Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It seems Swazi dissident Mfomfo Nkhambule has at last been silenced by the kingdom’s dictators.

This follows an ultimatum from traditional leaders in the area in which Nkhambule lives. First he was told that he should stop criticising King Mswati III. Now, he has been told he must either stop his politics or quit the local traditional regiment to which he belongs.

Writing in the Times yesterday (Monday 26 January 2009), Nkhambule, who is also chair of the Inhalva Forum political party, said he was summonsed to Engabezweni Royal residence to be told he would be kicked out of the traditional regiment Balondolozi BakaLozitha Ligezii if he didn’t stop criticism the king and advocating for democracy in Swaziland.

Nkhambule wrote, ‘I was told to choose between multi-partyism and being a member of the traditional regiments. It is either Umbutfo or Inhlava. It is unSwazi to talk politics and be a member of the traditional regiment..

‘This was a difficult order for me and I politely asked for time to consult with Inhlava membership. I like being part of the Swazi warriors and I also like politics because in Swaziland without someone carrying a torch light for the majority of His Majesty’s subjects, my fellow countrymen are perishing in their numbers and from the bottom of my heart I had to do something to bring this to a halt.’

He said he was still considering what to do next.

The pressure on Nkhambule is typical of how social control works in Swaziland. Chiefs and ‘traditionalists’ have the real power in the kingdom. This they get from the monarch. People who speak out of turn or in any other way displease the authorities can find themselves banished, sometimes literally when people are forced out of their homes by chiefs.

Chiefs and traditionalists can also determine whether people have jobs, get scholarships for education, or receive food aid from international donors. In Swaziland if you speak out of turn you and your family can starve.

According to a report in the Times Sunday (25 January 2009), ‘Nkhambule went to the royal residence to honour summons that was announced through national radio. He went there in the company of his father and younger brother. The deliberations were chaired by Chomentanyeni Magagula, the leader of the regiment, but were also attended by members of the Inyatsi regiment. About 20 members of the regiment attended the meeting. The leaders of the regiment were allegedly intent on confiscating his Liqhuzu, an artefact that is given to a warrior who has been admitted to a particular regiment.

‘“I was given an ultimatum; to choose between my role in Inhlava and my membership with the regiment,” said Nkambule, whose regiment name is Veni. He has been a member since 1980.

‘“They told me that culturally, members of regiments do not get involved in politics. They insisted that no member is expected to criticise the king. An example they used to illustrate my position was that one cannot ride two horses at the same time. They suggested I choose one horse,” he said.

‘He said the leaders of the regiment told him that his articles, published in the Times on Mondays, had brought shame and disrepute to regiments and the King.

‘Nkambule, who is a former cabinet minister, said he told the meeting of his undying love for his regiment, and the king in particular.’

Despite the threat from the traditional authorities, it seems Nkambule can’t resist pointing out the lack of respect King Mswati has for his people.

In the Times yesterday he wrote that the king and his ‘messengers’ don’t believe Swazi people have the brains to decide on how to run their own lives for themselves.

‘There has not been one person in authority who has ever asked us to justify the decisions we take on a daily basis because no one person, from the king down to the last of his messengers, is ever interested in the reasoning of an ordinary Swazi because they have drawn the conclusion that we have nothing in between our two ears or if we have, we often do not make sense at all,’ he wrote.

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