Monday, June 16, 2008


From Swazi Media Commentary

The Times of Swaziland got itself in a bit of a state yesterday, when it tried to report about some rude words that had been written on a wall near an election registration post.

You see the words were about King Mswati III and they were not flattering.

‘What was written cannot be printed due to their contemptuous nature,’ the Times reported (28 May 2008).

And to top it all some pamphlets were found nearby which were ‘anti election’.

Dissent (about anything the ruling elite is in favour of) is not allowed in Swaziland, so the mere fact that someone has dared to say something nasty about the king is, I suppose, news. What interests me is that there is no vocabulary for the media to use when reporting such matters.

Reading the Times report I got the impression the newspaper desperately wanted to give the details, but the consequences they would face if they did would be too dire.

Here are some choice extracts from the report. The pamphlets were about, ‘The ongoing election registration process and the upcoming elections are said to be a waste of public funds to enrich those in the corridors of power.’

The Times said that the writing on the wall, when translated from the original siSwati, said, ‘away with … and the government who feeds on our money’. The writing didn’t actually say ‘dot, dot, dot’ – the Times put that in to spare our anger. I assume ‘dot, dot, dot’ is really King Mswati III. Mswati is known in some circles as ‘M3’ and the Observer newspaper group has taken to calling him ‘HMK’ (for, I assume, His Majesty the King), but I shall always think of him from this point forward as ‘dot, dot, dot’.

Anyhow, the Times continued, ‘Parliament was also not spared in the seditious statements as it was accused of passing laws like the recent Road Traffic Act, which according to the perpetrators, are made to enrich the government at the expense of the poor.’

So dangerous are these statements that the Times took it upon itself not to reveal the name of the political party that distributed the pamphlets, because the newspaper couldn’t confirm that they were genuine.

The Times reported that police confiscated the pamphlets; although it was not said what offence has been committed.

These are not the first ‘anti election’ pamphlets to have been found in Swaziland recently. As I reported on Wednesday (28 May 2008) pamphlets found at Zombodze were also seized by police.

There is a serious point to this. Swaziland is supposed to be having a ‘free and fair election’ (at least according to ‘dot, dot, dot’), but how can that be so if people are not allowed to discuss the issues. Swaziland is not a democracy and just about any of the many indices you care to use shows that too many people in the kingdom are poor, and the distribution of what wealth there is in Swaziland is poorly distributed. Only this week the newspapers have been reporting that one cabinet minister has more than E30million (more than 4 million US Dollars) in his personal bank account.

Why shouldn’t people be allowed to talk about this massive imbalance of wealth? And why shouldn’t they be allowed to question the present social setup that puts ‘dot, dot, dot’ above the rest of the population.

That, after all, is what elections are for. Except, of course, in the ’unique democracy’ that is Swaziland.

See also

First published 29 May 2008

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