Swaziland 2017 Crime & Safety Report

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.

Source: Overseas Security Advisory Council