The Times of Swaziland newspaper has been made to retract a story and apologise after it said one of King Mswati III’s fiercest business critics was ‘robbing’ Swaziland of billions.
The target was Shanmuga Rethenam, popularly known as Shan, who has been pursing King Mswati through courts in Canada and the British Virgin Islands over an alleged unpaid debt of US$3.5 million relating to repairs and improvements to the King’s private jet.
Shan was also a business partner with the King in an iron ore mine venture at Ngwenya that collapsed among bitter recriminations.
The article appeared in the Times of Swaziland on 28 September 2015 and made a number of statements about Shan’s business dealings that it presented as fact.
A letter from Shan’s solicitor Rosin Wright Rosengarten to the Times of Swaziland said the article had ‘directly copied various sections of an article published by the City Press [a South African newspaper]’.
The City Press had also made an apology to Shan. In its apology, City Press said allegations against Shan, ‘have been made by parties who are currently in litigation with Mr Shanmuga Rethenam and remain unproven’.
In its retraction the Times of Swaziland, published in the print edition of the newspaper on 9 May 2016 and carried on the newspaper’s website every day since, said ‘We would like to clarify that these are allegations contained in court documents whose veracity is yet to be tested in a court of law.
‘We therefore retract this statement and further unreservedly apologise to Mr Rethenam for any embarrassment that might have been caused by the article which we have now withdrawn from the online version of the newspaper.’
On Tuesday (17 May 2016) newspapers in Swaziland reported that the Swazi Director of Prosecutions Nkosinathi Maseko had charged Shan with 14 counts relating to business activities.
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III who is sub-Sharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, said charges against Shan included, ‘fraud, money laundering, cheating public revenue and theft’.
The newspaper’s report which ran for nearly 2,200 words appeared in full on its website. Usually, the newspaper only publishes one or two paragraphs of a selection of its stories online and then directs readers to a paysite for the rest.
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