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GOVT CUTS COMMUNICATION WITH ZWEMART, SWAZILAND NEWS

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MBABANE - Despite having declared him a terrorist over a year ago, it is only yesterday that government cut communication ties with Editor Zweli Dlamini and his online publication, the Swaziland News.

The cutting of the ties means that government employees, in their official capacity, and chief executive officers (CEOs) of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) or parastatals are no longer expected to entertain the two and government will monitor if there is compliance regarding the issue.

Through a press statement issued by Spokesperson Alpheous Nxumalo, government notified the nation of its position to discontinue, with immediate effect, communication with certain proscribed entities, particularly Dlamini and the online publication.Interestingly, the spokesperson is reported to have recently applauded the editor for giving government a platform to offer clarity on certain issues.

In the statement issued yesterday, Nxumalo said Dlamini and his publication were declared ‘specified entities’ through Legal No.261 of 2022 in line with the Suppression of Terrorism Act, 2008 in that they allegedly ‘knowingly facilitated the commission of terrorist acts’.

Declaration

Such a stand has happened 17 months after the declaration of the two being terrorist entities was made. It was in June 2022 that government, through the then Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho Dlamini, made the declaration and branded Dlamini and his publication terrorist entities for among other things allegedly threatening to kill police officers and instigating violence.

The declaration was made in terms of the Section 28 (2) of the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008. But despite that the former PM said the declaration was with immediate effect, government, through its departments and subsidiary enterprises entertained the editor in various ways, including responding to questionnaires he sent or interviews he set up to balance his articles.

In particular, the Office of the Government Spokesperson, Alpheous Nxumalo, gave the online editor his attention.
Besides Nxumalo, the King’s Office, through Director of Communications Percy Simelane, entertained the online editor and this gave the insinuation that government continued to recognise him as a journalist.

In the press statement announcing the cutting of the communication ties, Nxumalo said government had since issued a circular memorandum to all government ministries, advising all its officials and employees to desist from communicating and or responding in any form or method to such entities and individuals, including on social media platform facebook and others.

Effect

This, Nxumalo said, was with effect from yesterday. Following the press statement, this publication engaged Nxumalo to offer clarity on what exactly the cutting of the communication ties meant. Firstly, this publication sought to ascertain what exactly had prompted such a decision, especially since the declaration was made months ago and government officials had all along been entertaining the online publication.

Secondly, the spokesperson was asked on the position regarding employees of SOEs and commissions since all of them were administratively accountable to the various government ministries. It is a known fact that some of the chief executive officers (CEOs) of the parastatals have on many occasions commented on articles that appeared on the online publication.

Also, some chairpersons of commissions (emabandla) have done the same and these included the one for the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Mhlabuhlangene Dlamini, among others. In response to what had prompted the decision, Nxumalo explained that government was simply correcting what had been in the past few months ignored.

“We are simply correcting that. We discovered that there are government officials who are still communicating with a terrorist entity and that is what we are correcting,” he said. He explained that the cutting of the communicating ties was in line with the legal notice which was issued declaring the two as terrorist entities. Regarding parastatals and their CEOs, the spokesperson reminded this reporter that his statement was crafted based on a circular that was issued by the Office of the secretary to Cabinet and addressed to all principal secretaries(PSs). He said those PSs, which were vested with powers to administer the different government ministries were expected to communicate the same position to their respective parastatals under their ministries.

Entertain

“We are of the view that it is clear that the legal notice stipulates that government should not entertain these terrorist entities so we do not, therefore, expect subsidiary entities to do something different. It goes without saying that they will also have to follow the directive issued by the central government,” Nxumalo said. Nxumalo was also asked to clarify what the statement meant by saying that all government officials and employees were expected to desist from communicating and or responding in any form or method to the terrorist entities including on facebook and or related social media platforms.

He clarified by saying that they were not expected to communicate or respond in their official capacities or as government employees. Meanwhile, in the same statement, Nxumalo said government continued to advocate for press freedom and the right to information.

“However, it must be done in a manner that is objective, credible and following all journalism ethics and by accredited media institutions. Government will, therefore, not be entertaining any self-acclaimed media entities and will continue to give the nation an accurate update of all activities and programmes through credible media houses and official platforms,” said Nxumalo. An effort to get a comment from the editor was not successful as his cellphone number rang unanswered yesterday.

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