Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Mail and Guardian (South Africa) Blog

18 July 2011


Swazi queen’s sorry tale of patriarchal abuse

By Lungile Dube

Every girl grows up dreaming of a fairy tale ending but that’s not always the case, especially in real life.

This reminds me of a young lady who became the envy of almost every woman who grew up believing in Cinderella tales. Nothando Dube became Swaziland king Mswati III’s 12th wife at the age of 16.

She met her prince charming at a party and shortly thereafter became a member of the royal family. At that age, which girl would think of any horrific events unfolding in a life of royalty? In fact, at that age which girl is capable of making a sound decision especially one of marriage?

Swaziland has a high level of poverty and is one of a few countries that is still under a monarchy. It makes me wonder if the thousands of young girls that attend the annual reed dance hope to be chosen as another wife to escape the impoverished conditions at home? Or is it a justification of tradition that has seen girls like Nothando trapped in unwanted marriages?

Well, that’s a subject for another day. But the once-teen wife who is younger than Mswati’s first born child has grown up to be a young queen who has learned that life is not so glamorous in the palace.

Now, aged 23 she is a mother of three and kept in solitary confinement at the royal mansion she was built when she got married. Why? Because she was accused of bedding the king’s friend and Justice Minister Nondumiso Mamba, who has since resigned from his position.

Maybe this is punishment or a way of teaching her a lesson. But aren’t queens human beings who are also entitled to rights? Oops … human rights may not even exist in the king’s vocabulary. Excuse me your highness, my mistake! So, after a year of being refused contact with friends, family and the outside world, the queen decides to break her silence and reach out to the media in a plea for help.

Not only does she want her freedom back but she also wants to break away from the beatings she allegedly endures from the security guards.

In any other country, she would have filed for divorce, packed her bags, and even opened a criminal case of assault against the security guards. But unfortunately for her, she lives in a country where only one man decides for the whole nation and that one man’s word is final.

Maybe her decision to speak out may be a lesson to all parents of young girls who are yet to become victims of statutory rape and physical abuse. Question is, where do we draw the line between tradition and abuse? Maybe the minute a democratic system is introduced as a revolutionary measure for the advancement of those trapped in a traditionalist hand.

Pity I can’t promise that Nothando’s voice has screeched enough into the ears of the South African government. No offense, but President Jacob Zuma has his own fair share slice of the polygamy cake. Will it really make sense to him as a man that strongly believes in tradition to entertain another man’s family woes? I dare you Mr Zuma!

Fact is, there are a lot of women like Nothando who experience severe abuse in the name of tradition, while the world looks on. Like Bob Marley says in one of his songs “It takes a revolution to make a solution” and until then … Bob’s song is just going to play on deaf ears while many suffer in the name of tradition and cultural politics!

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