Sunday, May 10, 2009


Below is the full text of the speech given by Mfomfo Nkhambule on World Press Freedom Day.

MC, Hon Minister, Media practitioners, distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman.

On this day, members of communities that have been conscientised about the important role of the media and those that are media practitioners under favourable conditions as well as those that practice under dangerous conditions come together, to reflect on their achievements and challenges they have faced in the past 12 months. I am aware that in our midst are those who occasionally benefit from this profession. Naturally, those that belong to this profession have a duty to inform, educate the masses and influence decision makers to arrive at a just decision on any matter of interest to the public.

When I was given the opportunity to write on any matter that would be of interest to the public with a view to generate a healthy debate on a weekly basis, I had some difficulty in making up my mind because I was quite aware of a number of issues which I felt needed a lot of government attention. Most of these were sectional problems (not of interest to the general public). I remember picking up the issue of untrained Swazis who had been lured into Sugar cane farming by the Swazi government with a view to help Swazis fight poverty.

These farmers were having big problems with the financiers. The intended outcome of my analysis was to bring to the attention of the Swazi people the fact that their government was not of any help in addressing some of their concerns (if not all of their concerns). It was my belief that when government’s lack of appropriate action, to the concerns of the people of Swaziland, was exposed, the people in government would be under some sort of pressure to bring their heads together and come up with some form of intervention.

Instead it was the Swazi Bank’s management that felt the heat and the bank, instead of engaging government about a possible intervention, approached me about the damage my analysis was doing to the bank’s reputation which it had worked hard to rebuild. I had to go back to the drawing board to think carefully how to get the desirable outcome. Fortunately for me the Lord intervened. I realized I had to talk to every Swazi not just a section of the population. The revelation given to me was to bring to the attention of Swazis why we (Swazi people) were having great difficulty in addressing the socio-economic challenges.

It had been made clear to me that what was lacking was the orderly transfer of power from the King to an informed majority. In this country it is the king who has all the power to allocate the resources of this country (money, time and people) in a way that best serves his interests. It is assumed that the interests of the King are the interests of the Swazi people. Everybody else in Swaziland is a messenger (PM, cabinet, MPs, Committees, Parastatals and their Boards).

Having realized the enormous task at hand to share my revelation with the masses, I had to convey the message with consistency, with the intention of getting Swazis to put their heads together and do something about it so that they could help themselves. The leadership is working on a guiding principle being: A Swazi should live in ignorance and in ignorance he should die. This is done to maintain the current political set-up. Those whose profession is to inform, educate and influence the masses to make informed decisions should neither write nor speak on air what Swazis need to do in order to tackle the source of the challenges facing this country because A Swazi should live in ignorance and in ignorance he should die.

When the HIV/AIDS pandemic pounced on the Swazi people, the leadership of this country did not know what to do but was quite aware that the people were looking up to it for solution. Instead of coming with a visible way, demonstrating commitment to fight the scourge, it could only come up with a slogan “I HIV/AIDS yindzaba yetfu sonkhe” (HIV is our matter) because A Swazi should live in ignorance and I ignorance he should die.

Whilst the King is the only one who exercises choice in this Kingdom in as far as the utilization of the country’s resources is concerned, the people of Swaziland have to make gross mistakes with their lives for survival because A Swazi should live in ignorance and in ignorance he should die. The leadership of this country orders the Swazi people to hold elections without being taught what a general election is all about because A Swazi should live in ignorance and in ignorance he should die.

The media practitioner who uses his/her pen to bring to the attention of the reader or listener is rebuked in a covert manner for being irresponsible because A Swazi should live in ignorance and in ignorance he should die. In the case of Swaziland, the attention of the media should be on government (especially for anything bad) and other committees appointed by the King and not or never on the King, who has all the power and money in Swaziland to facilitate the transfer of power to an informed majority, so that it is able to address its concerns without fear or favour.

The criticism of ministers and government is often tolerated because A Swazi should live in ignorance and in ignorance he should die. When the King decides, for reasons best known to himself, to put the constitution aside in order to meet certain objectives that are known to himself, the masses should not be told that His Majesty is in the wrong, but it should be Minister so and so or, that particular committee has ill-advised the king, because A Swazi should live in ignorance and in ignorance he should die.

When the King pushes a man into parliament and recalls another one for his chosen Prime minister, in complete violation of the constitution, members of the press are not to bring this to the attention of the people of Swaziland because A Swazi should live in ignorance and in ignorance he should die.

Media practitioners should write about church, football, school children, sex, MPs etc not about what we need to do as a nation to help ourselves and our children. Anybody writing to inspire Swazis to believe in themselves is a danger to the leadership because we should all look up to the King even for things that we can do much better than the King. I have often heard people saying those who like to keep power to themselves use the same manual for tactics. Leaders are often at war with the press most oftenly for publishing the truth at the wrong time (when they are in power) especially when it comes to poor utilization of resources.

Had it not been for the Times of Swaziland we would not have been aware of the purchase of cars direct from Deutchland, celebration’s costs, but again as Swazis we are not expected to see the link between these expenditures and the failure of His Majesty’s government to provide free primary education because A Swazi should live in ignorance and in ignorance he should die.

I was not aware of the arsenals that the leadership had at its disposal until I took up this call to educate, inform and influence the masses. Now I know that other than the Intelligence branch there are chiefs, princes and princesses, regiments, employers (private and public) and many more, all at the leadership’s disposal. It can only be through truthful information dissemination that people get inspired to make calls for free press , political and economic transformation. There is no substitute for a free press. It is a pre-requisite for a better and safer Swaziland. Without a free press we shall have to use other methods like Town criers to keep the masses informed so as to take appropriate action. As you read this article the space I used to have in the local press has been removed without any explanation because “might is right” in this Kingdom.

May God bless you.

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