When Government Spokesperson Alpheous Nxumalo rushed to release a press statement after my interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation(SABC) regarding the fuel crisis in the country, I remembered that Nxumalo is a novice in the public relations industry.
I am not a public relations expert but it is my first time to see a Government Spokesperson who waits for the ‘fire’ to spread and then try to extinguish it.
Unlike Alpheous Nxumalo, perhaps,King Spokesperson Percy Simelane as a seasoned former journalist understands the principles of public relations.
As the media,we sometimes criticize Simelane but, he remains professional in his duties.
But we can’t blame Alpheous Nxumalo, some skills are unique and cannot be easily shared, however, I believe Simelane can help political novices like Alpheous to understand how the media operates.
One of the royal insiders who work closely with Mswati once told me how the King fired Macanjana Motsa,the then Government Spokesperson after she committed a political blunder.
The King allegedly summoned Percy Simelane,the then Director of the State owned radio station and told him to resume his duties as a Government Spokesperson,the then Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini was out of the country in a foreign trip.
The King allegedly said “Hamba uyosebenta Simelane nali live lisha lomfati angimuva kutsi utsini. Hamba usebente,batatibonela bo-Barnabas kutsi bamubhekisaphi lomfati”.
When Barnabas Dlamini came back,he found Percy Simelane hard at work and that Macanjana had been ‘fired’,a few journalists know how this manifested.
Royal insiders say Mswati always describes Percy as a very intelligent person who understands communication,he knows when to keep quiet,when to respond and how.
So,when we see arrogant fellows like Government Spokesperson Alpheous Nxumalo, we wish he couldn't experience what befell Macanjana Motsa.
Mswati is very sensitive about his reputation and that of his Government,he wants a vibrant Spokesperson who will take the ‘bullets’ from the media on his behalf.
Imagine hiring a Spokesperson and that PRO keeps quiet while the media hits hard on your reputation.
The King reads this Swaziland News, that’s why he attempted to take it to court, so when he reads articles about his Government, only to find that Alpheous is avoiding questions, one day he will fire him.
King Mswati is arrogant and sometimes commits political blunders, but that doesn’t mean his Spokespersons must be arrogant too.
The duty of a Spokesperson is to try and protect the image of a public figure or institution.
As a professional,a Public Relations Officer(PRO) is expected to even ‘renovate’ a tainted image of his boss.
Nxumalo sometimes ignores questions, only to rush and publish press statements upon realizing that this journalist has been interviewed by reputable media institutions like the SABC.
Alpheous is like a coach who always waits until his opponents score goals and then try to equalize.
Releasing a press statement after the story has been published and reached millions around the world is a huge public relations blunder, especially if you were given an opportunity to respond and you decided to ignore.
Anyways, we need to accept that Percy Simelane will remain a Robert Mugabe of the public relations industry, it seems like the former journalist is irreplaceable.
It was the greatest achievement for Percy Simelane to be appointed a Spokesperson for a Head of State, it will take years for other PROs to achieve this.
Personally,I thought other PROs would organise a workshop where Simelane could lecture and share his skills with them.
Novices like Alpheous think a PRO must only speak to journalists who are supporters of the King.
Imagine refusing to respond to a journalist who writes for a publication with close to 300 000 Facebook followers,over one million website readers, then the story gets amplified by millions viewers through the SABC,only to rush to the Swazi Observer to try and do damage control.
I once wrote an article like this one warning Sabelo Dlamini, the then Government Spokesperson that he could be removed, I am doing the same to Alpheous Nxumalo.
In my over fifteen(15)years experience as a journalist, I have never seen a Government Spokesperson hired to keep quiet.
King’s Spokesperson Percy Simelane and Government Spokesperson Alpheous Nxumalo.