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Friday, 14 August 2020

Independent audit shows ‘Times of eSwatini’ 300,000 daily sales claim is closer to 18,000

The Times of eSwatini newspaper (formerly Times of Swaziland) which for years has claimed to have daily sales of 300,000 copies in fact has fewer than 18,000, an independent audit of its circulation revealed.

The Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) in South Africa which independently audits newspapers in that country and in the region reported the sales of the Times on Mondays to Fridays averaged 17,985 copies in the second quarter of 2020. The sales were 11.8 percent down on a year ago. The sales were 9.5 percent down since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in Swaziland.

The ABC did not release figures for the Times’ Saturday or Sunday editions. The ABC receives circulation data from newspapers and checks to verify its accuracy. 

The sales figure contrasts with the claim the Times has made for years on its own website about its sales. It says, ‘The newpaper [sic] has been running since 1968 and is Swaziland’s leader in the deliver [sic] of printed news. The print edition is printed daily with a circulation of over 300,000.’

The Times has also made the 300,000 circulation claim in advertisements. 

The Times is one of only two daily newspapers in the kingdom. The other newspaper is the eSwatini Observer (formerly Swazi Observer), which is in effect owned by King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland. It does not allow its sales to be independently audited.

The eSwatini Observer does not give details of its circulation on its website, but does say, ‘The market share of the readership is approximately 50 percent of the print media market.’

In 2016 in an entry published by Capro Media Representatives, a South African-based company that markets newspapers to advertising agencies stated the Observer had ‘print orders’ that were 8,280 copies for the Monday to Friday editions, 9,200 for the Saturday and 6,000 for the Sunday edition. 

The population of Swaziland is about 1.1 million.

See also

Self-censorship at ‘Times’ newspaper

‘Times’ misleads on King’s London visit

Paper distorts story to protect King

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Swaziland police fire teargas to break up coronavirus prayer meeting

Police in Swaziland (eSwatini) fired teargas to break up a group of people who were praying for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.

People were also beaten by police officers when they questioned if the they had a court order to disperse them.

It happened at Mphundle in Siteki, the Times of eSwatini reported. Pastor Aaron Ngwenya, who was leading the service, told the newspaper they were praying at a neighbourhood care point. There were fewer than 100 people present so they were not breaking regulations against gatherings during the present partial lockdown in the kingdom. They were all wearing facemasks, he said.

The Times reported, ‘Ngwenya said while they waited for more people to come, a group of about 10 police officers, who were armed with batons and other weapons, appeared and questioned them about their gathering.

‘He said as the congregants attempted to respond, the police ordered them to leave the premises but as they attempted to plead with them, the law enforcers allegedly started kicking a faction of the congregants in an attempt to drive them out of the neighbourhood care point premises. He claimed that other congregants were assaulted with batons.’

The newspaper quoted him saying, ‘The police officers claimed that they were sent by higher authorities to disperse the gathering, something which shocked us as we know that the country’s leaders had requested the nation to pray for the coronavirus pandemic to come to an end, which is exactly what we were doing.’

The Times added, ‘This resulted in commotion and that is when the police are said to have thrown teargas canisters to disperse the crowd.’

Elsewhere, 67 people, including businesspeople, were arrested on Wednesday (12 August 2020) as the Manzini Disaster Management Task Team cracked down on traders who were not complying with the coronavirus (COVID-19) guidelines.

The Times reported most of the people were running their businesses with trading licences that had expired; some were using unapproved sanitisers, and others failed to wear their facemasks properly. Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati said a total of 67 people were arrested and most of them paid fines ranging between E60 and E120. However, she mentioned that some paid E500, while others paid E800 as fines for failing to comply with the guidelines. 

The previous weekend the task team arrested 39 people for being drunk or selling alcoholic beverages at Mangwaneni, a township, about four kilometres from Manzini.

The death toll from coronavirus continues to rise in Swaziland. As of Thursday (13 August 2020) it stood at 63, up 20 from the beginning of August. A total of 3,525 people have tested positive since the crisis started. Of these 1,910 have recovered.

See also

Another Swaziland police assault on people allegedly breaking coronavirus lockdown
Swaziland policeman shoots boy, 15, playing football during coronavirus lockdown
More reports of police and army violence against civilians as Swaziland coronavirus lockdown continues

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Swaziland King in another press freedom row after website accuses him of business wrongdoing

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government has said it will pursue a newspaper editor using ‘legal channels’ after he wrote and published articles critical of absolute monarch King Mswati III.

Zweli Martin Dlamini, founder and editor of the Swaziland News, an online newspaper had published several articles stating that the King had entered into a multi-billion cannabis deal with a foreign company for his own benefit.

In an official statement Government Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini called the reports  ‘libellous, unfounded and factually incorrect’.

Sabelo Dlamini added, ‘Government continues to pursue legal channels to hold Zweli Dlamini accountable for spreading misinformation.’

In the past in Swaziland journalists who criticised the king have been charged with sedition.
Swaziland News is hosted online in neighbouring South Africa because laws in Swaziland restrict which publications may be printed in the kingdom.

This is not the first time Zweli Martin Dlamini has been in trouble with the absolute monarch. In April 2020 he wrote and published reports that King Mswati had tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) and had been taken to hospital with breathing problems.

He had reportedly fled to neighbouring South Africa in March 2020 for the second time. He said he had been arrested and tortured by Swazi police who accused him of sedition.

Also, on 7 February 2020, The Swaziland News reported Dlamini was being harassed and receiving death threats from King Mswati’s first born daughter Princess Sikhanyiso, who is the Minister of Information Communication and Technology.

Dlamini had previously fled to South Africa in fear of his life in 2017. He had received death threats from a local businessman before his newspaper Swaziland Shopping was shut down by the Swazi government when the newspaper’s registration under the Books and Newspapers Act 1963 was declined by the Swazi Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology.

Separately, on 23 April 2020 Eugene Dube, the editor of another online publication, Swati Newsweek, was arrested and beaten by police. Police accused him of writing and publishing critical articles about King Mswati. He later fled to South Africa to escape arrest.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) named Dube one of 30 coronavirus ‘information heroes’ who it described as ‘whistleblowers and media outlets whose courage, perseverance or capacity to innovate has helped to circulate reliable and vital information during the Covid-19 pandemic.’

Swazi police also charged Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, President of the Swaziland Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), with sedition for comments he made in an a article published by Swati Newsweek.

In the report Ngcamphalala was quoted saying, ‘We want government to change people’s lives, the Swazi Monarchy must know its place. We respect the King, but respect is earned and when pushed into a corner; we will be forced to retaliate. We unapologetically stand for multi-party democracy.’

See also

‘No media freedom’ in Swaziland, Reporters Without Borders annual report states
Swaziland journalist critical of King flees, hides in forest five days
Swaziland democracy leader charged with sedition for criticising absolute monarch on news website

Friday, 7 August 2020

Likely new U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland will press for political reform in kingdom

Jeanne Marie Maloney, the woman who is set to become the next United States Ambassador to Swaziland (eSwatini), has pledged to press the kingdom on political reform.

She told a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing that if her nomination for the position was confirmed, ‘I will continue to engage broadly on the need for political reform, open discourse, transparency, and inclusivity.’

She added, ‘I am committed to working to improve democracy, governance, and transparency, in order to help create an economic climate that benefits the entire population.’

King Mswati III rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King appoints the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers. He also appoints top judges and public servants.

If confirmed, as expected, Maloney would replace Ambassador Lisa Peterson who has angered the King’s supporters by publicly calling for political parties to be allowed to contest elections and for highlighting the lavish lifestyles of the King and members of his family while the majority of Swazi people live in abject poverty. She has also called for constitutional changes to rein in the King.

Maloney told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday (6 August 2020), ‘I will also seek to expand our dialogue with the country’s youth, who make up more than half the population.’ 

She added, ‘The percentage of its population living in poverty remains stubbornly high. If confirmed, it will be important to coordinate with international organizations like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, as well as like-minded partners to help eSwatini create an environment that fosters broad-based economic growth and opportunities for US trade and investment.’

She said, ‘I will do my best to continue to strengthen our partnership with the Government and the people of eSwatini in support of US goals and interests.’

In a profile published on the US Department of State website Maloney is described as a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. She most recently served as the Foreign Policy Advisor to the US Army Africa in Vicenza, Italy.  Previously, she was the Director of the Office of Security Affairs in the Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs.  
Jeanne Marie Maloney

Maloney has served in a broad range of leadership positions over the course of her 26-year career. ‘Her knowledge of issues affecting the African region, demonstrated record of leadership, and success working with interagency and foreign partners make her well-qualified to serve as US Ambassador to the Kingdom of eSwatini,’ the website states.

See also

U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland wants constitutional change to stop King’s lavish spending

U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland renews criticism of King’s lavish spending while people live in poverty

Threat to censor U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland after criticism of King’s lavish spending

U.S. Ambassador calls for repeal of decree that makes Swaziland an absolute monarchy