Media in Swaziland have demonstrated they will report anything King Mswati says, even when they know he is wrong.
The latest example of this happened on Friday (30 August 2013) when they reported the king’s views on the primary election that took place last Saturday.
This is what the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent newspaper, reported the king saying, ‘All the processes were free and fair.’
Yet, elsewhere in the same edition the paper reported a raft of irregularities and illegalities at the election.
This is Times’ managing editor Martin Dlamini, writing in his own newspaper on Friday, ‘A cursory glance at the list of complaints lodged with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) reads like a comedy script.’ He then listed examples of alleged vote buying, illegal electioneering and so on.
All week both the Times, and even the Swazi Observer, which is in effect owned by the king, have ran reports from across the kingdom detailing complaints about the election. On Thursday the Times ran a story about votes being bought in the town of Pigg’s Peak.
The EBC, the body that runs the election, has received severe criticism all week from both of Swaziland’s daily newspapers.
The Times also reported on Friday, ‘His Majesty King Mswati III has expressed pleasure at the massive turnout during the first two phases of the elections [the nominations and the primaries].’
Actually, the king did not seem to say that: this was the invention of the reporter. What the king actually said (as reported in direct quotes by the same reporter) was, ‘I must say that I have been very pleased with the turnout even from the first round of the elections starting from the registration where people turned out in numbers, thereafter during the first round of the elections which has just been completed, which was also very successful and peaceful.’
The king being ‘very pleased’ with the turnout does not equate with expressing pleasure at a ‘massive turnout’.
In fact, all week the media have been writing about the ‘successful’ turnout at the primaries, but not one of them has reported the actual figures. About 415,000 people registered to vote: can we be sure that no more than a fraction of that number actually went to the primary poll?
King Mswati, rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. When he says something is so, the media report it without question and often follow it up in later editions with comment articles praising the king’s wisdom.
Sometimes as in the case of the Times’ report, the journalists get a bit carried away in their efforts to please the king.
Observers of the political scene in Swaziland would be well advised to ignore anything the media says about the king.
‘VOTE BUYING AT SWAZI ELECTION’