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Sunday, 17 July 2011

WILL HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF?

Is history about to repeat itself at Swaziland’s Times Sunday?

The newspaper’s editor Innocent Maphalala today (17 July 2011) writes about reactions to the present economic meltdown in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

In his article Maphalala quotes the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). This is what he says, ‘BBC news reported this past week that the economic crisis in Swaziland had been caused by profligate spending on the royal family, unbudgeted for wage increases, a decline in income because of the global economic problem and new trade rules in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).’

It’s the bit about the ‘by profligate spending on the royal family’ that is the problem. It’s a very clear criticism of the Swazi King. It’s not necessarily Maphalala’s personal view, but the message is there for all to see. The King is to blame (in part) for Swaziland’s economic mess.

Now, rewind to March 2007. That was when the Times Sunday published a report that included information sourced from the Afrol News agency in Norway.

This is what it said in 2007, ‘Swaziland is increasingly paralysed by poor governance, corruption and the private spending of authoritarian King Mswati III and his large royal family.’

Do you see the similarities between the two reports?

After the report appeared in March 2007, King Mswati went ballistic. He threatened to close down the whole Times of Swaziland newspaper group, to which the Times Sunday belongs, unless an abject apology was published.

He also demanded the sacking of Ken Rowley the Times Sunday features editor, for allowing the report to appear in the newspaper.

King Mswati got what he asked for.

On the Thursday (22 March 2007) following publication an ‘unreserved apology’ to the king was published on the front page of the Times of Swaziland (repeated in the following week’s Times Sunday). The apology signed by both the publisher and managing editor of the Times Group said the article ‘was disparaging to the person of His Majesty in its content, greatly embarrassed him and should not have passed editorial scrutiny.’

It went on, ‘Our newspapers take great care with matters regarding the monarch, being conscious always of the unbreakable link of the King with the Nation. What occurred is reprehensible and we will renew our vigilance in editorial matters with the utmost vigour.’

To make absolutely certain that there was no doubt of the newspaper group’s subservience to the King, it finished the apology, ‘Once again your Majesty, our sincere and humble apologies.’

So after today’s publication will history repeat itself at the Times Sunday? We’ll find out soon enough.

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