Channel S (also known as Channel Swazi) may not be back on the air anytime soon, if at all.
If it never comes back it is no great loss. Channel S is (was) Swaziland’s only ‘independent’ television channel and was set up nearly 10 years ago in competition to Swaziland’s only other TV station, the state-controlled Swazi TV.
Channel S is a controversial television station run by an equally controversial man, Qhawe Mamba.
Swaziland is not a democracy and the government on behalf of the monarchy keeps a strong control of broadcast media. However, in 2001, in an effort to mislead the outside world that Swaziland supported freedom of expression, the government allowed Channel S, to begin operating within the kingdom.
King Mswati III supported Channel S, because he wanted to show that his regime was democratic and respected human rights, but this illusion was soon exposed when Channel S had its offices raided by police after it screened a report deemed too critical of the king. The authorities immediately reined in any hint of independence at Channel S.
The criticism of the king was an aberration, because Mamba has always been excessively loyal to the monarchy. For many years he managed to hold down two jobs. Even while he was head of Channel S he was employed full time by the Swaziland government-controlled station, Swazi TV.
During this time Mamba was a ‘praise singer’ for Swazi King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. A ‘praise singer’ is exactly what it sounds like and Mamba would travel across the world following the king on his travels and reporting back for Swazi TV on the king’s deeds and singing the praises of the king to anyone who would listen.
In February 2008, Mamba went on record to say that Channel S television would always support King Mswati. Mamba was reported saying ‘this is something they would do always because they paid allegiance to their king in their capacity as bona fide citizens’.
He went on, ‘We are citizens of the Kingdom and we have to be patriotic.’
With the death of Channel S (if indeed death it is) we lose one more outlet for the king’s propaganda. Good riddance.