International Criminology World

World : Africa : Swaziland

According to tradition, the people of the present Swazi nation migrated south before the 16th century to what is now Mozambique. Following a series of conflicts with people living in the area of modern Maputo, the Swazis settled in northern Zululand in about 1750. Unable to match the growing Zulu strength, the Swazis moved gradually northward in the 1800s and established themselves in the area of modern or present Swaziland.

They consolidated their hold under several able leaders. The most important was Mswati II, from whom the Swazis derive their name. Under his leadership in the 1840s, the Swazis expanded their territory to the Northwest and stabilized the southern frontier with the Zulus.

Contact with the British came early in Mswati's reign, when he asked British authorities in South Africa for assistance against Zulu raids into Swaziland. It also was during Mswati's reign that the first whites settled in the country. Following Mswati's death, the Swazis reached agreements with British and South African authorities over a range of issues, including independence, claims on resources by Europeans, administrative authority, and security. South Africans administered the Swazi interests from 1894 to 1902. In 1902 the British assumed control.

In 1921 Swaziland established its first legislative body--an advisory council of elected European representatives mandated to advise the British high commissioner on non-Swazi affairs. In 1944, the high commissioner conceded that the council had no official status and recognized the paramount chief, or king, as the native authority for the territory to issue legally enforceable orders to the Swazis.

In 1921, after more than 20 years of rule by Queen Regent Lobatsibeni, Sobhuza II became Ngwenyama (lion) or head of the Swazi nation. In the early years of colonial rule, the British expected that Swaziland would eventually be incorporated into South Africa. After World War II, however, South Africa's intensification of racial discrimination induced the United Kingdom to prepare Swaziland for independence. Political activity intensified in the early 1960s. Several political parties were formed and jostled for independence and economic development. The largely urban parties had few ties to the rural areas, where the majority of Swazis lived. The traditional Swazi leaders, including King Sobhuza II and his Inner Council, formed the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM), a political group that capitalized on its close identification with the Swazi way of life. Responding to pressure for political change, the colonial government scheduled an election in mid-1964 for the first legislative council in which the Swazis would participate. In the election, the INM and four other parties, most having more radical platforms, competed in the election. The INM won all 24 elective seats.

Having solidified its political base, INM incorporated many demands of the more radical parties, especially that of immediate independence. In 1966, the U.K. Government agreed to discuss a new constitution. A constitutional committee agreed on a constitutional monarchy for Swaziland, with self-government to follow parliamentary elections in 1967. Swaziland became independent on September 6, 1968. Swaziland's post-independence elections were held in May 1972. The INM received close to 75% of the vote. The Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) received slightly more than 20% of the vote which gained the party three seats in parliament.

In response to the NNLC 's showing, King Sobhuza repealed the 1968 constitution on April 12, 1973 and dissolved parliament. He assumed all powers of government and prohibited all political activities and trade unions from operating. He justified his actions as having removed alien and divisive political practices incompatible with the Swazi way of life. In January 1979, a new parliament was convened, chosen partly through indirect elections and partly through direct appointment by the king.

King Sobhuza II died in August 1982, and Queen Regent Dzeliwe assumed the duties of the head of state. In 1984, an internal dispute led to the replacement of the prime minister and eventual replacement of Dzeliwe by a new Queen Regent Ntombi. Ntombi's only child, Prince Makhosetive, was named heir to the Swazi throne. Real power at this time was concentrated in the Liqoqo, a supreme traditional advisory body that claimed to give binding advice to the Queen Regent. In October 1985, Queen Regent Ntombi demonstrated her power by dismissing the leading figures of the Liqoqo. Prince Makhosetive returned from school in England to ascend to the throne and help end the continuing internal disputes. He was enthroned as Mswati III on April 25, 1986. Shortly afterwards he abolished the Liqoqo. In November 1987, a new parliament was elected and a new cabinet appointed.

In 1988 and 1989, an underground political party, the Peoples' United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) criticized the king and his government, calling for democratic reforms. In response to this political threat and to growing popular calls for greater accountability within government, the king and the prime minister initiated an ongoing national debate on the constitutional and political future of Swaziland. This debate produced a handful of political reforms, approved by the king, including direct and indirect voting, in the 1993 national elections.

Today, Swaziland is governed as a modified traditional monarchy with executive, legislative, and limited judicial powers ultimately vested in the King (Mswati III). The King rules according to unwritten law and custom, in conjunction with a partially elected parliament and an accompanying structure of published laws and implementing agencies. Although the Government continued formally to profess an intention to reform the current system, it took no action to do so. In August the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) issued its report with recommendations for a new constitution that concluded that most citizens want a continuation and strengthening of the current system. The September municipal elections and 1998 parliamentary and municipal elections increased representative government; however, political power continues to rest largely with the King and his circle of traditional advisors, including the Queen Mother. King Sobhuza, the King's father who died in 1982, suspended the 1968 Constitution in 1973 with a decree that bans political parties, meetings, and processions; these meetings can be held only in local "Tinkhundla" administrative centers or as authorized by the police. There are public demands to lift the 1973 decree. Based upon the 1973 decree, the King has the authority to issue decrees that carry the force of law and exercised this authority most recently in June when he issued Decree No. 2. Decree No. 2 reasserted and strengthened his absolute authority, provided further restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, reinstated a nonbailable offense provision, and provided a mechanism to neutralize the powers of the judiciary and Parliament. On July 24, the King repealed the decree after the Government received strong condemnation from foreign governments and domestic and international groups; however, the King retained the nonbailable offense provision. The judiciary is generally independent; however, the King has certain judicial powers. The judiciary's independence was challenged occasionally by individuals in high positions, who have made attempts to influence or overturn some court decisions. The Chief Justice of the High Court (a South African citizen appointed by the King) has resisted pressure to yield any powers to those outside the judiciary.


The country has a free market economy, with relatively little government intervention; its population is approximately 1.1 million. The majority of citizens were engaged in subsistence agriculture and the informal marketing of agriculture goods, although a relatively diversified industrial sector accounted for the largest component of the formal economy. The economy relied heavily on the export sector, especially on the wood pulp, soft drink concentrate, and sugar industries, which were composed primarily of large firms with mostly foreign ownership. The country depends heavily on South Africa, from which it receives almost all of its imports and to which it sends the majority of its exports. A quasi-parastatal organization established by royal charter, and responsible to the King, maintained large investments in major sectors of the economy, including industry, agriculture, and services. This parastatal requires partnership with foreign investors and international development agencies.



The crime rate in Swaziland is high, even when compared to more advanced industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Swaziland. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Swaziland will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2000 was 93.32 per 100,000 population for Swaziland, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 127.69 for Swaziland, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2000 was 272.91 for Swaziland, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2000 was 632.70 for Swaziland, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2000 was 853.10 for Swaziland, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2000 was 1350.65 for Swaziland, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2475.27 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2000 was 48.48 for Swaziland, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 414.17 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 3378.85 for Swaziland, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA. It should be noted that this high rate of crime for Swaziland includes exceptionally high rates for serious violent crimes of murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.



Between 1996 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 15.44 to 93.32 per 100,000 population, an increase of 504.4%. The rate for rape increased from 59.38 to 127.69, an increase of 115%. The rate of robbery increased from 194.73 to 272.91, an increase of 40.1%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 444.28 to 632.7, an increase of 42.4%. The rate for burglary increased from 682.84 to 853.10, an increase of 24.9%. The rate of larceny increased from 1021.83 to 1350.65, an increase of 32.2%. The rate of motor vehicle theft decreased from 62.80 to 48.48, a decrease of 22.8%. The rate of total index offenses increased from 2481.30 to 3378.85, an increase of 36.2%.



Both the Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force (USDF) and the Royal Swaziland Police (RSP) operate under civilian control and are responsible for external and internal security. Some communities, questioning the ability of National Police to operate effectively at the community level, have formed community police. Members of both the National Police and the community police committed some human rights abuses.

There were no reports of the arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life by the Government or its agents.

There were reports of deaths in police custody. For example, in February in the village of Sithobelwini, police shot and killed a 20-year-old man who they claimed was trying to escape from police custody. An official coroner's inquiry noted several discrepancies between the police's claim and the injuries sustained by the deceased. According to the coroner, the injuries that were sustained seemed to indicate that police may have deliberately killed the man. On March 20, two 20-year-olds died in police custody after they were arrested on the grounds that they were stealing and reselling merchandise. The youths died after ingesting poison but there is no conclusive evidence whether the youths committed suicide or were forced to ingest the poison by police.

The law does not prohibit specifically such practices, although under the 1963 Prison's Act correctional facility officers may be prosecuted if they engage in such practices; however, there were reports that government officials employed them. There were credible reports by criminal defendants that the security forces used torture during interrogation and abused their authority by assaulting citizens and using excessive force in carrying out their duties. Police sometimes beat criminal suspects and occasionally used the "tube" style of interrogation, in which police suffocate suspects through the use of a rubber tube around the face and mouth. According to unofficial reports, police also still used the Kentucky method of interrogation in which the arms and legs of suspects are bent and tied together with rope or chain, then the person is beaten. The Government generally failed to prosecute or otherwise discipline police officers for such abuses. An internal complaints and discipline unit investigates reports of human rights abuses by the police, but no independent body has the authority to investigate police abuses. The Government prohibited the public release of findings from a Commissioner of Police investigation into allegations of police brutality during a November 2000 demonstration. Courts have invalidated confessions induced through physical abuse and have ruled in favor of citizens assaulted by police.

There were reports of deaths in police custody. In February and March, three youths died while in police custody.

On October 11, police used tear gas to disperse forcibly 150 persons that had gathered to protest the imposed chieftainship of Prince Maguga in the KaMkwheli and Macetjani areas. There were allegations that police subsequently beat several persons; nine of the protestors reportedly suffered minor injuries.

On October 19, police forcibly disrupted a press conference held by the Secretary General of the Swaziland Democratic Alliance (SDA); police pushed and shoved members of the SDA and the press. In October 2000, police forcibly dispersed a demonstration by students protesting the evictions of two chiefs and their supporters from their residences; 18 students reportedly were injured.

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that police used force to disperse worshippers at community prayer services.

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 conduct a search without a warrant if they believe that evidence might be lost through the delay in obtaining a warrant. Searches without warrants occur occasionally.

There were occurrences of physical surveillance by the police on members of labor unions and banned political groups. Police also used video cameras to record meetings of union members.

On February 16, 15 armed police officers raided the home of a Swazi man and his foreign wife. Police reportedly were abusive and used a video camera as they searched the premises for 3 hours. The police had a search warrant; however, the warrant did not include specific reasons for the search.

In October 2000, the Operation Support Service Unit (OSSU) of the RSP and the USDF evicted and relocated from their residences two Swazi chiefs representing the areas of KaMkwheli and Maceetjini, members of their families, and others who opposed the appointment of Prince Maguga Dlamini to replace the chiefs. Several journalists were harassed and detained while covering the evictions. Reportedly 200 villagers who were supporters of the chiefs were scattered throughout the country; some were moved to an open field where they sought temporary shelter unsuccessfully. Some families were allowed to return to their residences after apologizing to the Prince and recognizing him as their chief. In late October 2000, students from two colleges and members of two unions marched to protest the evictions; several students were injured when police dispersed their march. In September 2000, the Chief Justice rescinded a ruling against the eviction order after the Attorney General presented an affidavit stating that the King had decreed the evictions. The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals, which ruled in December 2000 that the Chief Justice's original ruling was correct. On June 13, the Court of Appeals ordered the Government to assist and compensate the evicted residents, to allow them to return to their homes, and allow them to remain in their homes until final judgement was decided by the High Court; however, on June 22, King's Decree No. 2 overturned the Court of Appeals' ruling. On July 2, police again evicted the chiefs and approximately 23 persons who had returned to their residences.

In September authorities initially refused to bury the deceased relative of one of the deposed chiefs; however, the body was buried 3 weeks later on his ancestral grounds. In November and December, authorities again refused the burial of another relative. The High Court issued a ruling that ordered the body to be buried without interference, and on December 5, police allowed the burial.

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that police entered the private homes of prodemocracy activists or banned political party members.



The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observes these prohibitions. The law requires warrants for arrests, except when police observe a crime being committed or have reason to believe that a suspect may flee. Detainees may consult with a lawyer of their choice and must be charged with the violation of a statute within a reasonable time, usually 48 hours, or, in remote areas, as soon as the judicial officer appears.

In January police arrested 15 labor union and political group members for organizing protest actions and for political association. On September 24, the Magistrate court acquitted six of these union members, but the cases of the remaining nine union representatives were pending at year's end 2001.

In November 2000, Mario Masuku, the president of the banned political party People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), was arrested on charges of sedition; he was released on bail after 5 days in detention. Bail conditions included reporting to police headquarters on a weekly basis, asking permission from the High Court for international travel, and being unable to address political rallies. On October 1, Masuku disobeyed his bail conditions and subsequently was arrested by police on October 4. His trial date, which originally was set for October 29, did not occur, and his trial was postponed indefinitely.

At year's end 2001, the Industrial Court was adjudicating the 1999 case of an editor of an independent newspaper who was arrested for criminal defamation.

The Government continued to limit the provisions for bail for crimes appearing in the Non-Bailable Offenses Order, which became effective in 1993 and was strengthened by Parliament in 1994. The Order currently lists 11 offenses. The mere charge of the underlying offense, without any evidentiary showing that the suspect is involved, is sufficient to employ the nonbailable provision. The Minister of Justice may amend the list by his own executive act. In May the Court of Appeals ruled that the nonbailable order was unconstitutional; however, on June 22, the King issued Decree No. 2, which overruled the Court's decision. The King's Decree No. 3, issued on July 24, reinforced Decree No. 2's ruling on the provision. The nonbailable offense provision exacerbates ongoing judicial problems such as lengthy pretrial detention, the backlog of pending cases, and prison overcrowding.

The Government does not use forced exile.



The legal system of Swaziland is based on South African Roman-Dutch law in statutory courts and Swazi traditional law and custom in traditional courts.

The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, the King has certain judicial powers. In addition individuals in high positions, including the King, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, and the traditional governor of the royal family occasionally challenged the judiciary's independence by attempting to influence or overturn some court decisions. The Chief Justice of the High Court (a South African citizen appointed by the King) has resisted pressure to yield any powers to those outside the judiciary. However, the Government ignored a September 2000 ruling by the Chief Justice that prohibited the eviction of two Swazi chiefs. In October 2000, the Chief Justice rescinded the injunction against the eviction after the Attorney General gave him an affidavit stating that the King had decreed the evictions and that the High Court had no jurisdiction over the case. The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals, which ruled in December 2000 that the Chief Justice's original ruling was correct. Although the Government initially indicated that it might not renew the Chief Justice's contract and force him to retire, he reportedly will remain until the new constitution, which is expected to delineate the terms and conditions for his office, is drafted and adopted. During the year 2001, the King succeeded in overruling a subsequent decision made by the Court of Appeals ordering the Government to compensate citizens who also were expelled forcibly from their homes when the chiefs were evicted in October 2000.

Judicial powers are vested in a dual system, one independent and based on Western law, the other based on a system of national courts that 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 has not been used since 1987.

The Western judiciary consists of the Court of Appeals (composed entirely of expatriate, usually South African, judges), the High Court, and magistrate courts, all of which are independent of executive and military control and free from intimidation from outside forces. The expatriate judges, frequently distinguished members of their respective bars, serve on the basis of 2-year renewable contracts. Local judges serve indefinitely with good behavior. In magistrate courts, defendants are entitled to counsel at their 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. A lack of an independent court budget, lack of trained manpower, inadequate levels of salary remuneration, and managing casework remain problems for the judiciary.

Most citizens who encounter the legal system do so through the traditional courts. The authorities may bring ethnic Swazis to these courts for 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 are assisted by informal advisers. Sentences are subject to review by traditional authorities and can be appealed to the High Court and the Court of Appeals. The public prosecutor legally 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. Delays in trials are common.

In 1998 the King issued an administrative order that strengthened the judicial powers of traditional chiefs appointed by the King. The order provides for chiefs' courts with limited civil and criminal jurisdiction and authorizes the imposition of fines up to approximately $30 (300 emalangeni), and prison sentences of up to 3 months. Accused persons are required to appear in person without representation by a legal practitioner or advocate. However, chiefs' courts only are empowered to administer customary law "insofar as it is not repugnant to natural justice or morality," or inconsistent with the provisions of any law in force. The order provides that defendants may appeal decisions of the chief's court to regional appeal courts and to the higher courts of appeal. Appeals in criminal matters can be taken to the Judicial Commissioner as a last resort, and the High Court is the court of last resort for civil matters. Human rights organizations and the press expressed serious concern over issuance of the 1998 Administrative Order.

There were no reports of political prisoners.



Prison conditions generally met international standards; however, government remand centers remained overcrowded, and prison conditions were generally poor. Such conditions improved following the 2000 opening of new institutions including a modern correctional facility for women. The use of nonbailable provisions resulted in the continued overcrowding and other unfavorable conditions in government remand centers where suspects were held during pretrial detention and often were released for time served after being sentenced.

Women and juveniles are held in separate prison facilities.

The Government routinely permitted prison visits by diplomats, journalists, human rights monitors, and representatives of international organizations. During the year 2001, a foreign diplomat and the Assistant Secretary General for the U.N. International War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda conducted visits to prison facilities.



Domestic 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 Western and the traditional legal systems, and urban women frequently do so, usually in extreme cases when intervention by extended family members fails to end such violence. Rural women often have no relief if family intervention does not succeed, because the traditional courts can be unsympathetic to "unruly" or "disobedient" women and are less likely than the modern courts to convict men for wife beating. Rape also is common and regarded by many men as a minor offense, while women are inhibited from reporting such crimes by a sense of shame and helplessness, especially when incest is involved. Even in the modern courts, sentences frequently result in several months in jail, a fine, or both. The law provides some protection from sexual harassment, but its provisions are vague and largely ineffective. Several NGO's provide support for victims of abuse or discrimination.

Women occupy a subordinate role in society. In both civil and traditional marriages, wives are treated as minors legally, although those who marry under civil law may be accorded the legal status of adults, if stipulated in a signed prenuptial agreement. A woman generally requires her husband's permission to borrow money, open a bank account, obtain a passport, leave the country, gain access to land, and, in some cases, take a job. An unmarried woman requires a close male relative's permission to obtain a passport. Despite the law's requirement for equal pay for equal work, men's average wage rates by skill category usually exceed those of women.

The dualistic nature of the legal system complicates the issue of women's rights. Since uncodified law and custom govern traditional marriage, women's rights often are unclear and change according to where and by whom they are interpreted. 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. 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 sometimes is ignored. Traditional marriages consider children to belong to the father and to his family if the couple divorces. Children born out of wedlock are viewed as belonging to the mother. Under the law, a woman does not pass citizenship automatically to her children. Inheritances are passed through male children only.

Changing socioeconomic conditions, urbanization, and the increasing prominence of female leaders in government and civic organizations are breaking down barriers to equality. Women routinely execute contracts and enter into a variety of transactions in their own names. The Government has committed itself to various women's initiatives, and the Ministry of Home Affairs coordinates women's issues. In previous years, the Ministry organized seminars and workshops to address gender issues around the country. Although gender sensitization is not part of the formal school curriculum, some schools have organized debates and other mechanisms to address gender issues. The University Senate also has a subcommittee that encourages students and faculty to hold seminars and workshops on gender issues.



The Government is concerned with the rights and welfare of children, and a number of laws directly address children's issues. The Government does not provide free, compulsory education for children. The Government pays teachers' salaries while student fees pay for books and the buildings' fund. Supplemental money sometimes must be raised for building upkeep, including teachers' housing. However, the country has a 99 percent primary school enrollment rate. A government task force educates the public on children's issues. The public school system ends at grade 12. Children are required to start attending school at the age of 6 years. Most students reach grade 7, which is the last year in primary school. A large percentage of students finish grade 10.

In general medical care for children is inadequate. Queues are long, nursing care in public hospitals is poor, and hospitals are overcrowded and understaffed. Most prescription drugs are available in urban facilities, but rural clinics have inadequate supplies of certain drugs.

Child abuse is a problem, and the Government has not made specific efforts to end such abuse. Children convicted of crimes sometimes are caned as punishment. There are a growing number of street children in Mbabane and Manzini. The law prohibits prostitution and child pornography and provides protection to children under 16 years of age from sexual exploitation and sets the age of sexual consent at 16 years of age; however, female children sometimes suffer sexual abuse, including by family members. There were reports that Mozambican girls worked as prostitutes in the country.

Child labor occurs.



The law does not prohibit trafficking in persons; however, there were no reports that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country.



Internet research assisted by Michelle Bestall

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