19 February 2019

Swaziland: 'Secret Plan' to Create National Intelligence Agency in Swaziland

There is a secret plan in Swaziland / eSwatini to set up a National Intelligence Agency, an investigative website has reported.

The new body would report directly to King Mswati III, the kingdom's absolute monarch, the Swaziland News said.

The former National Commissioner of Police and present senator Isaac Magagula is said to be spearheading the move.

The new body would work closely with the police and correctional services in Swaziland which make up the kingdom's present civilian security services, the Swaziland News reported.

The website reported Government Spokesperson Percy Simelane saying it was normal for countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to have national intelligence agencies. He added he had not been told of any developments in Swaziland.

The website reported that 'sources within the security forces' told it that in November 2018 Senator Edgar Hillary sought an appointment with the new Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini to convince him to establish the NIA 'and that he [Edgar Hillary] was the rightful person to head it'.

No details of the objectives of the new NIA have come to light. In other countries, intelligence agencies are run by the government (often in secret) to collect information in support of national security and military objectives.

One of the most famous intelligence agencies was South Africa's Bureau of State Security (BOSS) which operated during the apartheid years.

There is a long history of police spying in Swaziland. Police routinely video legal public demonstrations and protest marches. They then use the information to deprive people of college scholarships, jobs in the army, police, and correctional services or promotions in government departments, the Swaziland News reported in July 2018.

In September 2017 the Sunday edition of the Swazi Observer newspaper reported police in Swaziland disguised themselves as news reporters at a march of public servants in Mbabane.

It called it 'spying' and said it had happened before at other public demonstrations, 'They [police] are always plain clothed and carry traditional journalistic tools including cameras and notebooks,' the newspaper reported.

It added police took video and still photographs of marchers. The newspaper speculated that these might be used to later track down and intimidate participants. The march was legal. A police spokesman said they were not spying because the march took place in a public place.

In June 2017 some senior politicians in Swaziland reported fears their phones were being tapped. One also thought his car might be bugged.

In July 2013 it was reported that police in Swaziland were spying on the kingdom's members of parliament. One officer disguised in plain clothes was thrown out of a workshop for MPs and one MP reported his phone had been bugged. Ntondozi MP Peter Ngwenya told the House of Assembly at the time that MPs lived in fear because there was constant police presence, in particular from officers in the Intelligence Unit.

In Swaziland, political parties are banned from taking part in elections and King Mswati rues as an absolute monarch. Pro-democracy campaigners are routinely prosecuted under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act.

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