Nkhambule, who wrote each Monday for Swaziland’s only independent daily newspaper, has been in much trouble for his outspoken views on Swaziland’s ruling elites and in particular King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Nkhambule received international attention when he was hauled in by Swaziland’s state police and threatened with torture if he continued to criticise the king. He was later dropped from his traditional regiment, threatened with banishment from his homeland, and his family was threatened because he refused to be silenced.
Now, the Times has dropped the column without notice. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) reports that Nkhambule, a former Cabinet Minister in the Swaziland Government and present chair of the Inhalva Forum political formation, confirmed that the ban came into effect last week and his columns will not appear again.
MISA reports that he believes the newspaper was pressured to stop his articles.
Times’ Managing Editor, Martin Dlamini denies any pressure, saying Nkhambule’s column has simply been affected by the routine changes the newspaper was making with regards to content.
Nkhambule told MISA that he personally took his article to the Times last week for publication but was told of the ban without reasons being given.
‘I then received information from other quarters that authorities have ordered the Times to stop publishing my articles. Whatever threat they received might have been very serious as they simply told me that my articles will no longer be published with no reasons being given,’ he said.
The ban on Nkhambule came in the same week that the Times was forced to make an abject apology to King Mswati after publishing an essentially correct report that he had purchased up to 20 armoured cars for the use of himself and his wives.
This is not the first time the Times has folded to pressure from King Mswati. In 2007 it was forced to make an apology or face immediate closure after it repeated a news agency report that was critical of the king.
The banning of Nkhambule will hit the reputation of the Times hard. Nkhambule had received international attention for his courage in standing up against King Mswati and Barnabas Dlamini, his illegally-appointed prime minister, especially after the Swazi Government introduced its Suppression of Terrorism Act last year which has been used to curtail freedom of speech and association in Swaziland.
Some people had seen the Times as a true supporter of democratic change in Swaziland: the banning of Nkhambule will put an end to that.