Tuesday, January 6, 2009


How the former Prime Minister of Swaziland Themba Dlamini came to buy two cars worth E1 million (145,000 US dollars) remains a mystery.

The Times Sunday published pictures of Dlamini’s cars, including a Mercedes Benz S 350, and wanted to question the former prime minister about where the money came from to buy them .

Dlamini refused to answer questions and instead complained to the Weekend Observer newspaper which reported his views on Saturday (3 January 2009).

Dlamini who left the PM’s office in September 2008 is now managing director of the company that owns the Weekend Observer and its stablemate publication, the Swazi Observer. The company is in effect owned by King Mswati III.

Dlamini cried ‘foul’ and said that the Times Sunday had invaded his privacy and had put his life in danger by publishing the photo.

The editor of the Times Sunday responded by saying that the car was clearly visible from the street and no intrusion into Dlamini’s property had taken place in order to take photographs.

Dlamini and the Weekend Observer have tried to make the incident into a matter of journalistic ethics, claiming that Dlamini’s privacy was invaded.

This doesn’t seem to be the case. If the Times Sunday photographer could see the car from the street there was no invasion of privacy. As for the ‘terrorism’ fear, even the most dim-witted terrorist would also be able to see the car. Perhaps the Times Sunday has done Dlamini a favour by alerting him to the fact that he needs better security.

What remains unanswered is how could Dlamini afford the cars? The Times Sunday in an editorial (4 January 2009) said, ‘Certainly we are entitled to know this, because this man spent five years as our prime minister, and therefore enjoyed a salary paid for by us, the taxpayers. As far as we are concerned, he is still being well looked after by the government, and therefore everything he does we must know.’

I am reminded of another car scandal from February 2005. On that occasion King Mswati III banned newspapers from publishing pictures of his car after the king was criticised both inside Swaziland and in the wider international community for wasting money on expensive luxuries, while 70 percent of his subjects lived in abject poverty, earning less than one US dollar a day, and many of them relied on international food aid to stop from starving

We can only assume that Themba Dlamini feels he has something to hide by not talking about his cars. I doubt that his silence is because he feels a deep sense of shame.

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