Alert / Media Alert

He is (not) a spineless politician who always does what he is told – former Swazi politician sues newspaper

MISA-Swaziland | Alert
March 5 2014

The former deputy prime minister of the Kingdom of Swaziland was yesterday awarded E200,000 ($US20,000) in an out-of-court settlement against the country’s only privately owned daily newspaper. The details of the case appear in today’s Swazi Observer, a daily newspaper effectively owned by the nation’s ruler King Mswati III.

According to the Swazi Observer report Themba Masuku, deputy prime minster from 2008-2013, took the Times of Swaziland to court after the newspaper published three articles about him and his affairs in 2012. The report says Masuku went to court because of his concern that readers might have believed, amongst other things, that he was a “spineless politician, who always does what he is told”.

The first article in question was published on September 16 2012 under the headline ‘Questions over DPM’s wife’s trip to New York’.

Masuku “says the article was wrongful and defamatory in that it was understood by readers to mean that he was dishonest and abused his position”, according to the Swazi Observer.

The former politician said the article about his wife’s trip to New York implied that “being a (then) minister responsible for the welfare of children, the elderly and disabled, he was complicit to the flagrant misuse of scare resources for personal benefit”.

The second article raised in the case was also published on September 16 2012 under the headline ‘DPM’s guards out in the cold’. Masuku “said the article implied that the police officers stationed at his new premisses at Thembelihle had no shelter”, said the report.

“Masuku claimed that the article was understood by readers to mean that he illl-treated police officers assigned to him.

“As result [sic], he claimed to have suffered damages in the sum of E950,000 ($US88,000),” reported the Swazi Observer. In the end an out-of-court settlement was agreed at E200,000.

The third article in question was published by the Times of Swaziland on September 19 2012 under the headline ‘Disappointed by DPM’.

According to the Swazi Observer report Masuku was unhappy with the article because it stated that he was a “Yes Man” who had “failed the electorate”.

The report says Masuku claimed the article was “wrongful and defamatory” and readers understood the article to mean that:

  • He is a spineless politician, who always does as he it told; and
  • He was desperate to participate in the electoral process for personal gain and not to serve the electorate.

Click here to read the full article

Swaziland is an absolute monarchy ruled by King Mswati III, who has been in power since 1986. The king has power over the judiciary, the legislature and the cabinet.

Many people are afraid to directly question or criticise the king and the monarchy in public.

The BBC reported Mswati is rated by Forbes magazine as the world’s 15th richest monarch with a personal fortune of $100m.

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