The Swazi government has launched a process that will pave the way for the establishment of an independent broadcasting regulator, according to a release from Misa.
The process, launched by the Minister for Information, Communication and Technology, Nelsiwe Shongwe, on May 18, envisages having the Swaziland Communications Regulatory Commission (CRC) in place by 2010. The Swazi government has engaged a Commonwealth consultant to lead a scoping mission that will ensure that the legislation which will give birth to the CRC complies with international requirements.

The consultant, Joseph Tobone, has already met several stakeholders including the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter for inputs. The scoping mission aims to have a draft bill by end of June 2009 before an Act of Parliament by the end of the year. This will then pave the way for the establishment of the commission by the beginning of 2010.

During its meeting with the consultant on 19 May, MISA Swaziland declared its full support for the process but appealed for transparency. Meeting the consultant who was accompanied by the government’s Director of Communications, Stan Motsa, were MISA Swaziland National Director, Comfort Mabuza, Information Officer, Michael Motsa, Program Specialist: Governance, Gender and HIV/AIDS from the Regional Secretariat, Jennifer Mufune (who is currently in Swaziland on another mission) and Gender Officer, Thandi Khumalo.

The consultant and his delegation were pleased with MISA’s inputs and promised to take them on board.  The process comes at a time when the current broadcasting regulator, the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC), a government parastatal [state owned company, enterprise], is still considering five applications for community and commercial radio stations.

The government, through SPTC recently issued a call for applications for community and commercial radio licences. There is still no word as to when the licensing process is like to be completed. But there are now fears that it might halt the pending the establishment of the independent regulator in 2010. This will no doubt disappoint the five radio stations whose applications for licences are pending before SPTC.