Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2012 20:01:02 +0200 (METDST)

MBABANE, July 24, 2012 (AFP) - Nurses in Swaziland have abandoned a public service strike in Africa's last absolute monarchy, saying they will instead stage a work slowdown as they shore up their legal position, a nurse told AFP Tuesday.  Last Wednesday nurses joined teachers and taxi drivers in walking off the job, forcing state hospitals to suspend admissions for all but the most critical cases.

A number of nurses continued striking over the weekend despite a court ruling last Thursday ordering them to return to work. But unions later changed strategy to bide their time while they ascertain the legality of the strike, a nurse from the Mankanyane government hospital in the kingdom's commercial hub Manzini told AFP. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said: "It was tactically decided that all nurses must return to work and be on a go slow while we work on the legal technicalities, seeing as our strike was illegal."

On Tuesday nurses were seeing queueing patients as usual at the country's main hospital in the capital Mbabane. Teachers have been striking for a 4.5-percent raise for more than three weeks, with students joining last week. At St Mark's High School in Mbabane, pupils played games in empty classes. "I've just come to sign the forms, but I'm not doing anything," one teacher told AFP.

Taxi drivers also staged a strike last week. Police have used rubber bullets, water cannon and batons to break up marches during the strike, in a country that tolerates little public dissent. Workers blame the country's problems on the state-funded extravagance of King Mswati III, rated by Forbes magazine as among the world's richest royals, and his refusal to implement democratic reforms.
Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2012 17:00:27 +0200 (METDST)

MBABANE, July 19, 2012 (AFP) - Public hospitals in Swaziland are turning away patients as nurses have joined a nearly month-long public-service strike in Africa's last absolute monarchy, a hospital official said Thursday.   State hospitals suspended admissions from Wednesday for all but the most serious cases, as nurses walked off the job, said Mthembeni Maseko, a senior medical officer at the country's main hospital in the capital Mbabane.   "Admission into the hospital's wards has been affected by the nurses' strike. Only patients in critical conditions were admitted to the hospital as a result," she said.

All the country's main public hospitals have been affected, Maseko said.   Prison nurses and nursing students have been called in to fill the gap.   "It's just a skeleton (staff) that could be crippled if the nurses continue with their action," said Maseko.   The Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union will lobby non-members to join the strike, its secretary general Nathi Kunene said.   Private hospitals have been less affected.

Teachers have been striking for a 4.5-percent raise for more than three weeks, with students joining this week. Taxi drivers also staged a strike this week.   The strike has forced the country's only university to close down.   Police have used rubber bullets, water cannon and batons to break up marches during the strike, in a country that tolerates little public dissent.   Workers blame the country's problems on the state-funded extravagance of King Mswati III, rated by Forbes magazine as among the world's richest royals, and his refusal to implement democratic reforms.
Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2012 20:44:33 +0200 (METDST)

MBABANE, July 16, 2012 (AFP) - Swazi police used batons and water cannon to disperse a crowd of protesting students Monday, pupils said, as taxi drivers joined a drawn-out public service strike crippling the tiny kingdom. About 1,000 students were beaten with batons and sprayed with water cannon in the capital Mbabane as they demanded a salary increase for their teachers, student Christopher Dlamini told AFP. "We had mobilised different schools and we were about 1,000 when police decided to disperse us. Our only sin was that we wanted to discuss what we should do as students (about the teachers' strike)."

Police spokeswoman Wendy Hleta disputed the students' version of events. "Nothing has come to our attention that they were dispersed using water cannon," Hleta said, adding that the number of protesting students was about 100. Teachers and other public servants have been striking since mid-June for a 4.5-percent salary increase. Police manhandled about 10 students during the protest, teacher Annah Thwala said. "For the first time I cried in front of the pupils (about) the way they were brutalised by the police. Their crime was simply asking to meet the
school monitors," she told AFP.

Protests spread to the nearby commercial hub of Manzini, where drivers of minibus taxis called kombis and large buses refused to ply their routes. "It all started in the morning when a traffic police officer fined a kombi driver 4,000 rand ($486, 396 euros) for not giving passengers tickets," the spokeswoman of civic group the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice, Mbale Dlamini, told AFP. "This led to transport operators taking an immediate resolution to have a transport stand-off. Currently no transport is moving in nor out." About 60 percent of Swaziland's 1.2 million people live on less than two dollars a day.

The country's problems have been blamed on the state-funded extravagance of King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch, and his refusal to implement democratic reforms. State newspaper the Swazi Observer said Monday it has suspended two senior editors after a series of critical reports, including one on the strike.
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2012 05:34:28 +0100 (MET)
by Jean Liou

BULEMBU, Swaziland, March 23, 2012 (AFP) - Lost in the mountains of Swaziland, Bulembu became a ghost town when the local mine closed, cutting off its lifeblood. Now the town is coming back, centred on an orphanage taking in children whose parents have often died of AIDS. "The babies are abandoned, maybe put in a plastic bag on the side of the road, maybe in the pit latrines," said Zanele Maseko, head of the nursery for the smallest orphans. "What the police told us, they found a baby who was buried alive. She is a big girl now." Swaziland has the world's highest rate of HIV infection, with at least one in four adults carrying the virus. A crushing financial crisis has left the tiny monarchy struggling to pay for medicines and for orphans' education.

About 120,000 children have been orphaned in this landlocked nation in southern Africa, comprising more than 10 percent of the total population. Those startling statistics inspired Canadian entrepreneur Volker Wagner to buy the entire town of Bulembu in 2006, five years after it was abandoned, and entrust it to a Canadian evangelical ministry which actually runs the place. They have created a private community, a sort of "Christian kolkhoz", which is developing around the orphanage that now houses 303 children, aged from two weeks to 21 years. "At present financial projections, we believe that Bulembu can be sustainable by 2020 with 1,000 children in our care," said Andrew Le Roux, executive director Bulembu Ministries Swaziland, which manages the project for Wagner. "But this is a minimum, and as we strive to grow the businesses, this number will increase. We believe 2,000 is the maximum number of children that the infrastructure can sustain."

The idea is to make Bulembu completely self-sufficient. Its leaders, mainly white South Africans, aim to train Swazis to take over the project. Bulembu currently sells wood, milk, bread, honey, mineral water and souvenirs to outsiders. Those businesses employ several hundred people and the revenues fund 45 percent of the town's operations. The rest comes from private donations, mainly collected in Canada, which also fund new investments. A museum is in the works, along with a guesthouse for visitors and benefactors who come from around the world to volunteer. The old mining staff quarters have been fixed up to house the children, their caregivers, and the employees.

Many old buildings have been gutted and will need major work, but there's still plenty of room for expansion. Bulembu houses about 1,400 people, against 10,000 when its asbestos mine was in full swing. The mine's hospital has been turned into a high school, after there were too many students for the original school. A training centre has opened to prepare the youth for jobs in tourism, and the Swazi government has proposed building a small technical college. The schools revolve around a merit system, from nursery school up. The orphans have no money, but can "buy" little things with merits they earn for good grades or keeping a tidy desk. "We want every child to excel in what they are doing," said Dennis Neville, head of education. "Our goal is giving them a future and a hope," he said. "What we're trying to do is prepare these children to become good Swazi citizens, to become children who can step into leadership roles. We want the children to be Swazi leaders." AFP was not allowed to speak to the orphans.


Flag of Swaziland
Still current at: 15 December 2011
Updated: 14 December 2011
No restrictions in this travel adviceAvoid all but essential travel to part(s) of countryAvoid all but essential travel to whole countryAvoid all travel to part(s) of countryAvoid all travel to whole country

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Travel Summary and the General - Representation (removal of Honorary Consul contact details). The overall level of the advice has not changed; there are no travel restrictions in place in this travel advice for Swaziland.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

  • There is no British High Commission in Swaziland. In case of an emergency you should contact the British High Commission in Pretoria. See Contact Details.
  • Swaziland has the world's highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS. You should be alert to the dangers of unprotected sex.
  • Most visits are trouble-free. Crime levels are relatively low for the southern Africa region but sensible precautions are needed. SeeCrime.
  • There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
  • You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. SeeGeneral-Insurance.

Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

See our Terrorism Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Crime

You should avoid travelling into or out of Swaziland by road at night. There have been numerous incidences of car hijacking on major routes from South Africa and Mozambique.

The level of crime is low in Swaziland compared to its immediate neighbours. But street crimes and burglaries do occur, sometimes involving violence. There have also been incidents of vehicles being taken at gunpoint. Avoid walking in the downtown areas of Mbabane and Manzini after dark and do not picnic in remote rural areas unless in a large group.

Keep valuables in a safe place and avoid carrying large amounts of money or wearing conspicuous jewellery.

See our
Victims of Crime Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Political Situation
Swaziland Country Profile

The political situation is stable, but periodically there are organised demonstrations relating to labour and political issues in the Kingdom. Certain political parties have been banned and designated terrorist organisations. We advise visitors to avoid gatherings which, if regarded as unauthorised demonstrations, could be dispersed by the police authorities using a degree of force.

Safety and Security - Local Travel
All areas of Swaziland are accessible by road; though care should be taken in rural areas (see Road Travel below).

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel

UK or international driving licences (provided the latter are in English) are acceptable.

The standard of driving is lower than in the UK. Drivers often cross the central reservation to avoid obstructions. Speeding by other drivers is a problem (the maximum speed limit is 120 km on motorways and 80 km on other unrestricted roads). Minor roads are not well maintained and road markings are poor.

On rural roads there have been a number of serious accidents and deaths as a result of animals straying onto roads. Avoid driving on rural roads at night. As well as the risk of hitting animals, there is the additional risk of abandoned unlit trailers and poorly lit heavy vehicles.

Do not use public transport (buses and taxis). Vehicles are, generally, poorly maintained and overloaded.

Be wary of anyone who offers you help if you breakdown or need to change a tyre as it presents the opportunity for theft, muggings and hijackings. You should park in well-lit areas. Do not pick up strangers. Do not stop to assist apparently distressed motorists, as this is a technique sometimes used by hijackers. Instead, report the incident to the police. For more general information see Driving Abroad.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel
The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the community. You should check the following link to see whether this will affect your travel - European Commission Transport - Air.

For more general information see Airline Security.

Drug taking (dagga/marijuana) and smuggling, though common in local culture, are illegal. Foreign nationals have been imprisoned on drug offences. Punishments can be severe. Male homosexuality is illegal. For more general information for different types of travellers see Your Trip.

Entry Requirements - Visa
British passport holders and most Commonwealth citizens do not require visas for Swaziland. Visitors will normally be given entry permission for up to thirty days. This can be extended at the Swaziland Immigration Department in Mbabane. All Swaziland border posts open daily throughout the year but hours of operation are variable.

Entry Requirements - Passport Validity
You must hold a valid passport to enter Swaziland. Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of three months from the date of entry into Swaziland and have several blank pages remaining on arrival. Applications for new passports are accepted by the Consular Section at the British High Commission in Pretoria by courier only (this cost is borne by the applicant).

Entry Requirements - South Africa
South African authorities state officially that only one blank passport page is required for entry. But there have been reports that some South African officials insist on two blank pages. We recommend you have two blank pages in your passport on arrival in South Africa.

Entry Requirements - Vehicles
If you travel in a vehicle other than one registered in Swaziland, you will have to complete a customs declaration form at Swazi border posts on entry and departure for customs purposes. A road fund levy, currently E50 (n.b. the Swazi currency is pegged to the South African Rand), is payable at the border for all non-Swazi registered vehicles. You must carry with you in the vehicle at all times proof of your customs declaration and payment of the road fund levy. Vehicles may be searched at the borders. You may also be stopped on the roads for police checks on vehicle and driver documentation (including proof of payment of the road fund levy) and/or vehicle road worthiness.

Entry Requirements - Travelling with children
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.

Basic healthcare is available in Swaziland, but there are increasing shortages of even common medications. Medical evacuation to South Africa is necessary for serious accidents and emergencies. Local private hospitals can arrange evacuation but only if you are fully insured or you can produce funds in advance to pay for evacuation and treatment.

Rabies occurs in most African countries. You should also be aware of the risk of tick bites in the bush.

Malaria is endemic in the lowveld and visitors are advised to see their doctors to obtain the prescribed prophylactic before their visit. Drinking water may not be safe, especially in rural areas. Bilharzia, a tropical flat worm found in water and which is parasitic in humans, exists in some rivers. There is also a risk of cholera. You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to Swaziland you should seek immediate medical attention.

In the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 170,000 adults aged 15 or over in Swaziland were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 25.9 of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see HIV and AIDS.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to Swaziland and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

See our Travel Health page.

In the wet summer months (November to April) violent thunderstorms with lightning and heavy rains are common in the highveld areas.

General - Insurance
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. Check for any exclusions and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. See our Travel Insurance page.

If things do go wrong when you are oversees then see When Things Go Wrong.

General - Registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency. More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.

General - Representation
There is no British High Commission in Swaziland. Following the retirement of the previous Honorary Consul, we are currently in the process of recruiting a new Honorary Consul in Swaziland. Until further notice, all enquiries (including consular) should be directed to the British High Commission in Pretoria, which covers Swaziland.

General - Money
The local currency (Emalangeni) is not convertible. South African notes (but not coins) are legal tender, as are most major credit cards. ATM machines are readily available.

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