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On December 24, 2017, one of the dailies in the country ran a story about how the Minister of Information, Communication and Technology, Dumisani Ndlangamandla,, demanded an apology from the Vice President of MTN International for his remarks that he (the minister) erroneously construed to incite war.

The article cited a verbatim quote by the VP that read “there are battle that (sic) we fight in the open and others that we fight in the gallery.” This was a response to a question posed by a reporter about the fairness of being deemed by the regulator as a dominant operator as MTN. As I continued reading the article, I had my eyes wide opened, looking for the part where the VP supposedly declared or incited war; to no avail. That’s when it dawned on me that the minister had taken the statement made by the VP to literally mean that MTN will draw its dagger and head to the battlefield. I was shell shocked by the dismal interpretation of the scenario by the minister. As a minister whose portfolio is centred on communication, surely he should know a thing or two about figures of speech. He should know about metaphors and similes. The VP was not talking about taking arms and shedding blood. For crying out loud, where is the arsenal that habours MTN’s weapons.  He was merely talking about MTN’s modus operandi in advancing its interests as it deals with different stakeholders in its business.

But maybe I am expecting too much from the minister who has, on several occasions, made serious public relation slip-ups. He once ignored all diplomatic codes and came down on Americans in an event where he was giving a speech. It boggles one’s mind why, on that day, he chose to play on the minister of Foreign Affair’s turf.  Even the prime minister had to distance government from his misconceived utterances and duly apologised to the Americans. This time around he has demanded an apology and a retraction from MTN for the remarks made by the VP which he claims are not in keeping with our values as Swazis. As far as I know, siSwati like any other language makes use of metaphors. For instance, we have all heard the ‘silwa nebuphuya’ narrative. In addition to that, there have been several instances where the local media has used war references when reporting about the rivalry between players in the ICT sector. Why didn’t the minister reprimand those reporters then? If he had a problem with the word ‘battle’ as indicated in the article, he should have consulted independent linguists to put the word into context.

MTN has invested a lot of resources in the country and is a key contributor to our socio-economic landscape. As such, it deserves a little bit more deference from our people, more-so from our leaders. Such indiscretion in dealing with investors of MTN’s caliber can spook potential investors and send them to countries where they will not be treated in such a disdainful manner.  From where I stand, it is the minister who ought to apologise to both Swazi MTN and MTN International for his misguided approach in dealing with this matter.   

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