The first big thing that Swaziland’s absolute monarch decided to do shortly after his discredited tinkhundla elections was to detain a journalist. Yesterday, Wednesday 7 November 2018, the royal Swaziland police's Organised Crime Unit detained seasoned journalist Musa Ndlangamandla in Mbabane, accusing him of aligning himself with organisations that call for democracy. They harassed, intimidated and threatened him, and are already preparing documents for his prosecution.
This notorious police gang, also known as “Tingculungculu”, accused Ndlangamandla of having engaged in acts of collaboration with the democratic movement in 2011, when he was the Chief Editor of the Swazi Observer newspaper. That was before he slipped out of the country to preserve his life after word got out that Mswati wanted his head delivered in a bowl, simply for covering news related to Swaziland’s progressive forces. That year his office at the Swazi Observer premises was raided by this police unit.
When the Organised Crime Unit was introduced in 2009, after the enactment of the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008, the then police commissioner declared that the unit would deal with the “growing phenomenon of organised syndicated crime and terrorism.” It is now a fact accepted by all that the Mswati regime regards all efforts aimed at the democratisation of Swaziland as nothing but terrorist acts, thus automatically falling within these categories. Hence Ndlangamandla’s good journalism ethics are categorised by the Mswati autocracy as serious enough to attract the attention of a specialised police unit like the Tingculungculu, as terrorist acts.
This is not the first time the Mswati regime has clamped down on journalists. In 2014, the Mswati regime arrested and convicted The Nation magazine editor, Bheki Makhubu, together with human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, for being critical of the system. In February this year, members of Mswati’s Correctional Services (prison warders) attacked a journalist when he took photographs of them travelling on the backs of overcrowded vehicles. In September this year, police assaulted a journalist and demanded he delete photographs he took of them attacking and shooting at striking textile workers. In a report titled “Assessment of Media Development in Swaziland”, seven in ten journalists interviewed by UNESCO in Swaziland said they had faced attempts from politicians or advertisers to interfere with what they were writing.
The detaining of journalist Musa Ndlangamandla should therefore be openly condemned by all democracy loving people across the globe.
This should also be a wake-up call to those who were slumbering under the illusion that things would be different under Mswati’s newly appointed prime minister. Swaziland remains undemocratic. It is still ruled by a dictator, sub-Saharan Africa’s last remaining absolute monarch. The tinkhundla system is nothing but a dictatorship of the monarch. The 2018 tinkhundla elections were nothing but a sham, a wasteful game by Mswati, for his benefit. Those elections, as previous ones, resulted in a puppet parliament for the dictator to implement his anti-people decisions.
The journey towards freedom of the media in Swaziland must at one and the same time be linked with the journey towards democracy. There can never a free media in Swaziland as long as the tinkhundla system prevails. Mswati tightly controls the media and punishes journalists and media houses for publishing anything seen as critical of the royal family and his government.
The regime must be overthrown! For this to happen, the people must unite and isolate the absolute monarch!
Issued by the Communist Party of Swaziland