Swazi police censors religious TV

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Absolute King Mswati III

The King is the central figure of the Incwala

King Mswati III

afrol News, 9 October - The Swaziland Royal Police, acting on a court order on Thursday, 2002 invaded 'Channel S', the only privately owned television station in the country, and confiscated a video tape containing a sermon that has been termed by the Swazi government as "threatening the foundations of the kingdom".

According to local sources the footage was of a sermon broadcast nationally and regionally (Southern African Development Community - SADC) on Friday, 6 September 2002, in which pastor Justice Dlamini of the Swaziland Association of Christian Ministries (SACM) suggested that some of the cultural practices in the country are "ungodly". Mr Dlamini was referring to the "Incwala", an annual cultural celebration.

In Swaziland, the state is embodied in the person of the sovereign himself, King Mswati III, the 16th king from the House of Dlamini that has ruled the Swazis since the 16th century. Swazis do not distinguish between the nation and the man, and while the King is not considered divine, he is the central figure of the month-long sacred Incwala (kingship/harvest) ceremonies held when the first fruits ripen in summer.

During the Incwala, tens of thousands of Swazis in traditional attire converge on the Queen Mother's village, and petition the national ancestral spirits to endow the king with wisdom, and the nation with good rains and fortune.

The police attack on 'Channel S' has provokes national and regional media watchdogs. The Swaziland chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISWA) condemned the invasion of the television station, saying that it was "not warranted and impinges on the freedom of expression and intermediation of the people of Swaziland." 

MISWA further reported that Mr Dlamini has since suffered harassment by policy makers in the country, ostensibly in the name of protecting culture and the monarchy.

MISWA finally objected to the police action as some of the officers who took part in the raid were themselves present at the said church service and had uttered no concern over the content of the sermon until instructed by legislatures to ransack the television station.

These violations were "a sequel to a national prayer meeting, hosted by interdenominational ministries on Friday, 6 September, to celebrate Swaziland's Independence Day," the institute informs. 

The purpose of the prayer had been, according to the 5 October edition of the 'Times of Swaziland' - a national independent daily paper - "organised to beseech God to forgive the Swazi nation of its sins."


Sources: Based on MISA and afrol archives

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