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Raising Bheki's E200 000 fine

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MBABANE – The Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ) is appealing for donations to assist Bheki Makhubu, Editor of The Nation Magazine raise the E200 000 fine imposed by the High Court for contempt of court.

 

The appeal was sent to the donor community, journalists, media practitioners, civil society, media stakeholders and members of the general public

On Wednesday, High Court Judge Bheki Maphalala found the magazine and Makhubu guilty of contempt of court in respect of two editorial articles critisising the Supreme Court with statements directed at the Chief Justice Micheal Ramodibedi.

 

The articles appeared on the magazine’s November 2009 and January 2010 issues and had been written by Makhubu.

"As much as SNAJ is aware of the intention by Makhubu and Nation Magazine to file an appeal against the judgment handed down by His Lordship Justice Bheki Maphalala, it is imperative at this point in time to be ready for any eventuality because we cannot predict the judgment of the Supreme Court," said Mfanukhona Nkambule, SNAJ President.

 

"We have to be on full alert and eliminate any possibility for Makhubu to go to jail. This we can do by raising the money to pay the fine. SNAJ is a credible association that believes in the principle of financial transparency; interested donors will have access to audited financial statements. Donors can notify Makhubu and The Nation Magazine of any contributions made towards the Fund so that there is transparency in the fund-raising drive."

 

Nkambule said interested donors can contact him at +268 7621 6503 for more information.

He said they were also looking forward to opening a bank account so that public funds were safely kept. Reached for comment after SNAJ’s statement, Makhubu said they could not afford the heavy fine and would appreciate any form of help from those willing to assist him and the publication.

 

"We really appreciate what SNAJ is doing and we must thank them for the support they are showing," he said. "I am also receiving calls from other people who are willing to also support as it is impossible for such a small magazine to have so much money."

Meanwhile, Makhubu has since filed an appeal against the guilty verdict and the subsequent order directing him and the magazine to pay E200 000 fine or go to jail for the next two years.

In an interview, Makhubu said he would wait for the decision of the Appeal Court on the matter.

"I have since filed an appeal against the judgment and I will be waiting for its outcome," he said.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Swaziland Chapter, said the fund being established by SNAJ is long overdue.

Vuyisile Hlatjwako, MISA National Director, said what SNAJ was doing would help even other journalists who needed legal assistance.

 

"We appreciate what SNAJ is doing because at times, journalists have cases to pursue but due to lack of funds, they end up abandoning them," he said.

"We support this idea and we will assist the organisation as we also see the importance of having such a fund being established."

 

Also supporting the move by SNAJ is the National Association of Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU).

Quinton Dlamini, the organisation’s President, said they were fully behind SNAJ’s decision as there were a number of organisation and people who would give support.

"We fully support SNAJ’s decision as this matter is not a one men’s issue," he said.

 

"Once the fund is ready, we will definitely support those who are behind it." Muzi Mhlanga, Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAJ) Secretary General, called upon everyone to take part in this campaign.

 

"This is a good initiative and we support it because a number of people strongly believe in some of the things Makhubu wrote," he said.

"The fund should be made publicly and I appeal to Swazis to support this good initiative."

 

 


COMMENTS:

 

 - I think it was Jan Sithole who, in his last article, said the "Tinkhundla system's main undoing lies in its inconsistency and unpredictability". We didn't take him seriously because we weren't aware his assessment included the organs of government. The prison sentence of two years doesn't speak to the massive fine of E400,000.00 unless the main intention is to ensure the Nation shuts down its doors for good. If we look at records of past verdicts, rarely do prison sentences of two years attract a fine of more than E25,000.00. As unsuspecting by-standers we are shocked by this harsh sentence and it sends shivers down our spines. Should we be very afraid? Yes we all have to be afraid because this marks the dearth of freedom of speech in Swaziland. If I were to advise the Nation Magazine, I would tell them not to bother to apeal the verdict unless they have money to waste. An appeal process is unlikely to change anything at all if our experience particularly in the past 3 years is anything to go by. In the absence of perceived independence of many institutions in the country it is difficult to make a prediction about anything anymore. That's a travesty in our young constitutional dispensation.
April 21, 2013, 2:24 pm, Jean

 - The nation Magazine was the only Magazine in Swaziland which spoke the truth without fear or favour. Without it the Swazi society would be poorer for it. I use the past sentence because the huge fine imposed on the magazine will cause it to be history unless all of us, including consumers, make a donation to raise the fine. They need to see that Swazi society is together on this one. They can break our bones and bankrupt our wallets but they cannot dampen our spirit and our mind. Today it's Bheki Makhubu, tomorrow it's you and me! Not referring to anything in particular, when good men and women remain silent in the face of injustice, evil will triumph in our society.
April 21, 2013, 2:47 pm, Mantjintjiwane

 

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