The African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA is a legislation that has been approved by the U.S. Congress in May 2000. The purpose of this legislation is to assist the economies of sub-Saharan Africa and to improve economic relations between the United States and the region. The legislation authorized the President of the United States to determine which sub-Saharan African countries would be eligible for AGOA on an annual basis. The eligibility criteria was to improve labour rights and movement toward a market-based economy. Each year, the president evaluates the sub-Saharan African countries and determines which countries should remain eligible.

It is no surprise that Swaziland has failed to comply with these rules. A press conference due to be held by the US Embassy on Monday (19 May 2014) to make the announcement was called off at the last minute. No reason for the cancellation or alternative date for the announcement was given. The United States had given Swaziland an ultimatum to implement the full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA 2008); full passage of amendments to the Public Order Act; full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act relating to civil and criminal liability to union leaders during protest actions; and establishing a code of conduct for the police during public protests. They failed to implement any change.

On 1 January 2015, the US President Obama issued a proclamation removing Swaziland from the list of sub-Saharan African beneficiaries that receive duty-free access to U.S. markets under the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Some observers fear that Swaziland’s exit from AGOA will have a profound impact on the country’s economy, which is already experiencing close to 40 percent unemployment. A number of experts have credited AGOA with helping to boost the Swazi garment industry; however, without preferential U.S. market access, the industry is expected to contract, resulting in the loss of approximately 17,000 jobs, according to one official from the Federation of Swaziland Employers.

As Swaziland Vigil UK, we will continue fighting against such traditions and practices because these are the very core violations of human rights the Swazi regime exercises without even the possibility of being challenged. We continue to FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY IN SWAZILAND, FREEDOM OF SPEECH, HUMAN RIGHTS AND ALSO WOMEN's RIGHTS until the whole world hears us.

By: Sakhile Hlatshwako

References:

1. http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/africa-in-focus/posts/2014/06/27-swaziland-agoa-africa-union-summit-trade-copley
2. http://agoa.info/news/article/5411-swaziland-confusion-over-kingdom-s-agoa-status.html
3. http://www.observer.org.sz/news/60744-it%E2%80%99s-difficult-to-get-back-agoa-usa.html.

News that spread internationally that in Swaziland only King Mswati III should be afforded the honour of a red carpet at special events reminds us of another time the King wanted to assert his superiority over his subjects.
That time, according to a cable from the US Embassy in Swaziland, the King made his advisors sweat in 40-degree heat in a basement to demonstrate his power over them.
The issue of the red carpet emerged when it was reported that the red carpet at the Business Woman of the Year Awards ceremony this year (2015) was rolled away. The same happened at the Swaziland Inter Municipal Games Association (SIGA). The Times of Swaziland, the only independent newspaper in the kingdom, reported that the Swazi Police had ordered SIGA to remove the red carpet. Barnabas Dlamini, the Swazi Prime Minister, was at the event to give a speech. According to Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) the police had acted on king's orders.

But the Royal Swaziland Police denied any such order from anyone let alone from the king. This is the usual tactic they use, ...violate human rights and when the international community expresses discontent about it, the Swazi regime denies responsibility and dismisses the whole act as some light-hearted activity at the discretion of some individual etc... In this case the police spokesperson Superintendent Khulani Mamba pulled the same trick by distancing the police from the BAN of using red carpets during public or private functions. And yet he did confirm the police did order the functions' organisers to roll-up the red carpet... he claimed "...no specific individual instructed the cops to remove the red carpet but was feeling of those who were waiting to welcome him (the prime minister) that such good gesture may be lost in interpretation, hence the decision to remove it".

I believe it is and should be the right of every individual to use any rug / carpet / tiles / fabric etc of any colour they prefer and choose without interference from the state or government. I strongly object to King Mswati III and his cohorts to his meddling with citizen's fundamental rights to use commodities as they wish. I do not accept that the monarchy holds a proprietary right and access to certain colours and to certain coloured rugs... its a basic human right to clothe and adorn oneself as it suits within the golden rules of not hurting anyone else in the process.
As part of the Swazi Vigil UK protest group, I call upon the king to come to his senses and realise the stupidity with which he conducts himself and the way he heads the country... Phansi ngaMswati Phansi!!!

The king's unwise behaviour in running the country has caught the eyes of the international community as quoted by the American Embassy in Swaziland's cable to Washington which stated that King Mswati was "...not intellectually well developed..., was not a reader..., was imbalanced..., has a lack of wisdom..." etc. This shames us as Swazi people (eMaSwati) when someone who should be holding a high esteemed position in our country is seen to be any of these descriptions, not because they are just belittling him, but because of his actions, his behaviour and the way he runs the country like his personal farm... speaking of which Swaziland in many ways is his farm since the 1973 King's Proclamation gives him the sole ownership of the country and all state owned real-estate.
That is the very reason I stand with our comrades at Swazi Vigil and call for the respect of human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion etc in Swaziland. We will continue to fight until there is Full Democracy in Swaziland... Phambili Swazi Vigil, Phambili!!!

Viva Swazi Vigil Viva!!

By: Zodwa Dlamini

References:

  1. Swazi Media, PETTINESS OF THE KING'S RED CARPET, Richard Rooney, 2 December 2015 http://swazimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/pettiness-of-kings-red-carpet.html; Date Accessed: 05-12-2015.
  2. Facebook, Save Amos Mbedzi-Release All Political Prisoners (SWAZILAND), Lucky Lukhele, 24 November 2015, https://www.facebook.com/www.ssnonline.net/posts/613015975505639; Date Accessed: 05-12-2015.
  3. Times of Swaziland, SIGA ORDERED TO REMOVE RED CARPET AT GALA DINNER, Sibongile Sukati, 25 November 2015, http://www.times.co.sz/news/105713-siga-ordered-to-remove-red-carpet-at-gala-dinner.html; Date Accessed: 05-12-2015

Bemanti held hostage a businesswoman, daughter and a maid. Who do these men think they are? Swaziland is going all over the world, lying about human rights being respected in Swaziland. How on earth is this barbaric act of these irresponsible and nasty guys allowed to continue? These guys unfortunately, are mostly in the armed forces, including the police, prison wardens and the army.

Another incident happened in Pigg's Peak, the same area of the above incident. The same group, known as "bemanti", snatched a poor baby from its mother, just because she was not caring him on her back using "imbeleko" - a baby carrier kit. These monsters have been released by the king to terrorise the voiceless Swazis. Both the mother and the baby were left traumatised by the incident.

These man normally go for days without washing up, and then end up stinking. Imagine your baby being grabbed by a stinking group of strangers. This will be a scare which will never heal for the poor baby. Unfortunately, the poor woman called the police after the incident, who just laughed it off, and never took it seriously. Where are the human rights in Swaziland?

Women in Swaziland are taken for granted. We need to stand up and fight for our rights as human beings. The country will never exist without us women. The Queen is quiet, as all these inhumane incidents are happening. There are women in parliament, but none are challenging such barbaric acts. Is it because they're part of the government which doesn't respect human rights? These are the despicable acts supported by our government. This has to stop!

By: Philile Dlamini

References:

  1. Times of Swaziland, BEMANTI HELD MY FAMILY HOSTAGE FOR AN HOUR - BUSINESSWOMAN, Joseph Zulu, 23rd November 2015, http://www.times.co.sz/news/105680-bemanti-held-my-family-hostage-for-an-hour-%E2%80%93-businesswoman.html, Date Accessed: 01-12-2015.
  2. Times of Swaziland, BEMANTI MUST TREAT US WITH RESPECT, Mandla - letter to the editor, 24th November 2015, http://www.times.co.sz/letters/105684-bemanti-must-treat-us-with-respect.html, Date Accessed: 02-12-2015