MBABANE: Mbongeni Mbingo, the Managing Editor of the ‘royal owned’ Swazi Observer Group of Newspapers has praised government for hiring Vuma Reputation Management, a South African Public Relations company tasked with restoring the image of the Eswatini government in the eyes of the international community.
In an article published on Sunday, the 48 year-old editor advised that the PR company was supposed to work behind the scenes when managing the image of the government through their international networks adding that the fact this relationship has become public was an egg on the face of Cabinet.
“Vuma is supposed to work behind the scenes, not to be at the forefront of the spin. That this is now out in the public domain is not only an egg on Cabinet’s faces, but a PR faux pas that goes to demonstrate that this relationship is already on (and should be) its way to an acrimonious end” the editor writes.
Worth noting is that government has been using the Editors Forum, capturing editors behind the scenes and turning them into State PR agents through breakfast meetings with the Prime Minister’s office. The role of the editors was to manage the flow of information to the public and the international community in favor of the State, however, this was dismantled by the emerging online media hence government had to seek PR services to restore the image of the country.
But the State editor was very strategical in his article, playing double standards by trying very hard to balance his loyalty to the system while attempting to criticize the government for securing services of a foreign PR company.
“This is a positive paradigm shift for the country, to accept that it has an image problem within the international community. This has been a headache for the country for some years now and has needed to be tackled head-on, although it is another debate altogether whether or not the use of a public relations agency – a South African one for that one – is the best decision to dealing with this” said the editor.
The editor noted that government will pay millions of Emalangeni for the PR services but said the results should warrant the money reportedly paid to Vuma.
“Perhaps what would be more meaningful would be Cabinet to ensure that the story that is told the international community is the same story on the ground. This way, it will be more convincing, and not just a mere strategy cooked up in some foreign country by people who only care about the bottom line. At worst, this should not be one of those tick-boxes that the private sector is so fond of, and without assessing the results thereof. It must follow that this should be measured, and the results must inform the expense, to warrant the millions that are reportedly being paid to Vuma – just because they have networks, more than they have a meaningful strategy to enforce” he said.