The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal


DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Swaziland is governed as a modified traditional monarchy with 
executive, legislative, and (with some limitations) judicial 
powers ultimately vested in the King.  Advised by traditional 
figures and Cabinet ministers, the King rules according to 
unwritten Swazi law and custom and through a modern structure 
of published laws and decrees, implementing agencies, and an 
independent judiciary.  The King appoints the Cabinet from 
among members of Parliament.  Direct elections for the House of 
Assembly (the lower house of Parliament) were held in October 
under new procedures recommended by a special commission 
following extensive public hearings throughout the country.

Civilian authorities control both the Umbutfo Swaziland Defense 
Force and the Royal Swaziland Police.  On approximately 50 
occasions during the year, criminal suspects made credible 
accusations that police had used excessive force to obtain 
evidence or a confession. 

Swaziland has a free market economy, with relatively little 
government intervention.  The majority of Swazis are engaged in 
subsistence agriculture, though a relatively diversified 
industrial sector accounts for the largest component of the 
formal economy.  The economy relies heavily on the export 
sector, composed primarily of large firms with predominantly 
foreign ownership.

Significant progress toward reform included the holding of 
parliamentary elections and the announcement of the 
Government's intention formally to repeal the 60-day detention 
decree that permitted detentions without charges (the decree 
was not used in 1993).  While no international observers were 
invited, the procedures for nominations and elections for 
Swaziland's first elected parliament in 20 years were generally 
considered to be open, fair, and free of unwarranted 
influence.  The registration and voter education procedures, 
although imperfect, were reasonably successful.  However, 
restrictions on political activity and the ban on political 
parties remained in force.  Legal and cultural discrimination 
and physical violence against women continued.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no allegations of such killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearance.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Approximately 50 persons alleged that they were abused or 
tortured while in police custody in 1993.  In most of these 
cases, the police mistreated arrestees in attempts to force 
confessions or obtain evidence in criminal cases.

The report on the 1990 beating by members of the Swazi military 
of a group of University of Swaziland students was completed 
but by year's end had not been made public.  No criminal 
charges were brought against the perpetrators.

Convicted youth offenders can be sentenced to whipping by 
cane.  In 1993 this sentence was imposed less frequently than 
in the recent past.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Swazi law requires warrants for arrests in most circumstances, 
except when police observe a crime being committed or have 
reason to believe that a suspect will flee.

Those arrested are allowed to consult with a lawyer of their 
choice and are to be charged with violation of a statute within 
a reasonable time, usually 48 hours or, in remote areas, as 
soon as the judicial officer appears.  Provision for bail 
exists except for persons charged with crimes appearing in the 
Non-Bailable Offenses Order of 1993.  The Order, which became 
effective on August 24, identifies nine offenses ranging from 
murder to inciting to riot for which a defendant cannot be 
granted bail.  Proponents of the legislation believe it will 
improve the administration of justice by guaranteeing that a 
defendant appears for hearings and trial and that the law also 
protects the defendant from vigilante groups who oppose bail.  
Opponents of the legislation believe the order denies due 
process to defendants and encroaches on the discretion and 
independence of the courts.

The Government on September 27 announced its intention to 
repeal the 1973 decree permitting the detention of any person 
without charge or trial for renewable periods of 60 days.  The 
60-day detention decree was not used in 1993.

Exile was not used as a means of political control during the 

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Judicial powers are vested in a dual system, one independent 
and based on Western law, the other based on a system of 
national courts which follows Swazi law and custom.  In treason 
and sedition cases, the King can circumvent the regular 
judiciary by appointing a special tribunal, which may adopt 
rules and procedures different from those applied in the High 
Court.  This power was last used in 1987.

The modern judiciary consists of the Court of Appeals, 
(composed entirely of South African judges), the High Court, 
and magistrates' courts, which are independent of executive and 
military control and free from intimidation by outside forces.  
The High Court has general jurisdiction over relatively serious 
civil and criminal cases.  The magistrates' courts have 
jurisdiction over criminal cases punishable by not more than 
2 years' imprisonment or a fine of not more than $130.  In 
magistrates' courts, the defendant is entitled to counsel at 
his or her own expense.  Court-appointed counsel is provided in 
capital cases or when difficult points of law are at issue.  
There are well-defined appeal procedures up to the Court of 
Appeals, the highest judicial body.  Some members of the 
regular judiciary are appointed from the bars of other 
countries with compatible legal systems.

In traditional courts, to which ethnic Swazis may be brought 
for relatively minor offenses and violations of traditional 
Swazi law and custom, formal legal counsel is not allowed. 
Defendants may speak on their own behalf and may be assisted by 
informal advisors.  Sentences are subject to review and to 
appeal to the High Court and the Court of Appeals.  Accused 
persons are guaranteed the right to have their cases 
transferred from the traditional courts.  By law, the public 
prosecutor has the authority to determine which court should 
hear a case, but in practice the police usually make the 
determination.  Inadequate staffing of the High Court led to 
delays in the processing of some cases in 1993.  A short work 
stoppage by the magistrates, who were unhappy with the 
appointment of a special judicial commission, exacerbated 
judicial delays and backlogs and contributed to public 
discontent with the judicial system.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The law generally requires a warrant from a magistrate before 
police may search homes or other premises.  However, police 
officers with the rank of subinspector or higher have the right 
to search without a warrant if they believe evidence might be 
lost through delay in obtaining a warrant.  The evidence 
obtained from searches conducted without warrants has been 
successfully challenged in court.

No evidence has been produced that the Government 
systematically monitors private correspondence or 
conversations.  Opponents of the Government who complain of 
unlawful searches and seizures have not sought judicial relief 
from these activities.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

There was some easing of restraints on freedom of speech, 
especially in political matters, in 1993 but significant 
restrictions remained.  In dealing with the sensitive issues of 
the immediate royal family and national security policy, the 
media, both government-controlled and private, tend to practice 
self-censorship.  Reflecting the easing of some restraints, the 
two daily newspapers and the government-controlled television 
station continued to expand the range of sensitive topics, such 
as the parliamentary elections, that they were willing to 
address and to develop their role as forums for the expression 
of popular opinion.

Swaziland's only privately owned paper also became a more 
energetic advocate of governmental accountability and 
democracy, challenging the Government when it believed the  
Government had not lived up to appropriate standards.  The 
government-owned radio station exhibited less freedom than did 
the other media.  Private companies and church groups publish 
several newsletters and magazines.  One church group owns and 
operates a radio station that broadcasts throughout the region.

Although no formal constraints on academic freedom exist, the 
prohibition on political gatherings, the historical intolerance 
of dissent, and concern over possible reprisals have created an 
environment in which self-censorship is the norm.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law does not protect this freedom.  Swazis have several 
traditional forums through which they can express discontent, 
including direct dialog with their chiefs, community meetings, 
and national councils, in which all Swazis are permitted to 
participate.  Many Swazis, however, view these forums as 
ineffective means for expressing their political views.  King 
Sobhuza's 1973 decree prohibits political parties and meetings 
of a political nature and demonstrations in any public place 
without the consent of the Commissioner of Police.  Permission 
to hold meetings was not generally granted in 1993, but 
political organizations often met without the required 
permission, with no legal consequences.  On several occasions 
the authorities permitted leaders of the illegal political 
parties, including the People's United Democratic Movement 
(PUDEMO) and the Swaziland National Front (SWANAFRO), to speak 
out publicly at rallies and meetings, and the activities of 
these leaders were frequently reported in the mass media.  
However, in several instances political activitists were 
arrested and charged with political offenses for organizing 
political meetings without police permission for holding 
illegal demonstrations.  In one incident, 62 PUDEMO supporters 
were arrested after attempting to attend a rally; the 62 were 
convicted and given suspended sentences of 3 months in jail on 
the condition they avoid similar offenses within the next 3 
years.  They have appealed the convictions and sentences.  
Following those arrests, few individuals dared to attend 
political meetings.

Except for the ban on political parties, there are no formal 
legal barriers to freedom of association.  Trade associations, 
professional bodies, academic organizations, and rights 
advocacy groups exist and maintain relations with recognized 
international bodies in their fields. 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Swaziland is hospitable to all religious believers.  Organized 
religions are free to establish places of worship and train 
clergy, to publish religious texts, and to undertake religious 
travel outside the country.  Proselytizing is legal, and no 
religious group is banned.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Swazis may travel and work freely within the country.  However, 
for travel abroad, under traditional law a married woman 
requires her husband's permission to apply for a passport.  A 
citizenship law passed in November 1992 removed many 
ambiguities relating to Swazi citizenship and enabled nonethnic 
Swazis to obtain passports and citizenship documents.  
Bureaucratic delays, however, plagued individuals seeking these 
documents during the year.  The new law enabled those wishing 
to register for the elections to do so with little problem.

No formal barriers prevent the return of dissidents, although 
few have chosen to return to Swaziland to resume residence.  
Some did return for short visits in 1993 and were not subject 
to harassment by the authorities.

Swaziland's treatment of refugees is considered to be good by 
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as 
well as by the various nongovernmental organizations involved 
in the care of these groups.  Most refugees are from 
Mozambique.  Only about 24,000 of these are registered and 
receiving assistance, while another estimated 35,000 to 40,000 
have settled spontaneously along the border regions and in 
towns.  The other significant refugee group is made up of about 
7,000 ethnic Swazis from the KwaZulu "homeland" in South Africa.

Approximately 160 people from countries such as Zaire, 
Ethiopia, Angola, and Somalia sought refuge in Swaziland during 
the first 8 months of 1993.  (Arrivals from South Africa have 
stopped.)  Swaziland permits these people to remain in the 
country until their petitions can be heard by the Political 
Asylum Committee.  This Committee is made up of government and 
U.N. officials.  The UNHCR's opinion about the merits of a 
person's claim to well-founded fear of persecution or physical 
danger if repatriated is a major factor in the Committee's 
decisionmaking process.  There are no current disputes between 
Swazi and UNHCR authorities regarding claims to refugee 
status.  Illegal aliens who cannot establish refugee status are 
usually deported.

In August Swaziland, Mozambique, and the UNHCR signed an 
agreement governing the voluntary repatriation of Mozambican 
refugees.  While some spontaneous return had already occurred, 
the controlled, organized repatriation effort began in 
October.  Although local sentiment favors as rapid a return of 
Mozambican refugees as possible, Swazi officials accept that 
the repatriation must be voluntary and at a pace that can be 
managed on the other side of the border.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

In 1993 Swazi citizens exercised the right to change their 
government through a direct vote for the first time in 20 
years, but a ban on political parties and restrictions on 
political gatherings precluded the holding of truly democratic 
elections.  The Government limited candidates' election 
campaigning to single, short sessions with groups of voters.  
Of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, 55 were directly 
elected by the people in a secret ballot vote; the remaining 10 
were appointed by the King.  Parliament includes also a Senate 
with 30 members, 20 of whom are appointed by the King and 10 of 
whom are elected by the House of Assembly.  Despite the ban on 
political parties, PUDEMO, SWANAFRO, and other parties used 
public meetings and the media to publicize their views.

Although Swazi law calls for the House of Assembly to make law 
with the King, the previous House of Assembly used this power 
in only a limited fashion.  The King retains ultimate 
legislative and executive power.  After dissolving the House of 
Assembly in October 1992 in preparation for elections, the King 
ruled the country "in council" with his Cabinet, soliciting 
advice from the royal family, senior chiefs, and other 
interested parties.  Legislation was promulgated by the Cabinet 
and submitted to the Monarch for assent.  The King can 
legislate by decree, as well.  The new House of Assembly is due 
to meet for the first time in early 1994.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

While the Government does not encourage activities by domestic 
or international human rights organizations, local 
organizations exist.  The most prominent, the Human Rights 
Association of Swaziland (HUMARAS), spoke out on human rights 
issues and worked as a mediator in land and labor disputes.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


Women have traditionally occupied a subordinate role in Swazi 
society, and the dualistic nature of the legal system 
complicates the issue of women's rights.  Because traditional 
marriage is governed by uncodified Swazi law and custom, 
women's rights are often unclear and change according to where 
and by whom they are interpreted.  In both traditional and 
civil marriages, wives are legally treated as minors, although 
those who marry under civil law may be accorded the legal 
status of adults, if stipulated in a signed prenuptial 

Changing socioeconomic conditions and urbanization, as well as  
the increasing prominence of women leaders in government and 
civic organizations, are slowly breaking down barriers to 
equality.  Married women now routinely and successfully execute 
contracts and enter into a variety of transactions in their own 
names.  However, the husband's permission is still generally 
required for a woman to borrow money, open a bank account, 
leave the country, or, in some cases, take a job.  Divorce is 
discouraged by families but is no longer uncommon.  In 
traditional marriages, children are considered to belong to the 
father and to his family if the couple divorces.  Children born 
out of wedlock are considered to belong to the mother.  In 
traditional marriages, a man may take more than one wife.  A 
man who marries a woman under civil law may not have more than 
one wife, although in practice this restriction is sometimes 

Couples often marry in both civil and traditional ceremonies, 
creating problems in determining which set of rules applies to 
the marriage and to subsequent questions of child custody and 
inheritance in the event of divorce or death.

Physical abuse of women, particularly wife beating, is common, 
despite traditional strictures against this practice.  Women 
have the right to charge their husbands with assault under both 
the traditional and modern legal systems and frequently do so.  
The traditional courts, however, can be unsympathetic to 
"unruly" or "disobedient" women and are less likely than the 
modern courts to convict men for wife beating.  Still, even in 
the modern courts, sentences frequently amount to no more than 
several months in jail or a fine, or both.

Nongovernmental organizations provide support to groups 
affected by discrimination or abuse.  The Swaziland Council of 
Churches Legal Aid Center provides free information on issues 
such as marriage and maintenance laws.  The Swaziland Action 
Group Against Abuse has established relations with other civic 
organizations as well as the Government to provide forums to 
discuss spousal and child abuse and to educate the public on 
the rights of abuse victims.

The Employment Act of 1980 forbids employers to discriminate on 
the basis of race, religion, sex, or political affiliation and 
requires equal pay for equal work.  However, men's average wage 
rates by skill category often exceed those of women.  Legal 
protection from sexual harassment is addressed in the Swazi 
Legal Code, but its provisions are vague and largely 
ineffective in halting this type of discrimination.


The Government has created a task force to educate the public 
on the rights of children.  A number of Swazi laws deal with 
the rights and welfare of children, including the Age of 
Majority Act, the Employment Act, the Child Care Service Order, 
and the Maintenance Act.  A study of legislation concerning 
children was conducted during 1993 to bring the legislation in 
conformance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the 
Child.  The Association of Child Welfare, a Swazi 
nongovernmental organization, was very active in 1993 promoting 
the rights and welfare of children.

     People with Disabilities

The Ministry of Home Affairs has called for equal treatment of 
the disabled, but no legislation prohibits discrimination 
against them.  The Government has not legislated or mandated 
physical accessibility to public buildings for the handicapped.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Industrial Relations Act (IRA) of 1980 affirms the right of 
trade unions to exist, organize, and associate freely.  Persons 
in all sectors of the economy, including the public sector, are 
permitted to join unions.  Unions operate independently of 
government or political control, provided they act as economic, 
rather than political, organizations.  Unions are free to draw 
up their own constitutions within the framework of the IRA.  
The Act specifies a number of provisions which must be 
addressed in a constitution.  These include the election of 
officers by secret ballot, annual meetings open to all members, 
fees, grounds for suspension of members, and expenditure of 
union funds.  The union constitution must be approved by the 
Labor Commissioner, who can strike out or amend provisions 
which violate the law.  Unions may not be dissolved as long as 
they adhere to the regulations of the IRA.  Unions that fail to 
maintain proper registration with the Labor Commissioner may be 
dissolved without recourse to judicial review, but this 
authority has never been exercised.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts 
(COE) has noted discrepancies between the IRA and ILO 
Convention 87 on freedom of association and ILO Convention 98 
on the right to organize and bargain collectively, both 
ratified by Swaziland in 1978.  The concerns of the COE include 
the powers accorded government officials to control union 
activity and the strictures on the ability of workers to form 
unions and associate with other unions at home and abroad.  The 
Government, however, does not prohibit Swazi unions from having 
international affiliations.  The COE again in 1993 criticized 
IRA provisions, including the prohibition on federations from 
carrying out political activities and the prohibition of the 
right to strike in the postal, radio, and teaching sectors.  In 
late 1992, the World Confederation of Organizations of the 
Teaching Profession asked the ILO to intervene with the Swazi 
authorities in order to obtain the repeal of the IRA provision 
which classifies teaching as an essential service.

The IRA details the steps to be followed when disputes arise, 
including what determines a legal or illegal strike.  The Act 
empowers the Industrial Court to settle employment disputes and 
grievances and to enjoin a union from striking.  Consciousness 
of workers' rights is growing rapidly.  When disputes arise, 
the Government often intervenes to try to reduce the chances of 
a strike, which may not be legally called until all avenues of 
negotiation have been exhausted.  The Labor Commissioner may 
then issue a 14-day postponement, which may be extended upon 
presentation of further documentation.  Several strikes 
occurred during 1993, centered on the issue of pay.  Strikes by 
the University of Swaziland Worker's Union, the Swaziland 
Commercial and Allied Workers Union, the Swaziland Hotel and 
Catering Allied Workers Union, and the Swaziland Union of 
Financial and Allied Workers occurred in 1993 with modest wage 
and benefit increases being obtained by the unions.

Several unions, dissatisfied with the leadership and role of 
the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), broke away 
from the SFTU in 1993 to form the Swaziland Federation of 
Labor, which has yet to be recognized by the Government.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The IRA provides for the right to organize and bargain 
collectively and outlaws antiunion discrimination.  Employers 
are obliged to recognize a union when it achieves a 40-percent 
membership among employees.

Disputes are referred to the Labor Commissioner and the 
Industrial Court, if necessary.  The Court is limited by law 
with respect to granting relief in the case of unfair 
dismissal.  It may not order reinstatement, and compensation 
only to the extent of 6 months' salary may be awarded.  Members 
of legally recognized unions must be allowed to attend union 
activities on company time.

Although many employers resist recognition and force the issue 
to the Industrial Court, the Court has generally ruled in favor 
of the unions on recognition.

While collective bargaining occurs, it is not widespread.  
Government directives on wage levels do not impede collective 
bargaining.  The Industrial Court may refuse to register an 
agreement if it does not observe government directives on wage 
levels.  The COE has criticized this as a violation of ILO 
Convention 98.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is legally prohibited and is not known to exist.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Employment Act of 1980 prohibits the hiring of a child 
below the age of 15 in an industrial undertaking, except in 
cases in which only family members are employed in the firm, or 
in technical schools in which children are working under the 
supervision of a teacher or other authorized person.  
Legislation limits the number of night hours which can be 
worked on schooldays and limits children's work hours overall 
to 6 per day or 33 per week.  Employment of children in the 
formal sector is not customary.  However, children below the 
minimum age are frequently employed in the agricultural sector, 
particularly in the country's eastern cotton-growing region.  
The Ministry of Labor has enforcement responsibility, but its 
effectiveness is limited by personnel shortages.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Swaziland has a legally mandated sliding scale of minimum 
wages, depending on the type of work.  These minimum wages 
generally provide a worker and family with an adequate standard 
of living within the context of Swazi society.  Most workers 
receive a minimum of 14 days' annual leave.  The Labor 
Commissioner enforces standards in the formal sector.  The 
minimum monthly wage for a domestic employee is approximately 
$50, for an unskilled worker about $60, and for a skilled 
worker approximately $110.

There is a labor/management/government-negotiated maximum 
48-hour workweek in the modern sector, except for security 
guards, who work up to six 12-hour shifts per week.  All 
workers are entitled to 1 day of rest per week under the 
Employment Act and the Wages Act.  Extensive legislation 
protects worker health and safety, and workers have the legal 
right to remove themselves from a dangerous work situation 
without jeopardy to continued employment.  The Government sets 
safety standards for industrial operations and encourages 
private companies to develop accident prevention programs.  
Recent growth in industrial production has required more 
government action on safety issues.  Few safety inspections by 
the Labor Commissioner's office have taken place in the last 
several years because of staffing deficiencies.

[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.