3 January 2014

Swaziland: 2013 - Year of Repression in Swaziland

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Swaziland's King Mswati III was named as one of the world's most predatory censors in a media freedom report published by Reporters Without Borders (RWB).

King Mswati was among a group of six heads of state who, 'are members of an exclusive club of authoritarian African leaders, some eccentric, others stern, who hold their countries in an iron grasp and keep a firm grip on news and information'. Swaziland ws placed at 155 among 179 nations in the world.

Swaziland's three national security chiefs joined a growing number of the ruling elite to receive bullet-proof cars. Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) Commander Lieutenant Sobantu Dlamini, Royal Swaziland Police (RSP) Commissioner Isaac Magagula and His Majesty's Correctional Services (HMCS) Commissioner Isaiah Mzuthini Ntshangase were reported to be in line to each receive BMW 2013 X5 cars at a total cost of E4 million (U$400,000.) They join about 20 members of the Swazi Royal family, headed by King Mswati III, who already have top-of-the-range Mercedes S600 Pullman Guard cars that can withstand an armoured missile assault.

March

Two men who threw stones at the car of Qethuka Dlamini, one of King Mswati III's official 'praise singers', were jailed for 11 years and nine years. One of the men is said to have told Dlamini he detested him for working closely with the king.

The European Union (EU) told King Mswati he must allow political parties to operate in his kingdom. It said it was important that international principles of democracy were upheld in Swaziland, where the king rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. The call came at the end of a two-day visit to Swaziland by an EU delegation.

The Industrial Court backed the government and declared the kingdom's only labour federation illegal. It said that the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) was improperly registered.

The row over the legality of TUCOSWA had been continuing since shortly after it was formed in March 2012, following the amalgamation of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) and the Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL). TUCOSWA became embroiled in controversy after it declared it would not support the national election in Swaziland this year.

A 'battalion of police officers,' without a court order, stopped a prayer meeting in Swaziland's main city Manzini, claiming it was illegal. The police, carrying batons, took control of the Caritas Centre and stopped a commemoration prayer called by TUCOSWA. Riot police later arrived to ensure that no prayers took place.

April

The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) condemned Swazi police for their 'increasingly violent and abusive behaviour' that was leading to the 'militarization' of the kingdom.

It said in a report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia things were so bad in the kingdom that police were unable to accept that peaceful political and social dissent is a vital element of a healthy democratic process, and should not be viewed as a crime.

About 80 armed police, acting without a court order, blocked a public debate to mark the 40th anniversary of the Royal Decree made by King Sobhuza II in 1973 that turned Swaziland from a democracy to a kingdom ruled by an autocratic monarchy.

The SUDF and the SDC, the joint organisers of the meeting, said police told them the meeting, 'presented a threat to national security'. Local embassies, church leaders, community organisations, the local and international media were among those invited to attend the meeting.

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