King Mswati honors captured Times editor with medal



BY : EUGENE DUBE

MBABANE: King Mswati has honored captured Managing Editor of the Times of Swaziland Martin Dlamini with a medal.

Dlamini has broken a global record in the history of journalism by becoming the first journalist of an independent newspaper around the world to receive an award from a Head of State at the time when other scribes who stand for the truth face arrests, receives death or even killed in their countries. Worldwide journalists receive awards for standing for the truth despite challenging environments, however Dlamini has been awarded for manipulating the Times of Swaziland, blocking the truth and disseminating false information to the public that protects government and the King.

Documented facts in our possession suggests that in 2014, the Times of Swaziland retracted a genuine story regarding the disappearance of over R200 million that were allegedly stolen by the royal family from public coffers. This was disclosed by the then Ministry of Finance Principal Secretary Khabonina Mabuza in Parliament who was subsequently fired for his disclosure suggesting that the money highlighted in the report of the Auditor General as missing was actually taken by Labadzala a Swazi name used to refer to the King.

The Media Institute of Sothern Africa (MISA) Swaziland in its report highlighted the story that was retracted by the editor. “A case in point was a May 2014 article in the Times, which factually reported the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Khabonina Mabuza stating before the Public Accounts Committee that a sum of E208 million ($20.8m) had gone missing from state coffers. Mabuza had said that of the E213m recorded as the Finance Ministry’s over expenditure, only E5m could be accounted for.

She told the Committee that she did not want to elaborate further as the issue touch on Labadzala (the Swazi authorities) The managing editor was subsequently called on to retract the story saying the newspaper had erred in its reporting even though the Principal Secretary was on record for having said this” read the report.

The editor, shortly after cleaning the royal family regarding the theft of the multi-million public funds and other scandals received the award. A part from the award, the editor is allegedly on the payroll of the King, benefiting millions of public funds as he privately works as a speech writer and a King’s Correspondent and he receives about R80, 000.00 or more per trip when travelling with the King abroad. Dlamini and his boss Paul Loffler declined to comment when reached by this publication to state reasons behind the award and links with the King.

The editor is highly regarded in the royal circles as Liso LeNkhosi kubetindzaba(King’s overseer in the media) and sources revealed that he might be rewarded with a political position as Minister of Information Communication and Technology(ICT). Should editor be appointed to this political position , he will have absolute powers to control the whole media industry and close newspapers who are publishing critical stories about the King and government.

The award of the editor comes as Swaziland is ranked 152 out of 180 countries in terms of violating press freedom as journalists are intimidated, arrested or forced to exile for publishing critical articles about government and the Monarch. Sicelo Vilane, the Secretary General of the Swaziland Media Workers Union said the award was suspicious. “Actually the issue of the award has got two faces, One is that we are not sure whether it was an award for publishing the King’s positive stories or it was for manipulating other critical stories.

One would have expected that such an award would be from the Times of Swaziland management or at least another media organization. As an individual, I have this question. How come the employer (Times of Swaziland) did not see Martin’s performance and awarded him. Then comes a Head of State and award him, that’s where suspicions began. It is not something we can encourage as an organization.” he said.

Vilane said the relationship of the editor with the King that saw him awarded did not create a good image for the Swazi journalism industry.” This publication gathered that the story of the award was sabotaged with less prominence as it was seen having a potential to undermine public confidence in the Times of Swaziland that has been over the years regarded as an independent newspaper.

When asked to comment on the award, the Martin Dlamini declined, but a former Minister who was part of those who received the awards confirmed that the King honored by the editor. “I got my medal with the likes of the late Swazi businessman Victor Gamedze, Indonesian Swazi businessman Ashraf, and Martin Dlamini of the Times of Swaziland. We were given the highest recognition by the King for having made a great contribution in our different fields.”

When quizzed on the editor’s recognition, the former Minister said to the best of her knowlegue Dlamini was regconised for his role as a journalist. “The information that came out during the awards was that Martin was honoured for his role as journalist in Swaziland.” she said.

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