The Swaziland Vigil with the help of the Zimbabwe Vigil had a busy week protesting against King Mswati’s visit to the UK for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. We were disappointed that the Queen should invite Africa’s last absolute monarch to what we would regard otherwise as a joyful celebration.
The protests against Mswati culminated after the regular Zimbabwe Vigil today when we processed from the Zimbabwe Embassy to the Savoy Hotel about 200 yards down the Strand to greet Mswati’s guests as they arrived for a dinner he was hosting. About 30 of us gathered with our drums and posters (‘King Mswati buys £30m plane while his people eat cow dung’, ‘Mswati and his 30 strong entourage stay in £400 a night Savoy Hotel while his people starve’, ‘End human rights abuses in Swaziland’, ‘Mswati must go NOW!’ and ‘Democracy now for Swaziland’). As Mswati’s guests went in we heckled them with cries of ‘Shame on you, Shame on you’. Protesters also shouted ‘women abuser’ and ‘save the young girls of Swaziland’. We were not surprised by the news from South Africa that one of the king’s 13 wives has spent the past month in the Presidential Suite of the Westcliff Hotel in Johannesburg costing $2,000 a night (see: http://africajournalismtheworld.com/tag/swazi-queen-runs-up-huge-hotel-bill/).
It was a long day for the Swaziland Vigil which had gathered for their regular demonstration outside the Swaziland High Commission at 10 am today before presenting a petition to 10 Downing Street at 1 pm protesting about the human rights abuses in Swaziland. For the letter to the British Prime Minister that accompanied the petition (see: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/campaign-news/401-swazi-letter-to-the-british-prime-minister).
On Friday night activists from both the Swaziland and the Zimbabwe vigils joined the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell in a protest outside Buckingham Palace (see; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18099937 - Diamond Jubilee: World royals gather in UK for Queen).
King Mswati must have been left with little doubt about what the Swazis and Zimbabweans in the UK thought of him after we greeted him when he arrived at the Savoy Hotel on Wednesday (see report below). The efforts that we and others have made resulted in totally negative media coverage for him in newspapers, television and radio. As the Times reported ‘Swaziland’s King Mswati III is said to enjoy a lavish lifestyle while his subjects starve’.
The success of the demonstrations was largely down to the hard work of three members of the Swaziland Vigil: Flora Dlamini, Margaret Dlamini (who came to the protest on Wednesday straight after dialysis) and Jabulile Simelane and Zimbabwe Vigil management team member Fungayi Mabhunu.
Prptest against King Mswati of Swaziland – 16th May 2012
Protestors demonstrated outside a leading London hotel against the visit of King Mswati III of Swaziland – Africa’s last absolute ruler – who is in the UK to attend a diamond jubilee banquet for the world’s monarchs hosted by the Queen at Windsor Castle on Friday 18th May.
The protest was organised by the Swaziland Vigil which stages regular demonstrations outside the Swaziland High Commission in London in protest at the king’s autocratic rule. They were supported by the Zimbabwe Vigil which protests against Mugabe and by Action for Southern Africa (the successor organisation to the Anti-Apartheid Movement) along with members of British trade unions.
Amid drumming, singing and chants of ‘Mswati must go’ the demonstrators outside the Savoy hotel in the Strand carried banners reading: ‘King Mswati buys £30m plane while his people eat cow dung’, ‘Mswati and his 30 strong entourage stay in £400 a night Savoy Hotel while his people starve’, ‘End human rights abuses in Swaziland’, and ‘Democracy now for Swaziland’.
A spokesperson for the Swaziland Vigil Flora Dlamini said the Swazi people were demanding democracy and an end to the feudal regime under which no political parties were allowed and freedom of expression was curtailed.
‘We have one of the richest kings in the world and yet we live in poverty. People are starving but he is here with more than 30 people in one of the most expensive hotels in London.
King Mswati (44) who has married 13 women was said, by two young women who came out of the Savoy, to be flirting with them asking about the best night clubs and shopping in the area.
A BBC photographer passed by and took photos. He has posted this on twitter: ‘What the King of Swaziland might see if he looks out of his window at the Savoy Hotel in London’ (#royal http://pic.twitter.com/bNEcIcm6). He has also posted a sound bite on the following link: http://audioboo.fm/boos/804353-demo-against-swaziland-s-king-mswati-iii-outside-savoy.
Thanks to Fungayi Mabhunu, Flora Dlamini, Margaret Dlamini, Mary Muteyerwa, Georgina Makaza, Bernard Hukwa, Ellen Gonyora, Kelvin Kamupira, Ndana Sanyanga, Edward Mutamiswa, Tim Rusike and Rose Benton who attended the protest.
Swazis in London protest at visit by playboy king Mswati III
Exiled Swazis living in the UK are to protest outside the Savoy Hotel in London on Wednesday 16th May when their king Mswati III is due to arrive to attend a diamond jubilee banquet for the world’s monarchs hosted by the Queen at Windsor Castle on Friday 18th May.
The protest is organised by the Swaziland Vigil which stages regular demonstrations outside the Swaziland High Commission in London in protest at the king’s autocratic rule. He is Africa’s last absolute monarch and has, at the last count, 13 wives – although there are reports that some of them have fled. Forty-four year old Mswati III, educated at Sherborne public school in Dorset, is said by Forbes magazine to have a fortune of more than $100 million while his people live in poverty.
The co-ordinator of the Swazi Vigil Thobile Gwebu said people in Swaziland had been reduced to eating cow dung so that they could fill their bellies as required for the AIDs medicines provided by NGOs. She said the king had recently taken delivery of a DC-9 twin-engine aircraft claiming it was a gift from ‘anonymous sponsors’.
Ms Gwebu said she understood the king was travelling with the entourage of 30, staying at the Savoy where room prices start at £400 a night.
She said Swazis in the UK didn’t want to spoil the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and had written to her explaining that, as Queen of the Commonwealth, perhaps she could have a word with Mswati so that they could return home to a country where human rights were respected. For text of the letter see: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/campaign-news/397-swaziland-vigil-letter-to-the-queen.
The Swaziland Vigil is also planning to picket the Swaziland High Commission on Saturday 19th May when king Mswati is due to hold a dinner.
Date: Wednesday 16th May from 12 noon – 3 pm
Venue: Savoy Hotel, Strand, London WC2R 0EU
19th May 2012
Dear Mr Cameron
On the occasion of the visit to the UK by King Mswati III, we respectfully submit the following petition: “Petition to the British Government: Exiled Swazis and supporters urge you to put pressure on absolute monarch King Mswati III to allow political freedom, freedom of the press, rule of law, respect for women and affordable AIDs drugs in Swaziland.”
The petition has been signed by people passing the Swaziland Vigil which holds regular demonstrations outside the Swaziland High Commission in London in protest at the human rights abuses in Swaziland.
For your information we have sent the following letter to the Queen, who invited Mswati to a lunch at Windsor Castle on 18th May to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
"Letter to the Queen - 9th May 2012
An Appeal to the Mother of Monarchs
We wish to record our disquiet at the visit to the UK by our King Mswati III on the occasion of your Jubilee. We are a group of Swazis driven into exile because of the arbitrary behaviour of King Mswati, the last absolute ruler in Africa. He lives like a medieval monarch while his people suffer. He now has his own £30 million aircraft while some women with HIV are reduced to eating cow dung because they have to have something in their stomachs for the medicine they must take. King Mswati has banned all political activities so we are left without a voice at home. We stage a regular protest outside the Swaziland High Commission just down the road from Buckingham Palace.
We realise that your hands are tied by protocol and wish to assure you that the protests we plan against King Mswati during his visit to London do not indicate any disrespect to you. But we would humbly ask you, as the Mother of the Commonwealth, to have a word with King Mswati so that we can return home in freedom to a democratic country observing international human rights. We are sad his education in England seems to have made him think his people are slaves."
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The vigil is gaining momentame every Surtuday as the weather is on our side, passerby are continueing to sign our petitions without fail. A report in the Times of Swaziland (Sunday, 8th May 2010) entitled ‘Swazi Protest in UK gains Momentum’ speaks of several protests outside the Swazi High Commission in London and outlines the petitions we are running. The article quotes Vigil co-ordinator Thobile Gwebu as saying that there is good support from the public who read and sign the petitions. She speaks of supporters’ anger at the quashing of a political activists’ event in Manzini and also says supporters are encouraged by the launch of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign in Johannesburg. She ends by saying that Swazis have suffered enough and it was high time there was political freedom, democracy and respect for human rights in Swaziland. ‘Let us run with endurance in the race that is set before us’.
In a separate article ‘…they should come back home – govt’ the Times quote Clifford Mamba, Principal Secretary of the Swaziland Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, saying the protesters should come back home where their issues would be raised. He said his government had an open door policy on such issues. He said the Vigil’s picketing and petitions were ineffective because the place to address these issues was in their own country.
Well our response to Mr Mamba is, if these issues are being addressed:
· Why is there still a state of emergency after 35 years?
· Why are political parties banned, activists imprisoned, and the judiciary, media and other bodies controlled by the monarch?
· Why are women suffering gross violation of their human rights?
· Why do seventy per cent of the population live on less than $1 a day?
· Why are more than 1 in 4 Swazis living with HIV / AIDS?
More bad news from home that demostrate the violetion of human rigts is without fail . Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini has made it clear that he is in charge of the kingdom’s police force and will use it against democracy activists.
Dlamini, who has an international reputation as an enemy of freedom and democracy, was explaining why dozens of police invaded the funeral of democracy activist Sipho Jele two weeks ago. Officers tore up pictures of the deceased man and confiscated banners belonging to opposition group, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO).
He said police would break up gatherings and make arrests even if no crime had been committed. The police just needed to believe that a crime might be committed.
Dlamini’s remarks at a gathering of the kingdom’s senior media people fly in the face of comments by Swaziland Commissioner of Police Isaac Magagula that the police were a service to the people of Swaziland and would treat people as ‘clients’ and with respect.
Dlamini told the meeting that police suspected crimes would be committed at Jele’s funeral so they broke it up.
‘At Jele’s funeral, the police would not just sit back and wait for something to happen first before responding to the situation. But they had to do something about the information brought by the Intelligence Branch,’ the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reports him saying.
Dlamini said that at future funerals or other occasions if the Intelligence Branch happened to detect a security threat, police then they would attend to ‘ensure law and order’.
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The vigil is growing sronger more supporters are signing our petitions and it is getting more publicity in the media back home. Our fellow supporters ACTSA replyed to the resent headline article that read ''Non swazis are paid to toyi toyi in London''.
The people who hold vigil in support of democracy and rights in Swaziland outside the Swaziland High Commission every Saturday are not paid; they volunteer to attend in their own time. Some are Swazis, some have visited Swaziland and some have never stepped foot on African soil but what they all have in common is a desire to support the people of Swaziland in their efforts to establish freedom and democracy in their country. The Saturday vigil is not organised by ACTSA but we have held vigils in support of democracy and freedom outside the Swaziland High Commission in London.
The plight of the Swazi people has been overlooked for far too long by the international community and I am delighted that the Swazi government has taken note of the Swazi-led demonstrations in London. All over the world there are Swazis who are at the forefront of organising and protesting for democracy and rights in their country. The support they receive is based on solidarity with their cause.In Southern Africa the Swaziland Democracy Campaign is an outstanding example of how Swazis and non-Swazis can work together for the common good of the people of Swaziland. ACTSA is the successor organisation to the British Anti Apartheid Movement, and many of those campaigning for democracy and rights for Swaziland now are the same people who campaigned for freedom and democracy for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Angola and against the attacks of the apartheid regime across the region. ACTSA works in solidarity with the people of Southern Africa for development, democracy, peace, rights and justice for the region.
There is a growing movement across the world calling for an end to the denial of political freedom in Swaziland and ACTSA is proud to be amongst those standing in solidarity with the people of Swaziland as they work tirelessly for democracy and rights for their country.
Director ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa)
Mario Masuku recieved more praises from Democracy supporters AMNESTY PRAISES MARIO MASUKU The following is a speech made at the ceremony to present Mario Masuku, president of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) with a Democracy Award, in Denmark, earlier this month (March 2010).It was made by Lars Normann Jørgensen, general secretary of Amnesty International in Denmark.Amnesty International has for many years criticized the widespread persecution of opposition in Swaziland, and has within the past year, been particularly concerned about the consequences of the terrorism legislation, the government introduced in 2008. It is the organization's view that certain provisions of the legislation are clearly contrary to the human rights.
Amongst other things the act has caused random arrests of some Swazi people, mistreatment of detainees, and taken legal actions without a sufficient evidence base.
More interesting news from home is about the corrupt detecting Mswati gorverment.On 25 March 2010, the Prime Minister (PM), [Barnabas] Sibusiso Dlamini, answering a question from editors on why government has refused to register the MCC, hinted that there was no need for the MCC as the statutory Media Commission was on its way.The PM's comments confirmed recent reports by lawyers representing the media and helping to register the MCC that government had declined to register the MCC arguing that its objectives overlapped with those of the proposed statutory Media Commission.
The media is currently weighing options of going to court to compel the government to register the MCC. However, the media are yet to meet with the Minister for Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) on the way forward with regards to the MCC.This is the corrupt Gorverment's way of having their way of dectacting all the moves of the media.
We would like to thank all our suppoters to mention a few Actsa,Kelvin and Godfrey for helping with petition signing and playing the drum.
- Written by Thobile Gwebu
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The vigil went well as the weather was on our side,supporters were stoping by reading and signing our petitions. We joined the Zimbabwean vigil activists as it was their independance day in lighting caddles outside the South African Embasy. More upsetting news from undemocratic Swaziland, as more protester for democracy were arrested during the weekend for demostrating.
Despite a court order obtained by the Swaziland chapter of the SDC granting them permission to continue with the public launch of the Campaign inside Swaziland, the royal police clamped down; arresting and detaining two of the coordinators of the Campaign, raiding the home of a third member of the Campaign coordinating team preventing him from attending the launch, preventing the attendance of the PUDEMO President, Cde Mario Masuku, and frightening off supporters of the Campaign. This action follows the royal police clampdown of the 12th April commemorations which marked the 37th anniversary of the banning of political parties in Swaziland.
The king is continueing with his ridicilus spending. On Wednesday (14 April 2010) reports were circulating in Swaziland that King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, had spent E5 million (about 500,000 US dollars) on a new Roller, even though Swaziland was broke and cuts in health, education and every other government department were being made. Thise speculations was confirmed by The Financial Mail reports, ‘The free-spending ways of Africa’s last absolute monarch, King Mswati III, continue to amaze his subjects, two-thirds of whom live on food rations donated by UN agencies.Swazi people will continue to die from poverty Aids and suffer because of unemployment as the King is less concerned with their well being.
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It was a very warm day considering it is winter; people at the vigil were still fuming at what is going on back home. Mswati’s oppressive machinery was at the full throttle for the past month thwarting peaceful demonstrations, abducting and arresting student leaders. On a positive note the official launch of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign in Johannesburg kept our spirits so high with our coordinator Thobile Gwebu telling the crowd that IT IS THE LAST MILE TO DEMOCRACY IN SWAZILAND, she goes on to tell us that Swazis have suffered enough it is high time there is political freedom, democracy and respect for human rights in Swaziland. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, she chanted. The gathering and passing crowd clapped, whistled and chanted FREE SWAZILAND!!! One passerby who stopped to sign our petitions asked why the king had so many wives and we told her that he picks a virgin every year and the lady said ……it is not me then because I am not a virgin ! A lot of people were worried that the world is watching while Swaziland is dying, one supporter was very angry that the UN is not doing anything to stop the horrific abuses and oppression in Swaziland. We noticed that one of the embassy neighbors was moving out and we realized that now that we have exposed the obnoxious regime they did not want to be staying next to people who have no respect for human rights. It was good to see our friends from ACTSA who have been very supportive of the Swazi vigil since its launch and they are running a campaign on Swaziland crisis and are encouraging people to put pressure on the ambassador in the UK go to the link http://www.actsa.org/page-1223-Swaziland.html. Thanks once again to Mark Beacon and his team. The vigil ended at 1pm with the singing of NKOSI SIKELELA AFRICA! (GOD BLESS AFRICA!) Our coordinator Thobile Gwebu explained to the vigilantes that the singing of Swaziland land national anthem will undermine our cause as it is nothing but the praise of the Dictator Mswati III. A lot of people stopped by to take pictures of our colourful l banner that was hand made by our coordinator Thobile Gwebu which reads NO TO DICTATORSHIP IN SWAZILAND!
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