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Sunday, 7 September 2008


Propagandists say that if you tell a lie often enough people will believe you.

I was reminded of this yesterday when King Mswati III of Swaziland gave his speech at the 40/40 celebration in Mbabane.

The propagandists come unstuck when people are able to use the evidence of their own eyes to tell that they are being lied to.

This is what happened yesterday. King Mswati painted a bright picture of Swaziland, but foreign journalists were able to see for themselves the truth.

Here’s part of what the King said as reported by the Daily Telegraph, London, UK. ‘I am aware that the world might be wondering as to why we are so excited in celebrating 40 years of our independence. The answer is simple, we are celebrating our nationhood and also thanking God almighty for preserving us as a nation. We are celebrating the unity, peace, stability and progress that we have enjoyed for the past 40 years.’

The Telegraph reported, ‘King Mswati admitted that Swaziland faced “multiple challenges which includes poverty, hunger, persistent drought, unemployment, chronic diseases like the HIV and Aids epidemic and tuberculosis”.

‘But he promised to make the kingdom “a better place for all”’.

Agency France-Press (AFP) reported the King saying, ‘Today we are telling the world full of turbulence that we are a happy nation, even though faced with these challenges", Mswati told adoring crowds in the Mbabane stadium.

‘I am confident that we turn the economy around and improve the standard of living in the next few years.’

Cable News Network (CNN), under the heading Destitute nation’s king holds birthday extravaganza said the kingmade no reference to the unhappiness among his subjects in his 45-minute address. Instead he urged the southern African nation's 1 million people to redouble efforts to boost the nation's growth and tackle the scourge of AIDS.

‘He also told foreign investors that Swaziland was a calm, peaceful and safe place for their money, and invited more tourists to visit the small nation surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique.

‘“We are telling a world full of prejudices that we are a happy nation in spite of the challenges that face us,” he said.

CNN reported that Swaziland is to hold parliamentary elections later this month, ‘but critics have dismissed them as a sham because political parties are banned. Voters have to choose from a list of individuals with no strong political platform.

‘Mswati urged residents to vote for people who can tackle Swaziland's huge problems. Many previous government officials have been criticized for serving only their own personal interests.

‘“We need people who take their responsibilities seriously,” he said.’

The King’s speech was reported all over the world through the many news agencies that covered the event. But every report that I have seen, while reporting the words of the King, also gave the real background to Swaziland. This included the seven out of ten people who live in abject poverty earning less than one US dollar (E7) a day, while the king has a wealth estimated at 200 million US dollars (E1.4 billion).

Also highlighted were the high numbers of people who rely on international food aid and the fact that Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. Life expectancy has nearly halved since 1998 because of the AIDS epidemic and is now less than 31 years, according to UN figures.

The fact that King Mswati III is an absolute monarch in a kingdom where political parties are banned was also not forgotten and many media outlets reported on the two day national strike for democracy that took place last week.

King Mswati can say what he likes about the prospects for Swaziland, but he is talking to himself. All in all yesterday was not a good day for propagandists.

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