Annexes | Freedom House


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Annex 1.  Detailed description of political parties, trade unions and civil society organizations operating in Swaziland.

Political parties

The status of political parties in Swaziland is confused by inconsistencies in various laws and pronouncements and by the government’s distortion of language intended to delude outsiders – and perhaps themselves - into believing Swaziland is a democratic country. Political parties were banned through Proclamation No. 7 of 12 April 1973 issued by King Sobhuza II. (See Annex III.) This proclamation has not been repealed. The Swazi constitution permits Swazis to participate as individuals in nomination processes and elections, and this provision is interpreted by government authorities as a prohibition of participation by political parties.

On 14 August 2007, King Mswati declared that political parties remained banned.  In April 2008, the Chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission, Chief Gija Dlamini, reiterated that political parties were unlawful and would not be permitted to take part in the 2008 House of Assembly elections.  However in July 2008, in arguments put to the High Court, Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini said that political parties were legal, but not permitted by law to participate in elections. In the lead up to the 2013 elections, Chief Gija has stated in very telling language that ‘The owners of the country have clearly stated that people will stand for elections in their individual capacities and not through political parties.’

Late at night on the fourth day following the 2008 elections, 4 men detonated a car bomb near a bridge located in the vicinity of the Lozitha Palace, the Swazi king’s principal residence.  The incident caused tension between the government and political activists, who refused to condemn the bombing outright. Subsequently King Mswati said that political activists, whom he called terrorists, would be eliminated. The Suppression of Terrorism Act which had been signed into law by Mswati on 7 August 2008 was used on 14 November 2008 to outlaw a number of groups as ‘terrorist organizations’. The banned organizations included the Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), PUDEMO’s youth wing, the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), and the South African-based Swaziland Solidarity Network. Mario Masuku, the PUDEMO president, was arrested and charged with terrorism, as were 15 others, including the president of SWAYOCO. Masuku refused bail to force the government to move to trial, and he was detained on remand for over a year. At the trial, the evidence presented against him by the state was so weak that the judge found that there was no case to answer. In 2013, PUDEMO continues to be proscribed under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. Presently the PUDEMO leadership, including Masuku, go about their party business openly in Swaziland. At times they are harassed by the authorities, and at other times they appear to be tolerated. 

One result of the uncertain legality of political parties is an absence of legislation in Swaziland governing aspects of political party life such as registration, regulation, funding, and financial control.

Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC)     

The NNLC was formed in the 1960s by western educated Swazis whose political ideas were influenced by Pan Africanism. The NNLC served as the main opposition party to King Sobhuza II’s Imbokodvo National Movement. After the NNLC won 3 seats in parliamentary elections in 1972, Sobhuza outlawed political parties and severely persecuted NNLC party leaders some of whom, including the NNLC’s president Dr. Ambrose Zwane, went into exile in Tanzania. Some other NNLC leaders were co-opted and moved into high positions in Swazi government. Eventually the exiled leadership returned to Swaziland, and in 1997 the party reorganized itself. Dr. Zwane’s funeral in 1998 turned into a political rally leading to a revival of the NNLC and the adoption of a new constitution.

As an African nationalist party, the NNLC seeks support from the same constituency as PUDEMO. Under the leadership of Obed Dlamini, a former prime minister who was elected NNLC president in 1998, the NNLC adopted a more conservative position than PUDEMO.  NNLC and PUDEMO formed a united front together with civic organizations and student groups to promote a boycott of the 2008 elections. The two parties have had ties with the same trade unions, business associations and civil society bodies. The NNLC shares similar objectives with PUDEMO, but couches its pronouncements in more moderate language.

The NNLC’s stated objectives include:

Liberation of the citizens of Swaziland from a mentality that accepts the status quo, docility, and abuse of the people in the name of culture and traditions;

Eradication of all forms of discrimination on the basis of ancestry, race, language, creed, sex, social standing, physical impairment, etc. and the creation a democratic society in which all have equal opportunities of self-advancement and realization;

Restoration of a multiparty democratic political dispensation with a constitution which protects the freedoms of all Swazis, i.e. freedoms of association, assembly, expression etc. as defined in the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights; and

Promotion of national unity and consciousness in the whole nation by bringing about harmony between the people and the traditional leaders including elimination of cultural practices which serve to oppress and exploit the masses.

The NNLC includes separate wings for women and youth. The party has a substantial membership within the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), and the current SNAT president, Sibongile Mazibuko, is a former NNLC national treasurer.

Although the NNLC formally boycotted the 2003 and 2008 elections, its president Obed Dlamini participated. Under the current NNLC president, Dr. Alvit Dlamini, a medical practitioner, the NNLC has announced that it will boycott the 2013 elections.

People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO)

PUDEMO was founded in 1983 by university students, and the party has continued to attract support from Swazi youth. Over the years, it has been most active in schools, the University of Swaziland and the industrial sector.  Despite its proscription as a terrorist organization in 2008, PUDEMO has a larger and broader political base in comparison to Swaziland’s other political parties.

PUDEMO was the only active political party in Swaziland between 1983 and 1996, and the absence of a credible alternative opposition party contributed to the growth inside PUDEMO of an attitude of being the sole legitimate voice of the Swazi opposition. This attitude unfortunately has spawned among some PUDEMO leaders and members a posture of intolerance toward other parties and activist organizations. PUDEMO has as a principal strategy the boycotting of elections.  Other parties and NGOs that favor participating in elections as a tactic come in for harsh criticism from some PUDEMO activists.

PUDEMO became better known to the broader Swazi public in 1989 when the party circulated pamphlets in the urban areas criticizing the Swazi aristocracy. Then in 1990, senior PUDEMO members were accused in a high profile treason case. This case contributed to publicizing PUDEMO’s activities and objectives and broadened its support base. PUDEMO led opposition to a 1991 commission that reviewed the tinkhundla system.

In February 1992, PUDEMO announced that it was unbanning itself, and that it would henceforth operate openly in Swaziland. The party launched a campaign of civil disobedience in January 1996 that demonstrated that it had an urban mass base among intellectuals, students, and workers. In May 2003, PUDEMO declared that its members would defend themselves with force from violent acts by government. The inflammatory language of the declaration stopped just short of calling for an armed struggle to overthrow the Swazi government.

PUDEMO's constitution provides for multiple structures, including wings for women and youth. The People's Manifesto, which was adopted at PUDEMO's 4th general congress in 1996, emphasized the need to create a constitutional multi-party democracy with an elected and accountable government, and to promote economic growth, development, and the empowerment of citizens through a mixed market economy. Land administration should be placed in the hands of the state to ensure access to land and security of tenure and to avoid landlessness and squatting. The state should promote job creation and high levels of employment through partnerships with labor and capital. The manifesto also demanded universal compulsory education, respect for the right to life, primary healthcare that is free or subsidized by the state, tertiary healthcare that is affordable and the provision of shelter for all and especially for the disadvantaged. The manifesto also called for the promotion and development of Swazi culture and the observance and protection of basic human rights and the end of state repression.

PUDEMO’s structures and alliances in youth organizations, trade unions, and civic groupings have been involved in contestations for prestige, space, and resources with other political parties and activist organizations. These contestations have resulted in disagreement within and among civil society groups and political parties and have most probably worked to the advantage of the king and his supporters. Recently, the chances for the newly formed Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) to develop into a broad-based union federation have been weakened due to a combination of sabotage by the Swazi government and PUDEMO’s influence over TUCOSWA’s leadership.

PUDEMO has established solidarity relationships with the African National Congress (ANC), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). PUDEMO was the only Swazi political party invited to the ANC national policy conference in December 2012. 

PUDEMO will boycott the 2013 elections. On the question of a future form of government for Swaziland, Mario Masuku has said recently this will be decided at a time in the future when the people of Swaziland will be free to express their will.

Sive Siyinqaba - Sibahle Sinje

Sive Siyinqaba – Sibahle Sinje was initially launched as a cultural group with the objective of protecting Swazi culture from western influences and pushing back against PUDEMO. The name ‘Sive Siyinqaba’ means ‘nation united’ (implying that it is united around the king) and ‘Sibahle Sinje’ means ‘we are beautiful as we are, with our culture and traditions’.

The party initially campaigned to discredit PUDEMO as a threat to the institution of the monarchy and to influence Swazis to reject demands for reforms advocated by other political parties. The attempt to position Sibahle as the defender of the institution of the monarchy was complicated by the king’s opposition to the existence of political parties generally and to a conflict between the king and the Sibahle Sinje secretary general, Marwick Khumalo, whom the king suspected of being in a relationship with one of his wives. King Mswati’s opposition to Sibahle Sinje was so strong that he even fired his long-time private secretary and political advisor, Sam Mkhombe, when he suspected Mkhombe of having a connection with Sibahle.  Mkhombe is now a Sibahle public relations officer. The enmity between King Mswati and Khumalo reached an open confrontation in 2004 when Khumalo was elected speaker of the House of Assembly and the king instructed him to resign as speaker or else leave parliament. After a short stand-off, Khumalo resigned the speakership. 

Sibahle Sinje has continued to make positive overtures towards the king and cabinet. Relations between the two camps have improved to the point whereby the idea of setting up a rival royal political party, in response to Sibahle Sinje, appears to have been abandoned by the royal family. Prince Guduza, one of Mswati’s half- brothers and the most recent House of Assembly speaker, is part of Sibahle’s senior leadership. During the 2013 elections, it is expected that Sibahle will receive support from traditional authorities and the government.

Despite the ban on the participation of political parties in elections for the House of Assembly, Sibahle hoped to field candidates in 30 of the 55 tinkhundla constituencies.

Swazi Democratic Party (SWADEPA)

SWADEPA was formally launched on 24 September 2011.  It is Swaziland’s youngest political party, but the party president and secretary general, Jan Sithole and Archie Sayed, are both well-known figures with a support base is the Swaziland Agricultural, Plantations and Allied Workers Union (SAPAWU). Sithole also has longstanding connections to international labor bodies and to African Union and UN organizations. He is experienced in leveraging these connections against the Swazi government.

SWADEPA has emerged with an agenda for political participation in the 2013 elections as a challenge to the Swazi establishment. SWADEPA’s slogan is ‘ngeke sibayekele’, connoting ‘On to them! We will be all over them and no space must be given away.’ This might resonate well with Swazis who have not seen benefits from election boycotts and who are frustrated with the country’s political impasse.

SWADEPA sees itself as a party that can break barriers. It reasons that leadership should be about exerting influence, and it says that those who are absent have no chance of exerting influence. In anticipation of the September 2013 elections, SWADEPA was focusing its efforts on the promotion of universal suffrage through civic education aimed at persuading all Swazis to register to vote. SWADEPA states it has members in all constituencies.  They see registration as important because once a significant number of Swazis are registered it will be possible to determine the strength of support for the different parties and platforms. SWADEPA’s president states that the party’s overall strategy is to exploit the officially sanctioned undemocratic processes to push Swaziland in a more democratic direction.

Inter-party relationships

Ideologically there are only minimal differences between PUDEMO and NNLC. Weightier differences are due to personality clashes in competition for the title ‘liberator of Swaziland’.  Both PUDEMO and NNLC have the same position on non-participation in voting. Absent the liberator title competition, there could be a better working relationship between NNLC and PUDEMO than either could have with SWADEPA or Sibahle Sinje. 

There appears to be some chance that PUDEMO and NNLC might reach agreement on a framework of cooperation leading to the restructuring of the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) to accommodate the concerns of NNLC. SUDF is a civil society umbrella group with the publicly declared purpose of unifying all the voices for change in Swaziland. There is however a strong perception that SUDF is dominated by PUDEMO affiliated trade unions and civil society groups. This perception of SUDF as PUDEMO’s cat’s paw was strengthened by the recent decision of the Executive Committee of the newly formed Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) to join SUDF despite opposition from one of TUCOSWA’s main members, the Swaziland National Association of Teachers, whose president is a former NNLC office holder.

Given SWADEPA’s policy of participation in the upcoming elections, and due to a history of enmity between the SWADEPA and PUDEMO leaders, it is unlikely that SWADEPA will be invited to join SUDF or would join if invited.

Sibahle Sinje and SWADEPA are both chasing the same constituency – one that hopes to assure the king that the monarchy’s needs and interests would be protected under any future administration governed by them.

Although the SWADEPA president, Jan Sithole, was previously a high profile labor leader in Swaziland, SWADEPA has of yet gained support from only one trade union, SAPAWU.  Both Sibahle Sinje and SWADEPA have failed to attain Southern African regional endorsement and support whereas PUDEMO has strong support from the South African Congress Alliance. However, in this regard Sithole has a clear advantage over the Sibahle leaders.  Over many years he has been widely known in Southern Africa and beyond as a crusading Swazi labor leader and he probably can still benefit from contacts that he formed during that time.

Given the relative strengths of SWADEPA among workers and Sibahle among traditionalists, it seems probable that each will win seats in the next parliament. The fact that the other two more prominent and established parties will not participate will help both SWADEPA’s and Sibahle’s chances. Of course the value of party members holding parliamentary seats might not be very high. Although Sibahle and NNLC members are among MPs in the current parliament, they have not functioned as party caucuses, and it seems unlikely that the authorities would permit a political party caucus to operate in the next parliament. Also, the ability of parties to hold onto their MPs will be tested by the monarchy’s ability to distribute cash and favors. Sibahle has indicated that royal largess has enticed Sibahle MPs in the current parliament away from the party. 

SWADEPA acquired Danish Socialist Party funding for its campaign, and the party has devoted considerable effort to train its candidates. This means SWADEPA candidates will probably be better prepared for the polls compared to Sibahle candidates.  Civil society organizations

In Consolidating Democratic Governance in the SADC Region: Swaziland, (Electoral Institute of Southern Africa, 2008), Patricia Joubert, Zwelibanzi Masilela, and Maxine Langwenya described the degree of effectiveness of civil society in Swaziland as follows: ‘Civil society in Swaziland is weak, fragmented and largely unable to access and influence decision making procedures both at national and local levels…. This generalization is particularly true for elections and electoral matters.’ Regrettably, this assessment continues to be valid 5 years later.

Trade unions

Membership numbers reported by the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) rose to 83,000 workers in 21 unions covering a broad spectrum of occupations ranging from agriculture, construction, mining, and manufacturing to employment in banking, tertiary educational institutions, town councils and the public service. The Swaziland Federation of Labor (SFL) which broke away from SFTU in 1994 reported it had 12 affiliates and 20,000 members in manufacturing, IT, retail, finance, media and other occupations.

Like other pro-democracy groups in Swaziland, trade unions have been forced to operate in an environment of repressive laws, hostile government attitudes and state sponsored violence. However unlike other pro-democracy groups, trade unions have had a legal basis from which to operate provided by various Industrial Relations Acts which have been in effect since before independence and which define rules for the collective negotiation of terms and conditions of employment and dispute resolution mechanisms.

Swazi trade unions have also benefitted from international connections through their affiliation first with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and, beginning in 2006, with the ICFTU’s successor, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). These linkages are powered and protected by an international legal framework, based on International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions and the ILO’s complaint system, which have provided the Swazi trade union movement with opportunities of bringing international attention to abuses committed by the Swazi government.

Over the past 5 years, Swaziland has been one of a very small number of countries placed under a special paragraph in annual reports of the ILO.  A special paragraph is the ILO’s most stringent sanction against a government. Swaziland continues to be cited for denial of rights guaranteed under ILO convention 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize), which Swaziland has ratified. The ILO has repeatedly sent missions to Swaziland that have reported back on the government’s non-compliance with convention 87 as well as crimes by government agents against union activists including intimidation, kidnapping, unlawful entry into and search of homes, torture and death while in detention. 

The ILO’s annual International Labor Conferences in Geneva have placed Swaziland government delegates in an unaccustomed position of having to sit quietly and listen to Swazi activists’ criticisms of the government’s policies and actions. In 2002 during an ILO conference, a Swazi government delegate, a senator from the upper house of parliament, publicly threatened the secretary general of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions.


The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) was founded in March 2012 bringing together the SFTU and the SFL and including also the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), Swaziland’s largest union with 9,000 members. The association of SNAT with TUCOSWA was significant due to SNAT’s organizational strengths and history of success in bringing out its members for strikes and public demonstrations. 

At TUCOSWA’s founding congress, a resolution was taken that ‘the current system of Government in Swaziland is one that is undemocratic, repressive and dictatorial and that the Federation shall cause for a total boycott of the national elections in 2013 unless the elections are held under a multi-party system’. This was an openly political pronouncement. Some in civil society, including the SNAT president, objected to what they viewed as undue influence from one political party. They also objected to a decision by the TUCOSWA president to associate TUCOSWA with the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF), perceived as a PUDEMO affiliate. The SNAT president, who said she adheres to the principle that labor unions should be independent of political parties, withdrew SNAT and its financial support from TUCOSWA, leaving the federation in a precarious financial situation. Subsequently, the SNAT president’s decision to withhold funds from TUCOSWA has sparked disagreements within SNAT that have weakened SNAT.

The Swazi government issued TUCOSWA with a registration certificate on 25 January 2012. Following TUCOSWA’s boycott resolution at its March congress, on 4 April the Attorney General advised the Swazi Commissioner of Labor that the registration of TUCOSWA was annulled. The Attorney General stated that TUCOSWA was not a trade union organization as envisaged by the Industrial Relations Act and further that the Act does not provide for the registration of federations. The latter point was specious in that other federations, including the Federation of Swaziland Employers, have long been registered under the same act.

Since April 2012, the Swazi government has not reconsidered the decision to deregister TUCOSWA, and labor leaders expected TUCOSWA will continue to be in limbo through the 2013 elections. At present, there is no national labor centre recognized by the government of Swaziland, and as a result tripartite negotiations structures cannot function. TUCOSWA complained to the ILO that the government’s denial of the freedom of association ‘has reached a point that has not been reached before’.

Non-governmental organizations focusing on democratic governance and human rights

Around 70 non-governmental organizations are affiliated with the Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organizations (CANGO). The official regime governing NGOs has been described by Joubert, Masilela, and Langwenya as ‘loose’. NGOs are under the administrative ambit of the Ministry of Home Affairs; however they are required to register with the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. Registration is governed by Section 21 of the Companies Act of 1912. Only a small number of the registered NGOs focus on democratic governance and human rights.

Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organizations (CANGO)

CANGO initially focused on health care, but its constitution was amended in 1987 to encompass all NGOs working in development, which includes work on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. CANGO’s current programs emphasize building NGOs’ capacity to engage the Swazi government on policy. CANGO’s vision is ‘An empowered and vibrant civil society for social justice’.

In 2003, CANGO led the formation of an NGO Electoral Support Network consisting of 15 Swazi NGOs. In partnership with the Johannesburg based Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA), the Support Network recruited and trained 108 Swazi election observers to cover all constituencies during the 2003 elections. This was an important manifestation of an appropriate role of civil society in elections. Then there was a set-back during the 2008 elections when the Swazi Elections and Boundaries Commission limited accreditation to only 10 observers. 

The CANGO director stated that 5 CANGO affiliates are active in democracy and governance work.  The director wants to encourage more organizations to join CANGO’s Human Rights and Governance Consortium. Current Consortium affiliates are the Council of Swaziland Churches, the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Women in Law in Southern Africa, the Young Women’s Network and Save the Children. The director is critical of civil society for neglecting to offer more civic education courses for rural people relating to democracy and human rights. He hopes to attract organizations to join the Consortium from among NGOs that focus on agriculture and HIV/AIDS.

Some CANGO members, including the Swaziland Red Cross, World Vision, Population Services International and the Swaziland Conference of Churches keep their distance from democracy and human rights activism. Donor prohibitions on foreign aid recipients forbidding them from taking positions on Swazi political matters create a barrier to some organizations from getting involved in civic education for their clients. Despite the obvious linkages between the conditions which humanitarian projects address and the lack of accountability of governance in Swaziland, many organizations continue feeding the hungry and caring for the sick without addressing the root causes of poverty and extreme neediness. The CANGO director commented that in current conditions of limited political awareness among the general population, particularly rural people, many recipients of humanitarian aid view the aid as a gift from the king. 

Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organizations (SCCCO)

The rule of law crisis in 2003, along with a growing socio-economic crisis, led to the founding of SCCCO bringing together the Federation of Swaziland Employers and the Chamber of Commerce, the Association of the Swaziland Business Community, the Federation of Trade Unions, the Federation of Labor, religious denominations, the Law Society of Swaziland, the Swaziland National Association of Teachers, Lawyers for Human Rights and the Swaziland chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa as well as women's groups and other non-governmental organizations. The Coalition is the broadest civic organization in the country, and it has a capacity to reach a wide spectrum of Swazi people. SCCCO seeks to listen to and be responsive to the grassroots while promoting acceptance of basic democratic values and respect for human rights.

SCCCO offers support to all political parties which seek to achieve democracy through peaceful means. The Coalition believes that the key need in Swaziland is the empowerment of people through civic education that allows for all voices and opinions to be heard. Ideally, every view should be openly debated and contested, and the people should be able to decide what course of action makes the most sense for their country.

All Swazi political parties are based in urban centers, and rural people usually have not been well represented in political discourse. With a view towards assuring a better urban-rural balance in political discourse, SCCCO works to expand contacts with rural people and to provide civic education aimed at helping disadvantaged people learn skills for acquiring and exerting influence in their home communities.

SCCCO seeks to sustain an integrated approach in all levels of its contacts built upon community engagement and education; national and international advocacy campaigns; and promoting unity, focused engagement and mobilization within and among all pro-democracy organizations.

SCCCO’s coordinator is a respected Swazi elder with contacts at multiple levels throughout Swaziland. He contributes a weekly column on governance and related issues to the Times of Swaziland, the country’s most widely distributed newspaper.

Council of Swaziland Churches

The Council of Swaziland Churches, formed in 1976, includes 9 denominations of mainstream Christian churches such as the Anglicans, Methodists, and Lutherans. The Council’s general secretary stated that Swazi Christians, who make up around 90 per cent of the population, are divided roughly among 3 groupings: one quarter are in the Council’s member churches, one quarter are in Evangelical churches, and one half belong to independent churches which are indigenous to Swaziland and Southern Africa. The general secretary stated that Evangelicals refuse to become involved in political issues because their interpretation of scripture views government as divinely installed and not to be challenged. The general secretary estimates that most pastors and members of the 9 Council affiliated denominations would favor multi-party democracy for Swaziland while 90 per cent of independent church pastors and a majority of their members would oppose multi-party democracy. He cautioned however that the rapidly growing size and importance of the youth cohort in the Swazi population present an opportunity for a major shift in these positions in the direction of greater support for multi-party democracy. 

The Council of Swaziland Churches is a fellowship of the World Council of Churches. The vision of the Council of Churches is to enable member churches to develop themselves, their communities, and their nation spiritually and physically in a just and sustainable way. Its mission is to further the unity of God’s church as a body of Christ by developing strategies that will enable the membership to advocate for justice and peace in all circumstances and dealings.

Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF)

The Swaziland United Democratic Front was formed in 2008 as a coalition of pro-democracy groups including political parties, unions and churches. The founding membership included PUDEMO, NNLC, Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, Swaziland Federation of Labor, Swaziland National Association of Teachers, Swaziland National Union of Students, Swaziland Association of Students, Swaziland National Ex-Miners Workers Association and the Coalition of Informal Economy Association of Swaziland. The founding of SUDF was the result of a growing conviction that in order to create a strong civil society that could work actively for democratization and poverty eradication, there would have to be more unity and coordination among the civil society organizations of Swaziland. SUDF aims to increase the space for democratic participation for and by the socio-economically and politically marginalized people of Swaziland. SUDF is generally viewed as a PUDEMO affiliate, and this perception has negatively affected SUDF’s success in bringing about unity in Swazi civil society.

Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)

Established in 1997, OSISA has projects in 10 southern Africa countries including Swaziland.  The organization’s work in each country is different according to local conditions and needs. OSISA is part of a network of autonomous Open Society Foundations located in Eastern and Central Europe, the former Soviet Union, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the United States.

In Swaziland, OSISA collaborates with other organizations on issues surrounding the rule of law, democracy building, human rights, economic development, education, the media and access to technology and information. OSISA's varied activities share a common goal of reducing poverty, HIV/AIDS and political instability.

OSISA's vision is to promote and sustain the ideals, values, institutions and practices of open society, with the aim of establishing vibrant and tolerant southern African democracies in which people, free from material and other deprivation, understand their rights and responsibilities and participate actively in all spheres of life. OSISA’s approach involves looking beyond immediate symptoms in order to address deeper problems focusing on changing underlying policy, legislation and practice.  Depending on issues and circumstances, OSISA supports advocacy work by its partners in Swaziland or joins partners in advocacy on shared objectives and goals. In other situations, OSISA directly initiates and leads in advocacy interventions. OSISA also intervenes by facilitating initiatives and partnerships, through capacity-building and through grant-making.

Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice (FSEJ)

FSEJ was founded in 2003 as an umbrella organization with a primary vision of initiating broad civic education programs to encourage democratic participation and raise awareness on human and constitutional rights among the rural population of Swaziland. The primary goal of FSEJ is to help build a solid and unified, mass based democratic force. FSEJ is active in civil society networks that focus on social, political and economic issues. FSEJ also works together with the following strategic partners: Lawyers for Human Rights, Swaziland National Union of Students, Swaziland Economic Justice Forum, Street Vendors Association, Swaziland Labor Academy and Swaziland National Ex-Mine Workers. FSEJ maintains a strong working relationship with the Swaziland United Democratic Front.

Church Forum on HIV and AIDS

The Church Forum works with church programs to assist victims of HIV / AIDS and orphans and to provide education for community service in support of support groups and home based care. The Forum supports 90 church based neighborhood care points throughout Swaziland which help HIV/AIDS victims through food resources development and psychosocial support. The Forum presently is working toward the construction and staffing of 35 permanent neighborhood care point structures to be distributed throughout the 4 regions of Swaziland.

Constituent Assembly of Civil Society in Swaziland

The director of the Church Forum is also the convener of the Constituent Assembly of Civil Society in Swaziland which includes both NGOs and political parties with the aim of offering Swazi opposition groups opportunities to talk together about eventual talks with government authorities and to prepare the opposition for actual dialogue with the authorities when this becomes possible.

Two noteworthy Swazi civil society organizations work outside Swaziland. They are:

Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN)

The SSN originally consisted of Swazi opponents of the regime, mostly affiliated with PUDEMO, and South African activists and freedom fighters who came to know the problems of Swaziland while being based there during the struggle for freedom in South Africa. SSN, which has been proscribed in Swaziland, operates from Johannesburg as a repository and distributor of news and opinion relating to Swaziland and particularly to the misdeeds of the king and the government.

Swazi Diaspora Platform

The Swazi Diaspora Platform was launched in 2011 with its principal aim being to give all Swazis based outside Swaziland a space for reflection, engagement and open dialogue about the situation in Swaziland. It seeks to coordinate communication by Swazis in the diaspora and others who wish to share ideas including defining specific roles that can be assumed by the diaspora community. The Diaspora Platform’s website states that it shall ‘create a space for constructive and coordinated action for Swazis in the diaspora to engage, reflect and reach out towards contributing to alternative sustainable development models in Swaziland. This shall be done through promoting a culture of human rights, people-centered-development and respect for the environment.’ The Platform is based in Johannesburg and Nelspruit.

Annex 2. Tibiyo Taka Ngwane’s holdings in the Swazi economy

Tibiyo’s operations are secretive, but the limited information available in Tibiyo annual reports reveals the extraordinary reach which Tibiyo has achieved throughout Swaziland’s economy. Tibiyo Agriculture owns about 55% of the entire Swazi sugar industry which is estimated to be worth more than E3 billion. Tibiyo has a 53 per cent shareholding equity in the largest sugar group, Royal Swazi Sugar Corporation; 40 per cent of Ubombo Sugar; 55 per cent of the Swaziland Sugar Association assets, and substantial lands under cane cultivation in Big Bend, Tshaneni, Simunye, and Mhlume.

Tibiyo Estate Hotels and Hospitality owns and controls 40 per cent of Royal Swazi Sun Group, the largest hotel group in Swaziland, and 100 per cent of Royal Villas. Tibiyo also owns 40 per cent of Bhunu Mall, 25 per cent of Simunye Shopping Plaza, and various housing estates and commercial properties.

Tibiyo Mining owns and controls 50 per cent of the Dvokolwako Diamond Mining Company, 25 per cent of Maloma Coal Mining, and 80 per cent of Langa Brick and Tile Manufacturing.

Tibiyo Foods owns and controls 40 per cent of Swazi SAB breweries and 26 per cent of Parmalat Milk and Cheese Processors.

Tibiyo Shipping and Insurance Broking owns and controls 41 per cent of Alexander Forbes Risk Management and 35 per cent of Manica shipping.

Annex 3. Full text of the 1973 proclamation


 1. WHEREAS the House of Assembly and the Senate have passed the resolutions which have just been read to us.

 2. AND WHEREAS I have given consideration to the extremely serious situation which has now arisen to our country and have come to the following conclusions:

 (a) that the Constitution has indeed failed to provide the machinery for good government and for the maintenance of peace and order;

 (b) that the Constitution is indeed the cause of growing unrest, insecurity, dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in our country and an impediment to free and progressive development in all spheres of life;

 (c) that the Constitution has permitted the importation into our country of highly undesirable political practices alien to, and incompatible with the way of life in our society and designed to disrupt and destroy our own peaceful and constructive and essentially democratic methods of political activity; increasingly this element engenders hostility, bitterness and unrest in our peaceful society;

 (d) that there is no constitutional way of effecting the necessary amendments to the Constitution; the method prescribed by the constitution itself is wholly impracticable and will bring about that disorder which any constitution is meant to inhibit;

 (e) that I and all my people heartily desire at long last, after a long constitutional struggle, to achieve full freedom and independence under a constitution created by ourselves for ourselves in complete liberty without outside pressures; as a nation we desire to march forward progressively under our own constitution guaranteeing peace, order and good government and the happiness and welfare of all our people.

 3. Now THEREFORE I, SOBHUZA II, King of Swaziland, hereby declare that, in collaboration with my Cabinet Ministers and supported by the whole nation, I have assumed supreme power in the Kingdom of Swaziland and that all Legislative, Executive and Judicial power is vested in myself and shall, for the meantime, be exercised in collaboration with a Council constituted by my Cabinet Ministers. I further declare that, to ensure the continued maintenance of peace, order and good government, my Armed Forces in conjunction with the Swaziland Royal Police have been posted to all strategic places and have taken charge of all government and all public services. I further declare that I, in collaboration with my cabinet Ministers, hereby decree that:

 (a.) The Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland which commenced on the 6th September, 1968, is hereby repealed;

 (b.) All laws with the exception of the Constitution hereby repealed, shall continue to operate with full force and effect and shall be construed with such modifications, adaptations, qualifications and exceptions as may be necessary to bring them into conformity with this and ensuring decrees.

Annex 4. Full text of the 2012 ACHPR resolution on Swaziland

Swaziland has been the subject of several resolutions of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the most recent of which was passed in May 2012. The resolution text follows:

‘Recalling its mandate to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights in Africa pursuant to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter);

 Underscoring the provisions of the African Charter, in particular; Articles 9, 10, 11, 13, and 18(3), as well as other international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa;

 Deeply Concerned about allegations of the violation of the right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association which, if true, may affect the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in 2013;

Further Concerned about the allegation of the violations of the rights of workers as seen in the de-registration of the recently formed Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) by the Office of the Commissioner of Labor acting on the advice of the Attorney General of the Swaziland Government;

Alarmed by the failure of the Kingdom of Swaziland to implement the decision of the African Commission in Communication 251/2002- Lawyers for Human Rights v Swaziland, and the recommendations in the report adopted by the African Commission following a promotional mission to the country in August 2006;

  1. Calls on the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland to respect, protect and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly as provided for in  the African Charter, the UDHR, the ICCPR and other international and regional instruments;
  2. Calls on the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland to implement the decision of the African Commission in Communication 251/2002- Lawyers for Human Rights v Swaziland and submit a report on the status of implementation;
  3. Calls on the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland to implement the recommendations in the report adopted by the African Commission following a promotional mission to the country in August 2006;
  4. Further urges the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland to take all necessary measures to ensure the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in 2013.’

Annex  5. Description of the MTN saga and the no confidence vote

The appointment in 2008 by King Mswati of Barnabus Dlamini, who was not a member of parliament, as prime minister was another of King Mswati’s violations of the constitution.   Chapter VI, paragraph 67, (1) states that  ‘The King shall appoint the Prime Minister from members of the House acting on a recommendation of the King’s Advisory Council.’

In October 2009, the parastatal Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) proposed to sell its 51 per cent holding in Mobile Telephone Networks (MTN) Swaziland in order to raise funds to expand SPTC’s mobile network coverage in the country. SPTC’s plans were blocked, reportedly by the king who wanted to protect the Swaziland mobile phone market for MTN. The king also was reported to block a deal for the sale of SPTC’s MTN shares so he could increase his holdings in MTN while purchasing SPTC’s shares at a lower cost.

In 2012, Prime Minister Dlamini, also an MTN shareholder, ordered SPTC to switch off its Fixedfones and data components which left thousands of people with expensive and useless gadgets and without mobile phone service. The prime minister claimed that he was required to take this action by Swazi and international court decisions, but the facts did not support his claim. SPTC’s tariffs were lower than those of MTN, its only licensed competitor in Swaziland.

The elimination of SPTC from the Swazi mobile phone market effectively forced the nearly 700,000 Swazis who rely on mobile phones to use MTN’s more expensive service. A public outcry reverberated in the lower house of parliament, the House of Assembly, which on  3 October 2012 passed a vote of no confidence in the prime minister and the cabinet by more than the constitutionally prescribed 2/3rd majority of all members of the House. This was the first and only no confidence vote since the 2005 constitution came into effect.

Chapter VI, paragraph  68, 1 (e) of the constitution states that ‘after a resolution of no confidence in the Prime Minister is passed by at least two thirds majority of the members of the House, the King removes the Prime Minister’. However the prime minister did not resign and the king did not dismiss him.

Prime Minister Dlamini was reported in the Times of Swaziland as saying, ‘We will just ignore the vote of no confidence and carry on with our business as usual.’  The attorney general, Majahenkhaba Dlamini, declared the no confidence vote ‘null and void’, and Brigadier Fonono Dube of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force told media that the Constitution was worthless because it had not been formally presented to the United Nations. 

Civil society activists called for the prime minister and cabinet to resign, accusing ministers of violating the Constitution and undermining the rule of law. The Federation of the Swazi Business Community backed the call for the government to resign stating ‘This Cabinet has no mandate to govern, is not fit for purpose and it must do the honorable thing and go immediately before it damages Swaziland any further.’ A Federation spokesman said ‘The introduction of these new services brought real competition into the telecommunications sector. This enabled ordinary people to begin to afford to communicate more and the business community to access new markets and improve their services, competitiveness and profitability. As one of the poorest countries in the Southern African Development Community region, we had long suffered from monopoly pricing and were charged the highest rates for [communications] services.’

After 12 days of stand-off and following threats and bribes directed towards MPs, the House voted to rescind its no confidence vote. A month before, 25 year old Princess Sikhanyiso Dlamini, King Mswati’s eldest daughter was appointed to MTN Swaziland’s board of directors. A Swaziland based investment consultant commented:  'All big companies in Swaziland have to accommodate royal family members to their boards. The princess’s appointment signals that the time has come for a new generation to enjoy that privilege.’