Wednesday, October 18, 2017


TV Mtetwa, the right-hand man to King Mswati III the absolute monarch of Swaziland, and a fierce opponent of progression in the kingdom has died aged 93.

Mtetwa who was known as the ‘traditional prime minister’ had more power than the actual PM. He advocated for girls as young as fifteen to be forced into marriages, thereby supporting paedophilia (sex with children).

He threatened opponents of King Mswati that they would burn, if they did not do as they were told. He relentlessly worked to limit free speech and criticism of the King.

TV Mtetwa – real name Timothy Velabo – was Acting Governor of the Ludzidzini Royal Residence. This meant when he spoke he was considered to be speaking for the King. The power in Swaziland rests with King Mswati and his mother. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King choses the Prime Minister, top ministers and judges. Critics of the King are labelled terrorists by the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Although a constitution was passed in 2005 giving the appearance that Swaziland had many traits of a modern state, in reality tradition and culture takes precedence over laws. Mtetwa was the ultimate authority on traditional law and custom in the kingdom. 

Mtetwa was quick to pint this out in 2012 when he said it was acceptable for girls aged 15 to take part in traditional marriage known as kwendzisa if their parents agreed and the child wanted to. 

Mtetwa said this knowing that in 2012 the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act had been passed in Swaziland which made it illegal to engage in sexual relationships with girls under the age of 18.

The Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) said at the time most of these so-called marriages were forced on the girl and sometimes it happened after she had been raped or fallen pregnant.  SWAGAA, in a media statement, said, ‘What is most disturbing is the fact that most of these “marriages” are forced, with the young girls having little or no say in being married to much older men. 

‘The situation is often forced because the family wants to receive payment and if sexual relations have occurred (usually forced upon the girl), the family wants to save face. We have seen tragic stories in the newspaper recently involving these types of marriages, from girls being forced to marry after being raped, to getting pregnant and dropping out of school, to attempting suicide.’

It added, ‘What these young girls are enduring in the name of “traditional marriage” is a human rights violation. Swaziland has signed the Human Rights Declaration and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2012 received assent from King Mswati III to protect the lives and dignity of all children in Swaziland.

‘Protecting young Swazi girls from traditional marriages that they don’t want is a matter of principle. It is not a complicated legal issue; it is simply a matter of upholding human rights and Swazi law.’

One of Mtetwa’s duties was to travel the length and breadth of Swaziland threatening dire consequences to people who dared to defy the King’s wishes. For example, in 2014 he told the King’s subjects in kaLuhleko they ‘will burn’ if they continued to criticise the King’s appointment of a local chief.

In April 2014, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported Mtetwa and a delegation from the King visited kaLuhleko where it said ‘Bhekwako Dlamini had been mobilising the people to snub meetings called by the newly appointed Chief Zulwelihle Maseko, ‘who was blessed by Their Majesties last June’.

The newspaper reported, ‘His Majesty roared through Ludzidzini Governor Timothy Velabo Mtetwa commonly known as TV.

‘“It has gotten to the attention of His Majesty the King and the Queen Mother that there is something irregular happening here and that is why we are here today,” he said to deafening silence.

‘“There is a bad habit that has come to the attention of the authorities that there are some people who still choose to defy the chief and do not recognise a man who has been appointed by the King. Where have you ever heard of that? This is the person who has been chosen to take over from Mfanwenkhosi Maseko and I have been sent by His Majesty to order that there be complete silence in this place,” said the tough talking Mtetwa.’

The Observer reported Mthethwa warned that people who did not adhere to the directive issued by the King ‘will burn’.

Mtetwa was against free speech. Many times he pronounced that King Mswati’s word was final – on every topic. For example, in 2015, King Mswati introduced a football tournament that failed to attract enough supporters and made a huge financial loss. 

Controversy surrounded the E9 million (about US$900,000) sponsorship of the Ingwenyama Cup tournament by the government parastatal Sincephetelo Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (SMVAF). SMVAF exists to compensate victims of road accidents.

A range of critics said the amount of sponsorship was too much to spend in a kingdom that was battling with poverty and a drought. Seven in ten of the King’s 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 a day.

Mtetwa announced that ‘members of parliament, [cabinet] ministers and whoever’ must be silent on the matter.

The Observer on Saturday (21 November 2015) reported Mtetwa said people must stop discussing the topic, ‘because the lion has already roared on the matter’. The newspaper reported Mtetwa, ‘emphasised that it was wrong for people to publicly talk about what the King has already pronounced and set in motion’.

The newspaper added, ‘Mtetwa said since time immemorial it had been a traditional norm that no one speaks after the King had spoken.’

The newspaper said, ‘He warned all critics to guard against being seen to be going against pronouncements made by the King.’

Mtetwa died on Monday (16 October 2017) in a hospital in South Africa after a long illness.

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