Members of Swaziland’s parliament refused to approve the budget of state-controlled Swazi TV following years of upheavals at the station.
They want an inquiry report from 2016 fully implemented before they will release E10 million.
It happened in the House of Assembly when MPs were debating the performance report of the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology (ICT).
At present Swazi TV has no chief executive after Bongani ‘S’gcokosiyancinca’ Dlamini’s contract expired in December 2017.
Dlamini headed a station in turmoil. It has failed to submit audited financial statements to the Auditor General since 2014. A ‘Commission of Inquiry’ was held in 2016 but its results were not made public.
In April 2016, the Sunday Observer reported, ‘Dlamini was suspended together with the television station’s Chief Financial Officer Albert Masuku after reports that the station was going through a financial crisis as it is operating on a E40 million deficit.’
It said armed police were deployed at the station while an internal audit was underway.
Once the Commission of Inquiry was finished, Minister of Information Communication and Technology Dumsani Ndlangamandla told the Observer on Saturday in January 2017 ‘I can safely say the organisation was cleared of any mismanagement of funds, in fact the national broadcaster suffered a huge strain when their subvention was reduced without any other interventions like retrenchments or ways of cutting cost of running the national TV.’
The newspaper added, ‘Ndlangamandla revealed that the station had all along been given E47 million and then it was suddenly given E27 million which was suicidal. The minister said the station’s running costs per quarter was E6 million for salaries yet the station needs to cover other costs like content procurement and other running costs for a functional broadcaster.’
Swazi TV is one of only two television stations in Swaziland and is under state control. The other station, Channel S is privately-owned, but has a stated editorial policy to always support King Mswati, III who rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Political parties are banned from taking part in elections in Swaziland and the King chooses the Prime Minister and senior cabinet posts.
Swazi TV is widely regarded as a propaganda station. In June 2015, a report tabled at the Swaziland Parliament revealed that censorship at Swazi TV was so tight that every month the Swaziland Government issued directives to the station about what events it should cover.
And, the Government had also banned ordinary members of parliament from appearing on the news programmes of Swazi TV.
At the time, Dlamini, the Chief Executive, said the instructions had been given to the station in advance of the 2013 national elections by then Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Winnie Magagula.
His revelation was contained in a report tabled by Hhukwini MP Saladin Magagula, chairperson of the House of Assembly select committee investigating the media ban imposed on MPs by state-controlled media.
According to a report in the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, Dlamini said, ‘It was communicated to the station that any activity outside of government’s calendar cannot be featured as news and that government’s calendar is sent monthly by the press officer in Cabinet and it is normally updated in between.’
In May 2010, Barnabas Dlamini the Prime Minister said Swazi Television and state-controlled SBIS radio should follow government policy and do what they were told. He was talking at an editors’ forum when he reminded his audience that government had dictated that state media were banned from promoting gambling activities, including Top Lotto, smoking and drinking alcohol.
He said the state media had no discretion in the matter. ‘Government’s stance involved is clear, so state-owned media cannot even use their discretion where this is concerned, but they are advised to simply ignore all gambling activities. Even if you are interviewing someone and that person mentions something about gambling, just cut the interview,’ the Swazi Observer reported him saying.
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