Swaziland sees its first Pride Parade taking place

Peaceful Assembly

Swaziland's first Pride Parade took place on 30th June in Mbabane without any reported incidents, despite threats made against those attending, received by the organisers and the police, said Melusi Simelane of LGBTI organisation The Rock of Hope to the Daily Beast. 

On 29th June 2018, police officers used stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters in the country's capital Mbabane, according to News24. The worker's protest gathered about 500 people and was organised by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland to denounce alleged corruption in the national state pension fund. According to a statement by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the protesters also called for better worker's conditions, including the introduction of a minimum wage, and intended to deliver a petition to Deputy Prime Minister's office. At least four trade unionists were injured and taken to hospital. 

Association

In the run-up to the national elections in September 2018, concerns have been raised over the continued ban on political parties in Swaziland, including by US Ambassador to Swaziland, Lisa Peterson. Political parties are not allowed to participate in elections (only individuals are allowed as candidates), and groups that advocate for democratic reform are prosecuted under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The High Court dismissed, on 20th July, an application by the Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA) requesting that candidates should be allowed to declare their support for political parties, and to "wear and display the symbols and slogans of the political party to which they belong, should be entitled to advocate for the political party’s policies and programmes should they so wish during their campaigning and should be able to receive endorsement and financial support from such political party". Previously in 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that the exclusion of political parties from the electoral process did not violate article 25 of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of association. 

In another legal case, human rights activist Thulani Maseko is challenging the change of the name of Swaziland into eSwatini in a submission to the High Court in July 2018, stating that the decision of King Mswati III in April is against the Constitution and that public was not consulted in the decision. Maseko said to AFP: 

"What law did he use when he changed the name of the country? The name of the country is spelled out in the constitution and the constitution is the supreme law. Let us ask ourselves if the King can single handedly amend the constitution by legal notice."

At the time of writing, the High Court has not yet responded to the submission. 

Expression

According to an article in the Swazi Observer, the Minister of Health Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane called for police officers, on 13th July, to arrest a Sunday Observer journalist after she saw him taking a picture of cars parked at the office of the Deputy Minister, and demanded the pictures to be removed. The journalist took pictures in response to an article alleging the government-owned BMW vehicles were in a bad state. Police officers let the journalist go, as there were no grounds for charges. 

On 7th February, correctional officers allegedly assaulted photographer Lucky Simelane of Swazi Observer near Kwaluseni, according to an article by Swazi Media Commentary. Simelane was taking pictures of a convoy of overloaded vans and trucks travelling from His Majesty's Correctional Services when about 10 correctional officers jumped out of the van and tried to grab the camera of the journalist, who was still in his car. 

On 4th May 2018, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication launched the report entitled "Assessment of Media Development in Swaziland". Besides calling for the prioritization of media law and policy reform and repealing restrictive legal provisions, the study also revealed a lack of editorial independence in both private and state media. In a survey conducted in 2015, 70 percent of the journalists surveyed answered ' yes' or 'yes, more than once' to the question whether they have been faced with attempts by external actors (political or commercial) to influence the editorial content of articles or stories they were working on.