When government resorted to the abuse of public funds by hiring a Public Relations company it became clear that the ultimate goal was to enhance political hypocrisy by avoiding accountability of public resources, violation of human rights with impunity while portraying the country as democratic in the eyes of the international community.
Perhaps, without disregarding the fact that the hiring of the PR company demonstrated lack of confidence by the State in the capability of the current Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini, it is important to mention that government’s current political headache is the growing popularity of online publications that disseminate uncensored information, giving a true picture of what is happening in the country.
But instead of upholding democratic values and respect for human rights, the King and his Cabinet hope Vuma Reputation Management will perform a ‘miracle’ that will attract investors.
It is important for King Mswati, Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini and his Cabinet to understand that no PR company in the world will ever be bigger than journalism and suppress the truth because once that company adopt un-ethical means to protect its client, journalists will expose that and the very same company will find itself with a duty to restore its own reputation.
We know that some PR companies around the world are having corrupt relationships with journalists by paying them on the sidelines to publish positive stories in favor of their clients and we hope the business relationship between Vuma Reputation Management and Eswatini Government will not reach that level, considering the desperation of the King’s government to appear legitimate in the eyes of the world.
It should be noted that before the hiring of Vuma Reputation Management, government used corrupt means to turn the Editors Forum into its ‘PR agency’ by capturing its Chairman Mbongeni Mbingo, his over E50,000.00 salary and other benefits are paid directly by the King’s controlled Tibiyo TakaNgwane.
The Editor’s Forum was not only captured to be the government’s Public Relations agency where Cabinet hosts breakfast meetings for editors in expensive hotels to push the propaganda machinery, but it was also used to try and mislead the world regarding the persecution of independent journalists. Indeed, as we gain more experience in the media industry, we are maturing in understanding how politics and or government PR agencies are playing in journalism gallery with the sole intention of misleading the people, our duty in this regard is to protect media freedom.
Even though it took us time to understand that the Editors Forum was no longer advocating for media freedom and the Constitutional right to information, upon realization, we managed to expose its corrupt relationship with government. It is for these reasons the State is now utilizing the services of a PR company as the captured media that was the pillar of this oppressive regime continues to lose popularity among the people.
King Mswati and his Cabinet should understand that independent journalists are a huge global network and the game of PR is played within the gallery of journalism, sometimes dirty tricks are used where corrupt journalists are paid to push a certain agenda, as mentioned, we hope the partnership between government and Vuma will remain professional with no intentions of undermining media freedom through corrupt means.
We have Mbongeni Mbingo in this country, one of the most corrupt journalists in the history of eSwatini journalism who, shortly after being captured and turned into a government ‘PR agent’ accumulated wealth ‘over-night’, he drives a E1million worth Audio Q7 and earning a E50,000.00 salary with other benefits from the Palace, he is taken care-of by the State for making sure the over 700 000 poor people are suppressed and denied access to information.
This then tells us that government is always prepared to pay for any service that seeks to enhance its propaganda machinery instead of improving the lives of the people hence the hiring of a PR company.
Cabinet will recall that I did mention the hiring of a PR company during an interview with SABC and the fact that some of us learned about the partnership even before the Daily Maverick reported it suggests that should government adopt corrupt means to try and mislead the world using Vuma, that information will eventually reach journalists.
It is therefore important for Vuma Reputation Management to avoid taking instructions from this corrupt and oppressive regime that seeks to undermine media freedom and or justify the persecution of journalists and the human rights violations in this country but stick to the basic principles of public relations.
As mentioned, this government is currently putting a foot on the neck of over 700 000 people who are living below the poverty line and independent journalists have a critical role to play in liberating the people from the hands of the oppressor. Even though government remains desperate to protect her image in the eyes of the international, the country’s authorities should understand that torturing journalists and systematically killing human rights defenders while expecting a PR company to mislead the world that the country is peaceful and democratic is far from reality.
One of our basic roles as journalists is to investigate and expose allegations of wrongdoing in the public administration and government is free to utilize his PR machinery and prove us wrong with facts. Indeed, there’s an intersection between journalism and Public Relations and it remains the duty of public relations officers to tell the public what is good about the Eswatini government without tempering with media freedom.
The major problem with this government is that it has nothing to parade to the world except for the false claims that the country is peaceful when in fact about 70% of the population are languishing in poverty and human rights are violated with impunity.
It is for this reason government has suddenly become sensitive to any journalist publishing articles that might open the eyes of the public and give the international community a true picture of what is happening in this country.
But then, we are waiting to see how a PR company will restore the image of a cruel government whose reputation seems beyond repair.
In light of the aforementioned, perhaps it important to warn or advise government that no PR company anywhere in the world will ever restore an image of a government that seems determined to undermine human rights including press freedom. Investors rely on the media in getting a true picture of what is happening in that particular country before pumping their money and any government that persecutes journalists and disregard fundamental human rights cannot be regarded as investor friendly.
Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini