I have been following the recent events in our beloved country with keen interest. That is why I could not possibly miss last week’s editorial comment by the managing editor of the Swazi Times newspaper.
I read and reread the article to determine why Mr Mbingo had chosen to write it and what to make of it. It appears to me that the self-styled celebrity was continuing his anti-progressive mission. The commentary was a smear campaign against Swaziland’s progressive political parties and our uprising in particular.
He was hoping to create the impression that the march had absolutely nothing to do with the now month long call for an uprising on the 12th of April. Moreover, he wanted the marching workers to divorce themselves from our movement and its members.
As expected, the Swaziland Solidarity Network was quick to intervene on behalf of the April 12 uprising movement and the ANCYL. The response, as expected, was brutal.
Who is Mbongeni Mbingo, and what is his aim in life? In other words, what legacy does he wish to leave behind when he leaves his office as managing editor of the Times of Swaziland?
Perhaps it is appropriate to contextualise his role, something which he seems never to have fully comprehended. The role he occupies is a pivotal role in Swaziland.
The Times of Swaziland, being the only independent newspaper in the country, has the responsibility of balancing the propaganda published by the Swazi Observer. In a country of a million people, there is not much which can occur in a day to enable for serious extensive reporting the day after.
Due to the fact that the Observer primarily reports in such a way as to portray the royal family and the government in a good light, the Swazi Times ought to be the counter measure to this.
Granted, censorship exists in Swaziland, and publishing articles which are directly critical of the king can lead to the publication being discontinued but there always is space for indirect criticism, which many previous editors have allowed to occur.
The Times of Swaziland under Mbingo has descended to its worst ever standards. It is a mystery that people still bother to buy the newspaper. Mbingo is clearly angling for a lucrative post, seeing that his predecessor, Martin Dlamini, was also promoted to be the Smart Partnership hub Chief Executive Officer after a somewhat drab performance in that same role.
This is the same character who, in the aftermath of a failed bombing of the Lozitha Bridge, wrote a scathing attack on the freedom fighters entitled, “Save us From These Hot Heads.” This harsh tone is reserved for members of the progressive formations. At no time does he bark at those who are on the government’s side.
The bombing of a PUDEMO member’s house by state agents last year, for example, did not elicit the same reaction from the editor. Neither did the death in detention of Sipho Jele, who was murdered for merely wearing a PUDEMO T-shirt. Of course, he may criticise one or two government acts here and there but the tone is never that which he reserves for progressives.
An incident which highlighted his bias vividly was one where one of the country’s youth formations’ presidents was taken in for questioning by the police. The mouth piece of the structure immediately released a statement to the effect that he had been arrested. After being questioned, the youth president went to the Times offices to report what had occurred.
Instead of getting the full story of the arbitrary detention and questioning its legality, Mbingo wrote a diatribe against not only the organisation in question but the entire progressive movement. In his diatribe, he was representing them as being unaccountable and dishonest, as if members knew beforehand that their president would be released immediately after being questioned.
He justified himself by claiming that people who were calling for the present government to be honest ought to be honest themselves. All this he wrote without getting the details leading up to that statement being released while the president was walking around town free.
It was Kwame Ture (Stokely Charmichael) who attributed the saying, “All criticism is an autobiography,” to George Bernard Shaw. What it means is that, critics reveal their innermost passions in their criticism of others. Although they might convince themselves that their secret is unknown and that theirs is a mere objective criticism, perceptive individuals can successfully pick up on what all this criticism means and where is comes from.
Mbongeni Mbingo is a closet conservative. In his shallow brain he sincerely believes that people are not aware of his loyalty to the king, whom he used to refer to affectionately as “Oz Majesty”.
There was a time when newspaper editors used to have conservative political views but they at least had the ability to hide them and they would allow the public to engage freely in debate in their newspapers.
This is the least we expect of all editors. No matter where you stand, at least be professional enough to allow the other side to state its case. Even as you attempt to walk the thin line between contesting ideologies, at least try to stick to universal values.
Unfairly criticising a banned youth movement when you cannot criticise the king of blatantly abusing power and state resources is an act of cowardice and contradicts the idea of speaking truth to power. It in fact aids the abuse of power.
A letter from PUDEMO recently appeared on the Times newspaper, complaining about the manner in which every article about the movement was deliberately misrepresenting it. All that this “fashionista” could do was issue an apology.
It would be best if this plastic celebrity was made the managing editor of the Observer and a sober minded individual who understands his role took over from him.