3 January 2014

Swaziland: 2013 - Year of Repression in Swaziland

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Commonwealth observers called for Swaziland's Constitution to be rewritten after they concluded the kingdom's national election in September was not entirely credible.

The call came in the official report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission which said members of parliament 'continue to have severely limited powers' and political parties were banned. It called for King Mswati's powers to be reduced.

Fewer than one in four people in Swaziland said they were completely free to say what they think, new research published by Afrobarometer showed. That put Swaziland 29th out of 34 African countries surveyed.

November

A newly-appointed chief in Swaziland threatened to evict nearly 1,000 of his subjects from grazing land if they did not pay him a fine the equivalent of more than six months income for many.

Chief Ndlovula of Motshane told residents if they do not each pay a fine of E5,000 (US$500) their homes would be destroyed. In Swaziland seven in ten people earn less than E20 a day. The chief stands to make about E5 million if the fines are paid. He said his subjects illegally built homes on land put aside for grazing.

Children in Swaziland were being used as forced labour to tend the fields of King Mswati, an international report on human trafficking said. Chiefs in rural areas who represent the monarch, 'may coerce children and adults - through threats and intimidation - to work for the king,' the report from the US State Department revealed.

The report also said, 'Swazi girls, particularly orphans, are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude in the cities of Mbabane and Manzini, as well as in South Africa, Mozambique, and the United States.'

Swaziland police, acting without a warrant or court order, broke up a screening of a documentary The King and the People which was critical of King Mswati III and detained the owner of the studio.

The screening at the Christian Media Centre in Manzini had been organised by the Swaziland United Democratic Front. About 50 people had gathered to watch the documentary.

Armed police raided the dormitories at the Kwaluseni campus of the University of Swaziland (UNISWA), teargasing students and arresting and beating their leaders.

It followed peaceful complaints from students about the end-of-semester examinations that were taking place. Later, armed police stood guard outside examination halls as the UNISWA Administration attempted to hold the exams.

December

About 30 armed police broke up a church service held to mourn the death of Nelson Mandela. The service at the Lutheran Church in Manzini was organised by SUDF. It wanted to mourn Mandela and also to draw attention to the lack of democracy in Swaziland.

Two thirds of Swazi people want the kingdom to become a democracy, research published this month revealed. And, they want to choose their own leaders, 'through honest and open elections'.

They also strongly disapprove of allowing King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch, to decide on everything in Swaziland. The research was conducted by Afrobarometer.

Three months after the national election in Swaziland took place the full final results have not been published.

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