GOVERNMENT INTENSIFIES PROPAGANDA WAR
It would seem government is really battling to cope with the sustained negative image with which the country and royalty are being painted.
The Bridge can today reveal that the government is currently working on the implementation of a newly adopted communications strategy and that among the planned activities is a service delivery report and a video documentary that will be played in the world’s leading television stations to tell the “other side of eSwatini.”
At the moment a team of experts is collecting and compiling “positive stories” as part of the documentary that will be featured on international television stations. “At the moment we are still discussing about how to use the video once it is complete, but there are high chances that it will be aired on CNN, Aljazeera or any other TV to be identified and deemed to have influential audiences,” said a cabinet source.
Following the June 2021 civil unrest in eSwatini which claimed about 100 lives and many injuries, the government pressed the panic button and ran helter skelter in an attempt to explain and justify the act on international media platforms. First to take the ‘bullet' was novice politician Manqoba Khumalo (Minister for Commerce, Industry & Trade) who fumbled in his propaganda attempt, explicitly exposing the regime and attracting overwhelming interest on the part of international media that wanted to know more. He was backed by Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg who also failed to convince the world as to why the state could kill so many unarmed civilians who were exercising their rights to protest against the government.
The two are trusted servants of the king and none among cabinet ministers could be entrusted with this sacred task of cleansing the country. It turns out that everything around the civil unrest took the state by surprise and someone tried to rescue them by talking about a Communications Strategy and Plan of Action to properly execute their mandate. This intervention seeks to achieve reputation management , crisis management, media relations and capacity building for cabinet ministers and communications officers in dealing with communications related matters.
What was identified is government’s inability to sell her story and achieve good publicity, hence the strategy aims at promoting government’s narrative in all relevant media platforms to proactively defuse any conflicting narrative. With the planning and conceptualisation stage virtually done, it is believed that piloting of the project may be sanctioned anytime soon. Face to face meetings with traditional leaders (Chiefs) were conducted through the Ministry of Tinkhundla Administration; individual media practitioners were coopted to spread some pro-government narrative and to report in good light while demonizing the pro-democracy movement – to the extent that an online propaganda offensive was meted against its leaders.
“Do you think the lies and misinformation about PUDEMO President was accidental? Everything is planned and executed accordingly. But what irritates the communications professionals within the ministries is that the police (intelligence department) seems to be the one driving this work yet there are trained officials within government to deal with PR work,” says a source.
Continues our source: “Come to think of this, the King’s Office has never had a Communications Director! Also, one of the daily newspapers was threatened by the King’s men recently because it was felt that they were the ones fueling the unrest at some point. The king was very angry. They may want to appear not to be bothered by what gets reported on online and international media platforms about the country but in real life they are. That is why this PR work is being done and it costs the taxpayers millions.”
The Bridge has reliably gathered that the documentary that was aired on SABC on the June 2021 massacre played a big role in influencing the decision to intensify the PR programme of the government. Questions were asked at cabinet as to why a positive story of the country was not being told to the world. Subsequently, a PR team was appointed to work on a reputation management project. However, our sources within in the Police Intelligence say of great concern are the issues raised by ordinary people including dilapidated road infrastructure, education crisis, lack of medication in hospitals, the terrible economic situation and the unending state violence against citizens during protest marches.
“It was felt that the PR project would be affected by these elements and will make it difficult to sell the positive story of the country anywhere in the world,” he says. Reached for comment, the Spokesperson for Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) Lucky Lukhele said it was too late for the regime to cover the cracks and redeem itself. “The people of Swaziland are already at a Rubicon to cross – the democratization of the country. We will advise those international media houses not to be fooled by this spinning exercise,” he said.
Lukhele mentioned that the people of eSwatini continue to be killed and their resources looted by the royal family. He said everything has collapsed; education and health have become commodities for the rich. “Therefore, any specialized communicator that will be part of this government PR project has signed a death warrant for his or her career,”