22 January 2013

Swaziland: Banned Party Attacks 'Observer' Boss

press release

The Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC), a banned political party in the kingdom of Swaziland, has spoken out against the managing director of the state-owned Swazi Observer Newspaper Group, Alpheous Nxumalo, for suppressing diverse views and violating the Constitution.

In a letter published by the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom's only privately-owned newspaper, party leader Dr Alvit T. Dlamini pointed out that Swaziland's Constitution has a Bill of Rights which protects freedom of speech and assembly.

Dlamini was responding to a recent column written by Nxumalo in which he vowed not to allow pro-democracy voices to be published in state-owned media. In the same breath, Nxumalo accused the media and non-governmental organisations of undermining the stability and prestige of the monarchy.

The column appeared in the Swazi Observer of Friday, 11 January 2013.

Wrote Nxumalo, in part: "It is absolutely true that most of the so-called democracy activists find it 'democratic' to insult the heads of state and government in the media as a strategy of democratising Swaziland. It is preposterous and fallacious....I will not submit to a mandate in contradiction with the mandate of the Swazi monarchy and its subsidiary institutions."

Responding to this in the letter, Dr Dlamini said "Nxumalo must know that there is supposedly a Constitution that has a Bill of Rights, which speaks about freedom of speech ... the very freedom he exercised when writing his article. This freedom is supposedly for all Swazis and not just for him alone."

He added: "Unless Nxumalo can prove the allegations he is making, he must apologise to the nation for attempting to subvert the provisions of the Constitution, which is a grave offence."

The Swaziland chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Swaziland has also asked Nxumalo to clarify his claims and to name the people and organisations he accuses in his article. Neither an explanation, nor an apology, has been forthcoming from him.

The NNLC also said it is "particularly troubled" by Nxumalo's invocation of the former apartheid South Africa president, F.W de Klerk.

In his column, Nxumalo wrote that he agreed with de Klerk's analysis that "all revolutionary forces sought to overthrow incumbent governments by mobilising the masses, by making countries ungovernable, by fomenting strikes, by involving churches, trade unions and civil society in their campaigns, by using propaganda to destroy the image and undermine the confidence of governments; by eliminating opposition through the use of terrorism and intimidation and by applying underhand and dirty political tactics to distract their perceived enemies".

Said Dlamini in response to the above: "Those words were said by de Klerk when he was defending Apartheid, which the whole world had declared a crime against humanity".

King Mswati III, Sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarchy, has ruled Swaziland since 1986. His regime has fervently resisted efforts towards democratisation and although the country's constitution guarantees freedom of expression and assembly, political parties are banned and mass action is often met with violence.

MISA-Swaziland has since written a letter to the chairperson of the Swazi Observer Newspaper Group, S'thofeni Ginindza, to register its concerns with Nxumalo's column and allegations contained therein.

 - Media Institute of Southern Africa, Swaziland

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