Tag Archives: Politics


Things I’ve noticed

1)    Swaziland roads are covered with speed bumps. They are everywhere, especially at intersections.

2)    There is roadside litter, but unlike in North America there a total absence of Styrofoam coffee cups since Swazis aren’t really into coffee.

3)    There are a lot of Mercedes and BMWs here. Some old, some brand, spanking new. Of course, that’s along with double cab trucks (usually with a UN decal) and kombis, which are mini vans with a capacity of 15, but usually stuffed with 25, no seat belts.

4)    24-hour gospel prayer gatherings are really popular. Yesterday was Good Friday and the bass was booming all over town from 7pm to 7am this morning.

5)    The newspaper has a regular gospel section.

6)    Lots and lots of people are pastors. There is no training necessary. Pastors shout out about the evils of demons on buses, vegetable markets and under trees.

7)    Mega churches are popular. There are many large structures and tents where people gather. One popular “prophet” predicts people’s futures.

8)    Sunday afternoon is really big drinking day. Many a time I’ve been on a kombi and had conversations with inebriated seatmates. Most of them ask me if I’m a Christian.

9)    More than 80% of the population lives in rural areas and lives on less than $2 a day – no running water, pit latrines.

10)                  The countryside is also scattered with monster mansions, reputedly owned by royalty or the elite, also knows as “untouchables.”

11)                   The constitution of 6 September 1968 was suspended 12 April 1973 by a State of Emergency decree imposed by King Sobhuza II, the father of the current King Mswati III. The decree gave absolute power to the monarchy and banned organised political opposition to royal rule.

12)                  A new constitution was promulgated 13 October 1978, but was not formally presented to the people.

13)                   The current constitution was enacted in 2005 but most people have no idea what is in it, including the politicians. When in doubt, they rely on “tradition” since there is a dual system here…Swazi Tradition and Cultural Law, and Constitutional Law. Check out this paper “A Constitution Without Constitutionalism” presented by Thulani Maseko at the African Network of Constitutional Law conference on Fostering Constitutionalism in Africa Nairobi April 2007 www.publiclaw.uct.ac.za/…/Maseko_ConstitutionMakingInSwaziland.doc

14)                  Media is severely censored and predominately owned by the state (ie the King, who has absolute power). The usual ethics of journalism do not apply. Many stories don’t really make sense. Here’s a link that explains why Swaziland ranks 155 among 179 nations in the world in regards to press freedom. http://allafrica.com/stories/201302111702.html

15)                   My job is to deal with the press daily. Here’s a link to a story: “Hubby Beats Wife for Wearing Trousers” which I had to comment on on behalf of SWAGAA. Believe it. http://www.times.co.sz/News/85584.html

16)  If people speak out about the unfairness of the political system, they often lose their jobs, their cars and their dignity. So there isn’t a lot of speaking out.

The Things I Love and the Things that Drive Me Crazy in Swaziland


1)    People’s names: Innocent, Sunshine, Lucky, Fortunate

2)    Warm greetings from people you don’t know. It is common, polite practice to say hello to everyone you meet on the street. Big smiles from strangers are also common.

3)    Mangos the size of my head.

4)    Avocados creamy and heavenly.

5)    The way women carry babies on their backs, tied in place with a kanga (cloth), towel or blanket. The children put their arms around mom’s neck while she ties them into place. You always know a woman is carring a baby when she walks towards you and see the knotted blanket and two tiny feet sticking out.

6)    Well-behaved children. I have not heard one tantrum in the grocery store!

Green beauty on the way to Pigg’s Peak.

Swazis, not Hobbits, live here.

A stunning lodge — Maguga Lodge, near the dam, in northern Swaziland.

7)    The beautiful lush, green, hilly landscape.

8)    Price of South African wine – very decent bottles for $5 Cdn.

9)    Spring…cool evenings for sleeping and warm sunny days.

10)                  Braai culture: parties consist of BYOB and BYOM (meat) – all year round.

Cows are money in the bank for Swazi people.

11)                   Cows and goats on the road – so non-Canadian!

12)                   Beautiful butterflies and moths.

A beautiful moth who alighted on my locker at the gym.




1)    Swazi time. I went to an International Women’s Day event on Friday, scheduled for an 8 am start. It began at 11:30 am.

2)    Kombis. This mode of public transport, mini-vans, legally hold around 15 people. Often they get packed with around 25. Perfect TB incubators.

3)    Drivers. Either they think they are on the Autobahn (100 in a 40 mph zone), or they’re afraid they’ll lose control if they go more than 1/2 the speed limit.

4)    Cows and goats on the road – one of the main causes of car accidents. Often owners let them wander freely, grazing by the side of the road, but they also tend to pop out in front of vehicles.

5)    The phone system. There are new networks – one is for cell phones, the other for landlines, and never the twain shall meet. Both are government owned, but the cell-phone company prevails (MTN). If you try to call one from the other, it is VERY expensive. Actually all calls are quite expensive. Texts cost around 10 cents (Cdn) each and a 10-minute cell call will cost around $1 (Cdn). Ouch!

6)    Government process…Lots of talking, but little action. Activists have been pushing for the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence law to be passed for more than 10 years. The judicial system must rely on laws that are very out of date and perpetrators are often given light sentences.

7)    The belief in demons and witchcraft. Very disturbing and very prevalent.

8)    Reading announcements of police officers getting 30% pay increases, while teachers (who make very small salaries) can’t get a 4.5% increase. (Teachers went on strike last year, were fired by the Prime Minister, then pardoned by the King but still can’t get their 4.5%.)

9)    Polygamy.

10)                   The fact that women have constitutional rights, but many don’t know it. They continue to suffer gender-based violence and just figure that’s a woman’s lot in life – some even think it means the man is still interested in her.

11)                   Yucky giant bugs.

A dead giant being devoured by ants.



1)    The Sunday Time’s editor is named Innocent. He jumps at every opportunity to publish scandal, often based on rumor. One instance was publishing a nude photo of a Swazi embassy employee in the UK provided by her angry ex who was blackmailing her for reneging on a financial agreement. Not really news, and not so innocent.

2)    A man was chewed up by machinery in the sugar mills. The only way they could identify him was by testing for DNA in the sugar. His name was Lucky.

Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill in Swaziland

Swaziland passed the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill in 2009 but has not made it into law yet. Instead, laws that are over 100 years old govern sexual abuse charges….SWAGAA and other NGO and agency partners are advocating for the Bill to be enacted right now. We have a workshop tomorrow explaining the bones of contention for some Parliment members. Here are some of the facts…

Sexual Offenses and Domestic Violence Bill, 2009
Currently, COMMON LAW covers the following offences:
•     Rape
•     Incest
•     Indecent assault
•     Abduction
•     Kidnapping
•     Public Indecency
Legal proceedings  (Statutory Offences) are dictated by outdated Acts:
1. Crimes Act of 1889
2. The Girls and Women’s Protection Act of 1920

Gaps in the Existing Law vs. Provisions of the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill:
Some Gaps in the existing Legislation:
The following are currently not offences in Swaziland:
•     Rape of a male/boy child
The existing definition of rape only relates to men raping women. Similarly the Girl’s and Women’s Protection Act of 1920 only relates to women and girls and does not cover male children.  Sexual penetration of a male is considered an indecent assault which is a lesser charge.
•    However the Sexual Offences Bill Broadens the Definition of Rape to cover “ the insertion even in the slightest degree, of the genital organs of a person into the genital organs, anus or other orifice of another person”.
Marital Rape
At common law rape is not possible within marriage, as women are considered to have consented to sexual intercourse by entering into the marriage contract.  If a woman does not consent to sexual intercourse it is rape and should be treated as such, whether she is married or not.
•    The Sexual Offences does not address the issue of Marital Rape, it does not criminalize it.
Indecent Treatment of Children
(Sexual behaviour that does not include penetration)
•    The Sexual Offences Bill deals in details with this under S36. this has been a gap in the existing legislation. Indecent treatment of children in the Sexual Offences Bill includes unlawfully and indecently dealing with children, unlawfully procuring a child to commit a sexual violation, unlawfully permits himself to be unlawfully dealt with by a child, wilfully and unlawfully exposes a child to a sexual violation by him or another person.
Maintaining a Sexual Relationship With a Child
Having an offence such as this means that you do not need to prove every event of sexual intercourse.
•    This is covered in the Sexual Offences Bill and it is not a requirement that one must have had sexual Relationship with that child for conviction.
Compelled Sexual Assault or Self Assault
•    S 7 and 8 of the Bill deals with this two issues. It provides that forcing one to commit a  sexual violation with another commits an offence. It further provides that  any persons who compels another without his or her consent to do certain acts like masturbation or sexually suggestive or lewd acts commits an offence.
Sexual Harassment
•    Sexual Harassment is now covered in the bill. It includes
•    Subjecting a person to a unsolicited intimacy with including but not limited to physical contact such as patting, pinching or touching in a way that gives you sexual pleasure.
•    Making an unsolicited demand or request for sexual favours.
•    Making  a remark with sexual connotation.
•    Penalties/Sentences for Offences
Penalties for sexual offences have not been updated for sometime.  As a result penalties for sexual offences often do not reflect the serious nature of these crimes.
•    The Sexual offences Bill comes with high sentences, making provisions for 50 thousand fine for some of the offences.
Failings that need to be Addressed
•    Delay in reporting
At present any delay in reporting a sexual offence can be held against a victim.  This is unfair and does not take account of the trauma which victims suffer and the different ways victims deal with sexual abuse.
•    The sexual offences Bill takes into account that a victim may due to certain hindrances not be able to report in time.
•    Lack of Children’s Courts
Children’s cases are generally tried in mainstream courts where they are administered by personnel without specialised training.  Whilst a Children’s Court has recently been established in the High Court, numerous cases involving children are still tried in the Magistrates Courts which have no special facilities for children.
Obligation to Report
Whilst in other crimes the law makes it mandatory to report, the same does not apply for sexual offences.
•    The Bill makes it an offence if a person fails to report abuse.
Domestic Violence – Restoring Peace
The court procedure for applying for an interdict or a peace binding order is cumbersome and difficult to understand.  People are often told they need a lawyer to get protection from the Court.  A simple process for applying for protection from the Court needs to be developed so that protection is available to all.
•    The Domestic Violence part of the Bill is not punitive, it seeks to restore peace in different family setting taking into account cohabiting spouses. It makes the courts more accessible for victims of domestic violence.

The irony that is Swaziland

Before Christmas, there was a so-called “Mini-Skirt” march in Manzini to bring attention to the fact that women are harassed and even raped at the bus rank for wearing short skirts. Police said they could only march if they put on longer skirts…so the girls did, and then did a big rant in Jubilee Park, “Sister sister, my vagina belongs to me and nobody else.” Here’s the fruit of their labours..a law banning mini skirts, but not the annual ceremony before the king where everything hangs out. What a country! Check this link..

Mini Skirt March in Manzini, Dec. 7, 2012. Police said they could only march if they put on longer skirts, long shorts or pants.

Official costume at Umhlanga, where maidens dance for the King, and many, many Chinese tourists.

The King, the police and the tourists are all good with the official attire at Umhlanga, the annual Reed Dance ceremony.

Swazi Politics and Day-to-Day Life

A non-traditional billboard that the “maidens” had nothing to do with.

“The maidens compose and rehearse song dismissing multiparty democracy as evil.” Wow, a headline like this is bound to pique curiosity. From what I can figure out, “maidens” are young, marriageable virgins … they take part in the Reed Dance every year, where King Mswati III has been known to chose a mate. The story in today’s Times of Swaziland noted that 500 maidens had been picked from the country’s 350 chiefdoms to rehearse a new Reed Dance song dissing political parties. The song roughly translates to “Your Majesty, political parties set people against each other. Your people could start fighting each other.” The newspaper said the song was composed by “certain traditional authorities who felt they were not properly represented in the recent People’s Parliament.”

An explanation is in order. Politics are complex here. There is the absolute monarchy of King Mswati III, and then there is a Parliament, headed by a Prime Minister. Parliament consists of an 82-seat House of Assembly (55 who are voted in) and a senate of 30, 10 voted in and 20 appointed by the king. The Prime Minister is appointed by the king. Political parties are banned and in the last election only non-partisans were elected. From what I am told, most of the cabinet ministers are in line with the king. There’s an election coming up in April 2013 and I’ll be really interested to see how it goes. There is a lot of unrest with trade unions that chafe against the ruling elite. The ruling elite generally uses the term “traditional” when it comes to protecting its priviledge. And there seems to be some confusion when it comes to the origins of tradition since many rituals and cultural ceremonies have morphed over the years. Marriage is one, and I’ll get into that in another posting.

The socio-political situation here is fascinating for an outsider to observe. Tradition seems to boil down to not upsetting the status quo. Kind of like the attitude of American Republicans towards public health care. You can bet those maidens didn’t come up with the idea for their new Reed Dance song on their own. I wonder if Carl Rove has ever been to Swaziland?

On a lighter note, I took a short stroll around Manzini this afternoon and here’s what I saw:

The city has many ingenious entrepreneurs.

This building is near my office. A sign calls it Dups Mall. It is not a mall. It is the morgue.

This car wash turns beer/DJ emporium on weekends.

Another popular spot for beer … and breakfast.

Fun in the grocery store…sardines from Canada! But wait…. they are “substandard.”