- Public relations firm Vuma Reputation Management has resigned from its client, the Eswatini government.
- It has been accused of “bending the narrative” for the government.
- Its founder has since relinquished her 49% shareholding in the company.
Public relations firm Vuma Reputation Management has cut ties with its client, the Eswatini government.
The country has been roiled by turmoil, as pro-democracy protests against the monarch of Eswatini, King Mswati III, were been met with violence, the intimidation of civilians and journalists and the shutting down of the internet, according to reports.
Fin24 previously reported that MTN switched off access to all social media platforms and online messaging applications on its network, following a directive issued by the Eswatini communication regulator.
Vuma Reputation Management, a South African company, had been accused by online news publication New Frame of covering up for the Eswatini government. Two of New Frame’s journalists covering the turmoil in the country were detained and assaulted, News24 reported.
In a press statement issued over Twitter, New Frame said Vuma had contacted it with the aim of “bending the narrative” towards the interests of a “highly repressive police state”.
New Frame has accused Vuma Reputation Management was protecting the interests of a dictatorship.
In response to questions from Fin24, Vuma denied New Frame’s claims.
According to Vuma, which has been working with the Eswatini government in 2019, it reached out to New Frame after seeing media reports of the police brutality, alleged torture and censorship of journalists in Eswatini – and sought to create a platform for the news publication to engage with relevant officials.
“As South Africans who have experienced the pain of our own political turmoil, we are extremely sensitive to the current political climate in Eswatini and condemn all acts of violence, let alone those involving our trusted partners in the industry – the media. We have never requested nor attempted to manipulate the media to act unethically, as they too will attest to, and reject any inferences to the contrary,” the statement read.
The firm also said its mandate from the Eswatini government was to position the country to attract foreign direct investment. However, it could not meet the mandate to position Eswatini as an “attractive investment destination” to assist in growing its economy in the current environment.
“After several weeks of internal and external consultation, we have made the decision to resign the account,” the statement read.
In the wake of the Eswatini backlash, the company’s founder Janine Hills issued a statement on Sunday via Twitter that she had was “renouncing” her 49% shareholding in the company, and that the decision was made after the company was linked to Eswatini.