Friday, May 29, 2009


I am saddened to read that the Swazi Observer seems to be supporting the call from Swaziland MP Timothy Myeni to brand people who are HIV positive on the buttocks to advertise the fact.

The Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, has reported favourable the support readers of a UK newspaper have given to the idea.

Readers of the website of the Daily Mail, a newspaper published in London, have given ‘overwhelming support’ to the branding idea, the Observer reports.

It goes on to reproduce many of the comments left by readers on the website. This one gives a flavour of what is being said, ‘43% HIV infection rate! Those who are infected with HIV are patently not behaving responsibly. If I was the Swazi AIDS campaigner I’d be much more outraged about that.’

None of this surprises me. The Mail is probably the most politically right-wing newspaper in the UK and is no lover of Africans (at least not the black Africans). For many years it was an apologist for the apartheid regime in South Africa and it continues to give racist coverage on issues such as immigration into the UK.

I wouldn’t be the least surprised to see its readers supporting a call to end all non-white immigration into the UK and for all blacks presently in the country to be sent ‘home’.

The Mail is no lover of Swazi culture either. Like all news organisations in the world, it is not at all interested in what is going on in Swaziland, but when it does take any notice it is mostly critical.

In one report it said, ‘The kingdom of Swaziland is one of just two monarchies surviving in corrupt, cruel and collapsing southern Africa.’

Another report talks about the ‘slave status’ of Swazi women.

King Mswati, the Observer owner, will not be pleased to learn that the Mail was critical of his 40/40 celebrations last year that marked the king’s 40th birthday and the 40th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence.

The Mail criticised Paul Boateng, the British Ambassador to South Africa (the UK doesn’t have an ambassador in Swaziland, that’s how valuable it sees the kingdom), for attending the celebrations. It called him a hypocrite for saying he believed in democracy while supporting the king’s ‘sham’ democracy.

It reported that campaigners said the estimated 10 million US dollars spent on the celebrations ‘would have been better spent tackling chronic unemployment, malnutrition which affects 70 percent of the 1.1m population and the HIV epidemic which killed 10,000 people last year’.

The Observer needs to be careful about who its chooses as bedfellows.

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