Tuesday, February 10, 2009


In Swaziland members of the ruling elite can tell as many lies as they like, but people in the international community are having none of it.

The latest example of this comes after Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini told Swazi journalists attending the recent editors’ forum they had nothing to fear from him and they will enjoy media freedom while he is PM.

Don’t worry he told them, in the event something untoward happens to any of them, journalists can always seek redress in court.

I wasn’t at the meeting so I don’t know if those present laughed out loud at this or if they just recoiled in horror. Last time Dlamini was Prime Minister he caused internal and international outrage when he decided to ignore court rulings and the entire Appeal Court resigned in protest.

Newswatch, a group based in India that monitors media freedom across the world, picked up on Dlamini comments and published this report. Newswatch saw through Dlamini: this is what it wrote.

Newly Swaziland PM Sibusiso Dlamini assures media houses they will enjoy press freedom

Date: February 9, 2009 Author: Newswatch Desk

Swaziland’s Prime Minister, [Barnabas] Sibusiso Dlamini, notorious for harassing and closing down media houses during his previous term as prime minister between 1993 and 2003, has assured journalists that they will enjoy media freedom during his new term. Dlamini was recently re-appointed by [King Mswati III].

Speaking to editors during a breakfast meeting on January 29, 2009, Dlamini said the media shouldn't be afraid of him because the constitution protects them. He said in the event something untoward happens to any of them, journalists can always seek redress in court.

The prime minister was reacting to concerns from one of the editors about Dlamini's leadership style, recalling his previous tenure. Times of Swaziland managing editor, Martin Dlamini, had said the media had been uneasy since Sibusiso Dlamini's re-appointment because they did not know what he had in store for them this time.

He said these fears were compounded by recent events when Times columnist Mfomfo Nkhambule was harassed by state police and traditional authorities for expressing himself.

In response, the prime minister assured the journalists that he would not harass them this time and they will enjoy their freedoms. Referring to the Nkhambule case, the prime minister stated that it is the government's duty to protect the king from criticism, which is why the columnist was questioned by the police about his views.

But in the same breath, the prime minister banned the media from writing about political parties which the government does not recognise. These parties include the Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) whose leader, Mario Masuku, is currently in jail for allegedly supporting terrorism.

During the Prime Minister's previous term, he not only harassed the media, but also demonstrated total disregard for the rule of law resulting in the complete collapse of the judiciary. This saw the en masse resignation of the Appeals Court judges who only came back after Prime Minister Dlamini was fired and a new prime minister was appointed.

During his previous term, Dlamini also banned two media houses, the Nation Magazine and the Guardian newspaper. While the Nation fought its way back to life in court, the Guardian remains banned even today.

The popular view in Swaziland is that Dlamini was reappointed for his tough-handedness and has a strict mandate to specifically deal with perceived state enemies.

Source: Newswatch

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