The women claim that the police officers alighted with rifles and batons while Siyavutsa dog handlers followed suit with the dogs. Shots were fired in the air while other officers bridged their service weapons. 

‘At the top of his voice a Siyavutsa security chief shouted at the workers as to why they were burning down the forest, however they wondered how they could have burned the forest because the fires had started from a different direction, far away from where they were going. 

‘Vice Secretary of the Workers Union Wendy Simelane said she was struck with a baton by an officer identified as Manqoba Vilakati on the shin before she was dragged and thrown into a police van that had arrived to beef up the contingent on the scene.’

The Observer on Saturday reported, ‘It was then they, together with a handful of others, were driven deep into one of the forests. On the way the vehicle swerved to its sides making its cargo bang on the sides with their heads. By then all their mobile telephones were confiscated. At the swamp inside the forest the beatings continued with their assailants stomping on their arms and legs, including Simelane’s fractured leg. 

‘“All this time we pleaded with them why we were being assaulted but to deaf ears. By then my lower part of the leg was dangling signalling that the shin was shattered. At the same time, we were forced to do press-ups but I could not because my leg could not hold any longer,”’ the newspaper reported Simelane saying.

The Observer reported that the police used wood stumps and branches from around the swamp to inflict more injury to the workers. They were then dragged and thrown into the police van, driven back to Mhlatane station where they found Siyavutsa guards waiting for their turn. 

Later, they were taken to Pigg’s Peak police station ‘for another bout of torturing’. The newspaper reported that Simelane was tortured by being suffocated with a plastic bag until she vomited. She was forced into signing a confession that she had started fires in the forest.

See also

POLICE ‘BRUTALLY ASSUALT’ WORKERS

Monday, 19 September 2016

‘UNDERCOVER COPS INFILTRATE MOSQUE’

Muslims in Swaziland say undercover police are infiltrating their mosques to attend Friday prayers.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the overwhelmingly Christian kingdom, reported on Wednesday (14 September 2016) that police were suspected of monitoring the Muslim community.

One source who did not want to be named told the newspaper that police officers attend their 1pm main service of the week on Fridays under disguise and would pretend to be members of the general public.

‘We do not understand the perception of the local people regarding the Islamic religion,’ the source told the Times. He added that Muslims were perceived as people who wanted to perpetuate violence.

Ezulwini Islamic Institute Imam Feroz Ismail confirmed the belief that plain-clothes police officers often attended its Friday afternoon services.

The Muslim community in Swaziland has recently been under attack by Christian leaders for distributing meat to needy people. President of the League of Churches Bishop Simon Hlatjwako was among Christian leaders who told people not to attend a special Muslim ceremony at which meat was distributed. Hundreds of hungry people ignored the instruction.

See also

THE HUNGRY DEFY CHRISTIAN LEADERS
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-hungry-defy-christian-leaders.html