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Monday, 23 November 2015

KING’S WORDS BLOCK FREE SPEECH

People in Swaziland have been ordered not to comment on the controversial sponsorship of a new soccer tournament because King Mswati III has pronounced on the subject.

In a stark example of the lack of freedom of speech in the tiny kingdom where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, the most senior monarchy loyalist TV Mtetwa has pronounced that ‘members of parliament, [cabinet] ministers and whoever’ must be silent on the matter.

The controversy surrounds the E9 million (about US$900,000) sponsorship of the Ingwenyama Cup tournament by the government parastatal Sincephetelo Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (SMVAF). 
SMVAF exists to compensate victims of road accidents.

King Mswati himself launched the tournament at an event at Lozitha, one of the 13 palaces he has in Swaziland.

A range of critics said the amount of sponsorship was too much to spend in a kingdom that was presently battling with poverty and a drought. Seven in ten of the King’s 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 a day.

But, the Observer on Saturday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported on Saturday (21 November 2015) that Mtetwa, who is generally regarded as the ‘traditional prime minister’, said people must stop discussing the topic, ‘because the lion has already roared on the matter’.

The newspaper is part of the Swazi Observer group, which was called a  ‘pure propaganda machine for the royal family’ by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on press freedom in Swaziland.

The Observer on Saturday reported Mtetwa, ‘emphasised that it was wrong for people to publicly talk about what the King has already pronounced and set in motion’.

The newspaper added, ‘Mtetwa said since time immemorial it had been a traditional norm that no one speaks after the King had spoken.’

The newspaper said, ‘He warned all critics to guard against being seen to be going against pronouncements made by the King.’

The newspaper added, ‘Also sought for comment, was traditionalist and National Court President Ndumiso Dlamini who put it clear that he expected no one to taint what the king had blessed.

‘He said it was a known traditional or and cultural practice that once His Majesty had spoken, no one is expected to say a word against his.’

Earlier, some members of parliament told Minister for Finance Martin Gobizandla Dlamini that they were against the allocation of E9 million to the soccer tournament. The money will be paid over three years.

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