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Monday, 19 March 2018


King Mswati III, Swaziland’s absolute monarch, will pronounce on whether E250 million will be spent on designs for a new parliament building that will itself cost E2.3 billion (US$192 million).

This is significant because in Swaziland the King’s word is law. Once he pronounces on a topic no further discussion is allowed. It also demonstrates that the Swazi government and parliament which is made up of a House of Assembly and a Senate has no real powers in the kingdom.

Political parties are not allowed to contest elections and the King chooses the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers. In Swaziland, people only get to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly; the King chooses the other 10. No members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the King chooses 20 and the other 10 are selected by members of the House of Assembly. 

There has been disagreement among Swazi parliamentarians about a budget for a new parliament building. It is estimated to cost E2.3 billion. The building plans alone are said to cost E250 million.

By contrast the health budget for the coming year in Swaziland is E2 billion; Defence is E1.5 billion and Agriculture, 1.4 billion.

The kingdom’s economy is in freefall. In his speech opening Parliament on 16 February 2018, King Mswati said he wanted a realistic budget ‘based on available resources’. He also gave a list of projects, including a new parliament building, that he said must go ahead.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom reported on Thursday (15 March 2018), ‘The matter has become a hot potato after MPs raised concerns why there was no money allocated towards the construction of the Parliament building yet the King had clearly pronounced himself on the project during his speech from the Throne last month.’

The Times Sunday reported on 11 March 2018 that a report of the Finance Sessional Committee on why the project had stalled stated, ‘The project costs an amount to the tune of E2.3 billion which is the total annual budget for the capital expenditure hence the proposal to defer it, until proper and due diligence has been done on the project.’

It added E50 million had been budgeted for the project in 2017-2018 but the funds had not been used. 

This is not the first time King Mswati has pronounced on a topic of controversy. In 2012 during a long-running and bitter schoolteachers’ strike the King commanded it should end and all teachers who had been dismissed during it be reinstated. This was against the wishes of the Cabinet.

However, there was a delay in implementing the King’s command and it was thought the Cabinet was defying his order. The Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini was anxious to set the record straight.
At the time, the Times Sunday reported him saying government belonged to His Majesty and it took instructions from him to implement them to the letter, without questioning them.  

He told the newspaper, ‘Government listens when His Majesty speaks and we will always implement the wishes of the King and the Queen mother.’

The PM said Cabinet’s position on the matter was that it respected His Majesty’s position on all matters he spoke about.

He said Cabinet just like the nation, heard what the King said and his wishes would be implemented. 

Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, the then acting Ludzidzini Governor, otherwise known as the ‘traditional’ prime minister, said no one had a right to further deliberate on an issue that the King had already pronounced on.

The Ludzidzini Governor is considered in traditional Swazi society to be more important than the nominal Prime Minister. The Governor is said to speak for the King and his word is law.

Mtetwa told local media, ‘My understanding of Swazi culture and etiquette is that the King’s word is final. Once the King issues an order regarding anything, the order has to be implemented by the relevant structures.’

He told the Times of Swaziland, ‘It doesn’t matter which position you could be occupying, the truth is no one is allowed to defy the King’s order. There is no exception to this long held Swazi cultural ethic.’ 

Richard Rooney

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A workshop in Swaziland on the forthcoming election was banned because it was deemed illegal.

More than 30 young people and community leaders from across the kingdom were turned away from the Castle Hotel in Mbabane on Friday (16 March 2018). The workshop was reportedly supported by the Elections and Boundaries Commission and the Swaziland National Youth Council.

The Sunday Observer reported (18 March 2018) ‘The organisers of the event said they had received instructions from labadzala who could not be named that they should cancel the seminar because they had not obtained permission for hosting it.’ Labadzala refers to Royal elders.

Elections are due in 2018 at a date yet to be set. King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are not allowed to contest in elections and people and groups that advocate for democratic reform are prosecuted under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The King chooses the Prime Minister and top government ministers. In Swaziland, people only get to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chooses the other 10. No members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the King chooses 20 and the other 10 are elected by members of the House of Assembly. 

Freedom of assembly is severely curtailed in Swaziland, especially in the run-up to elections. In 2013, before the most recent election, armed police stopped an election workshop organised by the Swaziland Youth Empowerment Organisation, also known as Luvatsi, at a Pentecostal Church in Sidvokodvo. The police had no warrant or court order, but were acting on instructions of their station commander, local media reported.

This was not the only example of people being prevented freely discussing issues in the run up to the election. The NGOs Election Network which operates under the Swazi-based Coordinating Assembly of Non-governmental Organisations (CANGO) and which observed the polls said in a report, ‘Civil society meetings were crushed, including prayer meetings.’ 

It added, ‘With no enjoyment of the rights to access information and also exchange information, freedom to associate, freedom of movement and freedom of speech it has become difficult for citizens to canvass issues.’ 

An election rally organised by the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) at Msunduza Township, Mbabane, in April 2013 was broken up by police and organisers charged with sedition. Swazi Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula had warned SWAYOCO in advance that his officers would stop any attempt at meeting.

In a statement carried by media in Swaziland the police chief said, ‘As a police service and organ of state responsible for internal security and maintenance of law and order, we wish to state it in no uncertain terms that the political rally planned by SWAYOCO for April 19, 2013 will not be allowed to take place.’

He added, ‘[I]t is unthinkable that an event whose agenda includes sabotaging the forthcoming national elections can be allowed to take place.’ 

SWAYOCO is the youth wing of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the best-known opposition group in Swaziland. Both have been branded ‘terrorist’ organisations and banned by King Mswati’s government.

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Sunday, 18 March 2018


Foreign-owned banks in Swaziland might leave the kingdom if a proposed new levy announced by the Minister of Finance Martin Dlamini goes ahead.

Banks will be expected to pay 2.5 percent of their annual income to the government of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Standard Bank Chief Executive Mvuselelo Fakudze told a meeting at Gigi’s Restaurant, Ezulwini on Monday (12 March 2018) banks had parent companies in other countries which would close their Swaziland operations if profits fell.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported that Fakudze said, ‘Government may be forcing investors which are the parent companies of most of the banks we have in Swaziland to review their reason of being in the country. With Swaziland being a small economy, the percentage of what we give back to our parent companies is far less than what subsidiaries in other countries are offering, so now the bank revenue levy will make us even less profitable.’ 

He said banks had not been consulted on the new levy.

The Swaziland Government owns 25 percent of the shares in Standard Bank Swaziland Ltd. There are three foreign-owned banks in the kingdom: Standard Bank, Nedbank and First National. The government-owned Swaziland Development and Savings Bank went bankrupt due to millions of dollars of unpaid loans in June 1995. Today, the kingdom’s only local bank is SwaziBank.

The total assets of Swazi banks is estimated by the United States Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs to be approximately E15.4 billion (US$1.2 billion). 

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Saturday, 17 March 2018


Members of Swaziland’s parliament refused to approve the budget of state-controlled Swazi TV following years of upheavals at the station.

They want an inquiry report from 2016 fully implemented before they will release E10 million.

It happened in the House of Assembly when MPs were debating the performance report of the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology (ICT).

At present Swazi TV has no chief executive after Bongani ‘S’gcokosiyancinca’ Dlamini’s contract expired in December 2017.

Dlamini headed a station in turmoil. It has failed to submit audited financial statements to the Auditor General since 2014. A ‘Commission of Inquiry’ was held in 2016 but its results were not made public. 

In April 2016, the Sunday Observer reported, ‘Dlamini was suspended together with the television station’s Chief Financial Officer Albert Masuku after reports that the station was going through a financial crisis as it is operating on a E40 million deficit.’

It said armed police were deployed at the station while an internal audit was underway.

Once the Commission of Inquiry was finished, Minister of Information Communication and Technology Dumsani Ndlangamandla told the Observer on Saturday in January 2017 ‘I can safely say the organisation was cleared of any mismanagement of funds, in fact the national broadcaster suffered a huge strain when their subvention was reduced without any other interventions like retrenchments or ways of cutting cost of running the national TV.’

The newspaper added, ‘Ndlangamandla revealed that the station had all along been given E47 million and then it was suddenly given E27 million which was suicidal. The minister said the station’s running costs per quarter was E6 million for salaries yet the station needs to cover other costs like content procurement and other running costs for a functional broadcaster.’

Swazi TV is one of only two television stations in Swaziland and is under state control. The other station, Channel S is privately-owned, but has a stated editorial policy to always support King Mswati, III who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Political parties are banned from taking part in elections in Swaziland and the King chooses the Prime Minister and senior cabinet posts.

Swazi TV is widely regarded as a propaganda station. In June 2015, a report tabled at the Swaziland Parliament revealed that censorship at Swazi TV was so tight that every month the Swaziland Government issued directives to the station about what events it should cover.

And, the Government had also banned ordinary members of parliament from appearing on the news programmes of Swazi TV.

At the time, Dlamini, the Chief Executive, said the instructions had been given to the station in advance of the 2013 national elections by then Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Winnie Magagula. 

His revelation was contained in a report tabled by Hhukwini MP Saladin Magagula, chairperson of the House of Assembly select committee investigating the media ban imposed on MPs by state-controlled media. 

According to a report in the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, Dlamini said, ‘It was communicated to the station that any activity outside of government’s calendar cannot be featured as news and that government’s calendar is sent monthly by the press officer in Cabinet and it is normally updated in between.’

In May 2010, Barnabas Dlamini the Prime Minister said Swazi Television and state-controlled SBIS radio should follow government policy and do what they were told. He was talking at an editors’ forum when he reminded his audience that government had dictated that state media were banned from promoting gambling activities, including Top Lotto, smoking and drinking alcohol.

He said the state media had no discretion in the matter. ‘Government’s stance involved is clear, so state-owned media cannot even use their discretion where this is concerned, but they are advised to simply ignore all gambling activities. Even if you are interviewing someone and that person mentions something about gambling, just cut the interview,’ the Swazi Observer reported him saying.

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Friday, 16 March 2018


Police armed with batons blocked a road in Swaziland to stop a petition rejecting the national budget being delivered to parliament.

Police with guns watched from a distance.

It happened in Lobamba on Thursday (15 March 2018). About 100 members of civil society groups, community organisations and political parties under the banner of the Swaziland Economic Justice Network marched from Somhlolo National Stadium heading to the Parliament gate.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent newspaper in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported the march was halted because it ‘would disturb Labadzala’. Labadzala is a group of Royal elders.

The newspaper reported, ‘the participants resolved to march and force the police out of their way to deliver the petition.

‘However, immediately when they got into the road towards the traffic circle, the police, who were mostly armed with batons, formed a line across the road while those carrying guns watched from a distance. 

‘The participants tried to divert from the main road and marched across the traffic circle but more police officers joined their colleagues to extend the barrier. Thereafter, the participants sang provocative political songs while dancing and toyi- toying in front of police officers.’

A representative of the Clerk to Parliament came out and received the petition.

The national budget has been controversial for a number of reasons, mainly because it raises Value Added Tax by 1 percent to 15 percent. A plan to impose 15 percent VAT on electricity prices for the first time has been shelved pending a review. 

Freedom of speech and assembly are severely curtailed in Swaziland. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and King Mswati chooses the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers. Advocates for multiparty democracy have been arrested under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
Meetings on all topics are routinely banned in Swaziland and the kingdom’s police and security forces have been criticised by international observers. In 2013, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported that Swaziland was becoming a police and military state. It said things had become so bad that police were unable to accept that peaceful political and social dissent was a vital element of a healthy democratic process, and should not be viewed as a crime.

These complaints were made by OSISA at an African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) meeting in The Gambia in April 2013.

OSISA said, ‘There are also reliable reports of a general militarization of the country through the deployment of the Swazi army, police and correctional services to clamp down on any peaceful protest action by labour or civil society organisations ahead of the country’s undemocratic elections [in 2013].’

As recently as September 2017, police stopped a pro-democracy meeting taking place, saying they had not given organisers permission to meet. It happened during a Global Week of Action for democracy in the kingdom. About 100 people reportedly intended to meet at the Mater Dolorosa School (MDS) in the kingdom’s capital, Mbabane. 

In 2013, after police broke up a meeting to discuss the pending election, the meeting’s joint organisers, the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) said Swaziland no longer had a national police service, but instead had ‘a private militia with no other purpose but to serve the unjust, dictatorial, unSwazi and ungodly, semi-feudal royal Tinkhundla system of misrule’.

In April 2015, a planned rally to mark the anniversary of the royal decree that turned Swaziland from a democracy to a kingdom ruled by an autocratic monarch was abandoned amid fears that police would attack participants. In February and March, large numbers of police disbanded meetings of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), injuring at least one union leader.

In 2014, police illegally abducted prodemocracy leaders and drove them up to 30 kilometres away, and dumped them to prevent them taking part in a meeting calling for freedom in the kingdom. Police staged roadblocks on all major roads leading to Swaziland’s main commercial city Manzini where protests were to be held. They also physically blocked halls to prevent meetings taking place.  Earlier in the day police had announced on state radio that meetings would not be allowed to take place.

In 2012, four days of public protest were planned by trade unions and other prodemocracy organisations. They were brutally suppressed by police and state forces and had to be abandoned.

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Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s unelected Prime Minister, is under fire from members of parliament over a plan to build him a retirement house costing E5.5 million from public funds.

They said the house was too expensive and the designs alone cost E1.5 million.

The money was included in the national budget announced earlier this month.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Wednesday (14 March 2018) that the Prime Minister ‘went as far as including the King’s name’ in his justification for having the house.

King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections. The King appoints the Prime Minister and senior government ministers. In Swaziland the King’s word is law and if he gives a directive it is to be followed without question.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported the King, ‘has blessed the site where the house would be built, the PM told MPs’. 

It added, ‘Dlamini also told the MPs that the King had chosen a site where the house would be built.’

A Royal Commission has already been announced to look into the salaries and benefits of parliamentarians. The E5.5milion (US$467,000) budget for the house was left unchanged.

Dlamini is aged 75 and in poor health. He is widely expected to retire at the next national election due sometime in 2018.

The Prime Minister’s retirement package is set out in Finance Circular No 2 of 2013. He will receive 80 percent of his final salary until he dies. In 2016 it stood at E802,854. In Swaziland seven in ten of the estimated 1.1 population have incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day (about E8,760 per year).

The Swazi taxpayer will contribute the full amount payable to a medical aid scheme of which the Prime Minister is a member. They will provide a house and a vehicle of the same status as the one he has while in office. Dlamini will also ‘be afforded security in line with the risk profile as determined by the Commissioner of Police’. He will be provided with a personal assistant.

When the cost of the PM’s house was included in the 2017 national budget, MPs protested that the amount was too much and should be frozen to a time when the kingdom could afford it.

Finance Minister Martin Dlamini did not make reference to the PM’s house in his budget speech, but he did state that the budget only included ‘the most critical expenditure items’.

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Thursday, 15 March 2018


Armed police in Swaziland fired rubber bullets and arrested eight students when they put a rubbish skip in the middle of a road during a protest.

It happened at Limkokwing University, Mbabane. 

Students were protesting about poor wi-fi internet connections. It was part of a continuing protest against poor teaching and facilities.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported on Thursday (15 March 2018) students put a ‘litterbin’ in the road near a market which caused motorists to slow down and ‘gingerly negotiate’.

The newspaper reported, ‘This prompted police to spring into action and fire warning shots aimed at dispersing the rowdy students.’ It added students were ‘shocked to the core’. 

Students were protesting that internet facilities had been poor for a long time and they were unable to meet deadlines to produce assignments.

The university has since been closed indefinitely. 

Limkokwing is the private university that was chosen by King Mswati to house his University of Transformation to take students from across the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region. The King became chair of SADC in August 2016 when he pledged the university would be operating by August 2017. Nothing substantial happened and the plan remains stalled.

Limkokwing, part of an international group of campuses, has been controversial since it opened in Swaziland in 2011. Students and education commentators have highlighted the poor quality of courses, staff and resources. Limkokwing in Swaziland only offers ‘associate degrees’ which are at a level below Bachelor degrees and in many colleges are known as diplomas. 

In 2016, a Swaziland parliamentary committee investigated the standard of qualifications held by academic staff at the university after students petitioned that many lecturers only held Bachelor degrees and had just themselves qualified from the university.

At that time fees for each Swazi student was E8,000 (US$577) a year for tuition. The government added an additional E33,700 as accommodation and meal allowance and E9,000 as a book allowance. 

Educational standards at Limkokwing are lower than those at other universities, including the University of Swaziland. It does not require students to have qualifications in the English language. In June 2012, Bandile Mkhonta, Head of Human Resource for Limkokwing in Mbabane, told local media that of 53 professional staff at the university only one had a Ph.D doctorate. A Ph.D is usually considered by universities to be the minimum qualification required to be given the rank of senior lecturer. Limkokwing in Swaziland had no staff at professor rank and no record of conducting scholarly research.

The Swazi Observer reported Mkhonta saying Limkokwing had fewer Ph.Ds because it was a ‘non-conventional’ university whose curriculum was mainly based on practice than theory.

The university was launched in Swaziland only after an intervention by King Mswati. In June 2011, it emerged that the university’s founder Tan Sri Dato Lim Kok Wing had a meeting with King Mswati and convinced him that Swaziland needed a new university – and Limkokwing should be it. 

He persuaded the King that low-level courses in such subjects as Graphic Designing, TV & Film Production, Architectural Technology, Advertising, Creative Multimedia, Information Technology, Event Management, Business Information Technology, Journalism and Media, Public Relations and Business Management, would help Swaziland which is mainly an agricultural society to prosper.  

Once the King gave his support nobody in his kingdom stood in its way. Limkokwing started in Swaziland illegally because an Act of Parliament was needed to set up a university, but Limkokwing was allowed to start without parliament’s approval. 

In 2013, the university awarded King Mswati an honorary doctorate in ‘human capital development.’

The cash-strapped government that was seeking ways to save money on higher education at the kingdom’s established University of Swaziland offered Limkokwing US$2 million a year it could not afford for scholarships for up to 800 students. 

Soon after Limkokwing opened, students began protesting that they were not getting their allowances and there were no textbooks and too few laptops. There were at least 20 protests, class boycotts and closures during the first year after it opened. Police used teargas and rubber bullets against protesting students. One student was shot in the leg.

In October 2016 police fired gunshots at students at Limkokwing and at least four students received ‘serious injuries’ during protests about the poor quality of teaching at the university and inferior facilities.

There have been numerous protests at Limkokwing, and across other campuses in Swaziland, against government for not paying allowances on time.

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The Swaziland Government has bought a fleet of luxury BMW cars worth US$7.5 million ahead of the King’s 50/50 celebrations.

The cost of the cars alone bust the US$1.7 million budget the government allowed itself for the festivities to mark King Mswati III’s 50th birthday and the 50th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence from Great Britain. The Taiwanese Government has donated an extra US$1.3 million but that still leaves Swaziland US$4.5 million short on the cost of the cars alone.

The Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported (11 March 2018) the cars would be used by the Close Protection Unit which is responsible for protecting dignitaries.

The newspaper did not say how many vehicles were purchased. It said the Ministry of Public Works and Transport announced the E89 million purchase in a report tabled in parliament last week. It said Lindiwe Dlamini, Minister of Public Works and Transport, had not responded to questions it sent to her regarding the purchase.

The cars were bought through the government’s Central Transport Administration (CTA) which was severely criticised in the Auditor General’s most recent report for illegally spending millions of emalangeni and not keeping proper financial records. 

The purchase raises questions about the lack of financial control around the 50/50 celebrations. In 2008 the budget for the 40/40 celebrations overran by E32.6 million (about US$5 million at the then exchange rate). E17 million was budgeted but it ended up costing at least E50.2 million. The exact figure is still uncertain. The total cost of the entire 40/40 celebrations was E39 million less than the cost of the BMW vehicles this year.

In 2010 the Auditor General reported that E1,839,934 was spent illegally because capital release warrants had not been made. Salary overtime claims from civil servants amounted to E5 million. The Weekend Observer newspaper in Swaziland reported (18 December 2010), ‘Civil servants who had access to claim overtime pay in their various workstations took advantage of the lax arrangements at the celebrations committee to drain money.’

More than E1 million was spent on providing 14 portable toilets (E71,428 each) for the three-day event. The Weekend Observer (30 August 2008) reported other sanitary expenses,  ‘E173,000 is needed for hiring 10 of 10,000 litre water tanks over the same period. E94,500 is required for 100 bales of toilet paper, whilst E5,500 is needed for 10 of 25 litre liquid soap. For five boxes of sunlight soap E7,100 is sought, while E7,900 is required for detergents, amongst other things.’ It estimated more than E2 million was spent in total on sanitary arrangements. 

A search by Swazi Media Commentary at the time revealed that that portable toilets could be hired from neighbouring South Africa at a cost starting at about E500 (US$70 at the then exchange rate) a day.

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Wednesday, 14 March 2018


Members of parliament in Swaziland have blocked funding to state-controlled radio because they say they are not being allowed on air.

One said the stations under the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (SBIS) were being used for ‘character assassination’.

Nkwene MP Sikhumbuzo Dlamini told the House of Assembly SBIS had been used to assassinate his character as a member of parliament.

The Swazi Observer newspaper, which is itself in effect owned by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported on Tuesday (13 March 2018), ‘He said the national radio station was used to tell people how he was evil and disrespectful. The message was sent to the people in a way to de-campaign him. He strongly blamed the editors at SBIS for disseminating news meant to humiliate him.’

During a debate, Nkhaba MP Menzi Dlamini wanted to know if it was still proper for the radio station to be referred to as a national radio station or should it be the ‘Cabinet radio station’.

The Observer reported, ‘He informed his colleagues how he was once denied access to the radio station when he wanted to air an announcement to inform Nkhaba people about an event they were supposed to attend.’

Maphalaleni MP Mabulala Maseko said as MPs they were pioneers of development and also coordinated development activities. So they were supposed to be given access to state media to talk about developmental issues in their constituencies. 

The MPs resolved that they would not release E2 million (US$170,000) to renovate the SBIS studios. 

All radio in Swaziland, except one Christian station that does not broadcast news, is state controlled. The largest of only two television stations in the kingdom is also state-controlled.  

There is a long history of censorship. In August 2014, Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Dumisani Ndlangamandla said the Swaziland Government would not let up on its control of state radio,  He said state media existed primarily to serve the interests of the state.

In August 2012, the government announced that in advance of the national election in September 2013
radio would be banned from broadcasting news and information that did not support the government’s own agenda.

New guidelines also barred ‘public service announcements’ unless they were ‘in line with government policy’ or had been authorised ‘by the chiefs through the regional administrators’ or deputy prime minister’s office’.

The guidelines said the radio stations could not be ‘used for purposes of campaigning by individuals or groups, or to advance an agenda for political, financial popularity gains for individuals or groups’.

Strikes and anti-government demonstrations are usually ignored by broadcasters. Sometimes live radio programmes are censored on air. In July 2011, the plug was pulled on a phone-in programme when listeners started criticising the government for its handling of the economy. Percy Simelane, who was then the boss of SBIS, and went on to become the government’s official spokesperson, personally stormed the radio studio and cut the programme.  

In April 2011, Welile Dlamini, a long-time news editor at SBIS, challenged the Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini at an editors’ forum meeting on why the state radio station was told by the government what and what not to broadcast. Welile Dlamini said that at the station they were instructed not to use certain stories such as those about demonstrations by progressives and strike action by workers. The PM responded by saying editors should resign if they were not happy with the editorial policies they are expected to work with.

In March 2011, SBIS
stopped broadcasting the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme after it carried reports critical of King Mswati. 

In 2010, Swazi police told SBIS it must stop allowing people to broadcast information about future meetings unless the police had given permission. Jerome Dlamini, Deputy Director of the SBIS said this was to stop the radio station airing an announcement for a meeting that was prohibited.

He said, ‘It’s the station’s policy not to make announcements without police permission.’ 

In 2006, the Minister for Public Service and Information, Themba Msibi, warned the Swazi broadcasters against criticising the King. MISA reported at the time, ‘The minister’s threats followed a live radio programme of news and current affairs in which a human rights lawyer criticised the King’s sweeping constitutional powers.’

Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, had been asked to comment on a visit by an African Union (AU) human rights team which was on a fact-finding mission to Swaziland.

‘In response, Maseko said that, as human rights activists, they had concerns about the King’s sweeping constitutional powers and the fact that he the King was wrongfully placed above the Constitution. He said they were going to bring this and other human rights violations to the attention of the AU delegation. 

‘Not pleased with the broadcast, the government was quick to respond. Msibi spoke on air the following day to sternly warn the media against criticising the King. He said the media should exercise respect and avoid issues that seek to question the King or his powers. 

‘The minister said his message was not directed only to radio but to all media, both private and government-owned. He said that in government they had noticed that there was growing trend in the media to criticise the King when he should be above criticism and public scrutiny,’ MISA reported.
Maseko, a long-time campaigner for human rights, was jailed for two years along with Nation Magazine editor Bheki Makhubu in July 2014 for writing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary.

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