Wednesday, January 18, 2012


We should not think that Musa Ndlangamandla, who has been sacked as editor-in-chief of King Mswati’s newspapers, was a supporter of democracy in Swaziland.

Since news of his sacking broke yesterday (18 January 2012), unconfirmed reports have stated that Ndlangamandla was sacked from the Swazi Observer (where he had been editor for 12 years) because he published interviews with ‘pro-democracy’ activists.

This had led some people to believe that he was a fearless journalist determined to use the Observer newspapers in the struggle for freedom in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Ndlangamandla wasn’t a journalist; he was a propagandist for King Mswati – pure and simple.

And don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what Ndlangamandla wrote in the Observer on 1 March 2010.

‘But our collective stand as a newspaper is that the integrity of Swaziland as a democratic State and His Majesty King Mswati III as the legitimate leader of the Swazi nation, must never be compromised in any way.’

You couldn’t get clearer than that: Ndlangamandla is King Mswati’s mouthpiece.

And, Ndlangamandla had his fingers in others of King Mswati’s pies. He was a regular speechwriter for the King and travelled the world – at the Swazi taxpayers’ expense – with him to write acres of fawning articles in the Observer praising the King to the sky.

So what went wrong for Ndlangamandla? The answer is a little clouded, but one thing seems certain, he lost a struggle with Barnabas Dlamini to be King Mswati’s most obsequious toady. The Observer, along with the private press in Swaziland, published articles calling for Dlamini to resign and exposing his shady business deals. Ndlangamandla hoped this would put paid to Dlamini’s influence with the King.

But the King needed Dlamini more than he needed Ndlangamandla.

King Mswati appointed Dlamini Prime Minister in contravention of the Swazi Constitution in 2005. Dlamini was never elected to parliament, but nonetheless the King chose him to do his will in government.

And, from the King’s point of view Dlamini did this rather well – using state terror against all opposition, however minor.

Dlamini has played a major role in keeping Mswati in the luxury he has been accustomed to, including giving the King and his Royal Family large increases in their budgets last year (2011) while all government departments had theirs slashed.

Ndlangamandla couldn’t offer the King anything like that. All he could give were fine words – and there is no shortage of people in Swaziland prepared to give the King those, if they get favours in return.

So when Ndlangamandla thought he could take on Dlamini, he discovered how little value he was to the King – and he got the boot.

The lesson for Ndlangamandla and all the other hangers-on of the King: the King doesn’t give a damn about you. Once he has wrung you dry and he has no further need for you, he throws you on the scrapheap.

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