Alert / Media Alert

Witness sheds light on Times of Swaziland defamation case

Swaziland Alert-Update
Wednesday, 28 May 2013

New evidence has been heard in the defamation case against the Times of Swaziland, which resumed today after proceedings came to a halt earlier in the week owing to faulty recording equipment in the High Court.

times of swaziland logo

The matter before the court concerns an article published by Times of Swaziland on May 9 2009, regarding the surname of acting chief of KoNtshingila Gelane Simelane – who is also Senate President in parliament.

The May 9 2009 article by Mabandla Bhembe, then a journalist at Times of Swaziland, suggested that the acting chief’s birth surname was not Simelane, but, rather, Mahlangu.

Simelane is suing the Times of Swaziland for E200,000 (US$20,500) for defamation; she alleges that some members of the Simelane clan called for her removal from the chieftaincy after the Times published the article.

The article incuded comments from traditional authorities that implied that if Gelane was not a Simelane then she did not qualify to be chief of the area.

The story in question was part of a wider Times report that, at the time, was following a chieftancy dispute at Kontjingila chiefdom in the southern Shiselweni region that had been ongoing since 1996.

MISA-Swaziland attended the hearing today, Wednesday 29 May, 2013, which dealt with evidence from the acting chief’s elder brother, who told the court that the surname issue – Simelane or Mahlangu? – was a matter of discussion before the publication of the article.

From the brother’s eviedence, it was clear that the name issue had been debated at several meetings dating back to 2004. The witness also revealed that “a faction” of the Simelane family had expressed concern at these meetings over the “acting” nature of Gelane’s chieftanship. It seems reasonable to suggest, therefore, that the Times article simply reflected the events that were taking place at the time.

High Court judge Nkululeko Hlophe postponed the case (Gelane Simelane v Times of Swaziland High Court case 2632/2009) until 20 June 2013, when both sides will submit written submissions to the court.

For comments or queries, please contact:
Vuyisile Hlatshwayo

MISA-Swaziland National Director
Email: misa.nd@realnet.co.sz

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