22 September 2011
Covering up negligence: why Umhlanga needs to be investigated
We were astounded to hear the sad tale of a maiden who, while coming from the reed dance ceremony, was attacked with a stone.
The first hunch when such things happen is that it is either the work of drunken vandals or people who are opposed to the ceremony for political reasons.
When king Mswati openly rebuked the act at a sod cutting ceremony for new TB unit on Wednesday in Nhlangano, calling the culprits “Demon possessed and evil hearted,” we knew that the issue was deeper than it had first appeared to be.
We therefore decided to make an independent investigation into the matter. Since neither Mswati nor the messenger who told him the story were there to witness the crime, we asked the only people who had seen what happened. We had people interview the maidens who were in the truck and what we have uncovered is shocking.
Umhlanga maidens frequently sustain injuries while on board these trucks because they are always overloaded and the girls themselves do not adhere to safety precautions like staying away from the edges of the trucks.
As a result many of them are injured when the trucks make sharp turns, sudden stops or go over humps. This has actually been happening for a long time now and every time it occurs, the truck drivers and the maidens attempt to cover it up by claiming that the girls were attacked with stones by unknown people.
A similar story was reported in August 2007, when three maidens also claimed to have been pelted with stones in Matsapha while on board a moving truck. Similar to the case which occurred over the weekend, no suspects were arrested and till now no formal investigations were made.
It is one of the best kept cover ups of our time. At least one maiden dies yearly during the transportation of the maidens and it is due to pure negligence and a failure to adhere to traffic laws. What compounds the problem is that traffic officers do not stop these overloaded and sometimes unroadworthy trucks as they are on royal assignments.
Traffic police have actually admitted that it would be career suicide to stop a truck loaded with maidens. As a result they choose to look the other way and pretend all is well, while endangering the lives of not only the maidens but other motorists as well.
While we continue to investigate this very alarming abuse of power, we call upon all interested parties to satisfy themselves by making their own investigations into this national scandal. We condemn this attempted cover up by royal authorities and urge all maidens to also come up and tell the truth.
Issued by the Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN]