Swaziland Absolute Monarch Sets Lawyers On Critical Online Newspaper

King Mswati III of Eswatini (file photo).

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini) has engaged lawyers in an attempt to get an online newspaper to stop publishing critical articles about him.

The Swaziland News, is published on a website hosted in South Africa. In the past the King has simply ordered the closure of newspapers and the arrest of journalists that criticise him.

The Swaziland News reported it had received a letter from South African law-firm Brian Kahn Inc Attorneys on behalf of the King, Swazi Government ministers and other public officials.

The Swaziland News reported, 'The articles cited in the letter include among others: "King Mswati, Stem Holdings and the multi-billion dagga cold war", "King Mswati defrauded the Swazi Nation in a multi-billion shareholding deal, to take over Sun International Hotels", "How King Mswati grabbed multi-billion Pension Fund after seizing Tibiyo TakaNgwane and Provident Fund"'.

The newspaper reported, 'The King through his lawyers demanded that this publication should at least give him three (3) days to respond before publishing anything about him, he said this should be done through the office of the Government Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini.'

Swaziland News editor Zweli Martin Dlamini told the newspaper, 'This is just a desperate attempt by the King to try and undermine access to information and freedom of the media but he won't succeed.'

Ziphozonke Ngubeni, a South African national whose company Avulekhamazulu provides website hosting services to the Swaziland News and was also cited in the letter said he would not be told by the King how to provide services.

'The King is a dictator and thinks he can just come here, hire lawyers and intimidate us, this is South Africa and he is just exposing himself. We provide services to the Swaziland News and we cannot dictate to the editor what to publish, we just provide hosting,' the Swaziland news reported him saying.

In August 2020 the Swazi Government said it would pursue Dlamini using 'legal channels' after he wrote and published several articles stating that the King had entered into a multi-billion cannabis deal with a foreign company for his own benefit.

This was 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.

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