Salawu’s models of managing indigenous-language newspapers

This article employs Salawu’s (2013) models of managing indigenous-language newspapers. He argues that there are mainstream models and subsidiary' models. Mainstream models are the newspapers that are stand-alone publications in a media organisation. SiSwati-language newspapers that fall under this category in Eswatini are Izwi Lama Swazi, founded in 1934 (between 1950 and 1963 it was a subsidiary), Umgijimi wa Ngwane, Mbambambamba, and Vuka Ngwane. Subsidiaries are ‘local-language newspapers that exist as subsidiary products of a foreign (but dominant) language media organisation’ (Salawu 2013, 80). Tikhatsi TemaSwali and

Intsatseli fall under this category. The argument is that, irrespective of the model, indigenous-language newspapers occupy a precarious space in the media arena. Salawu (2013) argues that there are three factors upon which the success of a local-language newspaper is predicated. These are

the size of the population of the speakers of the language the newspaper is printed in; their level of cultural assertiveness, position within a power equation and resource allocation; as well as the ability of the newspaper to pander to the taste of the youths and growing urban elites in terms of language use and content.

(Salawu 2013, 82)


In the quest to establish the reasons behind the extinction of indigenous-language newspapers in Eswatini, this study used documents and interviews as instruments for data collection. Interviews were conducted with some of the founders of the indigenous-language newspapers of Eswatini and with individuals who were once employees of the newspapers. Through interviews, we are interested in the exploration of people’s voices and experiences (Byrne 2004). In some instances, these voices are ignored or marginalised (Bryne 2004), as is the case with the voices for indigenous-language newspapers. Semi-structured or unstructured interviews enable researchers to frame questions as they ponder the issue that is being explored (Salawu 2013). One ideal feature of qualitative interviews is that they are not rigid, whereas structured interviews require interviewers to adhere strictly to questions decided beforehand (Salawu 2013, 82). The flexibility' of the qualitative interviewing process permits different approaches based on the research topic (Bryne 2004).

Historiography of indigenous-language newspapers

In documenting the history' of the press in the Kingdom of Eswatini, it is evident that the country' does not have a rich history of siSwati-language newspapers. Archival records show that, despite this, indigenous-language newspapers were established. The vernacular press in Eswatini emerged in 1934 with the founding of Izwi Lama Swazi by' John June Nquku (Izwi Lama Swazi 1934, 2), among others. This was just a news sheet that was meant to propagate the ideology of the Progressive Association, which Nquku had also founded and which later became the Swaziland Progressive Party, to promote the aspirations of emaSwati who were, at the time, under British rule as a protectorate. The settler community' in Eswatini relied on the Times of Swaziland, an English-language newspaper founded in 1897 by Allister Miller and the Swaziland Corporation. According to Switzer and Switzer (1979), Izwi Lama Swazi was ‘moderate politically with slight Swazi nationalistic overtones’ (48). However, the publication did not last long, as it was forced to close down in July 1934. In 1947, Izwi Lama Swazi was revived, and in 1950 it

siSwati-language newspapers in Eswatini 93 was taken over by the Bantu Press until 1964 when it folded again. In January 1968, the Information Department of the Government of Swaziland founded an indigenous-language newspaper, Umbiki (The Reporter). The aims of the publication were: to enhance national development through communication with remote and urban communities, to promote the use of the siSwati language and to promote literacy (Personal communication with Joe Gama, editor of Umbiki, 1999). In a write-up to UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), the Swaziland Government Information Service noted that the newspaper had to be discontinued because of financial constraints. The printing costs escalated such that the government could no longer afford to publish the newspaper. Though this was the government’s paper, it never had a vision for its sustenance. The paper was widely read, especially because it was distributed free of charge in government ministries. This is the same government that failed to buy the Times of Swaziland despite an offer from the Argus group of newspapers, and a British man bought the newspaper in 1975.

Other titles that emerged include Umgijimi wa Ngwane, which was founded by former Deputy Prime Minister Dr Sishayi Nxumalo in 1985. According to Hlatshwayo (2011), the publication was funded by a French company. However, despite its appeal to siSwati-language speakers, there was a misappropriation of funds and escalating printing costs because the publication was printed in South Africa (Hlatshwayo 2011). In 1990, Douglas Loffler’s Times of Swaziland introduced a siSwati version of the newspaper known as Tikhatsi TemaSwati (Times of emaSwati). This was not at all a new phenomenon in that, while the Times of Swaziland together with Izwi Lama Swazi were under the ownership of the Bantu Press, the former carried the latter as an insert (Hlatshwayo 2011). In 1993, the Sunday edition of the newspaper, the Times of Swaziland Sunday, also gave birth to Tikhatsi Ngelisontfo (Times on Sunday). According to Löffler (Personal communication, June 1995), the siSwati newspapers in the stable had to be discontinued because they were a financial drain to the company since they could not attract advertising. However, this was not true, as confirmed by an employee from the advertising department for the Times of Swaziland', the employee stated that advertising representatives never bothered to source adverts from the business community or government enterprises (Personal communication, 12 March 2019).

The state-owned Swazi Observer, established in 1981, cannot be left out in the race to win siSwati-language readers. The newspaper established Intsatseli (The Reporter) in 1999. The publication covered politics, business, entertainment and sport. However, the lifespan of this publication was very short, following a decision by the Board of the newspaper to suspend its operations in February 2000. The Swazi Observer had published a sensitive story' about crime syndicates, and the Swaziland commissioner of police had written to his South African counterpart to investigate the involvement of some individuals in the corridors of power who were part of this syndicate. The reporters were pressured to reveal their sources, however, they wouldn’t budge, which resulted in the abrupt closure of the newspapers published under the Swazi Observer. When the Board rescinded its decision in 2002, only the English-language editions of the Swazi Observer newspapers reappeared.

As if to prove that the newspaper industry is not a male-dominated business, Bonsile Mncina, a former employee of Tikhatsi Temaswati and Intsatseli, founded Vuka Ngwane (Arise Ngwane). The aim of the newspaper was to promote news in siSwati and to fill the void of siSwati-language newspapers. Mncina’s experience in indigenous-language newspapers could have propelled her to fulfil this need. Her major struggle was distribution, securing adverts and the cost of printing in Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit), South Africa. Mncina had to seek an audience with the Queen Mother of Eswatini to get support for her paper, which was not forthcoming from prospective advertisers and others in government (Personal communication, June 2011). However, she succumbed to death in 2012, resulting in the dissolution of her newspaper.

A medical doctor whose father has published many siSwati-language books founded Mbambambamba in January' 2009. Dr Themba Ntiwane was motivated by the absence of siSwati-language newspapers and books in the country and the fact that siSwati was on the ‘verge of extinction’ (Personal communication, March 2009) as a result of the dominance of English in Eswatini. Ntiwane observed that, even at the national archives, siSwati texts were conspicuous by their absence. He also alluded to the fact that most communication in the country' was conducted in English and this would, in the long run, have adverse effects on the culture and identity of emaSwati. Though numerous issues were at play when the newspaper folded, the determining factor was its failure to attract advertisers.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >