15 February 2013

Swaziland: Swazi State TV Boss Sacked By Minister

press release

Swazi TV Chairman sacked by Minister - no reason given

Dr Maxwell Mthembu was sacked as Chairman of Swaziland Television Authority (STVA) on 28 January 2013, according to reports this week in the Times of Swaziland, the country's only privately-owned newspaper.

Mthembu, a lecturer of journalism and mass communication at the University of Swaziland, has not yet been given a reason for his removal from STVA, the state-broadcaster (or 'parastatal') which is also responsible for regulating the country's electronic media.

The television station under STVA's control, Swazi TV, is heavily censored and is widely viewed as a propaganda mouthpiece for government and the royal family.

It is understood that the Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), who appoints the chairman of STVA, can remove the appointee at any time and is not required by law to provide a reason.

In an interview with the Swaziland Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Swaziland), Dr Mthembu, who was one year into his three-year stint as chairman of STVA, said he received the letter outlining his removal on 25 January 2013.

According to Mthembu, the letter from the Minister of ICT invoked the Public Enterprises Unit Act 1989. Mthembu said the sacking was unexpected, adding that he would have appreciated if the Minister had called him directly and provided a reason.

The CEO of Swazi TV, Bongani Dlamini, said only Winnie Magagula, Minister of ICT, could offer a comment on this matter. Ms Magagula was unavailable for comment.

However the principal secretary in the ministry of communications, Sikelela Dlamini, told MISA-Swaziland that while the Minister is the best person to speak to, he reiterated that "the Act doesn't require the minister to give a reason". It is not clear whether Dlamini was referring to the STVA Act 1983 or the Public Enterprise Unit Act 1989.

MISA-Swaziland is concerned that the chairman of the nation's state-broadcaster - which many believe should be converted into a public broadcaster - can be sacked without reason. MISA calls on Minister Magagula to cite which Act of Parliament, and which specific article, she invoked to remove Dr Mthembu.

Moreover, in the interests of trust and honesty, MISA calls on the minister to provide reasoning for the sacking - beyond vague notions "performance".

It should be noted that Dr Mthembu is a former chairman of MISA-Swaziland.

- Media Institute of Southern Africa, Swaziland Chapter

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