Sunday, April 22, 2018


(King Mswati in his diamond suit. Picture: Swazi Observer)
In the month that India donated US$1 million to help feed starving children in Swaziland, King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, wore a suit of diamonds weighing 6 kg and received a cake with 52 layers at his birthday party attended by 700 guests.

A few days earlier he received his second private jet that after VIP upgrading might have cost US$30 million. 

Meanwhile, seven in ten of his 1.1 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 per day and 640,000 of them in need of food.

The Observer on Saturday, a newspaper in Swaziland in effect owned by the King, reported (21 April 2018) the cake was ‘fit for a King’.

It reported, ‘The cake comprised of 52 layers and it was white and gold and part of the decoration on it was the silver number 50.’ It had been baked by a South African company.

The Observer also reported the King wore a blue suit that weighed 6 kg (13 lbs) and took eight months to make. 

‘It was hand made and beaded with diamonds,’ it reported. 

The King threw a garden party for 700 guests, including the President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen, and the Vice-President of Equatorial Guinea, Theodore Nguema Obiang Mangue, it added.

The King marked his birthday while more than one in three of his subjects were kept alive by international food aid. The World Food Program has reported 350,000 people are in need of emergency food assistance, with 640,000 potentially affected by some degree of food insecurity at the peak of the lean season.

It reported, ‘Chronic malnutrition is a main concern in Swaziland: stunting affects 26 percent of children under five years. Swaziland is vulnerable to drought in the south east. 77 percent of Swazis rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods.’ 

In September 2017, it was found that some people in Swaziland were so hungry they willingly ate dog food, a newspaper in the kingdom reported. It came after residents looted a van full of dog food that overturned on the Manzini – Mbabane highway.

A report in July 2013 called The Cost of Hunger in Africa, which was prepared by the Government of Swaziland working together with World Food Program, found that around 270,000 adults in the kingdom, or more than 40 percent of its workers, suffered from stunted growth due to malnutrition. As a result, they were more likely to get sick, do poorly in school, be less productive at work and have shorter lives.

Poverty is so grinding in Swaziland that people, close to starvation, have been known to eat cow dung in order to fill their stomachs before they can take ARV drugs to treat their HIV status.  In 2011, newspapers in Swaziland reported the case of a woman who was forced to take this drastic action.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018


Swaziland has not yet changed its name to eSwatini, despite a public announcement from the absolute ruler King Mswati III.

There needs to be a legal instrument directing the name change.

This was said by Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze after the King’s speech.

Already, opposition is growing inside the tiny impoverished kingdom to the King’s message.

The Observer on Saturday, a newspaper in Swaziland in effect owned by the King, reported (21 April 2018), Gamedze saying, ‘We stand guided by the Attorney General on the matter. With that instrument of a name change, we will then forward same correspondence to the United Nations, African Union and SADC [Southern African Development Community], which are the main international bodies. They will then inform their subsequent structures of the name change. So we expect the process of the name change to start soon with the legal instrument (gazette), so that we can inform the rest of the world thereafter.’

It is not clear how much discussion will take before the ‘legal instrument’ is issued. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King appoints the Prime Minister and government ministers.

It is possible the King would simply make a proclamation, without further discussion. There is a precedent for this. In 1973 Mswati’s father King Sobhuza II proclaimed that from that date power in the kingdom rested with the King. He dissolved the democratically-elected parliament and banned political parties. That proclamation has not been cancelled and remains in force. 

The King’s announcement of the name change was made during his speech on Thursday at a celebration to mark his 50th birthday and the half-century anniversary of Independence from Great Britain.  It came as a surprise and was made without public consultation.

Criticism of the move will be quiet within Swaziland. Those advocating for democracy face arrest and imprisonment under the Suppression of Terrorism Act

The AFP news agency reported that, ‘Critics of the King, who took the throne in 1986 aged 18, said the move was an example of his authoritarian and wasteful reign in a country that suffers dire poverty.’

It quoted Alvit Dlamini, head of the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress, saying, ‘We see here King Mswati’s autocratic style. He can’t change the name of the country on his own. He was supposed to consult the nation.’

AFP reported, the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland warned that the process was not immediate. ‘When the king has made a pronouncement, due process must take its course,’ acting general secretary Mduduzi Gina said AFP. ‘The legislature must initiate a process to amend the constitution. The change cannot be a knee-jerk reaction.’

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Friday, April 20, 2018


Kenworthy News Media, 19 April 2018

Swaziland is one of the world’s most unequal countries, where over ten percent survive on food aid. Absolute monarch King Mswati is celebrating his and his independent country’s 50th birthday by giving himself a new plane and throwing a huge party, writes Kenworthy News Media.

Today (19 April 2018), Swaziland’s absolute monarch King Mswati III begun what Swaziland’s official tourist website refers to as “lavish celebrations” and “a party fit for a king”.

The so-called 50/50 celebrations are a combined celebration of Mswati’s 50th birthday and the 50th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence in September.

King Mswati amongst other things bought himself an A340-300 Airbus that was flown into the King Mswati III Airport a couple of days ago. The plane is believed to have cost US$15 million.

Food aid and evictions
Many of King Mswati’s subjects can only dream of such opulence. According to the World Food Programme, about 14 percent survive on food aid from the UN. According to the World Bank, over 40 percent earn less than US$1.90 a day.

Just days before the celebrations, Pakistan donated 1 million US Dollars to help feed starving children in Swaziland, according to Swazi Media Commentary. The Swazi government claimed it could not afford to pay for the food.

Two weeks ago, 61 people in rural Swaziland, including more than 30 children, were left homeless after their homes were demolished by armed police and bulldozers, Amnesty International reported. The evictions were carried out in accordance with a court order.

“The affected people were not provided with an alternative accommodation, forcing some of them to take refuge at a local school. Others slept in the open at the site of the demolitions with their belongings”, Amnesty International wrote in a press release.

According to the British human rights organisation, “Swaziland has a long history of forced evictions”.

Robin Hood in reverse
Many ordinary Swazis have been forced to contribute to King Mswati’s celebrations, even though he is worth an estimated $200 million.

South African paper eNCA reported, that over $80.000 that had been intended for retired and disabled people in Swaziland were instead used to help pay for King Mswati’s birthday party.

Judges were also sent a memorandum from the office of Swaziland’s Chief Justice on April 4, where they were asked to make a contribution of a minimum of $160 for the 50/50 celebrations.

Coupless dictatorship
According to government spokesperson Percy Simelane, the 50/50 celebrations are worth celebrating, however, because of Swaziland’s peaceful history since independence.

“We are politically stable and have never experienced a coup in those 50 years”, he told online newspaper The Swaziland.

But the so-called peaceful nature of King Mswati’s regime comes at a price, especially for ordinary Swazis.

The King controls parliament, the judiciary and the economy. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections. Political activists are beaten up by police. And those advocating democracy are prosecuted under a terrorism act that Amnesty International has called “inherently repressive”.

Change through activism and democracy
Even so, people in Swaziland continue to protest. Every year, on the anniversary of Swaziland’s independence from Great Britain on September 6, Swaziland’s democratic movement campaign for democracy through marches, seminars and workshops. This so-called Global Week of Action is organised by the Swaziland United Democratic Front.

Last year between four and five thousand people marched to Swaziland’s parliament to deliver a petition demanding a people’s government, land reforms, rural development and affordable health and education.

And as recently as last Friday, about 2.000 people marched through the capital Mbabane to protest against poor and worsening living conditions. The march was arranged by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland.

According to political coordinator of the Swaziland United Democratic Front, Wandile Dludlu, bringing about democratic change in Swaziland is the only way to improve the situation for the majority of Swazis.

“Until Swazis truly own and run their country, celebrations such as 50/50 are just personal enrichment journeys of the king and his close associates, local as well as international”, says Dludlu.

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