Wednesday, December 11, 2019

‘Attempt made to poison journalist critic of Swaziland’s absolute monarch,’ editor says

The Swaziland News, an online newspaper, has called for an investigation following a report that a former government minister and members of an elite group linked to the Swazi Royal Family attempted to poison its political commentator Mfomfo Nkambule after he wrote articles critical of absolute monarch King Mswati III.

Nkambule, himself a former government minister, reported he was targeted at a braai. The Swaziland News reported details of the allegation and those said to be involved. A former government minister and a billionaire businessman were among them, the newspaper alleged.

Swaziland News Managing Editor Zweli Martin Dlamini said the matter needed to be investigated. ‘That’s how they operate, they invite you for lunch or a braai and kill you while smiling. It very unfortunate that in this country you can be killed just for having a different political opinion,’ he told his own newspaper.

Nkambule had recently written a series of articles for the Swaziland News criticising the political system in Swaziland / eSwatini. King Mswati rules as an absolute monarch and political parties are banned from taking part in elections. The King appoints the government. Groups that advocate for democracy are outlawed by the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

In a recent article for the Swaziland News Nkambule wrote, ‘He [the King] has given us the status of servants in this country. As servants, we do not have any right whatsoever. We have no right to vote, no right to form political parties, no right to form a government of our choice, no power to legislate and to appropriate resources. We need a referendum on the King!’

He added, ‘The King has failed us as a people, and we are no longer proud of him as our King.’

He wrote, ‘The Swazi King should not practice deceit, dishonesty, corruption, nepotism, dictatorship, greed, hatred, prejudice, extortion and all the bad things that happen under the sun.’

Nkambule has been a critic of the political system in Swaziland and the role of the monarch for many years.

He attracted international attention in 2008 and 2009 for outspoken articles he wrote each week in the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper.

Nkhambule specialised in criticising Swazi Royalty and the traditionalists who supported the King.

Nkhambule, who had formerly been Health and Social Welfare Minister appointed by the King, was hauled in by Swaziland’s state police and threatened with torture if he continued to criticise the King. 

He was later dropped from his traditional regiment, threatened with banishment from his homeland, and his family was threatened because he refused to be silenced.

In January 2009, he told the Times he had been taken in by state police. ‘They questioned me over the articles I have been writing. I was also warned that the articles were now taking a subversive slant and cautioned me that I was now skating on thin ice.’ 

The Times reported, ‘He said they impressed upon him that the articles were no longer just a column but were starting to hit on the authorities and could incite people to revolt against the head of state [the King] and this was beginning to pose a security threat.’

‘Nkhambule said the officers informed him that as much as the country had a new constitution, there were still laws that could be used against him, which were enacted before independence and they had very serious consequences.’

In April 2009, the Times dropped his column without notice.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter reported at the time that the Times’ Managing Editor Martin Dlamini denied he was under any pressure from state authorities. Dlamini said Nkhambule’s column had simply been affected by the routine changes the newspaper was making with regards to content. 

The ban on Nkhambule came in the same week that the Times was forced to make an abject apology to King Mswati after publishing an essentially correct report that he had purchased up to 20 armoured cars for the use of himself and his wives.

After he was dropped by the Times, Nkhambule published his own online blog.

See also

‘Times’ drops Swaziland dissident

Swaziland dissident attacks king

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