Alert / Media Alert

Communications legislation passes parliament

MISA-Swaziland Alert
24 June 2013

Two pieces of communications legislation passed Swaziland’s parliament last week.

Local media on June 24 2013 reported the Swaziland Communications Bill 2010 and the Electronics Communications Bill 2009 are now on their way to head of state King Mswati III to receive royal assent.

Minister responsible for new communications legislation in Swaziland (Swazi Observer, 24 June 2013)

Minister responsible for new communications legislation in Swaziland (Swazi Observer, 24 June 2013)

“Last Thursday marked what many viewed as victory for the country’s telecommunications industry as two Bills envisaged to liberalise the sector were passed by parliament and await royal blessing to be Acts of Parliament,” reported daily newspaper Swazi Observer.

Media coverage focuses on the potential of the new legislation to overcome the ongoing dispute between the nation’s two biggest telecom players: the partly government-run and owned Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) and the private MTN-Swaziland.

The article says “MTN and SPTC are at each other’s throats over matters that could be resolved by the coming into force of this legislation. The [telecom] giants are currently fighting over new products launched by SPTC and MTN view as direct competition and against the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) barring such”.

According to the legislation that passed parliament, the Swaziland Communications Commission Bill aims to “establish a Swaziland Communications Commission; provide for the appointment of a Board of Directors of the Commission; provide for the regulatory functions of the Commission with regard to electronic communications, data protection in electronic communications, postal services, electronic commerce and broadcasting; transfer the regulatory powers and functions of the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation, relating to communications, as provided under the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation Act, 1980, to the Commission; transfer the regulatory powers and functions of the Swaziland Television Authority, relating to the issuance of a license to conduct a television service, as provided under the Swaziland Television Authority Act, 1980, to the Commission; provide for the establishment of a Communications Appeals Board”.

Clause 3(2) of the Communications Commission Bill says the to-be-established commission will “except as otherwise provided in this Act or any other written law… be independent… and shall not be subject to the direction of control of any person or authority”.

The aim of the Electronic Communications Bill is “to provide a framework for the further development of electronic communications networks and services in Swaziland”.

It is not altogether clear what this means and the Bill is somewhat vague on explaining its goals.

The Swazi Observer coverage of this Bill centred on the legislative provision for SPTC to “form a subsidiary company to provide telecommunications services after three years… after three years of commencement” of the Act.

MISA-Swaziland, who has been following the legislative developments, welcomes the passing of Bills into law and hopes that it will liberalise up the telecommunications industry in the country. But MISA needs an explanation of the clause on the statutory body meant to regulate the media.

Click here to read about other broadcasting legislation that is currently before parliament, and click here to read about a dubious radio deal that is currently being instigated by the local media.

South African newspaper Mail & Guardian has also been covering Swaziland’s telecommunications saga. Click here for M&G business story on how the ‘phone wars’, and click here for another story on government’s wrangling on the issue.

For comments or queries, please contact:
Vuyisile Hlatshwayo

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

Featured photo for this story on homepage: from Swazi Observer, 24 June 2013
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