Democracy and rights
Swaziland is an authoritarian and patriarchal society. King Mswati III can rule by decree and the Prime Minister has limited room for maneuver. Political parties are banned and those who fight for the democratization of the country are persecuted and harassed.
King Mswati III has been on the throne since 1986 and rules in principle unilaterally. The monarchy is hereditary and the same family has been in a position of power since the 18th century. The new constitution from 2006 gives certain freedoms and rights to the country’s citizens, but the monarch’s power is absolute. No space is given to opposition and political parties are banned. The king appoints the government and prime minister, he also has far-reaching power over parliament. Many of the high-ranking officials in the administration are related to the king. At the local level, traditional leaders who report directly to the king rule. The local leaders have great influence over the inhabitants. In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index, Swaziland ranks among the worst-ranked countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Parliamentary elections are held every five years. Because political parties are banned, individuals are running for office. A large majority of them are loyal to the king.
Freedom of assembly in the country is heavily curtailed. Organizations that demand reforms are banned. Trade unions are allowed, but demonstrations against misconduct are often brutally beaten down by police and law enforcement.
The position of women in society is weak and they are politically marginalized. According to the constitution, 30 percent of members of parliament must be women, but that rule is not complied with. After the 2018 election, only 7 percent of the members of parliament in the lower house are women.
LGBTQ people are systematically discriminated against and same-sex intercourse is prohibited by law. The first Pride Parade was held in 2018, but homosexuals are not tolerated in society.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution, but Muslims testify that the country’s Christians expose them to discrimination. Christianity is compulsory in school and in 2017 all other religious education was banned according to the general curriculum.
Freedom of expression and media
Journalists cannot work freely and independently in the country. Self-censorship is widespread and freedom of the press and expression does not exist. The daily newspaper offer is limited to two newspapers. Journalists who do not follow established rules are harassed, threatened and persecuted. Criticism of the king and the royal family is punishable and rarely occurs. It is common for newspapers to be sued for libel and fined. There is no principle of openness, instead all government decisions are surrounded by a culture of secrecy and secrecy. Radio and television are owned and controlled by the state. There is a private TV channel and it is owned by the royal family.
In 2019, Reporters Without Borders ranks Swziland in 149th place out of 180 countries.
Internet is free but coverage is low and prices are high.
Transperancy International places 2019 Swaziland in 113th place out of 180 in an index of perceived corruption. In the compilation, the country received 34 points out of 100. The average value for the 49 African countries evaluated was 32. In a survey conducted by Transperancy International together with Afrobarometer, just over half of the population states that corruption seems to be on the rise. The Swazis believe that business leaders, government officials and the police are the most corrupt in the country. A committee that will work for zero tolerance of corruption within the Government Offices was established in 2018, but how effective it will work is currently unclear.
Judiciary and the rule of law
The judicial system is based on a European legal system, in parallel with the domestic, traditional customary law where local councils take action and sentence less serious crimes.
The king appoints the judges to the country’s courts, but despite this, the judiciary has shown proof of a certain independence. Legal certainty is not guaranteed. Suspects may have to wait a long time, sometimes for several years, for a trial. Arbitrary arrests are common. Police and law enforcement are notorious for committing abuse and using violence against suspected and convicted prisoners. Some of the prisons are overcrowded and conditions are reported to be very difficult.
Women’s rights are limited by Swaziland’s laws and traditions. Both the country’s judiciary and traditional customary law treat women who are subordinate to their fathers or their spouses.
The death penalty remains but has not been practiced since 1983 when the latest execution was carried out.
The country remains closed
King Mswati III extends the partial closure of the country, which began on March 27, by three weeks. So far in Swaziland, 16 people have contracted the covid-19 viral disease.
- Countryaah: Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Swaziland, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
First case of covid-19
14th of March
The first patient with covid-19 disease is registered by the health authorities.
Prosecution for rape within the marriage
For the first time, a man is arrested and prosecuted for raping his wife. The man risks up to 20 years in prison under a law passed in 2018 that rape the marriage into a crime. The law is a step forward for women’s rights and has been criticized by the country’s conservatives who believe it goes against the domestic view of the man’s right to sex. Patriarchal values are deeply rooted in society and King Mswati III lives in polygamy with her 14 wives.