There is no stopping the media in Swaziland / Eswatini as they continue to mislead their audiences on how close the kingdom is to achieving King Mswati III’s aspiration to be the ruler of a ‘First World’ nation by 2022.
One cannot be entirely surprised by this since the King rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch and in effect owns the Swazi Observer, one of only two newspaper groups in the kingdom. Nearly all radio and television in the kingdom is state-controlled and censored.
The King can and will close down media houses if it suits him and there are plenty of reasons for journalists and owners to be afraid of him.
But that should not stop independent observers from discussing the King’s claim that his kingdom is on track to be a ‘First World’ nation.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Swaziland issued a report in 2014 that received no publicity in the kingdom at the time, that said if Swaziland were to achieve ‘First World’ status it would have to be ‘among high human development countries like Norway, Australia, United States, Netherlands and Germany to name a few’.
UNDP went on to give these statistics comparing present-day Swaziland with Norway, the United States and Germany.
Life expectancy: Swaziland (48.9 years); Norway (81.3); United States (78.7); Germany (80.6).
Mean average years of schooling: Swaziland (7.1); Norway (12.6); United States (13.3); Germany (12.2).
Percentage of population with at least secondary school education: Swaziland (48); Norway (95.2); United States (94.5); Germany (96.6).
The UNDP in Swaziland did not comment on the likelihood of Swaziland reaching ‘First World’ status by 2022; it did not have to. Any independent observer can see from these statistics that Swaziland is not even close to reaching the King’s target.
The UNDP is not alone in this. In 2012 a report published by 24/7 Wall St in the United States, and based on data from the World Bank, identified Swaziland as the fifth poorest country in the entire world.
It said 69 percent of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects lived in poverty.
Its report stated, ‘[T]he country’s workforce is largely concentrated in subsistence agriculture, even though the country faces serious concerns about overgrazing and soil depletion. While these factors harm the nation’s economy, health concerns are likely one of the major factors preventing Swaziland’s population from escaping poverty.’
In 2017, the global charity Oxfam named Swaziland as the most unequal country in the world in a report called Starting With People, a human economy approach to inclusive growth in Africa that detailed the differences in countries between the top most earners and those at the bottom. The Oxfam report stated the government, which is handpicked by King Mswati, ‘failed to put measures in place to tackle inequality, with poor scores for social spending and progressive taxation, and a poor record on labour rights’.
Despite these obvious facts the media in Swaziland will continue to claim that the kingdom is on-track to 2022 and any alternative view will be suppressed. This is because it was King Mswati himself who decreed that the kingdom should achieve ‘First World’ status and the media are terrified of contradicting him.
Here’s an example of how far the media will go in its sycophancy to the King. In October 2013, the Observer on Saturday, part of a newspaper group described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on press freedom in the kingdom, as ‘a pure propaganda machine for the royal family’ reported that King Mswati told an admiring audience in Swaziland that Americans ‘have travelled to the moon and stayed there for about six to eight months’ and he hoped Swazi people would one day do the same.
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