Musa Ndlangamandla, who last week was sacked as editor-in-chief of King Mswati’s Swazi Observer newspaper group, has said he would ‘rather eat grass’ than work for the King again.
Ndlangamandla was giving his version of the events running up to his sacking.
He said over the past year he had been in a battle with Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini which he lost. And that cost him his job.
Ndlangamandla was also a speechwriter and praise singer for King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, until he was fired last year (2011).
Ndlangamandla had been editor of the Observer for 12 years and was a staunch supporter of King Mswati and was in effect the King’s propagandist. He wrote in the Observer that the ‘collective stand’ of the newspaper was ‘that the integrity of Swaziland as a democratic State and His Majesty King Mswati III as the legitimate leader of the Swazi nation, must never be compromised in any way.’
During Ndlangamandla’s time in control many stories about King Mswati were censored.
These included the calculation from Forbes that King Mswati has a personal wealth of about US$200 million; that in 2011 the King received a huge increase in his budget while all public spending elsewhere in the kingdom was slashed to the bone; and a sex scandal involving the King’s 12th wife and a cabinet minister. All these reports appeared in media outside of Swaziland.
The Observer also failed to report criticisms the King was receiving in the international arena for his attack on freedoms in Swaziland and his lavish personal spending; while as many as 60 percent of his subjects had to rely on international food aid to avoid starvation during the past five years.
Now he has been sacked, Ndlangamandla is saying that Barnabas Dlamini, the man the King personally appointed Prime Minister, was the key mover in his dismissal.
He wrote on Facebook (19 January 2012) that the Prime Minister turned against him after the Observer reported allegations that he had bought nation land for himself at a fraction of its true price. ‘We pushed the land theft scandal by Barnabas and cabinet colleagues whilst I was still a speech writer for the king and whilst I was still travelling with the king and not after.
‘That’s when Barnabas hatched the lie that I was mastermind behind April 12 uprising. This was after he and some in cabinet had had several meetings asking the king to fire me as speech writer and traveller on his trips and as Chief Editor at Observer.’
Ndlangamandla said he also gave space in the newspaper to a number of pro-democracy advocates, including Mario Masuku, Mandla Hlatshwayo, Lucky Lukhele, Bongani Masuku, Sibongile Mazibuko, Vincent Ncongwane and Jan Sithole.
He wrote ‘I knew that this would get me in trouble with the King, the PM and other powerfuls. But we had to do it because that was the right thing to do.’
Ndlangamandla concluded, ‘I will never work for this regime again even if I may be asked to. I’d rather eat grass.’
Ndlangamandla has received praise and criticism in equal measure since his sacking. Writers on social media pointed out that he was in effect the King’s placeman and is not a genuine supporter of democracy in Swaziland.
The Swaziland Solidarity Network, a very vocal opponent of King Mswati, however, in a statement praised Ndlangamandla. It said, ‘Ndlangamandla openly declared his misgivings with the government and the system of governance. He went as far as attempting to liberalise the newspaper, inviting progressive groups to contribute to his “Asikhulumisane (let us talk)” column.’
KING’S PAPER SACKS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
SACKED EDITOR IS NO HERO
SWAZI EDITOR REPLIES