Shining a light on Swaziland’s dubious radio deal

MISA-Swaziland Alert
4 June 2013

The Nation, Swaziland’s independent monthly magazine, is asking how the government granted a broadcasting company a commercial radio licence when it is unclear whether enabling legislation exists to allow such a deal.

In the June 2013 edition, Nimrod Mabuza, assistant editor and reporter for The Nation, says Africa Unite FM (AUFM) was “given the licence on February 22 2013 despite there being no law in this country that allows them to get it”.

Mabuza contrasts AUFM’s success in getting a licence with the story of Amborse Zwane, a veteran campaigner for community radio in Swaziland.

Community radio doesn’t exist in Swaziland.

There are currently two radio stations in Swaziland: the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS) and Voice of the Church (VOC).

SBIS, which offers a siSwati and English service, is state-owned. The other, VOC, runs mainly religious content.

Zwane has tried in vain for 15 years to get an ongoing licence from the government.

He has been granted four one-day provisional licences in this time, most recently to cover the king’s birthday celebration on in April 2013.

According to The Nation article, ‘Mystery company issued broadcast licence,’ the Director of Communications in the ICT ministry, Stan Motsa, also the radio licensing regulator, confirmed that he had issued the licence to AUFM.

“Motsa said the licence was issued on the strength of the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation Act of 1983 – the same law the government said was inadequate for issuing of licences when presented with applications for radio broadcast licences.”

The article continues: “Motsa denied allegations that he succumbed to powerful individuals to issue the licence. While he agreed that the existing legislation was not adequate for the issuing of such licences, he would only say he was not forced to issue the licence and he would not comment why the SPTC Act was previously not invoked.”

According to The Nation’s reporter, AUFM is owned by two Swazi business people: Victor Shongwe and Thandanani Dlamini. They own 35% each, while the other 30% may be sold to the public, Dlamini told The Nation.

Before the company can begin broadcasting, several conditions must be met, such as payment of an application fee of E3000 ($US300), a license fee of E50, 000 ($US5, 000) and an annual license fee of E50, 000 or 10% of net operating income, whichever is more.

Last year ICT Minister Winnie Magagula tabled before parliament several communications and broadcasting bills.

Only the Swaziland Communications Bill, a legislation enabling the establishment of an independent regulatory body for radio broadcast, has passed parliament.

According to the licence issued to Africa Unite FM, seen by The Nation magazine, the radio station’s aim is the “dissemination of the SADC region’s development and integration agenda and information sharing obligations.”

From a brief Google search, there doesn’t appear to be a website or any mention of AUFM online.

Lingering questions remain from the article, such as why AUFM marketing advisor Mangaliso Dlamini “pleaded for time as he said the directors had to consult first with the King’s Office” before releasing information and getting approval for the license.

For comments or queries, please contact:
Vuyisile Hlatshwayo
MISA-Swaziland National Director



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