Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Swaziland is once again an international laughing stock.

But this time it is not King Mswati III and his bare-breasted virgins, his teenage brides, his armoured cars and personal jet that is at the centre of the problem.

The cause of the trouble is Swazi MP Timothy Myeni who in a speech at a workshop said that all Swazis who are HIV-positive should have the fact branded on their buttocks.

‘Before having sex with anyone, people will then check the buttocks of their partners before proceeding with their mission,’ he said.

He also called for compulsory HIV testing for everyone in Swaziland, which has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world (42 percent).

Suddenly, Myeni became an international joke, with newspapers and blogsites the whole world over reporting about him.

Myeni has since apologised for the bit about branding, but he still wants compulsory testing.

To my mind the Sowetan newspaper summed up Myeni pretty well, calling him an ‘uncivilised idiot’ and a ‘foolish and arrogant man’.

Inevitably, bloggers have been calling Myeni a ‘pain in the butt’.

As well as being a Swaziland MP, Myeni is leader of a gospel group called the Ncandweni Christ Ambassadors. There have been calls to boycott the group as a protest against Myeni and to kick him out of parliament.

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, has called on readers to debate Myeni ideas while the Swazi Government has refused to comment because, according to a spokesperson, they had not seen or heard the statement’ (which begs the question where has the government been while the rest of the world jeers at Swaziland?).

Myeni is a joke, but a dangerous one. Swaziland has been virtually rudderless when it comes to dealing with HIV and AIDS. At first King Mswati refused to even acknowledge there was a problem in Swaziland and once he was forced to (kicking and screaming) it was too late. Polygamy and the Swazi culture’s denigration of women generally have made it almost impossible to make headway in treating HIV AIDS as a public health issue.

The fact that Myeni’s comments were made at an HIV workshop, aimed at sensitizing MPs to the issue, just about sums it up.

To read about the reality of HIV AIDS in Swaziland, click here.

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