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Newspaper columnist Mfomfo Nkambule fined for criticising king

(MISA/IFEX) - On 28 February 2009, Mfomfo Nkambule, a weekly columnist with the privately-owned "Times of Swaziland" newspaper, was fined an undisclosed number of cattle by his chief for criticizing King Mswati III in his articles as the authorities continue to harass the writer for his views.

Once Nkambule pays the imposed fine, the cattle would be given to the King to appease him for having been criticized by one of his subjects, contrary to the existing norm. Nkambule's chief happens to be one of the senior princes and chairperson of the all-powerful Swazi National Council Standing Committee (SNSC) which advises King Mswati III.

The popular columnist was ordered to pay the fine when he was summoned for the second time by his chief and his traditional advisors to be further warned about his weekly articles. Nkambule was ordered to stop his articles forthwith or face further consequences which could include eviction of him and his entire family from his area of birth. Swazi traditional authorities, including the King, have the power to evict dissenters from traditional lands.

Nkambule was summoned to appear before the chief and his council together with his father. His father, however, could not make it and was represented by one of Nkambule's brothers. After the meeting with the traditionalists, Nkambule said he was forced to censor himself and tone down his 2 March article.

Nkambule wrote in his column: "I need cattle for my King. I cannot sit down and do nothing about it (the fine) as the consequences could be disastrous for my family."

However, in spite of the endless pressure, Nkambule has vowed to continue with his weekly column.

MISA-Swaziland has persistently condemned the actions by the authorities to censor, harass and threaten Nkambule, or any other journalist for that matter.

For further information on the prior harassment of Nkambule, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/100280

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