Thursday, December 30, 2010


I smell a rat at the Swazi Observer.

For the past two weeks Thulani Thwala, the newspaper’s editor, has attacked Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister, on his personal character (for being involved in a corrupt deal that stole government land from the people for his own personal benefit) and his competence in handling the economy of the kingdom.

Yesterday (29 December 2010), he called on Dlamini, along with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Finance Minister to quit.

At the same time as condemning Barnabas Dlamini, Thwala praised Themba (AT) Dlamini, the man King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, replaced as Prime Minister in 2008, after what in Swaziland passes for a ‘parliamentary election’.

The king replaced Themba with Barnabas, even though this was against the constitution of Swaziland.

Thwala’s praise of Themba Dlamini had a few tongues wagging in Swaziland. The reason is this: after he left office as Prime Minister the king made Themba Dlamini Managing Director of Tibiyo, the conglomerate that runs the Swazi Observer on behalf of the king.

So we have Thwala praising his boss and saying that the boss made a better PM than the present post holder.

Did Themba Dlamini instruct Thwala to praise his work as PM and put it into people’s minds that he would be an ideal replacement for Barnabas, or was this just a bit of freelance brown-nosing by Thwala?

We can be sure of one thing: the attack in the Swazi Observer and its companion Weekend Observer on Barnabas Dlamini and his government has been sustained and I expect will continue in the days and weeks ahead.

King Mswati appointed Barnabas Dlamini and the king owns Observer newspapers, so it is inconceivable that Thwala would make this attack if he didn’t have the support of Themba Dlamini (his boss) and the king.

Thwala, his journalists and paid commentators, make it clear in their criticisms that Barnabas and his minister are to blame for the current crisis in Swaziland and that King Mswati has nothing to do with it.

This isn’t true, of course. King Mswati chooses the PM and the cabinet and sets the tone of government and parliamentary business. He also bleeds his subjects dry to pay for his 13 palaces and lavish lifestyle: he is to blame for the dire plight the Swazi people face today.

So, Barnabas is being targeted as the cause of the problem. And the solution? Get rid of Barnabas and replace him with a ‘competent’ new PM. Step forward Themba Dlamini.

And in one single move King Mswati thinks he has solved his problem. With Barnabas gone, the king, his new PM and his state-controlled media can tell the Swazi people that the crisis is over. The Big Bad Barnabas is no more and we can all rest safely in our beds.

Or at least the ruling elite can rest safely.

There is only one problem: Themba is no more able to solve the problem of Swaziland than Barnabas. It will take more than a swap of personalities at the top of government to do that. It can only be achieved by complete root-and-branch change of Swaziland and that is something the king and his hangers-on do not want to see.

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