Thursday, January 18, 2018


Civil liberties in Swaziland have deteriorated in the past year, a leading global freedom group has reported.

Freedom House reported,Swaziland’s civil liberties rating declined from five to six due to increased government infringements on religious freedom and freedom of private discussion.’

The organisation said this in the Freedom in the World 2018 report just released. On a scale from one to seven where seven is the least free, Swaziland scored 6.5 on freedom; seven on political rights and six on civil liberties. It scored 16 out of 100 in total and Freedom House reported Swaziland was ‘not free’.

It has yet to release a detailed report on human rights in Swaziland for the past year. Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. 

Freedom House is not the only organisation to issue annual reports on freedom in Swaziland. The United States State Department in its most recent report published in 2017 and covering 2016 stated, ‘The principal human rights concerns are that citizens do not have the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot; police use of excessive force, including torture, beatings, and unlawful killings; restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; and discrimination against and abuse of women and children.

‘Other human rights problems included arbitrary killings; arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community and persons with albinism; mob violence; harassment of labor leaders; child labor; and restrictions on worker rights.’

Human Rights Watch in its report on events in Swaziland in 2016 stated Swaziland, ‘continued to repress political dissent and disregard human rights and rule of law principles in 2016. Political parties remained banned, as they have been since 1973; the independence of the judiciary is severely compromised, and repressive laws continued to be used to target critics of the government and the king despite the 2005 Swaziland Constitution guaranteeing basic rights.’

In May 2017 the global charity Oxfam named Swaziland as the most unequal country in the world. The report called Starting With People, a human economy approach to inclusive growth in Africa detailed the differences in countries between the top most earners and those at the bottom.

See also




Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Game rangers in Swaziland reportedly shot dead a man who was handcuffed in another case that underlines the zero-tolerance, shoot-to-kill policy against poachers in the kingdom.

The Sunday Observer newspaper reported (14 January 2018) that the latest shooting involved a man identified only as Zwane. He died on the spot after being shot in the abdomen at close range while handcuffed by rangers.

It happened at a private farm known as ka Skeepers in Lavumisa. The newspaper reported two men had been found loitering next to the farm around 1am and in possession of two protected game, namely inyala and a wild bird. The other man was shot in both legs but survived his injuries and is in Mbabane Government Hospital awaiting an operation to remove about 13 small bullet pellets of a 12 bore shotgun from his right leg.

The man, Mxolisi Mbhamali, aged 22, of Lavumisa told the newspaper he and Zwane had been poaching and were outside of the farm when trouble started.

The newspaper reported him saying, ‘We were outside of the farm and inspecting our car which had developed mechanical faults. As we were still busy with the car, we saw two people approaching us and Zwane whistled to alert them to assist us with the vehicle. Little did we know that the people we were alerting were actually farm rangers. There were three of them, two were carrying guns while the other a sjambok. Zwane was carrying a gun and they confiscated it from him before handcuffing us.’

The newspaper reported, ‘Mbhamali said while they were still pleading with the rangers to forgive and let them go, one of them pulled the trigger and shot Zwane on the abdomen at close range.’

Mbhamali said, ‘Zwane fell into the ground and the ranger turned and shot me on both legs several times. I rolled on the ground and disappeared into the thick bushes. I thereafter heard them calling the police on their mobile phones.’

Shootings by game rangers in Swaziland have attracted international attention. In 2017 a United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) questioned Swaziland about a law that gives game rangers immunity from prosecution for killing any person suspected of having poached and Survival International reported Swaziland ‘appears’ to have a shoot-on-sight policy that allows game rangers to kill suspected poachers.

The HRC asked the Swaziland Government to explain the Game Act (No. 51/1953) as amended in 1991, which gives conservation police personnel (game rangers) immunity from prosecution for killing any person suspected of having poached.

In April 2017, Survival International wrote to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, saying Swaziland ‘appears’ to have a shoot-on-sight policy that allows game rangers to kill suspected poachers.

In its letter it said, ‘We say “appears” because usually the policy is not defined by any law, or even written down.  As a consequence, nobody knows when wildlife officers are permitted to use lethal force against them, and it is impossible for dependents to hold to account officers whom they believe to have killed without good reason.’

Stephen Corry, Survival International Director, said the shoot-on-sight policy directly affected people who lived close to game parks and guards often failed to distinguish people hunting for food from commercial poachers.   

There has been concern in Swaziland for many years that game rangers have immunity from prosecution and can legally ‘shoot-to-kill’.

In 2016, the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) reported to a United Nations review on human rights in Swaziland, ‘There are numerous cases where citizens are shot and killed by game rangers for alleged poaching as raised by community members in several communities such as Lubulini, Nkambeni, Nkhube, Malanti, Sigcaweni, and Siphocosini. 

‘In terms of Section 23 (3) [of the Game Act] game rangers are immune from prosecution for killing suspected poachers and empowered to use firearm in the execution of their duties and to search without warrant,’ SCCCO told the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland in a report.

In January 2014, Swaziland’s Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula said rangers were allowed to shoot people who were hunting for food to feed their hungry families.

Commissioner Magagula publicly stated, ‘Animals are now protected by law and hunting is no longer a free-for-all, where anybody can just wake up to hunt game whenever they crave meat.’ 

He told a meeting of traditional leaders in Swaziland, ‘Of course, it becomes very sad whenever one wakes up to reports that rangers have shot someone. These people are protected by law and it allows them to shoot, hence it would be very wise of one to shun away from trouble.’

His comments came after an impoverished unarmed local man, Thembinkosi Ngcamphalala, aged 21, died of gunshot wounds. He had been shot by a ranger outside of the Mkhaya Nature Reserve. His family, who live at Sigcaweni just outside the reserve’s borders, said he had not been poaching. 
Campaigners say poor people are not poaching large game, such as the endangered black rhinos, but go hunting animals, such as warthogs, as food to feed themselves and their families. Hunger and malnutrition are widespread in Swaziland where seven in ten of King Mswati’s subjects live in abject poverty. Many are forced to become hunters and gatherers to avoid starvation.

King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has given game rangers permission to shoot-to-kill people suspected of poaching wildlife on his land and protects them from prosecution for murder in some circumstances.

See also


Monday, January 15, 2018


A controversial businessman with links to Swaziland’s autocratic King Mswati III was assassinated at a petrol station in the kingdom.

Victor Gamedze was shot twice in the head at the Galp filling station in Ezulwini on Sunday (14 January 2018).

Gamedze was the chairman of Swazi Mobile, a new telecoms company in Swaziland. It was surrounded by allegations of corruption and money laundering. King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was accused of being in collusion with Gamedze and the Zambian President Edgar Lungu in a deal to establish a mobile phone company in Zambia using Swazi Mobile as a cover.

Swaziland is a secretive state where media are censored and it is difficult to uncover the true nature of Swazi Mobile. It is known that the company was awarded a licence to provide mobile phone services that started in July 2017. It beat other companies for the contract although it had no experience in the mobile phone business. Unusually in Swaziland, the company was swiftly launched only five months after the licence was given.

Within three months of the launch Gamedze told media in Swaziland the company had a stock value of E1.2 billion (US$98 million).

In June 2017 a report appeared in the newspaper Swaziland Shopping stating that King Mswati and Gamedze had forced Swaziland’s government to side-line rival parastatal Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) from competing with Swazi Mobile. It said King Mswati and Gamedze had shares in Swazi Mobile.

The African News Agency reported the editor of Swaziland Shopping Zweli Martin Dlamini received a death threat. It reported Dlamini saying, ‘Shortly after publishing the story, I received a threatening call from Gamedze that lasted for 20 minutes where he vowed to “deal with me”. Later Communications Minister Dumsani Ndlangamandla summoned me to a meeting and told me that the King was not happy with the story and had ordered that the newspaper should be closed.’

Swaziland Shopping was closed by the Swazi authorities who claimed that it had not been properly registered even though the newspaper had been published since 2014 with no problem.

Dlamini fled to South Africa fearing for his life.

Meanwhile, media in Zambia have been reporting on meetings between King Mswati and President Lungu to set up a fourth mobile phone company in Zambia to be owned by the pair using proxies.

Gamedze was murdered in full view at a petrol station on Sunday at about 7pm. A witness told the Swazi Observer, ‘He started walking towards his car and then a man, wearing a white cap, followed him towards the car. When Gamedze was about to open his car door, the man withdrew his gun and placed it on the side of Gamedze’s head and shot twice. The man didn’t say a word. He just shot him. Gamedze went down while the man started walking towards a red VW Golf car which had been parked by the waiting room on the left side of the road heading to Mbabane.’

The Times of Swaziland reported two men were involved. ‘One of the gunmen, at close range, aimed the gun to Gamedze’s head and pulled the trigger. As soon as Gamedze hit the ground, the same gunman again aimed the gun at another side of his head and fired the second shot,’ it said.

The Observer said, ‘At the scene of the incident, senior Police officer Mxolisi Dlamini told journalists that the shooting looked like one that was planned well in advance.’

Police later said suspects linked to the shooting had been arrested while trying to cross into South Africa through the Lundzi Border post.

See also