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E10 000 FINE FOR BADMOUTHING SWAZI CULTURE

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MBABANE – Speaking ill of Swazi culture or tradition will now attract a fine of E10 000.

This new rule comes with the recently passed Public Order Act of 2017, which came into force on August 8, 2017 and has been gazetted.
Section 15 (2) (h) of the act states that any person who “incites hatred or contempt against the cultural and traditional heritage of the Swazi nation” commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to the E10 000 fine, two years imprisonment or both. These can include the many cultural events that the country has such as the recently held Reed Dance Ceremony. Other traditional heritages can include Incwala, Ummemo, Buganu (marula) ceremonies. Another cultural or traditional heritage is Sibaya, which is the country’s highest decision-making body. The gathering, according to the Act, is described as any assembly, concourse or procession of 50 or more people in a public place.
During these gatherings it could be at which the principles, policy actions or failure to act of any government or organisation are discussed, attacked, criticised, promoted or propagated.

These gatherings could be those which are convened or held to form pressure groups, to hand over petitions to any person or to mobilise or demonstrate support for or opposition to the views, principles, policy, actions or omissions of any person, organisation including any government administration or institution. The Act states that to avoid any doubt people who also speak ill or incite hatred against the cultural and traditional heritage of the country could be those who are involved in a picket or protest action. Other acts that carry a similar penalty also include a person who trashes, burns or otherwise destroys, defaces or defiles or damages any national insignia or emblem. The nation insignia or other emblem has been defined by the Act as any weaving, embroidery, sewing, drawing, picture, illustration and painting which represents His Majesty, the Indlovukati, national flag or Swaziland Coat of Arms.

“Any other item of special cultural or tradition identity or significance may also not be defaced or destroyed as this also carries a E10 000 fine or two years imprisonment.”
These national symbols could also be in the form of a woodcut, cast figure, carving, statue, plaque model or other similar representation or thing which it is purported to depict.
Section 15 (1) states that a person or an organisation that fails to provide at least 48 hours’ notice for a gathering, other than a spontaneous gathering commits an offence and shall upon conviction be liable to pay a fine not exceeding E10 000. On general public order offences, Section 21 states that a person who knowingly and without lawful authority excuse, destroys, mutilates, defaces or alters any statutory document or defaces the National Coat of Arms or the national flag commits an offence. It reads that on conviction, that person could face imprisonment not exceeding a year or a fine not exceeding E5 000.

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