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Friday, 23 March 2018


Army personnel in Swaziland have been forced to make a contribution from their salaries towards the cost King Mswati III’s 50th birthday celebration.

Swaziland, where the King rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is marking the King’s birthday and the 50th anniversary of independence from Great Britain with a so-called 50/50 celebration on 19 April 2018.

According to the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, private soldiers have to pay E100; corporals E110; lieutenants E270; and generals E600 (US$51).

Earlier in March it was revealed that police officers were being forced to contribute. A constable will have to contribute E50, with payments of E100 from sergeants and E150 from assistant inspectors. Inspectors and assistant superintendents will contribute E200 and E300 respectively while superintendents, E400. 

The money will be used towards paying the US$7.5 million the Swazi Government will pay for a fleet of luxury BMW cars to transport dignitaries on the day. The cost of the cars alone bust the US$1.7 million budget the government allowed itself for the festivities.

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Destitute people in Swaziland are putting their lives at risk from food poisoning by eating contaminated processed meats.

Certain brands of processed meats have been banned in Swaziland following a widespread outbreak of listeriosis in neighbouring South Africa. At least 183 people have died in that country.

After the Swazi Government ordered a ban some people disposed of potentially-infected meats in open veld or public dumpsites.

It is reported that unemployed people who depend on what they can scavenge from dumping sites have been collecting ‘stacks’ of the food, including polony and Russians (frankfurters) to eat. The Swazi Observer reported on Monday (19 March 2018) that the poor who work in gangs called Kamdodi were not aware of the dangers they faced.

It reported, ‘This placed the kamdodi gang’s lives in danger of contracting the disease because they consumed the banned products suspected to be contaminated with listeriosis.’

The Swazi Ministry of Health had advised people to burn or bury potentially-contaminated food.

Hunger is widespread in Swaziland. In a report in May 2017, the World Food Program estimated 350,000 people in Swaziland were in need of food assistance. WFP helped 65,473 of them. It said it was regularly feeding 52,000 orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) aged under eight years at neighbourhood care points. About 45 percent of all children in Swaziland are thought to be OVCs.

It reported chronic malnutrition affected 26 percent of all children in Swaziland aged under five. 

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Thursday, 22 March 2018


Army recruits in Swaziland have been barred from having sex, because their commander thinks it will make them weak.

Commander Sobantu Dlamini of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (as the Swazi army is formally known) made the order to more than 1,000 recruits at the army’s headquarters at Phocweni. It was during the final rehearsal for their passing-out parade.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Thursday (22 March 2018) Dlamini said he did not expect the recruits to embarrass themselves in front of the army’s Commander-in-Chief King Mswati III by collapsing in soaring temperatures.

‘This you will achieve by staying sober and abstaining from sex,’ the Observer reported him saying.

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People in Swaziland have been asked not to urinate in public during King Mswati III’s birthday celebrations.

It is one of the things Manzini Municipal Council wants as it tries to mask the poor state of Swaziland’s main commercial city.

It is to host the so-called 50-50 celebrations marking the King’s 50th  birthday and the 50th anniversary of Swaziland’s Independence from Great Britain on 19 April 2018.

A number of foreign dignitaries and tourists are expected to visit Manzini. In the run-up the Manzini Municipal Council has told its residents in a flyer, ‘The roads, both surfaced and gravel, will be in the most perfect condition, there will be no overgrown vegetation along the streets, all traffic lights will be in good working order, the city will be exquisitely decorated and all high mast and street lights will be functioning perfectly.’

It goes on to tell residents, ‘There is a number of things you can do. Let’s get into the 50/50 mood and positively change our behaviour.’

It says the city expects, ‘hordes of tourists from within and outside the borders’ and adds, ‘It would be a huge blow to have them experience an unhygienic shopping experience. Therefore, let’s make it a point that our business premises and our employees meet the acceptable health and hygiene standards. Even the quality of the food that we sell; let us ensure it’s of the highest quality. This also applies to informal traders who are selling fruit, vegetables and other items on the streets and bus rank.’

It goes on, ‘Make use of the litter bins available on the streets and, by all means, avoid littering. Council also pleads with the business sector to stop the illegal practice of emptying their garbage bins into street litter bins.’

It tells residents, ‘No matter how pressed you are, please do not urinate in public. By urinating in public you do not only risk arrest but bring indignity to our beloved city.’

The 50-50 celebration centres on King Mswati who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.  Although seven in ten of his estimated 1.1 million subjects have incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day, E89 million (US$7.5 million) has already been spent on a fleet of BMW cars for dignities to ride in.

It is not reported who will foot the bill for the road and other improvements the Council promises. The celebrations take place at a time of severe budget restraints. King Mswati has told his subjects money can only be released for essential spending.

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Wednesday, 21 March 2018


Members of Parliament in Swaziland have suspended the budget of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) because they say the organisation is itself corrupt.

They want a select committee to investigate alleged wrongdoings. They blocked a budget of E13.1 million (US$109,000) until a report is delivered. The ACC comes under the Ministry for Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

It happened at the Swazi House of Assembly on Friday (16 March 2018). The Observer on Saturday reported MPs were concerned that the contract for ACC Commissioner Thanda Mngwengwe expired at the end of January 2018 but he still seemed to be at work and using a Mercedes Benz ML worth E1.2 million supplied by the ACC, plus a rented car.

According to the Observer, Nkwene MP Sikhumbuzo Dlamini ‘said there was a lot of corruption going on within the ACC. He mentioned that it was one department where they did what they liked with taxpayers’ money. What was disturbing, according to the Mkwene MP, was that Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Edgar Hillary was watching the corrupt practices allegedly done by Mngwengwe and his alleged partners in crime within the ACC.’

The newspaper added, ‘The minister indicated that the matter of  Mngwengwe’s contract was still under consideration by the relevant authorities.’

In December 2017, the ACC issued a report suggesting that 79 percent of 3,090 people interviewed in a survey believed that corruption within government was ‘rife’.

The survey suggested that corruption was perceived to take place mostly in rural councils. The perceived major causes of corruption were poverty (58 percent), unemployment (54 percent) and greed (41 percent). 

The survey was conducted by the Swazi Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs through the ACC.

In June 2017, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported the kingdom, which is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was riddled with corruption in both private and public places.

It said, ‘The results of grand corruption are there for all to see in the ever increasing wealth of high-level civil servants and officers of state.’ 

It added, ‘For a long time the police, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade as well as the Department of Customs and Excise have often been implicated in corrupt practices.’

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A Principal Magistrate in Swaziland told police they must not assault prisoners in custody.

David Khumalo made his comments at Manzini on Monday (19 March 2018) after a suspect appeared in court with injuries all over his body. He ordered that he be taken to hospital for treatment before going back into custody.

The Swazi Observer reported, ‘The Principal Magistrate warned that accused persons are citizens of the country and they have rights too. He said they have a right to assist police with investigations but they cannot be forced to do that by being assaulted.’

Police denied assault.

Blessing Bakhe Maseko, aged 22, of Madonsa, informed the court through his attorney that he was heavily assaulted with a sjambok a while inside police cells, the Observer reported.

The newspaper said Maseko stripped his T-shirt inside the courtroom to show the fresh scars he sustained as a result of the alleged beatings he received from the police officers. 

The Observer reported, ‘Explaining the bruises which were all over the accused person’s body, the attorney stated that Maseko has been left with injuries on his left shoulder, his back and is also bleeding through his ears. So severe is the torture purportedly carried out by police on the suspect who was in holding cells such that the suspect now prefers to be kept at correctional remand facilities as opposed to police custody.’

Maseko had been arrested with four other suspects on robbery charges.

There are numerous reports of police torture in Swaziland. In March 2017, A man accused of multiple murders told a court he was tortured by police for 11 days to force him to confess. He said he was suffocated with a tube and assaulted all over his body, resulting in many serious injuries. The alleged attack was said to have taken place at Lobamba Police Station, the Manzini Magistrates’ Court was told.

In January 2017, local media reported police forced a 13-year-old boy to remove his trousers and flogged him at Ngwenya police station with a sjambok, to make him confess to stealing a mobile phone. 

In September 2016, women were reportedly ambushed by armed police and ‘brutally attacked’ by police during a strike at the Plantation Forest Company, near Pigg’s Peak. 

In June 2016, a United Nations review panel looking into human rights in Swaziland was told in a joint report by four organisations, ‘In Mbabane [the Swazi capital], police tortured a 15-year-old boy after his mother had reported him for stealing E85.00 (US$6). The boy alleges that he was beaten with a slasher (metal blade tool for cutting grass) and knobkerrie (club) for five hours. While enduring the pain, he alleges that he was made to count the strokes aloud for the police to hear. Instead of being charged, the boy was physically assaulted and made to sit in a chair for thirty minutes before he was sent back home.’

The report was submitted to the United Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland by the Swaziland Multi-Media Community Network, Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and Constituent Assembly – Swaziland.

They also reported the case of Phumelela Mkhweli, a political activist who died after an alleged assault by police after they arrested him. 

The report also stated, ‘In April 2011, a 66-year-old woman was confronted by three police officers regarding the wording on her t-shirt and headscarf. The police allegedly pulled off her T-shirt, throttled her, banged her head against the wall, sexually molested her, kicked her and threw her against a police truck.  

‘The US Department of State reported on many allegations of torture and ill-treatment by police; including beatings and temporary suffocation using rubber tube tied around the face, nose, and mouth, or plastic bags over the head,’ the report stated. 

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Tuesday, 20 March 2018


The European Union in Swaziland is funding a multi-million emalangeni three-year project to advocate for and support women’s rights in the kingdom where many are legally treated as children.

It is called Supporting Women Empowerment & Equality in Swaziland (SWEES) and will be implemented by the Coordination Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO) in Swaziland.

EU Ambassador in Swaziland Esmeralda Hernandez Aragones told a launch meeting at the Sibane hotel in Ezulwini on Friday (16 March 2018) the project aimed to create an enabling environment for the protection and promotion of women and girls’ rights in Swaziland. 

The Swazi Observer reported, ‘The ambassador said high levels of gender-based violence, poverty which bears the face of a woman, HIV/AIDS as well as lack of enabling legal framework to protect and promote women’s rights continue to persist in excluding women’s meaningful participation in communities.’

A sum the equivalent of E3.7 million (US$308,000) will be made available.

Women remain oppressed in Swaziland and a main reason for this is King Mswati III who rules as an absolute monarch, according to report on women in the kingdom published in 2016.

ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa) reported that despite claims that Swaziland was a modern country, ‘the reality is, despite pledges and commitments, women continue to suffer discrimination, are treated as inferior to men, and are denied rights.’

ACTSA added, ‘The King has demonstrated he is unwilling to change the status quo and promotes multiple aspects of the patriarchal society.’

In a briefing paper called Women’s Rights in Swaziland ACTSA said, ‘Swaziland has a deeply patriarchal society, where polygamy and violence against women are normalised, deeply unequal cultural and religious norms, and a male monarch who is unwilling to make any change. All this contributes towards the daily discrimination faced by women.’

Among discriminations against women highlighted by ACTSA were the high levels of girls dropping out of school. ACTSA reported, ‘Cultural gender norms dictate that women and girls provide the bulk of household-related work, including physical and emotional care. As a result, girls are under pressure to drop out from school, especially where there are few adults available to care for children and the elderly, for example, in child-headed households.’

ACTSA also highlighted that women lacked the legal rights to administer their own assets. It reported, ‘Most married women are denied equal status as legal adults: they cannot buy or sell property or land, sign contracts or conduct legal proceedings without the consent of their husbands. Many widows, denied the right to own land, are forced from their homes.’

Women also have few chances to find jobs. Swaziland was ranked 150th out of 188 countries in the world in the Gender Inequality Index, ACTSA reported. ‘Men control household resources and thus women remain dependent. This often results in women seeking alternative avenues for income, including transactional and commercial sex,’ it said.

Some of the statistics on ‘life as a female in Swaziland’ quoted in the report include:

One in three girls experience sexual violence before they reach the age of 18 (Amnesty International, 2010);

31 percent of women are HIV-positive (UNAIDS, 2014);

70 percent of female sex workers are HIV-positive (AVERT, 2015);  

Early and forced marriage is ‘normal’ (Amnesty International, 2010); 

Marital rape is legal (Amnesty International, 2010);

Out of 65 delegates in the House of Assembly, only four are women (6 percent) (Department of Gender and Family Affairs, 2014).

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The Deputy Prime Minister’s Office in Swaziland is in a financial mess; money is given to those who do not deserve it and withheld from those who do, overtime payments have been made fraudulently and rents not collected.

This is contained in the annual report of the Auditor General.

The DPM Office oversees the kingdom’s national policy that supports effect delivery of Government services, ‘through a well-coordinated decentralized system with a special emphasis on a comprehensive social welfare system, gender mainstreaming, children issues as well as proactive disaster preparedness’, according to the report.

Disability grants
The report which covers the year ending March 2017 stated there are no working guidelines on how to award disability grants yet the DPM’s Office gave out of E12.46 million (about US$1 million) to the three years ending March 2016.

The Auditor General reported Section 4.3 (iv) of the National Disability Policy of 2013 required Government to develop guidelines on how people with disabilities, who live below the poverty line, will access funds in various development schemes, including the assessment criteria to qualify for support from the grant. ‘Presently, eligibility assessment and screening of disabled citizens are conducted by Social Workers,’ the report stated.

The Auditor General reported, ‘However, without guidelines, deserving disabled people may be omitted from the list of beneficiaries whilst undeserving beneficiaries may receive disability grants.’

It added, ‘Guidelines should include an independent assessment of the disabled citizens’ health condition, by a competent medical specialist, so that only eligible persons benefit from the grant.’

The Auditor General reported E228,720 was paid to non-deserving beneficiaries without the approval of Social Workers.   

There are also weak internal controls in the management of Welfare Grants. ‘The payment system was able to accept beneficiaries straight from the communities without involving Social Welfare Officers, yet the regulations require that Social Welfare Officers should authorise eligible beneficiaries,’ the report stated.

Audit of Payroll
The Auditor General found a number of irregularities with salary payments. An amount of E16,507.71 was wrongfully paid as overtime allowances to two ‘undeserving’ accounting officers who allegedly performed overtime duties at the Trade Fair in 2014. ‘The original request did not bear the names of the two accounting officers whilst the one attached to their payments had their names fraudulently inserted,’ the report stated. Names were also ‘fraudulently inserted’ in a list of payments ‘which had the endorsement of the Principal Secretary’.

The report also stated, ‘The supervisors of the Trade Fair duties, at the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, were unaware about duties that would have required accounting officers to work overtime during the course of the Trade Fair in 2014.’

The Auditor General stated, ‘I am concerned that Government’s control measures were intentionally flouted.’

Rent deduction and housing allowance
It seemed some officers who lived in Government houses did not pay rent which by regulation should be deducted from salaries. Some who lived in private accommodation did not receive due allowances. This affected people in a number of grades, including social welfare officer, messenger, maid and labourer.

The Auditor General stated, ‘I raised my concern to the Controlling Officer that rentals due to government for the housing benefit may not have been collected, thus subjecting Government to a loss and furthermore, that Government may have been deprived of tax revenue in respect of the housing benefit, in cases where the officers were housed by Government.’

Massive financial mismanagement
The financial mismanagement at the DPM’s Office are not unique. The Auditor General reported the Swaziland Government’s bank accounts had been miscalculated by more than E7.5 billion (US$632.1 million).

The Auditor general reported ‘bank balances were misstated by E7,528,772,278.72 due to non-reconciliation between the government cash books and bank statements. Some bank balances were overstated by E2,285,935,191.93 and other bank account balances were understated by E5,242,837,086.79 thus reflecting an incorrect cash flow position of the Government of Swaziland at year end.’

A string of government departments and agencies have broken the law by spending tens of millions of emalangeni on vehicles and transport running costs without authority.

The Auditor General’s report shows the Prime Minister’s Office overspent its budget by E2.3 million (or 261 percent); the National Commissioner of Police overspent by E74.5 million (149 percent), Correctional Services E19.6 million (199 percent), Defence E26.4 million (46 percent).

The Auditor General stated, ‘Over expenditures beyond the budget provision and beyond amounts that have been appropriated by Parliament are illegal and clearly violate the Appropriation Act as well as Financial and Accounting instruction 0202 (ii).’

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Monday, 19 March 2018


King Mswati III, Swaziland’s absolute monarch, will pronounce on whether E250 million will be spent on designs for a new parliament building that will itself cost E2.3 billion (US$192 million).

This is significant because in Swaziland the King’s word is law. Once he pronounces on a topic no further discussion is allowed. It also demonstrates that the Swazi government and parliament which is made up of a House of Assembly and a Senate has no real powers in the kingdom.

Political parties are not allowed to contest elections and the King chooses the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers. In Swaziland, people only get to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly; the King chooses the other 10. No members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the King chooses 20 and the other 10 are selected by members of the House of Assembly. 

There has been disagreement among Swazi parliamentarians about a budget for a new parliament building. It is estimated to cost E2.3 billion. The building plans alone are said to cost E250 million.

By contrast the health budget for the coming year in Swaziland is E2 billion; Defence is E1.5 billion and Agriculture, 1.4 billion.

The kingdom’s economy is in freefall. In his speech opening Parliament on 16 February 2018, King Mswati said he wanted a realistic budget ‘based on available resources’. He also gave a list of projects, including a new parliament building, that he said must go ahead.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom reported on Thursday (15 March 2018), ‘The matter has become a hot potato after MPs raised concerns why there was no money allocated towards the construction of the Parliament building yet the King had clearly pronounced himself on the project during his speech from the Throne last month.’

The Times Sunday reported on 11 March 2018 that a report of the Finance Sessional Committee on why the project had stalled stated, ‘The project costs an amount to the tune of E2.3 billion which is the total annual budget for the capital expenditure hence the proposal to defer it, until proper and due diligence has been done on the project.’

It added E50 million had been budgeted for the project in 2017-2018 but the funds had not been used. 

This is not the first time King Mswati has pronounced on a topic of controversy. In 2012 during a long-running and bitter schoolteachers’ strike the King commanded it should end and all teachers who had been dismissed during it be reinstated. This was against the wishes of the Cabinet.

However, there was a delay in implementing the King’s command and it was thought the Cabinet was defying his order. The Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini was anxious to set the record straight.
At the time, the Times Sunday reported him saying government belonged to His Majesty and it took instructions from him to implement them to the letter, without questioning them.  

He told the newspaper, ‘Government listens when His Majesty speaks and we will always implement the wishes of the King and the Queen mother.’

The PM said Cabinet’s position on the matter was that it respected His Majesty’s position on all matters he spoke about.

He said Cabinet just like the nation, heard what the King said and his wishes would be implemented. 

Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, the then acting Ludzidzini Governor, otherwise known as the ‘traditional’ prime minister, said no one had a right to further deliberate on an issue that the King had already pronounced on.

The Ludzidzini Governor is considered in traditional Swazi society to be more important than the nominal Prime Minister. The Governor is said to speak for the King and his word is law.

Mtetwa told local media, ‘My understanding of Swazi culture and etiquette is that the King’s word is final. Once the King issues an order regarding anything, the order has to be implemented by the relevant structures.’

He told the Times of Swaziland, ‘It doesn’t matter which position you could be occupying, the truth is no one is allowed to defy the King’s order. There is no exception to this long held Swazi cultural ethic.’ 

Richard Rooney

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A workshop in Swaziland on the forthcoming election was banned because it was deemed illegal.

More than 30 young people and community leaders from across the kingdom were turned away from the Castle Hotel in Mbabane on Friday (16 March 2018). The workshop was reportedly supported by the Elections and Boundaries Commission and the Swaziland National Youth Council.

The Sunday Observer reported (18 March 2018) ‘The organisers of the event said they had received instructions from labadzala who could not be named that they should cancel the seminar because they had not obtained permission for hosting it.’ Labadzala refers to Royal elders.

Elections are due in 2018 at a date yet to be set. King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are not allowed to contest in elections and people and groups that advocate for democratic reform are prosecuted under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The King chooses the Prime Minister and top government ministers. In Swaziland, people only get to select 55 of 65 members of the House of Assembly. The King chooses the other 10. No members of the Swazi Senate are elected by the people; the King chooses 20 and the other 10 are elected by members of the House of Assembly. 

Freedom of assembly is severely curtailed in Swaziland, especially in the run-up to elections. In 2013, before the most recent election, armed police stopped an election workshop organised by the Swaziland Youth Empowerment Organisation, also known as Luvatsi, at a Pentecostal Church in Sidvokodvo. The police had no warrant or court order, but were acting on instructions of their station commander, local media reported.

This was not the only example of people being prevented freely discussing issues in the run up to the election. The NGOs Election Network which operates under the Swazi-based Coordinating Assembly of Non-governmental Organisations (CANGO) and which observed the polls said in a report, ‘Civil society meetings were crushed, including prayer meetings.’ 

It added, ‘With no enjoyment of the rights to access information and also exchange information, freedom to associate, freedom of movement and freedom of speech it has become difficult for citizens to canvass issues.’ 

An election rally organised by the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) at Msunduza Township, Mbabane, in April 2013 was broken up by police and organisers charged with sedition. Swazi Police Commissioner Isaac Magagula had warned SWAYOCO in advance that his officers would stop any attempt at meeting.

In a statement carried by media in Swaziland the police chief said, ‘As a police service and organ of state responsible for internal security and maintenance of law and order, we wish to state it in no uncertain terms that the political rally planned by SWAYOCO for April 19, 2013 will not be allowed to take place.’

He added, ‘[I]t is unthinkable that an event whose agenda includes sabotaging the forthcoming national elections can be allowed to take place.’ 

SWAYOCO is the youth wing of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the best-known opposition group in Swaziland. Both have been branded ‘terrorist’ organisations and banned by King Mswati’s government.

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Sunday, 18 March 2018


Foreign-owned banks in Swaziland might leave the kingdom if a proposed new levy announced by the Minister of Finance Martin Dlamini goes ahead.

Banks will be expected to pay 2.5 percent of their annual income to the government of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Standard Bank Chief Executive Mvuselelo Fakudze told a meeting at Gigi’s Restaurant, Ezulwini on Monday (12 March 2018) banks had parent companies in other countries which would close their Swaziland operations if profits fell.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported that Fakudze said, ‘Government may be forcing investors which are the parent companies of most of the banks we have in Swaziland to review their reason of being in the country. With Swaziland being a small economy, the percentage of what we give back to our parent companies is far less than what subsidiaries in other countries are offering, so now the bank revenue levy will make us even less profitable.’ 

He said banks had not been consulted on the new levy.

The Swaziland Government owns 25 percent of the shares in Standard Bank Swaziland Ltd. There are three foreign-owned banks in the kingdom: Standard Bank, Nedbank and First National. The government-owned Swaziland Development and Savings Bank went bankrupt due to millions of dollars of unpaid loans in June 1995. Today, the kingdom’s only local bank is SwaziBank.

The total assets of Swazi banks is estimated by the United States Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs to be approximately E15.4 billion (US$1.2 billion). 

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Saturday, 17 March 2018


Members of Swaziland’s parliament refused to approve the budget of state-controlled Swazi TV following years of upheavals at the station.

They want an inquiry report from 2016 fully implemented before they will release E10 million.

It happened in the House of Assembly when MPs were debating the performance report of the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology (ICT).

At present Swazi TV has no chief executive after Bongani ‘S’gcokosiyancinca’ Dlamini’s contract expired in December 2017.

Dlamini headed a station in turmoil. It has failed to submit audited financial statements to the Auditor General since 2014. A ‘Commission of Inquiry’ was held in 2016 but its results were not made public. 

In April 2016, the Sunday Observer reported, ‘Dlamini was suspended together with the television station’s Chief Financial Officer Albert Masuku after reports that the station was going through a financial crisis as it is operating on a E40 million deficit.’

It said armed police were deployed at the station while an internal audit was underway.

Once the Commission of Inquiry was finished, Minister of Information Communication and Technology Dumsani Ndlangamandla told the Observer on Saturday in January 2017 ‘I can safely say the organisation was cleared of any mismanagement of funds, in fact the national broadcaster suffered a huge strain when their subvention was reduced without any other interventions like retrenchments or ways of cutting cost of running the national TV.’

The newspaper added, ‘Ndlangamandla revealed that the station had all along been given E47 million and then it was suddenly given E27 million which was suicidal. The minister said the station’s running costs per quarter was E6 million for salaries yet the station needs to cover other costs like content procurement and other running costs for a functional broadcaster.’

Swazi TV is one of only two television stations in Swaziland and is under state control. The other station, Channel S is privately-owned, but has a stated editorial policy to always support King Mswati, III who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Political parties are banned from taking part in elections in Swaziland and the King chooses the Prime Minister and senior cabinet posts.

Swazi TV is widely regarded as a propaganda station. In June 2015, a report tabled at the Swaziland Parliament revealed that censorship at Swazi TV was so tight that every month the Swaziland Government issued directives to the station about what events it should cover.

And, the Government had also banned ordinary members of parliament from appearing on the news programmes of Swazi TV.

At the time, Dlamini, the Chief Executive, said the instructions had been given to the station in advance of the 2013 national elections by then Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Winnie Magagula. 

His revelation was contained in a report tabled by Hhukwini MP Saladin Magagula, chairperson of the House of Assembly select committee investigating the media ban imposed on MPs by state-controlled media. 

According to a report in the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, Dlamini said, ‘It was communicated to the station that any activity outside of government’s calendar cannot be featured as news and that government’s calendar is sent monthly by the press officer in Cabinet and it is normally updated in between.’

In May 2010, Barnabas Dlamini the Prime Minister said Swazi Television and state-controlled SBIS radio should follow government policy and do what they were told. He was talking at an editors’ forum when he reminded his audience that government had dictated that state media were banned from promoting gambling activities, including Top Lotto, smoking and drinking alcohol.

He said the state media had no discretion in the matter. ‘Government’s stance involved is clear, so state-owned media cannot even use their discretion where this is concerned, but they are advised to simply ignore all gambling activities. Even if you are interviewing someone and that person mentions something about gambling, just cut the interview,’ the Swazi Observer reported him saying.

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