Thursday, August 25, 2016


The political dimension of Swaziland’s annual Reed Dance was at the fore this week as thousands of supposed-virgins were taught songs in praise of the kingdom’s autocratic monarch, King Mswati III.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and is about to become Chair of SADC, reported on Wednesday (24 August 2016) that they sang songs congratulating him on his new appointment. 

In past years the maidens had been taught to sing songs denouncing political parties.

Swaziland is the only country within the 15-member Southern African Development Community where political parties are banned from taking part in elections. King Mswati chooses the government of his kingdom and none of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people.

The Reed Dance or Umhlanga is an annual event in which tens of thousands of bare-breasted ‘maidens’, some as young as ten, dance for the pleasure of the King. It is widely reported within Swaziland that the dancers are ‘virgins’.

Newspapers in Swaziland reported that 98,000 maidens had registered to take part in this year’s ceremony.

The Reed Dance, billed as Swaziland’s foremost cultural day, proved to be anything but in 2013 when 120,000 half-naked maidens reportedly sang a song praising the Kings then-recent pronouncement about his continued rule over his kingdom.

They praised the King for announcing that henceforth Swaziland would be a ‘Monarchical Democracy’. This was a new name for the already existing ‘Tinkhundla’ system that puts all power in the hands of the King. 

The King said he had been told in a vision to make this change.

The song included these words (loosely translated from the original), ‘Your Majesty Swaziland is well governed through the Tinkhundla System of Democracy and will be victorious through it.’

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported at the time, ‘Royal Swaziland Police Superintendent Wendy Hleta who was the Master (sic) of Ceremonies together with Former Indvuna YeMbali Nothando Ntshangase noted that the maidens were seemingly pleased with the message conveyed by the new composition.’ 

The sinister nature of the Reed Dance was exposed in 2012 when about 500 children were ordered to sing a song vilifying political parties. This was part of a clampdown on dissent in the kingdom.

The children were taught a song to sing at the dance which had lyrics that when translated into English said political parties ‘set people against each other’ and said that if political parties were allowed to exist in the kingdom the King’s people ‘could start fighting each other’.

Political parties are banned in Swaziland, but there is increasing pressure from pro-democrats for this to change. Some traditional authorities also believe that support for the present system that puts them in control is on the wane. In Swaziland pro-democracy demonstrations have been attacked by police and state security forces.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016


King Mswati III, the autocratic King in Swaziland and soon-to-be Chair of SADC, has been exposed for misleading the 15-nation community that his kingdom was capable of holding the organisation’s 36th Summit.

Swaziland is so poor and lacking in infrastructure that is has been unable to find living accommodation for all those wanting to attend the Summit. A call went out this week for people to offer up spare houses to delegates.

King Mswati who has been a controversial choice as the next Chair of the Southern African Development Community has used the Summit as part of his campaign to convince his subjects that Swaziland will be a ‘first-world’ nation by 2022.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported on Wednesday (24 August 2016), ‘a number of the delegates found themselves with no accommodation as most of the hotels and lodges along the Mbabane/ Ezulwini/ Manzini corridor are fully booked. It was gathered that a search for people who own houses that could be used to accommodate some of the delegates was instituted. 

‘A government official, who is part of the committee responsible for welcoming SADC delegates, said they were currently running around trying to get accommodation for the stranded delegates.’

The Times reported, ‘Director of the SADC Unit Chazile Magongo said it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs to provide accommodation for SADC delegates.’

The situation on the ground contradicts the message that King Mswati’s supporters have been spreading in recent weeks that the kingdom was able to support such a prestigious Summit. Seven in ten of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than two US dollars a day.

The King has been a controversial choice of SADC Chair because Swaziland is the only one of 15 SADC nations where political parties are banned from taking part in elections. King Mswati chooses the government and no members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people.

King Mswati had used the Summit to try to impress that his kingdom was a developed country.

Mbongeni Mbingo, editor-in-chief of the Swazi Observer, a series of newspapers in effect owned by the King, wrote as recently as Sunday (21 August 2016), ‘The King’s vision has always been about showing that we are capable of just like the bigger countries in the region, to stage as successful an event as them - and that we can also demonstrate that while we are quite small and have a stunted economy, we can be counted on to show that we are indeed a nation in progress.’’

He added, ‘Prince Hlangusempi informed the media, this past week, that Swaziland had always opted against hosting the Summit, when its opportunity to host came up. It was never ready, and His Majesty always felt that it was not the right time to do so.

‘However, when the opportunity availed itself this year, and His Majesty was to become the next chairman of the SADC, he felt the opportunity could not be missed again - or it could be another 14 or so years before we could host.

‘Therefore, he decided that it was time to accept this challenge. Since then, he has worked hard at ensuring that the country does not do an average job. This meant we had to get the facilities to match our ambition.’

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Absolute monarchy assumes chairmanship of SADC
Kenworthy News Media, 16 August 16

Swaziland assumes the chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community for the first time ever on Wednesday, despite protests from Swaziland and abroad that the small absolute monarchy is not fit to chair the organisation, writes Kenworthy News Media.

The charter of the Southern African Development Country (SADC) clearly states that member states should observe basic human rights such as the right to strike and gender equality, and one of the main objectives of SADC is to support “regional integration, built on democratic principles,” something that SADC’s new chair Swaziland clearly does not.

Suppression, torture and lack of rights
In fact, American research NGO Freedom House ranks Swaziland as the least free country of the 15 members of SADC, in regard to political rights and civil liberties, below countries such as DRC Congo, Angola and Zimbabwe.

Swaziland is the only SADC country where political parties are banned from taking place in elections. King Mswati chooses the Prime Minister and government and has the last say on legal and financial matters. Nevertheless, Mswati told SADC leaders at a SADC Plenary Assembly Session held in June, that Swaziland was a “democracy.”

In their latest annual reports, Amnesty International speaks of Swaziland’s “suppression of dissent”, politically motivated trials” and “torture in police custody,” and Human Rights Watch of “draconian legislation” and “severe restrictions on civil and political rights.”

Protests against ‘stronghold of dictators’
The media in Swaziland are more or less being ordered to praise the “great achievement” of Swaziland leading SADC for the first time, as were the Swazi population at the recently held Sibaya “People’s Parliament,” where Mswati urged his people to be “respectful” during the summit and ordered that “Emanyeva” [thorns] should be uprooted before the summit so they did not “disturb” the SADC guests.

But several protests have nevertheless been voiced against Swaziland’s chairmanship of SADC and hosting of the 36th SADC Head of States summit starting August 17. Both in regard to human rights issues and the reports of king Mswati spending in the region of 40 million rand on the summit while over a quarter of the Swazi population are affected by the drought and people are beginning to die of starvation, also due to the lack of drought relief financing by the Swazi government.

Lucky Lukhele from the Swaziland Solidarity Network told African News Agency that the last thing SADC needed was a chairperson who made the region “look like a stronghold of dictators” that would institutionalise dictatorship across the region.

Mario Masuku, the President of the banned pro-democracy-party the People’s United Democratic Movement said that they were lobbying SADC member states against Mswati and that there were plans to launch protests during the summit.

Abusing public resources while people starve
Swaziland took over the chairmanship from Botswana, a multi-party democracy and one of SADC’s more human rights friendly nations, and criticism of the Swazi chairmanship has been especially strong from here.

Both political leaders and union leaders have said that Swaziland’s king Mswati III should not have taken the chairmanship of SADC because he is “a dictator”.

It is “a matter on great concern to us,” Vice President of the Botswana Congress Party Kesitegile Gobotswang told the Botswana Guardian, “because the country [Swaziland] has thus far refused to embrace the values of democracy. This is an indication that the regional body [SADC] is not committed to democratic values.”

“Mswati does not qualify to hold that position at all … he is a corrupt leader who sees nothing wrong with abusing public resources while people starve,” added President of the Botswana People’s Party, Motlatsi Malapis.