Dumsani Ntiwane, the then Times of Swaziland Sports editor was fired by Mbongeni Mbingo for allegedly intending to publish a critical story about Manzini Wanderers despite a directive from Bingo who was allegedly acting on an instruction from Inkhosikati LaMbikiza that the story should be dropped.
The question would be, how did we know that the instruction came from LaMbikiza?. In 2011, when the story suggesting that the editor had been fired reached our newsroom, we made enquiries from senior Manzini Wanderers officials who subsequently threatened us to drop it as well or face consequences, at the time I was working as an investigative journalist for one of the now defunct newspapers having left from the Swazi Observer.
One of the Manzini Wanderers officials boasted that “if the Times decided to drop the story, who are we to continue with it”and it was during that year when the media capture was intensified, Bingo had sold the whole media industry to those in power.
It should be noted that the media is one of the most powerful institutions and it is for these reasons Bingo is being paid by the State an over E50,000.00 salary directly from Tibiyo TakaNgwane, drives a car worth E1million, as Chairman of the Editors Forum one of his duties is to suppress journalists and control the flow of information to the benefit of this oppressive regime.
Indeed, Mbongeni Mbingo does’nt care with the over 700 000 eMaswati who are living below the poverty line, the media should be seen demanding justice for these people.
Even though some of us were persecuted for questioning corruption in government including Bingo’s conduct in selling the media for his lavish lifestyle, the now Swazi Observer editor was being treated like a King, escorts from Nkoyoyo Palace would consistently visit the Times to deliver lunch for him.
Clearly, the King’s wife and the editor were exchanging more favors as Sibonelo Mngometulu known as Inkhosikati LaMbikiza would consistently be featured in the entertainment section, the STYLE in the newspaper and profiled as the most beautiful Queen.
Bingo would boast to other journalists that he was enjoying lunch prepared specially for him from the Palace.
But then, as journalists, we have always known that Bingo had ties with LaMbikiza and he used those royal connectionsto climb the ladder and became untouchable before graduating to be a media bully.
It took time for international media organizations to get the real picture of what was really happening in the country in terms of media freedom, because Mbongeni Mbingo was wearing two coats, that of being the Chairman of the Editors Forum, presenting himself as someone who defends media freedom in the eyes of the international community when travelling abroad only to come back and collude with the regime in ‘suffocating’ independent journalists.
It was actually Sam Mthembu, the Deputy Commissioner of Police who exposed Bingo during the torturing when he mentioned that as the police, they would do anything to independent journalists with impunity and nothing will be reported in the newspaper because the Editors Forum has given them a go ahead.
Indeed, nothing was reported, only the foreign media that include the SABC saved the lives of independent journalists by raising a voice, that was when the international media started to understand the true position of Bingo and his Editors Forum clique that plays double standards.
The police boss was absolutely right, Bingo cannot enjoy ties with the King’s wife who happens to be mother Princess Sikhanyiso and later defend a journalist who was suffocated for among others, writing a critical story about Sikhanyiso.
Despite that we have successfully made efforts to create awareness with the international media and other organizations not to expect any voice from the Bingo that defends media freedom because he is part of the oppressive regime, it seems we have a lot of work to do, the man seems to be too powerfulsuch thateven King Mswati is struggling to deal with him, after all no one can touch him as all as he is still relevant to LaMbikiza.
Mbongeni Mbingo posted once on Facebook accusing other journalists and possibly members of the public who commented about his alleged scandals of being cyber bullies and shortly after that post government sprang into action and introduced the Cyber Law that seeks to undermine freedom of expression.
The editor has been maturing in his hypocritical conduct, he influences decisions through Inkhosikati LaMbikiza, the issuing of government statements that seeks to undermine press freedom and later sit as editor to create misleading headlines to make sure the people remain ignorant and suppressed while he enjoys a lavish lifestyle.
It is important to understand that other King’s wives like the late Inkhosikati Senteni Masango were once victims of the media capture, she was scandalized by the Times and portrayed as a ‘prostitute’ while LaMbikiza was promoted and portrayed as a beautiful and stylishQueen.
It was a very painful situation to see an innocent woman being insulted by the media, no Inkhosikati should be allowed to use the media to fight royal family battles by capturing editors.
But as independent journalists it is now evident that we have a lot of work to do in investigating Mbongeni Mbingo, the public deserves to know his role in depriving the citizens access to information while he continues to live an extravagant lifestyle and enjoying favors from Nkoyoyo Palace at the expense of the people.
We have good and highly skilled journalists in this country both in the Times and Observer, some of them just like myself had a privilege of being trained by AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism in South Africa. However, despite having investigative skills that could change this country and mitigate corruption and or abuse of power, their hands are tied, they are forced by Bingo to write about accidents at Malangwane, drink and driving casesand other useless issues while government and royalty loots millions of public funds.
Last week, Bingo blasted Siphofaneni Member of Parliament Mduduzi Simelane for defending eMaswati regarding government’s move to systematically shut down ‘Dubai’ cars,his comments implied that politicians should support government because they know where their ‘bread is buttered’.
Clearly, the editor's interaction with the King’s wife has made him to become power drunk such that he has forgotten or maybe deliberately ignored the basic role and function of the media not to mention Parliament, which in this regard should to be the voice of the people.
In conclusion, perhaps it is important to mention that as Mbongeni Mbingo, his royal allies and government intensified moves to target online newspaper, we will also raise the standard in terms of defending media freedom, the people deserve to know what is happening in this country.
King Mswati and Inkhosikati LaMbikiza