Human Rights in Africa: Review of 2019 - Eswatini [AFR 01/1352/2020]


Hundreds of people remained at risk of forced evictions. The government committed to announcing a moratorium on all evictions in a meeting with Amnesty International, but there was no public announcement of this. There have been positive legal developments on provision of compensation to victims of forced evictions by both private and public actors. Eswatini authorities rejected an application to register a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people organization. A man was arrested on charges of terrorism and sedition. The Sexual Offences Domestic Violence Act was passed in July 2018. The King changed the country’s name to the Kingdom of Eswatini in April 2018.

Right to housing and forced evictions

There were positive legal developments, with the High Court ordering that the government pay compensation to one family that was forcibly evicted from Nokwane. The Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a ruling by the High Court that ordered a private company to compensate a family that was forcibly evicted from Title-Deed Land in the Malkerns. Both judgements set positive precedents for compensation in forced evictions cases.

On 26 February 2019, the High Court of Swaziland ordered the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology to pay compensation for damages that two sisters Thoko and Lomgcibelo Dlamini suffered as a result of their eviction from ancestral homes in Nokwane. Their homes were demolished following the forced eviction.

On 9 May 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a ruling by the High Court of 14 July 2017 that the forced eviction of Sagila Dlamini’s family was unlawful and that he was entitled to compensation from the private company.

The Eswatini authorities had not yet drafted legislation that explicitly prohibits forced evictions in all circumstances and sets out safeguards that must be strictly followed before any eviction is carried out. The Eswatini authorities had not yet finalized the land policy and bill in line with international human rights obligations arising from the right to adequate housing.

A community of at least seven homesteads, affecting 75 people, including 29 children, were at risk of imminent eviction from Sigombeni in the Manzini region by a private party. On 27 March 2018 the Central Farm Dwellers Tribunal ruled that the community should vacate portion 1 of Farm 246 in the Manzini region. The community subsequently approached the farm owner with a proposal to buy the portion of land on which their homes are built, but were unable to raise the required funds of ZAR1-million. In 2018, the affected community lodged an appeal with the Minister of Natural Resources and Energy (MNRE), seeking government’s intervention as they allege that they were allocated land in Sigombeni by lawful traditional authorities. The affected families told Amnesty International that there were at least 17 graves on their land. The government, however, claimed that the residents occupied the farm, which is privately owned, after it was acquired by a private party and that there was no proof of a farm dwellers agreement between the farm owner and residents. The residents lacked any formal proof of security of tenure and were vulnerable to forced evictions.

In Madonsa in the Manzini region, approximately 58 families – over 200 people – remained at risk of forced eviction by a parastatal authority. On 7 August a trial date to consider a case was due to be set, but this was postponed. In order to avert the eviction, the Commission on Human Rights was supporting the residents’ request to include a third party who has an intention to purchase the farm on behalf of the residents in negotiations for the sale.

In Mbondzela, Gege, in the Shiselweni region, approximately 45 homesteads, including at least 38 children, faced eviction from Title-deed Land. The residents had appealed to the Minister of Natural Resources and Energy (MNRE), who referred the matter back to the Central Farm Dwellers Tribunal for reconsideration. The residents allege that there are at least 17 graves on the disputed land.

In Vuvulane in the Lubombo region at least 16 farming families remained at risk of eviction. While the Prime Minister pledged in a meeting with Amnesty International on 16 May 2019 to put in place a moratorium on all evictions until adequate legal and procedural safeguards are implemented, however, there has been no public declaration of a moratorium.

The Farm Dwellers Control Amendment Bill, aimed to regulate relations between farm dwellers and farm owners, was due to be introduced to parliament.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI)


In September the authorities rejected an application for registration of an LGBTI association created earlier in 2019. The Eswatini Registrar of Companies denied the registration of the LGBTI association, which intended to be named the Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities, on the basis that the Constitution does not recognize same-sex marriage.

Freedom of expression and freedom of association

On 21 January Goodwill Sibaya claimed to be a member of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the Communist Party of Swaziland and the Economic Freedom Guerrillas. On this basis the Director of Public Prosecutions charged Sibaya with contravening Section 19(1) of the 2018 Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA)[1] and Section 3(1)(A) of the 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSA).[2] On 24 May, pursuant to a search warrant, police searched Sibaya’s property and found in his possession documents alleging that the King was responsible for human rights violations including land-grabbing in the Kamkhweli and Macetjeni regions, and corruption involving the King’s ownership of a sovereign wealth fund named Tibiyo Taka Ngwane (‘Wealth of the Nation’). In September 2016, the High Court had ruled that sections of the 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSA) and the 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) were invalid as they infringed on constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Although the government appealed against the High Court’s decision, the appeal has yet to be heard.

Violence against women and girls


Parliament passed the Sexual Offences Domestic Violence Act in July 2018, nine years after the draft legislation was introduced in 2009. According to the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) annual statistics, there were 1818 cases of gender-based violence reported to them in 2019. This is an increase from 1686 recorded in 2018. In January, 185 cases of abuse including sexual and physical assault were recorded. The highest number of cases recorded were those of verbal abuse (934 cases), followed by sexual abuse (230 cases), which is more prevalent among females aged 10 - 18, compared to other demographic groups.

[1] According to Section 19(1) of the STA: “a person who is a member of professes to be a member of a terrorist group commits an offense and shall on conviction be liable for imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.”

[2] According to Section 3(1)(a) of the SSA: 3(1)(a): “A “seditious intention” is an intention to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the person of His Majesty the King, His Heirs or successors, or the Government of Swaziland as by law established;”