Friday, December 4, 2009


I smell a rat. There has been another letter published by the Times of Swaziland from a reader in Europe following the showing of a documentary about the kingdom there.

Just like in the previous letter (written by a different person) the reader doesn’t give the title of the documentary (so we can only take his word for it about the contents) but uses it as an excuse to criticise people who he says are are putting Swaziland down. Like the other letter it also talks about a desire to visit Swaziland next year (2010) at the time of the FIFA World Cup.

And just like the previous letter the editor of the Times adds a footnote to extol the virtues of Swaziland.

The reader writes, ‘Most media reports suggest that public gatherings are banned in Swaziland and that violent clashes with the police are the result of such gatherings. Does this mean that Swaziland will not have any fan parks during the 2010 World Cup?’

To which the editor responds, ‘This place [Swaziland] is not only beautiful, it is also very peaceful, and I am afraid you have been misled. It is not true that gatherings are banned, but maybe what you mean is gatherings of a political nature where people intending to have such gatherings only have to request permission to hold them. It is not abnormal.’

Tell that to the striking security guards who earlier this week had rubber bullets and teargas fired at them by Swazi police.

In his footnote the editor also says that the Swaziland 2010 Committee (that is organising things to coincide with the football tournament in South Africa) says there will be ‘fan parks’ (that’s places for people to see matches televised on large screens in public areas) and ‘these won’t just be in the urban areas, but will be spread across the country’. Considering the committee’s inability up to now to organise a drink up at a brewery (to coin a phrase) I think this statement is definitely one for our Fantasy Watch game.

So who are these letter writers from Europe and why have they suddenly taken the urge to write (of all places) to the Times of Swaziland? And why do they say share similar sentiments about Swaziland. And why does the editor see fit to add footnotes to these letters, but not to any others he publishes?

Next time I’m at the Times’ office I’ll look out for one of the paper’s hacks hunched over a keyboard in a back room knocking out another ‘reader’s letter’ to the editor.

FOOTNOTE: The editor gave this link for the letter writer to get more information about Swaziland’s preparations for the World Cup. When I tried it I got a message offering to sell me a website for a dollar ninety-nine. Looks like another victory for the Swaziland 2010 committee.

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