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Monday, 2 March 2009

CHIEF FINES SWAZI DISSIDENT WRITER

Swazi dissident Mfomfo Nkhambule, who has been in trouble for criticising King Mswati III in his newspaper column, has been fined by his traditional chief.

Nkhambule was summoned to appear before traditional authorities on Saturday (28 February 2009) and told he must pay an undisclosed number of cattle to the king.

Nkhambule had previously been told by the traditionalists that he must stop writing about the king in his regular Monday column that appears in Swaziland’s only independent daily newspaper, the Times of Swaziland.

Nkhambule had also been hauled before state police and told he could face 20 years in prison if he didn’t stop criticising the king. It was also reported that Nkhambule faced torture if he didn’t stop his writing.

Nkhambule, a former cabinet minister in the Swaziland Government and present chair of the Inhalva Forum political party, was told to appear along with his father before Prince Logcogco Mangaliso’s Inner Council. His father couldn’t make the date, so Nkhambule;s brother went along instead.

The prince is also the chairman of the advisory committee to King Mswati III known as Liqoqo.


According to a report in the Times Sunday yesterday (1 March 2008), ‘They were sternly cautioned to toe the line laid down or face consequences.


According to the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland Chapter such ‘consequences’ could include eviction of him and his entire family from his area of birth.


When the Times Sunday contacted Nkhambule after the meeting he was said to be ‘too distressed’ to talk and ‘adamantly declined to divulge deliberations of the meeting other than to say it was tough for him and his father. He said his spirit was down because it appeared to him that the situation was getting worse.’


The Times Sunday also revealed that he ‘was busy last night trying to delete phrases that could be viewed as directly and challenging to the institution of the monarch or those that could perceived as blatant disrespect of His Majesty King Mswati III.’


In his column in the Times today, Nkhambule gives details of the meeting with the traditional leaders and says they wanted to punish him to show that they did not agree with his comments about the king.


He wrote, ‘The inner council told me that they were no longer comfortable with these articles because everyone who matters in the corridors of power was of the opinion that they were failing to protect and uphold certain values and traditions of the Swazi people which have remained intact since time immemorial.’


Nkhambule disclosed that he was required to give the king a number of beasts as an apology for his writings.


But there remains a defiant streak in Nkhambule. In his article today he concluded that under the present system in Swaziland, ‘A Swazi national today is supposed to be a permanent idiot. A Swazi national today is supposed to cast a blind eye on any form of injustice perpetrated by those in authority in the name of culture or tradition.’

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