A chief in Swaziland is forcing his subjects to pay for him to have a new car.
Chief Mlotjwa II of KaLiba in the outskirts of Hlatikulu town in the Shiselweni region has demanded E100 (US$8) contributions from residents, the Sunday Observer newspaper reported (28 January 2018). In Swaziland seven in ten people live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.
Chiefs are the local representatives of King Mswati III who rules the impoverished kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The chief wields tremendous power over their subjects and can, for example, determine whether people are allowed to live in the area, or whether children can attend universities and colleges. In some cases they decide who lives and who dies as they are in charge of distributing international food aid to starving communities. About a third of the population of Swaziland receiving food aid each year.
The Observer reported, ‘Some of the residents have been questioning why they should buy the chief a motor vehicle. The residents were allegedly told to make E100 contributions towards buying the chief’s car.’
It added, one resident complained, ‘We don’t understand why we have to buy him a car, a personal car for that matter. This is not part of paying allegiance to the chief.’
The chief’s representative Obert Hlatjwako said residents had been asked but not forced to contribute.
He then demanded that the newspaper reveal the names of the people who had made the complaints.
Chiefs in Swaziland have a long history of abusing their subjects. In November 2017 it was reported about 20 families in Mvutshini in the Southern Hhohho region, were fined E900 each (US$64) for not attending community meetings and paying homage to their chiefdom.
In June 2017 Chief Somtsewu Motsa of Lushishikishini threatened too banish all single mothers from the area he rules over to ease the burden to the community of children born out of wedlock.
The Observer on Saturday (17 June 2017) said Chief Somtsewu Motsa had called a meeting of all ‘single mothers, pastors and those known to have impregnated girls without marrying them’. The newspaper reported, ‘Reliable sources said the traditional authorities were threatening to evict anyone to be seen to defy the chief’s order.’
Chiefs can and do take revenge on their subjects who disobey them. There is a catalogue of cases in Swaziland. For example, Chief Dambuza Lukhele of Ngobelweni in the Shiselweni region banned his subjects from ploughing their fields because some of them defied his order to build a hut for one of his wives.
Nhlonipho Nkamane Mkhatswa, chief of Lwandle in Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland, reportedly stripped a woman of her clothing in the middle of a street in full view of the public because she was wearing trousers.
In November 2013, the newly-appointed Chief Ndlovula of Motshane threatened to evict nearly 1,000 of his subjects from grazing land if they did not pay him a E5,000 (about US$500 at the time) fine, the equivalent of more than six months income for many.
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