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TITLE:  SWAZILAND HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                           SWAZILAND


Swaziland is governed as a modified traditional monarchy with 
executive, legislative, and (with some limitations) judicial 
powers ultimately vested in the King (presently Mswati III).  
The King rules according to unwritten Swazi law and custom, in 
conjunction with a newly elected Parliament and an accompanying 
structure of published laws, implementing agencies, and an 
independent judiciary.  Despite the 1993 parliamentary 
elections and the election of regional and local councils in 
September and October, political power continues to rest 
largely with the King and his circle of traditional advisers.  
The 1968 Constitution, originally suspended by the present 
King's father in 1973, remained in suspension.  The King 
routinely issued decrees, based upon this 1973 suspension, 
which carry the force of law.

Both the Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force and the Royal 
Swaziland Police operate under civilian control and are 
responsible for external and internal security.  The police 
harassed and arrested political activists from prohibited 
political organizations.  There were credible accusations of 
excessive force and abuse by the police in the interrogation of 
criminal suspects in 1994.

Swaziland has a free market economy, with relatively little 
government intervention.  The majority of Swazis are engaged in 
subsistence agriculture, although a relatively diversified 
industrial sector now accounts for the largest component of the 
formal economy.  The economy relies heavily on the export 
sector, especially the sugar industry, composed primarily of 
large firms with predominantly foreign ownership.  A 
governmental organization maintains large investments in all 
major sectors of the industrial, agricultural, and services 
economy.

There was little change in the human rights situation in 1994.  
The Government restricted freedom of assembly, continued 
prohibitions on political activity and parties, moved to 
curtail the one independent newspaper, and detained or arrested 
members of political groupings, including seven members of the 
newly formed Swaziland Communist Party.  Police continued to 
use excessive force, especially during the interrogation of 
criminal suspects, and the authorities rarely punished 
offenders.  The Government's frequent use of a nonbailable 
offense provision, strengthened by act of Parliament in 1994, 
led to some overcrowding in detention facilities.  Legal and 
cultural discrimination and violence against women remained a 
serious problem.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of such killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearance.

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

There were no reports of the use of torture, but police 
brutality continued to be a major problem.  Criminal suspects 
routinely complained that police beat them in the course of 
interrogations.  The Government failed to prosecute or 
otherwise discipline police officers for such abuses.  Courts 
do, however, routinely throw out confessions induced through 
such physical abuse.  On one occasion, the Government charged a 
police officer with the rape of a criminal suspect; at year's 
end, the case was ongoing.  The Government continued to refuse 
to release the report of an official inquiry into the 1990 
"Black Wednesday" incident when police and army units beat 
University of Swaziland student protestors.  Student 
commemoration of this event in November led to accusations of 
property damage and harassment of nonparticipants, and the 
early closure of the University.

Prison conditions are poor but not life threatening.  Food is 
generally adequate, although sometimes family members must 
bring food to supplement the sparse prison diet.  Medical care 
is inadequate.  The use of the new nonbail provision led to 
some overcrowding in government remand centers, where suspects 
are held during pretrial detention (see Section 1.d.).  Women 
and juveniles are held in separate prison facilities.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The 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.  Detainees may 
consult with a lawyer of their choice and must 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.  The authorities generally respect these rights in 
practice.

The Government continued to limit provisions for bail by 
expanding the crimes appearing in the Nonbailable Offenses 
Order, effective August 24, 1993.  The Order originally listed  
nine offenses ranging from murder to inciting to riot for which 
a defendant cannot be granted bail.  In 1994 the Minister of 
Justice, who may amend the list by his own executive act, added 
a tenth offense, car theft, to the nonbailable list, after a 
rash of armed highjackings in urban areas.  In June Parliament 
broadened the standard for the nonbailable act to apply from 
"involvement" in the offense to a mere "charge" of the 
underlying offense.

In September police harassed and temporarily detained three 
members of a banned political organization, the People's United 
Democracy Movement (PUDEMO), when the members were discovered 
distributing pamphlets advocating a boycott of local elections.

The Government does not use exile for political purposes.  
There are no formal barriers to prevent the return of 
dissidents.

     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 unwritten traditional 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.  However, this power was last used in 1987.

The modern judiciary consists of the Court of Appeals, 
(composed entirely of expatriate, usually South African, 
judges), the High Court, and magistrates' courts, which are 
independent of executive and military control and free from 
intimidation from outside forces.  The expatriate judges, often 
distinguished members of their respective bars, serve on the 
basis of 2-year, renewable contracts.  Local judges serve 
indefinitely on good behavior.  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.

Most Swazis who encounter the legal system do so through the 
traditional courts.  The authorities may bring ethnic Swazis to 
these courts for relatively minor offenses and violations of 
traditional law and custom.  In traditional courts, defendants 
are not permitted formal legal counsel but may speak on their 
own behalf and be assisted by informal advisers.  Sentences are 
subject to review by traditional authorities and to appeal to 
the High Court and the Court of Appeals.  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.  Accused persons have the right to transfer 
their cases from the traditional courts.

On October 16, the Government arrested seven members of the 
newly formed Swaziland Communist Party who were picketing a 
workshop of a local democracy organization.  The authorities 
charged them under the 1938 Sedition Act, a broadly written 
law, with committing subversive acts and being in possession of 
seditious materials.  The trial marked the first use of this 
Act in approximately 2 years.  The court acquitted the seven of 
the sedition charges after a 2-week trial in November.  It also 
acquitted six of the seven of the minor charge of staging a 
public demonstration without a permit and gave the seventh, the 
party leader and founder, a suspended sentence on that charge.  
The Government arrested the party leader and one other for 
demonstrations without a permit the following week, releasing 
them on bail 3 days later.  These two faced the possible 
imposition of a 2-month suspended sentence for a 1993 
conviction on the same charge.  The case against the two 
continued at year's end.

In 1993 credible reports of the existence of a "secret 
committee" led magistrates, concerned about possible inroads on 
their judicial independence, to a brief strike.  This "secret 
committee," which was allegedly formed to usurp the functions 
of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and to discipline 
wayward magistrates, reportedly disbanded in the wake of the 
strike and criticism from members of the legal profession.  
Tighter JSC supervision of magistrates and the institution of a 
training and inspection magistrate group to supervise courtroom 
performance led to significant reductions in judicial delay in 
1994.

The Government held no known political prisoners in 1994.

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

The law requires a warrant from a magistrate before police may 
search homes or other premises, and police generally respect 
this requirement in practice.  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.  While searches without 
warrants occur occasionally, the issue of legality of evidence 
rarely arises in court.  Opponents of the Government complained 
of unlawful police searches and seizures but did not seek 
judicial relief in 1994.

There is no evidence that the Government systematically 
monitors private correspondence or conversations.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech, especially on political matters, remains 
limited, including in the new Parliament.  The media, both 
government-controlled and private, practice self-censorship in 
regard to the immediate royal family and national security 
policy.  Despite these restrictions, there was an overall trend 
toward greater openness, and the two daily newspapers--one 
official, one private--treated a range of sensitive topics.  
However, the Government moved against its most outspoken 
critic, the expatriate owner and publisher of the sole 
independent newspaper, through nonrenewal of his business 
permit.  While at year's end the publisher's case rested under 
appeal with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the paper continued 
its critical coverage.  The government-owned television and 
radio stations--the most influential media in reaching the 
public--generally followed official policy positions.  Private 
companies and church groups own several newsletters, magazines, 
and one radio station that broadcasts throughout the region.

The practice of self-censorship and the prohibition of 
political gatherings limits academic freedom.  After a 
student-led commemoration of "Black Wednesday" at the 
university in November led to accusations that student 
activists had damaged property, harassed nonparticipants, and 
engaged in angry confrontations with university administrators, 
the university senate voted to close the university 
indefinitely.  The university established an informal inquiry 
panel to interview students and pass judgment on their fitness 
to attend class.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

King Sobhuza's 1973 decree prohibits political parties and 
meetings of a political nature and processions or 
demonstrations in any public place without the consent of the 
Commissioner of Police.  The authorities did not generally 
grant permission to hold meetings but did not rigidly enforce 
the 1973 decree.  Political organizations often met without the 
required permission, without repercussions, including PUDEMO 
and the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO).  However, the 
threat of police intervention is pervasive, and on at least 
four occasions police harassed groups taking part in political 
activities, such as peaceful demonstrations and distribution of 
political flyers (see Section 1.e.).  These incidents include 
the December arrest of 48 PUDEMO members for taking part in a 
protest march.

Several traditional forums exist for the expression of opinion, 
including community meetings, national councils, and direct 
dialog with village chiefs, but they depend on the sufferance 
of leaders and are ineffective channels for expressing real 
political dissent.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Followers of all religious faiths are free to worship without 
government interference or restriction.

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

Swazis may travel and work freely within Swaziland.  However, 
for travel abroad, under traditional law, a married woman 
requires her husband's permission to apply for a passport, and 
unmarried single women require the permission of a close male 
relative.  A new Citizenship Law passed in November 1992 
removed many ambiguities relating to Swazi citizenship and 
nominally enabled nonethnic Swazis to obtain passports and 
citizenship documents.  Bureaucratic delays, however, plagued 
individuals seeking these documents during the year, in part 
due to the common perception that nonethnic Swazis are not real 
Swazis.

The Government treats about 7,000 ethnic Swazis from the former 
homeland of KwaZulu in South Africa as virtually 
indistinguishable from local Swazis and routinely grants them 
travel and citizenship documents.

Swaziland's treatment of refugees is considered good by the 
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as well 
as the various nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) involved 
in the care of these groups.  Largely under UNHCR auspices, 
more than 35,000 Mozambican refugees had returned home by 
year's end, and the UNHCR officially registered only several 
hundred refugees in Swaziland.

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

Citizens are not able to exercise this right.  The King retains 
ultimate executive and legislative authority, and political 
parties are prohibited.  Passage of legislation by Parliament 
requires the King's assent to become law, which he is not 
obliged to give.  When Parliament is not in session, the King 
may legislate by decree under his residual emergency powers.  
The King chooses the Prime Minister and, in consultation with 
the Prime Minister, the Cabinet.

The King has been under increasing public pressure, including 
from within his own Government, to modernize the political 
system, especially the archaic system of indirect 
representation.

Women have full legal rights to participate in the political 
process.  In the new Parliament, there are two women elected to 
the House, and four women elected--and two appointed--to the 
Senate.  There are no women in the Cabinet.  Three women serve 
as principal secretaries, the senior civil service rank in the 
ministries.

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

The Government permits domestic human rights groups to operate 
and in April invited the most prominent group, the Human Rights 
Association of Swaziland (HUMARAS), to attend a government 
policy seminar.  In 1994 HUMARAS continued to speak out on 
human rights issues and served as a mediator in land and labor 
disputes.  HUMARAS criticized the Government on several 
occasions, including the Government's decision to close the 
university following the "Black Wednesday" student protests and 
the arrest and trial of the seven Communist Party members in 
November (see Section 1.e.).

There were no visits by international human rights 
organizations.

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

The Constitution remains suspended.  However, the Employment 
Act of 1980 forbids employers to discriminate on the basis of 
race, religion, sex, or political affiliation.

     Women

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.  As traditional 
marriage is governed by uncodified 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 agreement.

Changing socioeconomic conditions, urbanization, and the 
increasing prominence of women leaders in government and civic 
organizations are slowly breaking down barriers to equality.  
Wives now routinely and successfully execute contracts and 
enter into a variety of transactions in their own names.  
Nevertheless, despite the 1980 Employment Act requiring equal 
pay for equal work, men's average wage rates by skill category 
usually exceed those of women.  Moreover, a woman generally 
requires her husband's permission to borrow money, open a bank 
account, leave the country, gain access to land, or, in some 
cases, take a job.

Traditional marriages consider children to belong to the father 
and to his family if the couple divorces.  They view children 
born out of wedlock as belonging to the mother.  In traditional 
marriages, a man may take more than one wife.  A man who 
marries a woman under civil law legally may not have more than 
one wife, although in practice this restriction is sometimes 
ignored.  A Swazi woman may not pass citizenship to her 
children.

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.

Violence against 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, 
usually in extreme cases when intervention by extended family 
members fails to end such violence.  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.  Rape is also a common crime and is regarded 
by many men as a minor offense.  Even in the modern courts, 
sentences frequently amount to no more than several months in 
jail or a fine, or both.  The Swazi Legal Code addresses legal 
protection from sexual harassment, but its provisions are vague 
and largely ineffective.

Several NGO's provide support to groups affected by 
discrimination or abuse, including the Swaziland Action Group 
Against Abuse which has 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.

     Children

The Government is concerned with the rights and welfare of 
children, and a number of laws directly address children's 
issues.  Child abuse is a serious problem in Swaziland.  A 
government task force continued to educate the public on 
children's issues.

     People with Disabilities

The Government through the Ministry of Home Affairs has called 
for equal treatment of the disabled but has not initiated 
legislation to prohibit discrimination against the disabled.  
For example, there are no laws mandating accessibility for the 
handicapped to buildings, transportation, or government 
services.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Industrial Relations Act (IRA) of 1980 affirms the right of 
trade unions to organize and associate freely.  It permits 
workers in all sectors of the economy, including the public 
sector, to join unions.  Unions operate independently of 
government or political control, provided they act as economic, 
rather than political, organizations.  The main trade union 
federation is the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU).  
The Swaziland Federation of Labor, a breakaway union formed 
from the SFTU in 1993, gained formal recognition from the 
Government in 1994.

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, including the 
election of officers by secret ballot.  The Labor Commissioner 
must approve the union constitution, and he can strike out or 
amend provisions which violate the law.  The Government may 
dissolve unions which fail to maintain proper registration with 
the Labor Commissioner without recourse to judicial review, but 
it has never exercised this authority.  The law prohibits 
strikes in "essential" services, which cover electricity, 
water, fire, health, sanitary, telephone, telegraph and 
broadcast, and teaching services, and many civil service 
positions.

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.  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.

There were a number of strikes in 1994, usually over wages and 
benefits.  In February the SFTU called a general strike in 
regard to 27 demands presented to the Government.  These 
demands addressed a wide range of issues, including recognition 
of affirmative action, a national uniform minimum wage, ending 
discrimination against women, housing for workers, and 
inclusion of workers in constitutional discussions.  The strike 
ended after 1 day when the Government agreed to establish a 
task force to investigate the 27 demands.  Since the February 
strike, occasional discussions between senior union and 
government officials ensued, and the task force completed its 
report.  Another general strike threat for November 1 resulted 
in intensive negotiations between government, labor, and 
employers.  Labor suspended the strike call when negotiators 
reached basic agreement on 16 of the 27 demands.  As of year's 
end, none of the agreed-upon demands had yet been formally 
approved by Parliament or published by the Government, and the 
SFTU established a new deadline for the first week of February 
1995.

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 of 
which Swaziland ratified in 1978.  The COE concerns 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 
tolerates the unions' international affiliations but does not 
recognize them.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The IRA provides for the right to organize and bargain 
collectively and outlaws antiunion discrimination.  Collective 
bargaining is widespread; approximately 80 percent of the 
formal private sector is unionized.  The Industrial Court may 
refuse to register agreements in the event of nonobservance of 
government directives on wage levels.  The COE has criticized 
this as a violation of ILO Convention 98.

The law obliges employers 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.  Employers must allow members of legally recognized 
unions 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.

The law limits the Industrial Court with respect to granting 
redress in the case of unfair dismissal.  The Court may not 
order reinstatement and may award compensation only to the 
extent of 6 months of salary.  Union leadership have on a 
number of occasions made credible charges that management in 
various industries have summarily dismissed workers for union 
activity.  The Government sometimes instigates such dismissals.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced labor, and it is not known to exist.  
An ILO representative withdrew an earlier ILO accusation that 
forced labor took place in Swaziland.

     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 where only family members are employed in the firm, or in 
technical schools where 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.  Children are also employed as 
domestic workers, and as herd boys in rural areas.  The 
Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcement, 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.  The minimum monthly wage 
for a domestic worker is approximately $50 (180 Emalangeni), 
for an unskilled worker $70 (250 Emalangeni), and for a skilled 
worker $120 (430 Emalangeni).

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.  The 
Employment Act and the Wages Act entitle all workers to 1 day 
of rest per week.  Most workers receive a minimum of 14 days' 
annual leave.  The Labor Commissioner enforces standards in the 
formal sector.

Extensive legislation protects worker health and safety in 
Swaziland.  The Government sets safety standards for industrial 
operations and encourages private companies to develop accident 
prevention programs.  Recent growth in industrial production 
has necessitated more government action on safety issues.  
However, the Labor Commissioner's office has conducted few 
safety inspections in recent years because of staffing 
deficiencies.  Workers have no formal statutory rights to 
remove themselves from dangerous work places without 
jeopardizing their jobs; nor do any collective bargaining 
agreements address the matter.

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[end of document]

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