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Friday, 19 November 2010

SWAZI STATE ‘MONITORS INTERNET’

The Swazi Government daily monitors the Internet for damaging postings against the kingdom, in order to respond to them.


This was claimed by Barnabas Dlamini, the illegally-appointed Prime Minister of Swaziland, in the Senate on Wednesday (17 November 2010).


Dlamini reportedly referred to some of the posting as lies and half truths. The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, translated his words into English as ‘some are so nasty that nobody should be even talking about them’.


Of course, when he says ‘damaging’ and ‘nasty’ he means information that is true that he would prefer the world not to know. Censorship in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is pretty tight so ordinary Swazi people with no access to the Internet are kept in the dark about the truth about Swaziland.


For example, Dlamini doesn’t want them to know about the Swazi Royal Family sex scandal; or that the IMF explicitly blamed the present financial crisis facing Swaziland on the government’s incompetence; that Dlamini himself was illegally appointed as prime minister and he allows himself to be called ‘doctorwhen he has no such qualification. Or that the king has a personal fortune estimated at 200 million US dollars, when seven in ten of his subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than one dollar a day.


And there’s a lot more beside this that people with access to the Internet know.


Dlamini told the Senate that his government has international links that compile daily postings about the nation and its leadership. He said government would not stand by while the kingdom and its leaders were being subjected to slander through the Internet.


‘We have made connections so that we are informed daily on what is written about Swaziland. This will allow us to respond to postings on a daily basis,’ the Times quoted him saying.


He went on. ‘All the 20 [government] ministries now have communication officers responsible for monitoring the global media. They then prepare responses, which are posted on the government website.’


Well that’s what he said, but not a word of it was true.


I’ve been writing this blog for more than three years and the Swazi Government has never responded to a single post I’ve written. As far as I’m aware the same goes for the Swaziland Solidarity Network, the Swaziland Democracy Campaign, the Swaziland National Union of Students and the many other groups and individuals who have Internet sites that monitor human rights abuses in Swaziland.


Nor, have they responded to critical reports in the mainstream international news media.


I wish Dlamini and his ministers did engage with us. Then they would be forced to justify their actions. They don’t engage because they can’t justify them. It really is as simple as that.


If the Swazi Government really is monitoring the Internet it will pick up this post. So if you are reading this let me start a dialogue by challenging you to tell us why it is that King Mswati has amassed a personal fortune of 200 million US dollars when he has never held a salaried position in his life?


Over to you, Mr Prime Minister.

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