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Swaziland 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Swaziland; Africa > Swaziland > Lobamba; Africa > Swaziland > Mbabane

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Post Mbabane does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MBABANE AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Swaziland-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

The general crime rate is above the U.S. national average. Although criminals considered Mbabane and Manzini prime grounds for operation due to the number of people, businesses, and affluent areas, the rate of crime reported in small towns and rural areas increased in 2016. There are some local crime gangs but no organized crime.

Congested urban areas are particularly dangerous at night; and occasional daytime larceny has been reported. The presence of pedestrians should not be taken as an indication of a secure/safe environment. Suspects have found themselves pursued and beaten by by-standers.

Residential burglary and petty theft are the most commonly reported crimes, with street robberies being the most prevalent. They occur at all locations regardless of the time. Criminals are generally interested in cell phones and cash. Most break-ins occur at homes without security guards and/or centrally monitored home alarms. Perimeter walls, security guards, window grilles, and centrally monitored alarm systems supported by security response teams are essential for ensuring the safety of residents and homes. Although residential guard dogs commonly serve as a deterrent, they should not be a resident’s only line of defense.

Criminals usually brandish edged weapons (knife, machete) and occasionally firearms and will resort to deadly force if victims resist. The general modus operandi of robbers is to target residences or businesses that have little/no security measures in place. They will use force if necessary but rely on the threat of force to commit the act.

While the number of murders per capita remains lower than some African countries, Swaziland experiences violent deaths on a frequent basis. Some of the murders have been particularly gruesome. Victims have been found decapitated, and body parts were mutilated or removed. Some are a result of disputes among criminal groups.

Rapes occur frequently and tend to be perpetuated on isolated/desolate urban and rural areas or roads.

Cybersecurity Issues

Use of computers by the local population is low compared to the U.S. as is the level of sophistication with computers.

Other Areas of Concern

Parks and other poorly illuminated venues should be avoided at night and visited as a group during the day. The few parks in Swaziland are often the rallying point for marches and demonstrations.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Traffic moves on the left, which requires some adjustment for drivers. Due to numerous hazards, special care should be used when driving, especially at night and in rural areas. Major highways are generally well maintained, paved, and adequately marked. Most major thoroughfares in cities are paved, though in various states of repair.

Traffic accidents are one of the greatest dangers in Swaziland. Caution must be exercised when on the road, as drivers are prone to excessive speeding and reckless behavior. Other road hazards include: poor lighting, poorly maintained city roads with large potholes, failure to obey traffic signals, presence of pedestrians and livestock/animals on roadways, slower moving vehicles, large trucks delivering heavy cargo frequently flipping over (usually caused by brake failure), drunk drivers, vehicles parked on the roadside without using emergency flashers/warning signs, drivers texting/talking on cell phones (illegal), and extreme weather (heavy fog, rain, hail). Driving outside of urban areas during darkness is discouraged because of poor visibility and stray livestock.

Do not roll down your window if someone approaches you. Ignore persons outside your vehicle and drive away if you feel uncomfortable. While idling at a traffic light (robot) or stop sign, leave adequate space between your vehicle and the one in front of you so that you can quickly depart should the need arise. Park in well-illuminated parking areas with security guards. Car thieves have the technical capability to block a vehicle’s remote locking mechanism signal, leaving the vehicle unlocked after you remotely lock it. Double check that your vehicle door(s) are locked if you use a remote locking device.

Do not stop your vehicle if you encounter barriers (rocks, logs) in the road. This is a technique used by criminals in Swaziland and South Africa to force vehicles to stop. Either drive around the barriers or turn around. Do not stop to assess the situation. Rather, report the situation to the police.

Swazi traffic police use marked police vehicles and are always in uniform. If travelers are uncertain of the legitimacy of a police vehicle, signal to them that you are aware of their presence by turning on your hazard lights, travel at a safe speed, and pull off into a well-lighted public area or proceed to the nearest police station.

For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices” or “Road Safety in Africa.”

Public Transportation Conditions

Local ground transportation (kombis) are minibuses that transport passengers around cities and from town to town. Routinely, there are serious, fatal accidents involving kombis. Many kombis are overcrowded and lack proper safety equipment (seat belts, headlights). Kombi drivers are known to be reckless, make frequent unauthorized stops to pick up passengers, and often drive at excessive speeds.

Never hail a taxi that already has passenger(s). If you take a taxi, ensure it is reputable.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The King Mswati III International airport, located approximately 1 hour east of Manzini is the only airport in Swaziland supporting commercial flights. The only flights entering and departing Swaziland connect with Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MBABANE AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

In 2016, there were no acts of terrorism in Swaziland and no known terrorist organizations. Through the Swazi Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008, the government deemed several local political organizations as terrorist groups.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MBABANE AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest 

Civil unrest is limited to public protests. Civil servant demonstrations and strikes are fairly common. These demonstrations, which are widely advertised in local media, are usually in response to labor/political disputes.

  • In 2013, a particularly violent protest by sugarcane workers in the east resulted in thousands of dollars in property damage and police vehicles being overturned.

  • When a demonstration is pending, the Royal Swaziland Police Service (RSPS) is called out to monitor. Americans are cautioned to stay away from demonstrations, as the police use non-lethal force to control and disperse protestors; teargas and rubber bullets (shot at close range) are the most common forms of crowd control. Police have also shot warning shots in the air to disperse protestors. Police do not distinguish between bystanders and protestors, and the possibility of becoming a collateral casualty should be of concern to anyone in proximity to a demonstration.

    Post-specific Concerns

    Environmental Hazards

    During the summer (November-March), torrential downpours can cause severe damage to homes and infrastructure.

    Thunderstorms produce winds strong enough to rip roofs off buildings.

  • In 2009, extremely strong winds tore the roof off the Central Bank of Swaziland.


As of early 2016, Swaziland was experiencing a severe drought, and mandatory water rationing was implemented in Mbabane. Water rationing for Mbabane has ended, but the east are still faced with drought conditions.

Drug-related Crimes

Drugs, especially dagga (marijuana), are present. Dagga is grown throughout Swaziland by small-time farmers primarily as a cash crop. Occasionally, passengers are arrested attempting to smuggle relatively small amounts of other drugs (heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines) through the airport or Swaziland’s porous borders.

Police Response

Police response time to incidents is slow, if at all, unless the police are in the general area where the incident occurred. Police consider a 30-minute response time adequate, even in urban areas. Police are generally willing to assist but often lack transportation and resources to properly respond to, or investigate, crimes.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

U.S. citizens are advised to call the American Citizens Services at the U.S. Embassy at +268-2417-9000.

Crime Victim Assistance

Victims of any crime are encouraged to report the incident to local authorities. Without proper documentation of an incident, the chances of recovering stolen items or arresting the suspects are minimal. Lack of a police report will hamper the U.S. Embassy’s ability to work with the police on your behalf.

Emergency: 999 and 9999 (Response time is usually long, and callers may be redirected to other police offices for assistance.)

Hhohho District +268-2404-3022/7996/3023

Lubombo District +268-2343-4422

Manzini District +268-2505-2504/2861/2591

Shiselweni District +268-2207-8226/7

Emergency Domestic Violence: 975

Phone numbers change from time to time – sometimes twice per year -- and calls to police stations occasionally go unanswered.

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities are limited throughout Swaziland, and emergency medical response capabilities (including ambulance transport) are almost non-existent.

Most prescription drugs are available locally or can be imported from South Africa, but travelers are advised to bring sufficient quantities of their own required medication. A doctor’s note describing the medication may be helpful if questioned by authorities. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

Emergency: 999

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Although the Mbabane Clinic in the capital is small, it is well-equipped and well-staffed for minor procedures, as is the Manzini Clinic in Matsapha.

 

Mbabane

Mbabane Clinic: Tel: +268-2404-2423/5 or +268-2404-7016

Government Hospital: Tel: +268-2404-2111

Manzini

Mkhiwa Clinic: Tel: +268-2505-9299/3

Manzini Clinic: Tel: +268-2505-7430

Available Air Ambulance Services

Trauma Link: Tel: +268-7606-0911/0912

Insurance Guidance

For advanced care, U.S. citizens often choose to go to South Africa where better facilities and specialists exist.

Serious illnesses/injuries often require travelers to be medically evacuated where adequate medical attention is available. Such “medevac” services are very expensive and are generally available only to travelers who either have travel insurance that covers medevac services or who are able to pay for the service in advance. The cost for medical evacuation may range from US$40,000-$200,000.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern.

Malaria is present in the lowveld in eastern Swaziland.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Swaziland.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Embassy maintains a list of U.S. Wardens, NGOs, businesses, faith-based organizations, and local schools with U.S. students and meets at least annually. However, there is no formal OSAC Country Council. Organizations meeting the OSAC requirements for membership may contact the Regional Security Officer for additional information:

RSO Mark Richardson: Tel: +268-2417-9000 ext. 29660, E-mail

ARSO Kathryn Huffman: Tel: +268 2417-9000 ext. 29690, E-mail

Please contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

Corner of MR103 and Cultural Drive, Ezulwini, Swaziland

Business hours: Mon-Thurs 0730-1700; Fri 0730-1330

Swaziland is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST) during daylight savings time.

Embassy Contact Numbers

U.S. Embassy Operator (during business hours): +268-2417-9000

Duty officer after hours (emergencies only): +268-7602-8414

Regional Security Office: +268-2417-9000 ext. 29660

Website: http://swaziland.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

Visas are not required for tourists and business travelers arriving for visits less than 30 days on standard U.S. passports. Travelers visiting Swaziland generally enter through South Africa. Visit the website of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Swaziland at 1712 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009; phone (202) 234-5002, for the most current visa information.

Travelers to South Africa should have several unstamped visa pages in their passports upon each entry into the country. South Africa requires two unstamped visa pages, excluding amendment pages, to enter the country. Visitors who do not have enough blank visa pages in their passport risk being denied entry and returned to the U.S. at their own expense. South Africa has passed new legislation requiring additional documentation for children traveling to/from/through the country. Travelers are strongly encouraged to review these new travel requirements. Travelers who are transiting South Africa should also note that if they are transiting a country with yellow fever (U.S.-Johannesburg flight that transits Senegal), potentially even when passengers remain on the plane), they must have proof of yellow fever vaccination.

Additional Resources

Swaziland Country Information Sheet