Speaking the truth in this country, against those in power comes with serious consequences and this is exactly what happened to Mlungisi Makhanya, the President of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), who is now a victim of Tinkhundla journalism.
Perhaps, let me first clarify the difference between the journalism of international standard and the Tinkhundla journalism that is practiced here in eSwatini. It is against Swazi cultural values and ‘Tinkhundla journalism’ to question or criticize the King and today’s story in the Times of eSwatini portrays Mlungisi Makhanya as a person who does not respect authorities of the country by questioning the purchasing of the multi-million Rolls Royce and the fleet of BMWs. According to Tinkhundla journalism, Makhanya can receive positive publicity only if he presents a cow to the King and thank him for purchasing these cars while about 70% of the population live below the poverty line.
On the other hand, the real journalism of international standards suggests that King Mswati, as a Head of State should be held accountable for this huge expenditure. Journalistically, Mlungisi Makhanya was within his political duties to question the expenditure and calls for democracy that promotes accountability of public power. However, this is against Tinkhundla journalism that strives to portray the King as a person who should not be questioned on any decision that impacts the Nation. It is therefore based on the above analyses that the PUDEMO President is a victim of Tinkhundla journalism.
But the Nation should understand that Martin Dlamini, the Managing Editor of the Times is paid huge monies by the King’s Office to defend the King hence he is doing his job. However, these State propagandists made a mistake by elevating Makhanya to the status of former President Jacob Zuma who lives at Nkandla, this might promote the PUDEMO President and advance his political ambitions. The problem with propaganda journalists is that most of them lack intelligence, they act with emotions with intend to destroy only to find that they are promoting that individual.
The political earthquake that came subsequent to the purchasing of the Rolls Royce cars and the fleet of BMWs that collectively cost taxpayers about R500million exposed how the media in this country lacks independence and vulnerable to be used as a powerful oppression tool. Independent journalism where all citizens, regardless of their political affiliation are treated equally will never exist in a country that undermine democratic values while legitimizing political dictatorship.
In essence, the media was used to create awareness among the public that PUDEMO and other political entities are terrorist organizations, however, independent journalists should visit the various hospitals and ascertain the number of eMaswati who are dying per day due to the non-availability of drugs. Indeed, by so doing, journalists will have a clear understanding on who are the real terrorists between His Majesty’s Government and these political parties. It is stupidity of the highest order for a whole journalist to be told by a government that citizens of this country are terrorists while the State is covering genocide in the various hospitals.
The truth of the matter is that only one Rolls Royce that cost around R10million could have saved the lives of many citizens in the various hospitals who are waiting for their turn to be swallowed by the graves.
Now, PUDEMO President Mlungisi Makhanya is being crucified for sensitizing the world that the problems facing the country are political, as usual the media is using the political ignorant traditional leaders in the rural areas to create legitimacy in their story. Well, as an independent journalist, let me clarify that the media is not expected to take sides when disseminating information to the public. It would have been a great story if the Times of eSwatini published evidence suggesting that the PUDEMO President was building his multi-million home with money defrauded from government or any other entity including donors. As the media, we owe the public the truth on matters of public interest and it would be interesting if Makhanya’s matter was linked to his public duties as PUDEMO President. It should be noted that creating stories to attack Swazis who are calling for democratic reforms, just to please Mswati, will never work in a world where citizens enjoys access to information through other alternative media platforms.
Makhanya was within his political duties to criticize the King for the damage he has done to this country, a Head of State is, and should never be immune to criticism. Furthermore, the Times should know that the Swazi Nation Land (SNL) does not belong to Mswati, he held it in trust for the Swazi Nation. This means, citizens should not be victimized or denied access to land because of their political beliefs. As the media, we should not create an impression that Swazis are at the mercy of the King, their Chiefs and the Royal family even on issues of land, this is a natural asset owned by God. The world should monitor and take action against this country; should those politically ignorant traditional leaders at Malindza chiefdom victimize Makhanya because of his political beliefs, his right to land should be protected.
Government and the King should not force citizens to respect the authorities even if they are messing this country.
In conclusion, let me mention that as the political drama manifests, it is important that journalists remain independent and report the issues without taking sides. Our basic role is to act in the public interest while holding those in power accountable.
PUDEMO President Mlungisi Makhanya