Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Musa Ndlangamandla, the former chief editor of King Mswati III’s newspapers in Swaziland, has launched an attack on the prodemocracy movement in the kingdom saying it was ‘squabbling’, ‘egocentric’ and ‘lining its own pocket’.

His attack was first published in the Sunday Independent newspaper in South Africa on 27 January 2013, and has now been circulated on the Internet by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, a group that says it is ‘committed to deepening democracy, protecting human rights and enhancing good governance in the region’.

Ndlangamandla came to prominence in January 2012 when he was sacked from the Swazi Observer after he lost a power struggle with the Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini. Ndlangamandla expected King Mswati to back him but was wrong-footed and the king sided with Dlamini, the man he had appointed Prime Minister in contravention of the Swazi Constitution.

For more than a decade Ndlangamandla had been a trusted aide to King Mswati, travelling all over the world at the king’s side, writing his speeches and praising him to the hilt in the Observer newspapers. Ndlangamandla made it clear in his newspapers that they would never publish anything critical of the king. 

As soon as he was sacked Ndlangamandla tried to reinvent himself as a champion of democracy, saying that he was a force in the struggle for freedom in the kingdom as a friend of the prodemocracy forces and claiming he lost his job because he was too close to the king’s opponents. King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

In his article Ndlangamandla claimed that prodemocracy forces had not been able to react to the financial crisis that has hit Swaziland in the past two years.

He wrote, ‘Despite support from the ANC and COSATU for their agenda for political reforms, a seemingly out-of sorts, squabbling and egocentric group of prodemocracy proponents in Swaziland was caught either napping or lining its pockets’, until the Southern African Customs Union bailed the kingdom out of its immediate financial difficulties.

However, having accused prodemocracy supporters of lining their pockets he offered no evidence to support this assertion, something editors at the Sunday Independent last month and now OSISA failed to rectify.

In his article Ndlangamandla went on to quote Themba Masuku, the Swazi Deputy Prime Minister, saying that King Mswati was guided by the wishes of the majority concerning his kingdom’s political direction, saying there was overwhelming support for the king and his system of governance.

What he did not say was that at present all political parties are banned in Swaziland and sham elections are due later this year at a date to be announced by the king.

There are two chambers in the Swazi parliament: the House of Assembly and the Senate. Of the 65 members of the House, 10 are chosen by King Mswati and 55 are elected by the people. In the Senate, King Mswati chooses 20 of the 30 places. The other 10 are chosen by members of the House of Assembly. None are elected by the people.

The king also choses the Prime Minister and the government.

Ndlangamandla allowed Masuku to falsely say that political parties were allowed to contest the forthcoming national election. He was also allowed to say that Swaziland did not have a problem with human rights.

This flies in the face of evidence supplied by independent observers.

In 2011, the US State Department reporting on human rights in Swaziland, said, ‘The three main human rights abuses were police use of excessive force, including use of torture and beatings; a breakdown of the judiciary system and judicial independence; and discrimination and abuse of women and children.

‘Other significant human rights problems included extrajudicial killings by security forces; arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly, and association; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community; harassment of labor leaders; restrictions on worker rights; child labor; and mob violence.

‘In general, perpetrators acted with impunity, and the government took few or no steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses.’

In its annual report on Swaziland for 2012, Amnesty International said, ‘Arbitrary and secret detentions, unlawful house arrests and other state of emergency-style measures were used to crush peaceful anti-government protests over several days [in 2011].’

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