No rest since King's gift arrived
MBABANE – Percy Simelane, Government Spokesperson is practically at work 24 hours a day.
To him, fielding questions from local and international journalists as well as liaising with politicians and other officials day and night has become routine.
He works up to 15 hours or more each day.
His annual salary ranges between E249 770 (about E20 814 toE23 426 monthly)
According to the Establishment Register, Simelane is paid on salary scale Grade D and is recognised as the Government’s Press Secretary.
Simelane did not want to disclose his salary when he was interviewed, especially with regard to benefits and pay for extra work.
The Times SUNDAY paid him a visit to see how he copes with this extremely demanding and taxing job and found that, unlike other civil servants who work between 8am and 5pm, his day starts as early as 5am.
He sometimes gets to go home only at around 11pm.
The former Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (SBIS) director has to monitor international news as early as 5am.
He has to have an idea whether or not news agencies carry stories on Swaziland.
This helps him should it happen that journalists call and require him to comment on behalf of government. He then listens to the SBIS news bulletin at 6am.
After this, he then monitors the South African news through the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
In the process, he also begins to prepare to go to the Prime Minister’s Office, which is his workstation.
At 7.15am, Simelane then listens to a programme known as ‘Letishisako’ on the siSwati Channel of SBIS.
This programme runs until 8am.
While listening to it, he eats breakfast because once he gets to the office, he has no time to eat.
He thereafter leaves the office for work. The Times SUNDAY recently spent about two hours with Simelane in his office.
Reporters arrived at the Prime Minister’s office at 8am but Simelane was not there yet.
A receptionist said the spokesperson would be there in no time.
At 8.15am Simelane parked the government vehicle he currently uses and went to his office.
While at the reception, he made an abrupt stop to look at headlines of the Times of Swaziland.
He spent about five minutes looking at the headlines and thereafter went to his office. In his office, both copies of the Times of Swaziland and the Swazi Observer were on his table.
He quickly browsed through headlines on both newspapers. In his hand, he had a pen which he said he was to used to mark anything that needed to be clarified for the public. After reading both papers, Simelane then turned on his computer to check his emails. He says some journalists send questions by email.
Simelane said this helped because if there were certain issues that had been asked and he had to consult on, he normally does the consultation in the morning before the people involved, especially the Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini and the ministers, become busy.
Simelane said if the question needed the attention of the Prime Minister on a Tuesday when Cabinet meetings are held, he had no option but to ask him to come out of the meeting to attend to that issue.
While still reading his emails, one of the phones rang. He asked to answer it as it was already after 9am.
The first person to call Simelane was Bheki Makhubu, the Nation Magazine’s Editor–In-Chief.
He spent about 35 minutes on the phone with him.
Among the issues Simelane and Makhubu discussed was His Majesty King Mswati III’s new aircraft. Makhubu wanted to know if it was a gift or it had been bought using the taxpayer’s money.
While still taking to Makhubu, another line rang. Simelane has two landline phones in his office.
This time around, it was an internal call. Simelane explained to the person calling that he would call him as soon as he had finished speaking to Makhubu.
After he had spoken to Makhubu, Simelane started responding to some of the email messages.
He said he was also waiting for the Prime Minister to call him for a briefing.
Simelane explained that depending on the day, he is sometimes forced to leave the office after 8pm especially when there are pressing issues.
"Whenever there is an issue that comes up when I am supposed to leave the office, I have no choice but to remain behind as I have to at least have something to say to that journalist who requires information."
Simelane said sometimes he was forced to work even during lunch hour depending on how tight his schedule on that day is.
"When you are in such a position, it is difficult to say that your lunch is at 1pm just like anyone else," he said.
"Whenever you get time to go and buy something to eat, you just have to do exactly that because you might not get that opportunity 30 minutes later."
Simelane said most of the time, his day was made busy by journalists. "There are times when you find that both my cellphone and the landline keep ringing," he said.
"I always try to give them a comment. If I am not sure of what they are asking, I consult. Depending on how urgent the matter is, I always ask to be given an opportunity of consulting with the relevant people. Depending on who the person it involves is, even if it is the PM, I try and make sure that I get his comment in order to give proper clarification."
Asked how it was working closely with the PM, he said he regarded the PM as a professional, especially when dealing with the media.
"Even if someone would call me at 11pm looking for a comment on a story that involves the PM, he always makes it a point that he attends to that matter," he said.
"He does not wait for the next day as he always prefers to have everything done on time. The PM feels comfortable whenever everything is smooth. This is one of the reasons one is sometimes forced to work even at night."
‘Was the jet really a gift?’
MBABANE – Foreign journalists have been calling Percy Simelane, Government Spokesperson seeking clarity on His Majesty King Mswati III’s gift of a DC-9 aircraft.
According to governmemt, the aircraft was a gift from development partners and friends of the country who elected to remain anonymous.
Among the foreign journalists are those from e-tv and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
Simelane says he has been getting calls ever since Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini announced to the public that the king had received the gift.
Most of these journalists wanted clarity on whether the jet was a gift or had been purchased using taxpayer funds.
When he was interviewed, Simelane said he received a call as early as 6am from a journalist who said he was calling from e-tv.
The reporter wanted to know if it was true that the aircraft was a gift and also wanted to know how much it cost.
Simelane said the journalist also wanted to know if taxpayers’ money was used to purchase the aircraft.
"I had to explain to him that this was a gift for His Majesty and no public funds were used," he said.
"I can still confirm that as the PM mentioned, this was a gift and those who gave the gift to His Majesty asked not to be named."
He said he had tried to explain to them and mentioned that even the nation was aware as the PM had issued a public statement.
"There is nothing more I can explain to them except that it was a gift as it has been mentioned."
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