The extinction of siSwati-language newspapers in the Kingdom of Eswatini


In the Eswatini context, indigenous-language newspapers were divided into three categories - government-funded, subsidiary publications and ‘mainstream’ or privately funded productions. In the first group, for example, Izwi Lama Swazi (The Voice of the Swazi) was funded by the colonial government and published by the Bantu Press, and Umbiki (The Reporter) was funded by the post-colonial government. The original series (February-July 1934, when the newspaper temporarily folded) was published by locals: John June Nquku, Johannes J. Mnyandu and Fynn F. Sepamla. The second type of newspapers are subsidiaries of existing publications. According to Salawu (2013), ‘the subsidiary model consists of locallanguage newspapers that exist as subsidiary products of a foreign (but dominant) language media organisation’ (80). This includes the Times of Swaziland and the Swazi Observer. The third group is referred to as ‘mainstream’ newspapers (Salawu 2013) and are privately funded. Among these were Umgijimi waNgwane (The Runner of Ngwane), founded by a former cabinet minister, Sishayi Nxumalo; Mbambambamba (In Actual fact), founded by Dr Themba Ntiwane; and Vuka.Ngwane (Arise Ngwane), founded by a female publisher, Bonsile Mncina.

Whereas in other African countries, such as Lesotho and South Africa, missionaries played a pivotal role in the establishment of newspapers, such as Umshumayeli Wendaba (Preacher of the News), UmAfrika (The African), Leselinyana la Lesotho (The Little Light of Lesotho), and Moeletsi oa Basotho (Advisor of Basotho), the opposite is true in Eswatini (Salawu 2013). The missionaries and even the colonists (Salawu 2013) did not make any contributions in the establishment of the siSwati language press. Other than the Times of Swaziland and Swazi Observer newspapers, a majority of vernacular newspapers were initiatives by the indigenous emaSwati. In this chapter, we explain the challenges of siSwati-language newspapers that have struggled to survive over the years. We also give a brief historical background of the vernacular newspapers and discuss how the Kingdom of Eswatini is still a shadow of the colonists’ language, English.

The chapter discusses briefly the historiography of indigenous-language newspapers in Eswatini and gives a background of the Nguni-language speakers known as emaSwati. The chapter also highlights the perceptions some

siSwati-language newspapers in Eswatini 91 siSwati-language speakers have about their language, which touches on education policy that promotes English to the detriment of the mother tongue, siSwati. We argue that unless there are interventions by educators and those in the echelons of power, the perception that siSwati is inferior to English will result in the extinction of the indigenous language. Also discussed in the chapter is the success of Zulu-language newspapers, a language that is similar to siSwati. We discuss the factors that distinguish Zulu-language newspapers, particularly Isolezwe, from siSwati newspapers, the latter of which are not succeeding. This chapter attempts to answer the following questions: what are the contributory factors that have caused the demise of siSwati-language newspapers? and why is it that Zulu-language newspapers thrive?

Critical political economy

According to Denis McQuail (2005), political economy ‘directs research attention to the empirical analysis of the structure of ownership and control of media1 (99). Likewise, Boyd-Barret (1995) states that political economy in media research is associated with ‘macro-questions of media ownership and control’ (196). Boyd-Barret (1995, 187) notes that most of the powerful studies on political economy have focussed on institutions and their contexts. What is paramount to political economists is how ‘economic constraints limit or bias the forms of mass culture that are produced and distributed through the media’ (Baran and Davis 2006, 241). The focus is on the constraints in the production and distribution processes of content (Baran and Davis 2006). This study draws on critical political economy theory, which examines how the nature of ‘the environment in which the media operate may serve as a facilitating factor on one hand or a constraining factor on the other’ (Gunde 2017, 25). According to Salawu (2013) critical political economy is a division of political economy that focuses on issues of culture. Language is a sub-set of culture, and the media is responsible for the promotion and dissemination of forms of culture. The focus of this chapter is to ascertain the challenges associated with the production of indigenous-language newspapers in the Kingdom of Eswatini. The absence of siSwati-language newspapers points to certain challenges, which this article seeks to unearth.

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