27 February 2018

Swaziland: Man Too Poor to Pay Fine Sent to Jail

A refugee in Swaziland was sent to jail because he was too poor to pay traffic fines. The man, a Congolese, who is under asylum protection in the kingdom, was convicted of three offences including driving without a licence.

John Dambayi, aged 38, was fined E1,000 (US$86) by Siteki Senior Magistrate Donald Mavuso with the option of four months in jail. He could not afford the fine and went to jail.

According to a report in the Swazi Observer on Monday (26 February 2018), Dambayi told the court that he was a refugee who had no source of income as he was prohibited from engaging in employment.

It is not unusual in Swaziland where seven in ten people live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 per day for people to be sent to jail because they cannot afford the fine option.

In August 2014 it was reported that more than 1,000 people were in jail in Swaziland because they were too poor to pay fines. That was nearly three in ten of the entire prison population.

In Swaziland offenders are often given the option of jail time or paying a fine. Correctional Services Commissioner Isaiah Ntshangase said at the time there were people in jail because they could not pay fines for a range of matters, including traffic offences, theft by false pretences, malicious injury to property and fraud.

Figures revealed that 1,053 of 3,615 inmates in Swazi jails were there because they did not have the money to pay the fine option - 29.1 percent of the entire prison population.

Ntshangase said the numbers in prison because they could not pay fines was growing.

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